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'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
6 to 8
head radicchio, core removed and leaves washed and roughly torn
escarole, leaves washed and roughly torn
plus 1 teaspoon honey
almonds, coarsely chopped or sliced
sea salt, to taste
ripe figs, stems removed
finely minced shallot
extra virgin olive oil
apple, cored and cut into 1/8-inch thick slices
pear, cored and cut into 1/8-inch thick slices
thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into small strips
good-quality blue cheese, crumbled (optional)
chopped flat-leaf parsley
In This Recipe
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.