Spoon this jam onto Belgian endive leaves for near-instant antipasto. If we were in India, this jam would be called a chutney. It's done with an old formula that never lets you down. Brown onion; add vinegar, sugar and wine. Boil them down to a sweet-sour caramel, and blend in fruit.
Spoon it on crisp greens. Let it take down the rich fattiness and salt of cured meats, and let it give a lush hedge to powerhouse cheeses like Gorgonzola and Taleggio.
Video by Jennifer Simonson for MPR.
1. Chop the figs into 1/4-inch dice, and place in a medium size bowl. Pour the red wine over them, and allow them to marinate at least 30 minutes. Drain and set aside. Reserve the wine, and add additional wine to make 1/2 cup. Set aside.
2. Lightly film the bottom of a 12-inch sauté pan with oil, and heat over high heat. When the oil is hot and shimmers slightly, add onion, a little salt, and a generous amount of pepper. Toss over high heat 2 minutes. You want the onion to begin to brown but still be somewhat crisp.
3. Stir in the red pepper flakes and cloves. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to stir for 1 or 2 minutes. Pour in the vinegar, scraping up any brown glaze on the bottom of the pan, and boil down to almost nothing, stirring occasionally with a wide wooden spatula to avoid scorching. Add the wine and the sugar and continue to boil over medium heat until thick and syrupy. You want the syrup to cling to the onions and not be soupy.
4. Stir in the drained figs. Taste the jam for seasoning, and simmer for a minute or two. Mellow the jam for a few days in the refrigerator.
5. Assemble the spears by making sure each leaf is dry, and then heap a teaspoon or less of the jam in the center of each leaf. When you want to set out the antipasto, top each mound of jam with chopped pistachios.
This recipe appears in Italian Holidays: Eating In with Lynne Rossetto Kasper, Issue 3, which is available as an e-book.
Darra Goldstein is editor in chief of The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, an 888-page reference guide to all things sweet. "The book is really a compendium of human desires, a cultural history of desire for things that are sweet and what it has caused in the world, in both the realm of pleasure and also of pain," she says.