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Grilled Figs with Goat Cheese & Mint
From Cooking New American, by the Editors of Fine Cooking. Recipe by Bill Briwa, chef-instructor at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, Calif.

Panetta is cured (but not smoked) Italian bacon. Don't substitute American bacon: It takes too long to crisp on the grill.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (3-1/2 to 4 ounces) soft fresh goat cheese
2 Tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
About 6 mint leaves, stacked, rolled into a cylinder, and cut into thin strips
1 Tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 fresh Mission figs
12 very thin (1/16 inch or less) slices pancetta
1 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp very finely chopped fresh thyme (optional)

Instructions:

In a small bowl, combine the goat cheese, breadcrumbs, mint, and parsley; season with salt and pepper. Cut the figs nearly in half lengthwise, keeping them attached at the broad end. Hollow the center slightly with your thumb. Stuff each fig with about 1 teaspoon of the goat cheese mixture and squeeze very gently to close.

Wrap a slice of pancetta around each fig, overlapping with each revolution. Don't wrap the pancetta too tightly or you'll force the filling out or cause the figs to split. Cover the figs with plastic wrap and refrigerate (up to 1 day ahead) until ready to grill.

Grill the figs over a moderately hot fire to crisp the pancetta and to warm the figs and cheese, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the figs to a serving dish. Combine the honey and thyme, if using, and drizzle over the figs. Serve with good, crusty bread.

Yield: Serves 4

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