Gary Danko's Grilled Figs with Goat Cheese and Herbs


Gary Danko might have made his name toiling over burners in windowless kitchen, but like most good California boys, he loves to grill. Between the two of us, we have plenty of wisdom to impart. Here are a few tips:

I'm used to taking overly complex chef recipes and trimming the excess until they're eminently doable. In this case, however, my friend Gary Danko took my pared-down recipe for grilled figs and added just a few extra steps to make it into something special.

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
24 ripe fresh figs
½ cup (about ½ pound) soft fresh goat cheese
24 fresh grape leaves
Wooden skewers or rosemary sprigs
Soy sauce to taste
Banyuls or other good wine or balsamic vinegar to taste
1. Start a charcoal or gas grill; the fire need not be blazing hot (in fact, these are best done over a dying fire). Mix the thyme and rosemary in a small bowl and set aside.
2. Starting at the stem end, cut each fig into quarters, stopping ½ inch from bottom. Add about 1 teaspoon of the cheese to each fig, sprinkle a small pinch of the herb mixture on the cheese, and wrap each fig in one grape leaf, leaving an opening at the top and securing with a wooden skewer, toothpick, or rosemary sprig with the leaves removed.
3. Grill the fig bundles, open side up, until the figs are warm and the cheese is slightly melted, about 2 minutes. Transfer the bundles to a platter, unwrap the figs, sprinkle each with a drop or two of soy sauce and even less vinegar, and serve.