Late Summer Fig Salad

I always get a strange feeling of melancholy in late August, when my favorite season, Summer, begins to wind down and give signs that its handing the reigns over to Fall (a season I've never liked for the pure fact that it comes after Summer). It starts to get dark out a little earlier for starters, and Rome, which has grown quiet as everyone has left for Summer holidays, slowly starts to fill up again --  the subways are again crowded in the morning, parking becomes once again problematic, the lines at the bar for coffee are again long. In the early morning and at night, the temperatures feel just barely chilly, a hint of what is to come in the next few weeks (I have always been befuddled by "Fall" people, the ones who welcome sweaters and boots and scarves. Pshhh).

There are a few things however that make Summer slowing down a little less bittersweet, and one of them happens to be Fig Season (!!!) In late Summer, magical, majestic figs are at their best, supremely sweet and juicy and not to mention versatile, lending themselves to both savory and sweet pairings, perfect at breakfast with yogurt and a drizzle of honey or eaten as is. They're the prettiest fruit going in the market, sparkly and pink and gem-like, hands down the most photogenic fruit or vegetable I've ever come across. Its almost as if figs know how special they are, their short season akin to a brief appearance at the party in the markets before moving on to bigger and better things, so delicate and easily blemished that you need to take special care with them.  

Now, I know what you're thinking, and let me stop you right there -- this Late Summer Fig is a salad, yes, but don't underestimate it. This is one of those salads that defies the boring-pile-of-lettuce-stereotype, a salad that I do (and you could) eat happily. We've got salty rich prosciutto, peppery arugula, summer-y basil, smoky crunchy hazelnuts, heavenly mozzarella di bufala, and glorious, radiant figs, the star of the show, all tied together with a a sharp-sweet mix of honey, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. Every bite is a little different and every one is better than the next. Bonus: have you ever seen a prettier, more elegant salad?! Didn't think so.

A couple of notes: This salad is infinitely flexible; replace the hazelnuts with pistachios or pine nuts, the mozzarella di bufala with goat cheese or even feta cheese, or leave out the prosciutto for the vegetarians, if you want. You can use either purple or green figs here -- both work.

Looking for other fancy salad recipes? I've got these Nectarines with Arugula and Burrata, this Watermelon and Feta Salad, this Greek Panzanella, this Corn, Tomato, and Avocado Salad, and this Fennel Salad with Oranges and Olives. Looking for more fig recipes? I've also got these Roasted Red Wine Figs, two ways. 

LATE SUMMER FIG SALAD

Ingredients for the dressing:
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey

Ingredients for the salad:
6 figs
4 slices (about 2 ounces, or 55 grams) prosciutto, torn in to smaller pieces
4 cups arugula (80 grams)
1/4 cup (a small handful) hazelnuts
4 basil leaves
1 (125 gram, a little more than 4 ounces) ball mozzarella di bufala

Directions:
In a small bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients and set aside. Cut the stems off the figs and quarter them. Chop up the hazelnuts roughly, cut the mozzarella into pieces, and tear the basil in to smaller pieces. 
In a medium bowl, toss the arugula together with some of the dressing, just enough to coat. Distribute the arugula evenly on four plates, then top with the figs, prosciutto, hazelnuts, mozzarella, and a bit of basil for garnish. Drizzle the salads with more dressing (serve the rest on the side) and eat up. Serves 4.












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