One of my favorite things about summertime is the abundant array of sweet fruits that are in season. So when I came across this summer salad recipe featuring fresh figs, I knew I had to try it. I’m not typically a big fan of fruits in my salads, but there’s something about the mellow sweetness and rich texture of ripe figs that make perfect sense in this beautiful recipe by chef Yotam Ottolenghi.
Before I headed out to shop for the ingredients at my local Whole Foods Market , I had the great opportunity to gather some expert tips from their Southern Pacific Regional Produce Coordinator, Paul Dziedzic and Whole Foods Market local produce buyer, Don Nishiguchi:
What are some popular varieties of figs available in this region and what’s the difference between them?
The first flush of figs starts in the desert in late May and ends around late June. Current availability has been organic brown turkey figs and black mission figs with small quantities of Kadota or Sierra -- both green varieties.
Second flush comes around the end of July and early August. Then we will also have fresh Calmyrna figs (large and green), which are coveted as the premier fig variety.
We hope to get some of the Panachee Tiger stripe variety this year. Figs are mildly sweet and earthy and play well with salty combinations like goat cheese and prosciutto. Also try grilled figs! Brush them with butter to help sear the cut side and add some salty goodness.
How do you know when a fig is ripe and ready to eat?
Ripe figs should be evenly colored and give to gentle pressure.
This recipe specifically calls for young and creamy goat cheese to balance out the sweetness of the figs. Are there specific varieties that you recommend?
A couple of our recommendations are the Montchevre goat cheese log or Whole Foods Market goat cheese log.
The recipe below is adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks of all time, Plenty. This salad achieves a harmonious balance between the sweetness of the figs, the tartness of the pomegranate, the saltiness of the goat cheese and the herbaceous flavor of arugula and basil.
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp pomegranate molasses
salt & black pepper
Salad & Topping:
1 1/2 cups arugula
3/4 cup basil leaves, stems removed
8 ripe figs at room temperature
2 1/2 oz creamy goat cheese
For the dressing: mix the finely chopped shallot with mustard and pomegranate molasses in a medium bowl. Add some salt and pepper to taste and whisk vigorously. Slowly pour in the olive oil and whisk until smooth.
Add most of the arugula and basil leaves to the dressing mixture, reserving some to finish the salad, and toss gently. Lift the dressed leaves into a large serving plate or bowl.
Cut the figs vertically into quarters and arrange over the leaves. Next, dot the figs and leaves with crumbled goat cheese. Scatter the remaining leaves on top, drizzle with a little extra olive oil and season with salt & pepper if desired.
Special thanks to Whole Foods Market* for always carrying the freshest variety of in-season produce and to Paul Dziedzic and Don Nishiguchi** for their expert advice. I hope you enjoy this delicious summer recipe! Bon appétit!