Piccolo Fritto is a signature dish at Zuni Cafe in San Fransisco. Notice I said dish and not recipe, because like my version with fried figs and capers, piccolo fritto is a little fried plate of whatever is seasonal in whatever combination appeals to the cook.
The trick is to look for complimentary flavors. I chose fried figs, which might surprise you. It’s August and I’ve stolen more figs this year than ever before. I have to use them in more and more creative ways. Once I had decided on fried figs, it was easy to pick capers to go with them. Capers have a strong salty flavor. Figs love strong, salty flavors (think prosciutto and blue cheese). But to keep things fresh and creative, I also included a few crunchy roasted lentils on the plate. I don’t think Zuni serves their piccolo fritto with crunchy lentils, but I’m sure they’d approve because these roasted lentils add textural contrast to the luscious jammy interior of the fried figs.
These lentils really did add another layer to this little aperitivo snack plate. I’d recently had deep fried, chick peas in Carmel, CA so the idea of a crunchy bean as a cocktail nibble was bouncing around in my head. Then at a dinner at Girasol I noticed crunchy lentil beans served on a plate with perfect nectarines. I casually asked if they were fried. When the server said, “roasted” I knew instantly how to make this crunchy little addictive treat. I didn’t even have to ask for the recipe. I’ll have more about these beans in the next post.
Right now I’d prefer to talk about fried figs. Maybe figs aren’t the first thing that pops into your head when someone says fritto misto, but why not? This is fig season and this little mixed plate of fried food is a wonderful sweet and savory combination of tastes and textures. I’m hoping you’ll see how fried figs can make a great small plate accompaniment to a simple Italian apertivo. Make a bunch and serve them communally on a big plate at cocktail hour. It’s still summer and figs are still in season. So come on and give fried figs a try. GREG