When life gives you
I had a salad in mind for today's post, a fabulous salad I've been dying to tell you about, but that idea got scratched when my doorbell rang yesterday. A sweet friend stood there with a bowl full of FRESH FIGS! (just in case you can't tell.......... I'm excited!) My mind quickly went to work figuring out something yummy to do with these heavenly seasonal treats. I think figs have gotten a bit of a bad rap because many people only think of a certain well-known cookie when they hear the word. If you haven't tried fresh figs, you are really missing out on something delicious. They are soft, succulently sweet and the tiny seeds give just a bit of crunch with each bite. They are also extremely good for you; an excellent source of potassium, calcium and fiber.
I decided to do something fun with my treasure trove. I dipped them in a little brown sugar, quickly seared them till they caramelized and then served them in a salad with goat cheese and toasted pine nuts. I kept the dressing simple; just drizzling the salad
with a balsamic reduction and a bit of delicious Basil Oil. It was the perfect
combination with grilled lamb chops and Butterflake Dinner Rolls.
This salad is very versatile - I used arugula, but feel free to use your favorite greens or whatever looks freshest and/or prettiest at the market. The same is true with the nuts. If you have pecans or cashews, they would also be delicious in this salad in lieu of the pine nuts. If you don't have the time to make the basil oil (or don't have a plethora of fresh
basil) just drizzle some good extra virgin olive oil along with the balsamic reduction. The figs are the stars in this salad, no substitutions allowed here! :)
P.S. Oh, and thanks Jane for your lovely gift, it made my day!
Summer Salad with Brown Sugar-Seared Figs, Goat Cheese, Balsamic Reduction and Basil Oil
1 six ounce bag salad greens, your favorite variety or whatever looks freshest
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
Basil Oil (see recipe below) or extra virgin olive oil
1/2-3/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
fresh figs, halved - amount depends on size of figs, mine were fairly small so I allowed 3 per person, if yours are larger 2 might be enough
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1. Place balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced to about half the original volume or until syrupy. Set aside.
2. Spread brown sugar out on a small plate. Place fig halves, cut side down, on the brown sugar gently pushing , just a bit, to coat with the sugar.
3. Heat a small non-stick sauté pan until very hot. Add 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil and swirl to coat pan. Quickly add figs and sear for about 30 seconds or until deep golden brown. Remove immediately to a place to cool just a bit.
4. Divide salad greens among 6 plates. Arrange figs over greens and sprinkle with goat
cheese and pine nuts. Drizzle with balsamic reduction and Basil Oil (or extra virgin olive oil). Serve immediately - Enjoy!
1 cup mild olive oil
2 cups tightly packed sweet basil leaves
1. Put the measured oil in the refrigerator while you prepare the basil. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Have a bowl of ice water ready. Blanch the basil leaves in the boiling water for about 10 seconds. Remove them quickly with a fine mesh strainer and dunk in the ice water, swishing them around to be sure they’re all cold. Remove from the water and squeeze basil gently with several thicknesses of paper towel to remove as much of the water as possible.
2. Place blanched basil in blender. Add the oil and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt; blend until the basil is puréed. The mixture will be very frothy. Let the purée settle for about several minutes. Strain through a fine strainer, don't push on the solids, just let it sit and strain - this will take about 30 minutes. When most of the oil is strained through, discard the solids. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. For the best flavor, let the oil come to room temperature before using.
A few ideas:
Basil oil is excellent drizzled over tomatoes or peaches layered with fresh mozzarella. It's also great on grilled chicken or fish. I like to drizzle a bit over hummus and serve with pita chips or fresh veggies. Mix with a bit of balsamic vinegar on a plate and use as a dip for crusty bread - yum! Use your imagination and you'll discover other fun uses for this delightful green oil!