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Fig and Manchego Salad with Herbed Croutons

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Salad shouldn't be an obligation or an afterthought -- and it doesn't always have to be kale, either. Every other Thursday, Elizabeth Stark from Brooklyn Supper will help you make salads you actually want to eat. 

Today: Figs won't be here for long, so embrace them with open arms. Seek out the ripest figs you can find, then pile them atop a salad that's fit for fall.

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I hoard fruit.

We can all agree it's okay (commendable, even) to make the most of fruits -- the seasons are so fleeting. But I take things too far. Ripe strawberries, giant cantaloupes, sweet bunches of Concord grapes -- I buy about twice the amount that could reasonably be consumed by a competitive eating champion…in the midst of a bad break-up. Since the best way to deal with the short-lived season of any fruit is to inhale it as soon as you've brought it over the threshold, the mounds of produce on my kitchen counter expose me as shopper less savvy than I'd care to admit. But, you see, I always have projects

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Every Saturday morning at the farmers market, I forget all upcoming obligations (professional and personal) and operate under the assumption that I will of course have time to preserve, pickle, freeze, or otherwise save all 20 quarts of whatever's disappearing from the market soon. What I'm saying here is, I had a lot of figs to work through this weekend. But luckily, I'm a salad person, and figs are great in salads -- lots of figs in salads are even better. 

This is a hearty salad, totally fit for autumnal exertions, fall TV, and the like. It pairs delicate figs with Manchego, a cheese that has both the nutty flavor of a hard cheese and the buttery texture of a soft one. Tender fall greens, like arugula, mustard greens, or tatsoi, play a supporting role, while a faintly sweet Dijon vinaigrette and some garlicky sourdough croutons make it all sing. 

Fig and Manchego Salad with Herbed Croutons

Serves two

For the croutons:

2 large slices stale bread (I like sourdough), sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 large clove garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch each sea salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced herbs (such as parsley, thyme, rosemary, chives, or tarragon)

For the vinaigrette:

1 clove garlic, peeled
Pinch sea salt
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon honey
1 1/2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon minced mixed herbs

For the salad:

4 cups tender bitter greens
8 to 10 large figs, quartered
10 triangular slices Manchego
2 triangular croutons
Vinaigrette

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Elizabeth Stark

Tags: salad, figs, fall, fig, Manchego, autumn