Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Salad Week: Arugula, Fig, Proscuitto, Walnut and Paremsan

Today marks the first day of Thanksgiving vacation. I'm home alone (wow!), baking a pie and listening to music, specifically Radiohead, Aimee Mann and Imogen Heap. I love cooking because I get so lost in it--or maybe I'm found in it. The rest of life pauses while I sift flour, salt and sugar and watch it float onto its own little white mountain. I start to remember things from my past like the Red House--a dilapidated place with peeling, fake brick siding that sat in our backyard at the house I grew up in. My siblings and I used to play a game, throwing rocks through the holes in the roof. I remember other things too: burs in my hair, the back road to my country high school, coffee with my sisters, buckles on a saddle for the girth, Brandon's old Subaru... I recollect myself and think about where I am and where I'm going. I have to cook, otherwise, I might get lost in my double-life routine.

More on that pie later . . . can't taste it until tomorrow.

Our second-to-last before Thanksgiving dinner salad was my favorite so far, winning by a nose because I have enjoyed them all. I have an arugula fetish, so it was bound to come out sooner or later. Unfortunately, Brandon does not like arugula, so I compromised with a mix. The dressing on this salad is really something special. You have to microwave the figs after dousing them with balsamic vinegar whisked with raspberry jam--a truly glorious concoction!

The recipe says it is optional to crisp the proscuitto before adding it to the salad; I would 100% disagree. If you are going to make this, you will not be sorry you took the extra time to crisp the garnish. I tried it both cooked and uncooked. There is only one choice here, and it is the first.


Serves 6.   Published November 1, 2006.
Although frying the prosciutto adds crisp texture to the salad, if you prefer, you can simply cut it into ribbons and use it as a garnish. Honey can be substituted for the jam in any of these salad recipes.

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto , cut into 1/4-inch-wide ribbons
1 tablespoon raspberry jam
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup dried figs , stems removed, fruit chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
1 small shallot , very finely minced (about 1 tablespoon)
5 ounces lightly packed stemmed arugula (about 8 cups)
1/2 cup toasted, chopped walnuts
2 ounces Parmesan cheese , shaved into thin strips with vegetable peeler

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat; add prosciutto and fry until crisp, stirring frequently, about 7 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to paper-towel-lined plate and set aside to cool.

2. Whisk jam and vinegar in medium microwave-safe bowl; stir in figs. Cover with plastic wrap, cut several steam vents in plastic, and microwave on high until figs are plump, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Whisk in remaining 3 tablespoons oil, shallot, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper; toss to combine. Let cool to room temperature.

3. Toss arugula and vinaigrette in large bowl; adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Divide salad among individual plates; top each with portion of prosciutto, walnuts, and Parmesan. Serve immediately.

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