Roasted Fig, Grape & Radicchio Digestif Salad with Walnut Ricotta

October 11, 2022
0 Ratings
Photo by Joni Goldbach
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 35 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

Allow me to wax poetic for a moment. The transition from summer to fall can be bittersweet. The days grow shorter and the light starts to change from the technicolor brights and bleached tones of summer to the richly shaded and muted colors of autumn. It rarely gets cold enough in SoCal to enjoy the coziness of thick sweaters and stormy evenings in, so I celebrate the more subtle cues of changing seasons. Trips to the farmer's market take on a little more urgency when the figs arrive. I always buy more than I can eat fresh.

Like a nip of amaro after a big meal eases the transition to night, my aim with this recipe is to provide a moment to digest the bounty of this all-too-brief shoulder season melding bitter and sweet to prepare the palette for the richer flavors of fall. This is a salad masquerading as a dessert for people who don't do dessert with rich, roasted figs and grapes offset by the intensely bitter radicchio and pulled together with walnut and saba or Balsamic vinegar.

I blended the toasted walnuts with a little water and honey to make something like vegan ricotta (inspired by a memory of a Matthew Kenney recipe for cashew ricotta) which I layer under the fruit so that you can slather a little bit on each bite. It may seem like a fussy step but helped me elicit an "oh, wow!" from my toughest taste tester.

My recipe asks you to use quite a bit of fruit to help use up any delicate pieces that might be nearing the end of their shelf life. It'll ensure that you have enough for abundant servings, but you can get away with a little less. If you have leftover fruit and walnut ricotta, use them to top some toasted sourdough for a delicious breakfast tartine, or spoon the fruit and roasting juice over yogurt or vanilla ice cream. Consider switching out some of the fruit for plums or pears which are also delicious in this dish.

A note on vinegar: I used saba here for its syrupy sweetness. It can easily be swapped out for a thick Balsamic vinegar or glaze. If what you have is standard Balsamic, you can get a similar effect by combining equal parts vinegar and honey. One tablespoon of each will yield a decent amount for 4 servings. —Joni Goldbach

What You'll Need
  • For the Walnut Ricotta
  • 1 cup walnut pieces
  • 1/2 - 1 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • For the Roasted Fruit & Salad Assembly
  • 2 pints figs
  • 1 pound Moon Drop, Concord or red grapes
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried)
  • 4 radicchio leaves
  • saba or thick Balsamic vinegar
  1. Preheat the oven to 425F. Toast the walnuts over medium heat in a cast iron skillet for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid burning them. You'll know the walnuts are ready when they start smelling nutty and begin to brown.
  2. Toss the toasted walnuts in a food processor or blender with a 1/2 cup of water, honey, and a pinch or two of salt. Blend into a relatively smooth paste, scraping down the sides of your container periodically. Add a little more water (up to an additional 1/2 cup) to get a ricotta-like texture. It should taste mild and nutty with just a little of that characteristic walnut bitterness.
  3. Halve or quarter the figs lengthwise. Pluck the grapes from their stems for easy eating, or leave them on for a pretty presentation in the salad. Gently toss the figs and grapes in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, thyme leaves, a few pinches of salt, and pepper to coat. Pour the fruit into the cast iron pan you were using to toast walnuts. Roast in the oven for about 30min or until they start to caramelize and release their juices.
  4. To assemble each salad, place a whole radicchio leaf on a plate. (You may find that slicing the base of each leaf from the core of a head of radicchio makes it easier to peel the leaves away intact.) Spoon a fairly generous amount, up to a quarter cup of walnut ricotta into the bottom of each leaf. Scoop warm, roasted grapes and figs into the radicchio and drizzle saba or Balsamic vinegar over top just before serving.

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