Figs are in. Now. Right this minute.
Author and food writer Jeanne Kelley has wonderfully, incredibly, marvelously (are those enough superlatives?) offered to share a Fall salad recipe with Hometown Pasadena readers. She reports though that this is a time-sensitive recipe. Figs are currently in season and it appears this window doesn’t last long. Our suggestion: head to your farmers markets and stock up so you can make this perfect salad before the window is slammed shut.
And, many thanks, Jeanne.
Fig, Fennel and Barley Salad with Bûcheron, Speck, and Honey-Spice Walnuts
This salad is pure Fall bliss when figs are ripe and abundant. Speck is similar to proscuitto, but is slightly smoked. Bûcheron is an aged goat cheese with a soft-ripening rind. Sold in rounds, it gets gooey on the edges and very flavorful as it ages. If you can’t find Bûcheron, you can substitute any soft fresh goat cheese. Fig balsamic vinegar (which is used in the dressing) is a fig-infused, slightly thick balsamic that really enhances the figs in the salad—it’s usually available at specialty food stores, but any good-quality balsamic will do the trick.
Editor’s Note: Roma Italian Deli on Lake and Mountain carry speck. The Cheese Store of Pasadena on South Lake sells Bûcheron and proscuitto. Porta Via in Pasadena and San Marino carry proscuitto (though not speck).
1/2 cup pearl barley
3 tablespoons fig balsamic vinegar, or good quality balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons toasted walnut oil
1 small head radicchio
5 cups mixed baby greens
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, very thinly sliced
3 ounces thinly slice speck or proscuitto, torn into strips
12 small ripe figs, cut in half
6 ounces Bûcheron cheese or other soft fresh goat cheese
3/4 cup Honey-Spice Glazed Walnuts (see recipe below), or toasted walnuts
Rinse the barley and combine it with 2 cups of water in a heavy medium saucepan. Season the water generously with salt and boil until the barley is tender and the water is absorbed, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. (Barley can be prepared up to 3 days ahead of time. Cover barley and refrigerate.)
For the dressing: In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, shallot, garlic, thyme, and salt. Whisk to blend. Gradually whisk in the oil and season with pepper.
For the salad: Remove the outer leaves of the radicchio and combine them with the salad greens in a large bowl. Finely chop the remaining head radicchio (you have about a 1/2 cup). In a medium bowl, mix barely, fennel, and chopped radicchio with 1/4 cup of the dressing. Season the barley mixture to taste with salt and pepper.
Add enough of the dressing to the salad greens and radicchio to season to taste and toss to coat. Scatter the speck over the greens and top with barley mixture. Garnish with the figs, cheese, and walnuts…and serve.
Honey-Spice Glazed Walnuts
A hint of honey, pepper, and allspice make these a wonderful addition to salads.
Makes 2 cups
1/4 cup (firmly packed) golden brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups walnut halves and pieces
Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper. Bring the brown sugar, 2 tablespoons water, the honey, salt, allspice, and pepper to a boil in a large heavy nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the walnuts and stir with a silicone spatula until the walnuts are lightly toasted and the syrup mixture begins to darken and caramelize, about 3 minutes. Transfer the walnuts to the prepared sheet pan, separating the walnuts with a fork. Let the walnuts cool completely. (Walnuts can be prepared up to one week ahead of time. Transfer them to an airtight container and store at room temperature.)
Jeanne Kelley is the author of three cookbooks: Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes, Holiday Baking, and Salad for Dinner. She is a long-time contributor to Bon Appetit magazine and Bon Appetit books, and writes frequently for Fine Cooking and Cooking Light. Her articles and recipes have also been featured in Prevention and Fitness. She is currently writing a cookbook for Williams-Sonoma. Around her house in Eagle Rock, Jeanne has built an urban homestead—complete with beehives, a chicken coop, and a vegetable garden.
Photography: Ryan Robert Miller at ryanrobertmiller.com