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Easy dinner recipes: Simple ideas for fig lovers and more

A quintessential summer fruit, figs don't usually start showing up in the markets until late summer when the majority are ready for harvest. But many varieties of fig trees produce a smaller crop earlier in the season. If you're lucky enough to have a tree, or have a friend or neighbor who does, chances are you're getting your hands on the first of this early harvest about now. Celebrate with two fig recipes (and we include one using fig leaves so you can enjoy a little fig flavor even if your fruit isn't quite ready yet).

One great way to use figs is in a salad. Head out to the grill for this recipe, with radicchio and fennel quickly grilled over a hot fire. Figs are also grilled, the fruit cooked just long enough to caramelize some of their sugars and deepen their flavor. Toss the salad with goat cheese, walnuts and sherry vinaigrette, and you have dinner in under an hour.

For a slightly different take on pizza, you can't go wrong with this tasty pairing of figs, prosciutto and blue cheese. Roast figs in a fragrant blend of fresh rosemary, brown sugar, shallot and port wine for 30 minutes, then pulse the mixture several times in a food processor so it's like a thick marmalade. Spread the figs over ready-made flatbread, top with blue cheese crumbles and thin strips of prosciutto, then bake until the flatbread is crisp and the cheese is melted, five to seven minutes. You might even throw the flatbreads on the grill to finish them off.

RECIPES: 100 easy dinner ideas in about an hour or less

Fig leaves, with their hints of spice and coconut, are a fragrant wrapper for lamb meatballs on the grill. The meatballs cook gently over a low flame, then served with a side of fresh Indian raita (a yogurt salad with cucumber). The whole dish comes together in about an hour.

You can find all three recipes below.

And for more ideas, click through our easy dinner recipes gallery and check out our Dinner Tonight page, devoted to recipes that can be made in an hour or less. Looking for a particular type of recipe? Comment below or email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

GRILLED FIG SALAD

Total time: 40 minutes

Servings: 4

Note: From test kitchen manager Noelle Carter

1/3 cup walnut halves

Salt

Best-quality olive oil

2 tablespoons minced shallots

1/2 teaspoon chopped thyme

1/4 teaspoon chopped rosemary

3 tablespoons sherry vinegar

6 tablespoons best-quality olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

8 ripe figs

1 head radicchio

1 large head fennel

4 ounces fresh goat cheese (one small log)

1. Toss the walnuts with one-fourth teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil in a small bowl. Spread the nuts on a sheet pan and toast in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the shallots, thyme, rosemary, vinegar and 6 tablespoons olive oil. Season with one-half teaspoon salt and a grind of black pepper, or to taste. This makes a scant two-thirds cup vinaigrette.

3. Halve the figs lengthwise. Remove any wilted outer leaves from the radicchio and slice it lengthwise into eight wedges. Trim the top off the fennel, and slice it crosswise into half-inch strips, discarding the core.

4. Brush the radicchio wedges with a little of the vinaigrette and place them on an oiled grill heated over medium-high heat. Grill the wedges for about 2 minutes on each side, until slightly wilted with defined grill marks. Remove and reserve in a warm place. Do the same with the fennel.

5. For the figs, brush the cut side with the vinaigrette and place the halves on the grill, cut-side down. After about 30 seconds, rotate slightly and cook for another 30 seconds.

6. Divide the radicchio, fennel and figs evenly among four plates. Crumble the goat cheese evenly over the salads, and scatter the toasted walnuts over each serving. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of the remaining vinaigrette over each salad. Serve immediately.

Each serving: 484 calories; 12 grams protein; 28 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams fiber; 38 grams fat; 11 grams saturated fat; 30 mg. cholesterol; 286 mg. sodium.

GRILLED LAMB MEATBALLS IN FIG LEAVES

Total time: About 1 hour
Servings: 6

Note: Soak the skewers in water while you're assembling the packets. Serve with raita (see recipe).

24 fig leaves

1 pound ground lamb

1/2 pound ground pork

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup finely diced red onion

Wooden skewers for grilling

1 1/2 cups raita

1. Blanch the leaves, a few at a time, in boiling water until softened slightly, about 3 minutes. Remove to a bowl of ice water, then drain, pat dry and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the lamb, pork, garlic, mint, parsley, salt, cumin, Aleppo and black peppers and onion until well-combined.

3. Place a leaf on the work surface, vein side up and stem facing you. Snip off the stem. Form about 2 tablespoons of the mixture into a meatball and place it on the leaf centered and toward the bottom. Fold the bottom of the leaf up over the meatball, then fold in the sides and roll up tightly, tucking in the sides as you go. Run a skewer through the middle. Continue until all the leaves are filled, placing four stuffed leaves on each skewer.

4. Grill over medium-low heat, turning often, until the fig leaves are browned but not burned and the meatballs have cooked through, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately, unwrapping the leaves and discarding them, with a bowl of raita for dipping.

Each four-meatball serving (without dip): 237 calories; 20 grams protein; 3 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 16 grams fat; 6 grams saturated fat; 75 mg. cholesterol; 257 mg. sodium.

FIG, PROSCIUTTO AND BLUE CHEESE PIZZAS

Total time: 1 hour

Servings: 6

Note: Flatbreads are available at Trader Joe's and Middle Eastern markets.

1 pound fresh Black Mission figs (about 20 small)

1/2 cup port wine

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

3 tablespoons minced shallots

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 ounces (6 slices) prosciutto

6 (6-inch) flatbreads

4 ounces (1 cup) mild blue cheese, crumbled

1. Remove the stems from the figs, then cut the figs into quarters. Place in a 9-by-12-inch glass baking dish. Combine the port wine, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, rosemary, shallots and salt. Pour over the figs and roast at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring several times. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

2. Cut the prosciutto horizontally into half-inch strips.

3. Place the flatbreads on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and turn the flatbreads over.

4. Place the fig mixture in a food processor and pulse 4 or 5 times to break up the figs. The mixture will resemble a thick marmalade.

5. Spread about one-fourth cup fig mixture on each flatbread to within half an inch of the edge. Sprinkle the blue cheese on top of the jam, evenly dividing it between the 6 pizzas, then drape the prosciutto slices on top.

6. Bake until the cheese has melted and the flatbread is crisp, about 5 to 7 minutes. Slice and serve warm or at room temperature.

Each serving: 286 calories; 10 grams protein; 42 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 7 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 23 mg. cholesterol; 701 mg. sodium.

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