I've always felt like August is the least appreciated month of the year. People start to think about their summer vacations drawing to a close, and the grocery store switches the contents of its "seasonal aisle" from picnic gear and pool toys to the dreaded spiral-bound notebooks and number 2 pencils. August's birthstone is the peridot. The what? Exactly. No official holidays, none whatsoever, occur during August.
That being said, there are plenty of unofficial holidays that take place during this ho-hum month, a few of which I'll share with you, providing you with a reason to celebrate the end of summer. These holidays come to you courtesy of Brownielocks:
- August 3-9 is National Clown Week: This could either be a funny or scary-themed party, depending on how you feel about clowns (they scare the you-know-what out of me.)
- August 9-17 is Elvis Week: Just think of the endless possibilities--fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, lip curling contests, a jumpsuit fashion show....
- August 6 is National Fresh Breath Day: Yay! Tic-Tacs for everyone!
- August 8 is Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor's Porch Night: I don't know about your neighborhood, but we do that weekly here--such fun!
- August 10 is National Duran Duran Appreciation Day: For all of my fellow children of the 80s, get out that Simon LeBon poster and sing "Hungry Like the Wolf" at the top of your lungs.
- August 22 is Southern Hemisphere Hoodie Hoo Day: You're on your own here, as I have no idea what this means.
So, there you have it, a handful of good reasons to look forward to next August. I was reminded of one more reason during my recent trip to Costco, Eric in tow. As I was doing a quick lap around the frigid fresh produce room, I spotted a beautiful display of fresh ripe figs, 24 per flat, which I couldn't resist adding to our overflowing cart. I love fresh figs, which are only available around these parts during the late summer months. When I arrived home, however, I realized that 24 is a lot of figs, so I've started to get creative with ways to use them in recipes. This simple bruschetta makes good use of the figs and my large package of Costco prosciutto (it was too good of a deal to pass up!) Grilling figs results in a great caramelized flavor, which tastes wonderful with the salty prosciutto and bitter radicchio. You can serve these as an appetizer for a party, or just eat a few as a light meal, along with a salad or soup. Here are a few extra tip for preparing these bruschetta bites:
- Radicchio often has a bitter flavor, which is too strong for many people. To lessen the bitterness, soak the radicchio in ice water for 20 minutes prior to using it. Dry the leaves before adding to the other ingredients.
- An alternative option for the radicchio is to substitute baby arugula leaves. This way, you will still have a stronger flavor, but one that is peppery as opposed to bitter.
- If you don't have a grillpan or grill, then you can broil the figs, about 6 inches from the heating source, until they start to brown and caramelize. You can also pan-sear them in a non-stick skillet until browned.
- For an extra layer of flavor, sprinkle a bit of freshly shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on top of the bruschetta just prior to serving.
Fig and Prosciutto Bruschetta
Makes about 24
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup honey plus 1 tablespoon
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 large shallot, minced
3 cups thinly sliced radicchio
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut crosswise into thin strips
¼ cup fresh basil, chiffonade
12 (½-inch thick) slices fruit and nut bread, each piece cut into two 2X3-inch pieces
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and ½ cup honey until well combined.
Heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Place the fig halves and 1 tablespoon of oil in a large bowl and toss to coat. Grill the figs until slightly charred, about 2 minutes per side; transfer to a plate.
Whisk the remaining 1 tablespoon honey, 4 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar, and shallot in a small bowl. Season the dressing with salt and pepper. Combine the radicchio, prosciutto, and basil in a medium bowl. Toss with the dressing and season with salt and pepper.
Grill the bread until just crisp, 1-2 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter; brush toasts with honey-butter. Top each with some of the radicchio mixture and one fig half; serve warm or at room temperature.