An Autumn Salad

By • September 7, 2012 • 6 Comments

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Author Notes: Every year after Labor Day, it's as though a switch is flipped in my mind, making me think it's autumn. I immediately start craving cool, crisp air and lazy weekend afternoons in the kitchen braising short ribs and baking apple pie while my husband and son rake leaves outside or watch a football game. But then reality sets in and I realize it's still summer, and it’s still hot and muggy in the DC area. Thoughts of slow-cooked meat quickly give way to dishes that don't require a hot oven or hours in the kitchen. That’s how this salad came to be – I wanted something quintessentially autumn that could also bridge late summer to fall.
When creating this salad, I knew right off that I wanted to use a mix of radicchio and escarole. I love their pleasant bitterness and sturdy leaves that forgive you if you dress them too soon. With beautiful figs on my counter, I decided to dress the salad with a juicy fig vinaigrette (loosely adapted from a Suzanne Goin recipe) that you make by pounding fresh figs into a coarse puree in a mortar and pestle and combining with shallots, balsamic, a touch of honey, and extra virgin olive oil. I then tossed in my remaining figs and added thinly sliced apple and pear, slivers of prosciutto, and honeyed almonds. (Crumbled blue cheese is delicious in addition to or in place of the prosciutto.) The finished salad exceeded my expectations – it’s definitely greater than the sum of its parts. The sweetness of the fig vinaigrette perfectly balances the bitterness of the lettuces, with the salty prosciutto, crunchy almonds, and juicy, crisp apple and pear keeping each bite interesting. It’s a salad I’ll anticipate making each September when the days are hot but fall food beckons -- it'll be my ode to autumn.


EmilyC

Food52 Review: EmilyC's Autumn salad reminds me of the Indian summer that we experience in California. Partnering fig with prosciutto and pear with blue cheese are classic combinations that make my mouth water, so needless to say I used both! The crunch of the pear and apple, along with the sweet honey almonds were wonderful in contrast with the figs, and the saltiness of the prosciutto paired with the fresh mint and tangy-sweet fig balsamic dressing made this a delicious salad. The only word of warning I have: keep a close eye while toasting the honey-almonds, I had to make them over! aussiefoodie

Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 head radicchio, core removed and leaves washed and roughly torn
  • 1 bunch escarole, leaves washed and roughly torn
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 cup almonds, coarsely chopped or sliced
  • sea salt, to taste
  • 10 ripe figs, stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced shallot
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 apple, cored and cut into 1/8-inch thick slices
  • 1 pear, cored and cut into 1/8-inch thick slices
  • 3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into small strips
  • 3 ounces good-quality blue cheese, crumbled (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons sliced mint
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  1. To make honeyed almonds: In a small skillet, toast 1/2 cup coarsely chopped (or sliced) almonds until they just start to color -- then add 2 T honey and a pinch of sea salt. Stir frequently over moderate heat until almonds are golden and coated with honey, about 4 minutes. Take off the heat, and on a cookie sheet lined with parchment / sprayed with non-stick spray, spread the almonds in an even layer. When cool, break into small pieces.
  2. To make fig vinaigrette: cut 2 figs in half, then pound to a coarse puree using a mortar and pestle. You should have about 2 tablespoons of fig puree. Transfer the puree to a small bowl, then add the minced shallot, balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon of honey and a pinch of sea salt. Whisk in the olive oil. Taste for seasoning and balance.
  3. To assemble salad: In a large bowl, toss together radicchio, escarole, the remaining 8 figs (halved or quartered depending on size), apple, pear, and prosciutto.
  4. Drizzle in the vinaigrette a little at a time and gently toss. Sprinkle in some sea salt, then add more vinaigrette if needed. (You probably won’t need the full amount – store any leftover vinaigrette in the fridge.)
  5. If using blue cheese, add it now and gently toss once more. Arrange the salad on a large platter, then scatter the honeyed almonds, mint and parsley over the top.
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Burnt_offering

about 2 years ago Burnt Offerings

This is a winner. Such a terrific contrast of flavors, colors, and textures. Rather than mash the figs for the dressing, I simply whizzed the all the ingredients up in a small food processor and added a pinch of salt. The bitterness of the greens, the tartness of the apple, and the sweetness of the pear and figs give the salad brightness. The greens and almonds give it a lovely crunch, and the salty savoriness of the bleu cheese and prosciutto provide a superb balance and take it over the top. The dressing is also a nice contrast with the shallot and balsamic playing very nicely with the figs. Lucky for me, these ingredients make a ton - so I'm looking forward to having this again (and again) this week as a dinner salad. Lots for dieters to love here as well. This is an extremely satisfying dinner salad with a nice piece of whole grain bread. Well done.

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about 2 years ago EmilyC

I'm SO happy you liked the salad! Thanks so much for trying it and for taking the time to write such a nice, thoughtful review. Hopefully you were able to get several dinner salads out of your ingredients! I did the same!

Burnt_offering

about 2 years ago Burnt Offerings

I submitted it for this week's Community Picks - but I can NEVER fit a review in 100 words - so here you go! Loved it.

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about 2 years ago EmilyC

Thanks again -- I'll take your full-length review any day! : )

Gator_cake

about 2 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Wow! This is a stunning salad.

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about 2 years ago EmilyC

Thanks HLA! Even though I make (and eat) my fair share of salad, this one just seems extra special. It's on the menu again for tomorrow's lunch.