It’s the first day of fall and I’m equipped with my apple spice tea, a bowl of soup and a couple hours of quiet. It’s been hot where we live but today the wind is cool and there’s a crispness in the air that feels appropriate for the occasion.
So much has changed since I last posted to this site. After much soul-searching (and tears) I left my restaurant jobs and my gig at Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen and started working on various things from home. Shortly after, Nate and I were elated to learn we are expecting our first baby in October (!!!). In anticipation of our growing family, we sold our house in Oakland and moved to a sweet little town about 20 minutes away. The changes were stressful, to say the least, but with a week or so to go before the due date we are finally getting ourselves settled and happily nesting away. And, I’m finally back in the kitchen.
During the moving process I didn’t have much access to cook. Even if I did have the opportunity, I was usually too tired and spent to give it much thought. I found myself making us simple meals that were nothing more than a few strategically combined ingredients. Avocado on toast. A plate of cheese and fruit. Crunchy vegetables toasted under a broiler and drizzled with olive oil. Salads were a mainstay, as they were easy to throw together and typically didn’t have any lingering scent to offend potential homebuyers!
Last year we celebrated our first anniversary in Spain and I’m still thinking about the dreamy meals we shared there (ps...shoutout to my husband who asked me to marry him exactly 3 years ago today!) Much like the things we ate while we were selling our house, the food we had in Spain was simple. This salad is a result of that trip. It’s a study in contrasts. Salty and sweet. Fresh yet indulgent. Delicate and decadent. The substitution options are endless and I’ve included a few below.
A few notes
-If you can’t find fresh figs, crisp apples, pears, or fuyu persimmons would do nicely. It warmer weather, strawberries, blackberries, or yellow peaches would be a good substitution.
-I wanted to make this a decidedly Spanish salad so I used Manchego, but crumbled blue would be delicious with the fruit and salty prosciutto.
-Instead of pine nuts, try toasted walnuts (especially if you’re doing the pear and blue cheese thing)
-The arugula is sturdy enough that the whole salad can be assembled an hour or so in advance of company. Just wait to add the mint until the very end, as it will wilt and brown.
-The balsamic glaze is totally optional, though it does add a pretty fab dimension to the salad and you can use the rest on ice cream, fruit, paired with pork or steak… whatever your heart fancies. Just allow it to come to room temp before serving again or reheat if it’s particularly stiff.
- If you’re planning to make this for company, make the balsamic ahead of time. Not everyone loves the smell of hot balsamic bubbling away…
-A good basic balsamic is the way to go - something with nice flavor but not your most expensive stuff
FIGS AND PROSCIUTTO SALAD WITH BALSAMIC GLAZE
- 1 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 large handfuls of arugula
- ½ small fennel bulb, shaved thin
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint, cut into thin ribbons
- 1 tablespoon good olive oil
- 3 slices prosciutto
- 4 -6 fresh figs, quartered
- Slivered manchego cheese
- 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
- Pepper and flaky sea salt
Combine balsamic vinegar and honey in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce to a gentle simmer. Allow to cook down until syrupy. If your glaze becomes too thick, you can add another splash of vinegar or water to thin it down. Remember that it will continue to thicken as it cools.
In a medium bowl, toss together the arugula, fennel, mint and olive oil until the greens are shiny and coated. You can add a little more oil to taste if you wish.
Arrange the arugula mix on serving platter or individual plates. Tear the prosciutto into strips strips, gather each strip into a bundle and lay on top of the arugula. Scatter the figs on top.
Garnish with cheese, toasted pine nuts, and more mint, if desired. Finish with a crack of fresh pepper and a sprinkle of salt.
*Your extra balsamic glaze can be kept in the fridge for a couple weeks! Reheat before use