Figs are one of my favorite fruits. They are so juicy and delicate, with a firm skin and soft, sweet interior. If you haven’t had a fresh fig, when they are available in your grocery store, definitely give it a try. They are more than just the filling of the Fig Newtons…trust me. I absolutely love them, but here in the northeast, their season is short. Whenever possible, I love to incorporate dried figs into recipes. They certainly aren’t quite the same as a juicy, fresh fig, but they are a close second. And here is one of the ways I like to cook them, reconstituting them in a port wine reduction which becomes a sweet, tangy salad dressing.
For this recipe, you want to make the dressing early, so it has time to cool off. Take 7 oz of dried mission figs and quarter them. You may also need to cut off a small, hard stem that is often times attached. If you feel a hard piece at the small end of the figs, just cut that off before quartering. Add the quartered figs to a small saucepan with 2/3 cup of port wine, 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon of honey, and 1/3 cup of olive oil. Mix everything together, and cook over a high heat until it comes to a simmer. Simmer for about 10 minutes until the figs become plump and the sauce begins to thicken. Remove from heat, and, when cooled a bit, stir in 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard.
That’s really it for the dressing…and the salad for that matter. I like to toast half a cup of walnuts or pecans and toss it all with arugula. The peppery arugula works well with the sweet dressing. And if you like your dressing more tangy, add a bit more balsamic. Just adjust to make it your own. You could also add some cheese to this salad, maybe a salty ricotta salata or some crumbled Gorgonzola. You could even add some roasted chicken and make a meal out of it. Great, now I’m making myself hungry!
Now if only we could fast forward to the spring or summer and get fresh arugula from the garden, that would make the salad even better! But with a foot of snow on the ground, that seems pretty far off!