In Italy, ricotta cheese and honey are traditional accompaniments to fresh fruit, and figs make a perfect partner. The secret of this dessert, which is simplicity itself, lies in the quality of the ingredients. Look for fresh (hand-packed) whole milk ricotta (often a staple at Italian delis, and Whole Foods generally carries it as well), or make your own. Choose a honey with a distinctive flavor, such as tupelo, ginger, or chestnut. Your figs should be perfectly ripe. The Balsamic Glaze is optional, but it adds a beautifully rich complexity to the dessert, and it's a staple item that's great to have on hand in your pantry.
Place the balsamic vinegar in a non-reactive pan over medium heat. Once the vinegar begins to simmer, reduce the heat to low and cook until the vinegar turns syrupy, 30 to 45 minutes. You should have about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of glaze. Don't allow the vinegar to boil or it will taste scorched. Cool for 10 minutes, then transfer the glaze to a squeeze bottle with a narrow tip. The glaze can be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator indefinitely. To soften, immerse the bottle in a bowl of hot water.
Divide the ricotta among 4 plates, making a neat mound on each. Drizzle the cheese with some of the honey and sprinkle with the poppy seeds. Grate a little bit of fresh nutmeg over each serving so that it lightly dusts the plates. Arrange the figs around the cheese. Squeeze a few dollops of balsamic glaze around the plate and serve.