Back to my figs. Truly, I have never found anything more perfect to do with a fresh fig than eat it straight out of the paper bag on the way back from the market. But they can’t all go that way. So they end up gracing salads, garnishing deserts, placed on coffee saucers like bon bons – anywhere I can stick a fig – a fig is stuck.
This kind of raw consumption is handy for the quickie lunches I’ve been making lately – particularly autumn salads. While juggling baby, visiting parents, marketing brainstorms and a new book proposal, I’m trying desperately to preserve the French tradition of eating real meals. A big beautiful salad is my best solution. This month, heads of red Bibb lettuce, tart apples, pine nuts, goat cheese toasts, hard boiled eggs, pesto chicken breast, and dill-tossed avocados have all made their way into the shallow, bone china bowl I prefer. I keep meaning to buy chicken livers (figs and liver, yum). All to be topped, bien sur with slices of deep purple fig. It’s sometimes the only civilized thing I manage to do for myself all day. (That, and a quick sneak into the bathtub while Augustin is napping.
The Basics of Fig Fest Autumn Salad
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 ½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Good pinch of coarse sea salt
2 good handfuls of red Bibb lettuce, washed and dried
1 or 2 fresh figs, skin on, cut into quarters or eights
Add the ingredients for the vinaigrette to the bottom of a large salad bowl. Whisk together with a fork. Toss the salad to coat. Transfer the dressed salad to a clean plate or shallow bowl. (Do yourself a favor, don’t get lazy and eat out of the mixing bowl. You are not a piglet, you are a person – and pretty presentation will make your day better.) Top with a layer of fresh figs and any of the ingredients below. Enjoy!
1 avocado, sliced and tossed with fresh dill and a bit more balsamic vinegar
1 chicken breast, tossed with good quality pesto sauce, a sprinkle of pine nuts and slices of tart apple
Slices of soft goat cheese (on their own or laid on a thin piece of sourdough bread and grilled under the broiler)
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced, topped with fresh dill or chervil
3-4 chicken livers, quickly seared in olive oil (I know this kills the no dirty pots idea – but it’s only one tiny frying pan…)
Spicy Chocolate Pots with Fresh Figs
6 oz. best quality dark chocolate (70% - I use Valrhona or Green & Black’s), chopped
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon best quality raz el hanout (available in specialty shops and Middle Eastern groceries)
1 coffee filter
1 or 2 fresh figs, quartered
Put the raz el hanout in a coffee filter and staple it shut. Heat the milk, cream and raz-el-hanout to just below boiling, then turn off the heat an leave to infuse for a few minutes. Remove the coffee filter, reheat the milk to just below boiling; add the chocolate, stir to combine.
In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg with a fork. Pour into the chocolate mixture and whisk immediately until combined. Fill 6 espresso cups, chill for a few hours of overnight. Remove from the fridge 10 or 15 minutes before serving. Serve with a tiny silver spoon and a few slices of fresh figs on the saucer.