There’s more to Rosh Hashana than round challah, brisket, kugel, and apples dipped in honey. It’s a celebration of the new year, a time to start fresh, and I couldn’t think of any better way to begin the holiday than at my sister’s apartment where she and her husband hosted their first grown-up dinner/family holiday meal. I’m not going to discuss the meal as a whole because I’m hoping to convince her to guest blog about the experience, but I will talk about one of my contributions: roasted fig salad.
One of the things I was asked to bring was the salad course and I knew almost immediately that I wanted it to include figs. For one thing, figs have been on my mind lately and I’ve been looking for an excuse to experiment with them a bit. Second, in general I like fruit in salads (it’s that whole sweet-savory palate thing) but in this case figs seemed extremely fitting for both seasonal and symbolic reasons.
But, of course, there’s a twist: roasting the figs. This is very simple to do and requires no more effort than it takes to quarter a bunch of figs, chop some rosemary and cook those ingredients in the oven with olive oil. Roasting the figs deepens their flavors and infuses them with the savory elements of fresh rosemary.
After the figs have been roasted all that’s left is to toast the walnuts, whip up a quick balsamic vinaigrette and toss it all together with arugula and shaved manchego cheese. The bitter, astringent, peppery and tangy flavors of those ingredients work to balance the sweetness of the figs.
This recipe is great not only for Rosh Hashana, but for anytime you’re craving a filling and delicious salad, so long as fresh figs are available.
Here’s the recipe:
Roasted Fig Salad, serves 6 to 8
3/4 cup walnut halves
2 to 3 cups firm figs, stems trimmed and quartered lengthwise
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
5 ounces arugula (1 bag), rinsed and drained
Balsamic vinaigrette, 1 recipe
1 to 2 ounces manchego* cheese, preferably 6 months raw milk
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Arrange the walnut pieces on a baking sheet and place in the heated oven. Baked until the walnuts are lightly toasted, 4 to 6 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes. Keep an eye on the walnuts because they can burn quickly.
Remove the walnuts from the baking sheet and set aside. Wipe the baking sheet clean and increase the oven temperature to 350°F. Set the quartered figs on the baking sheet and toss with the fresh rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper. Arrange figs in a single layer with the skin side down. Roast the figs until soft and fragrant, about 12 minutes. Allow to cool on the baking sheet to room temperature.
To assemble the salad, toss the arugula, toasted walnuts and roasted figs with half the balsamic vinaigrette. Pour remaining vinaigrette into a serving dish. Use a vegetable peeler to slice thin strips of cheese and scatter over the salad. Serve the salad and drizzle individual portions with more balsamic vinaigrette if desired.
*Manchego is a Spanish sheep’s milk cheese usually found at cheese counters of high-end grocery or specialty stores. It can be aged 3, 6 or 12 months; the older the cheese the harder the texture and tangier the flavor.