Alice Waters’ Fig & Grape Salad

This was another dish prepared for the 24, 24, 24 event I participated in earlier this month. This salad represented California’s cuisine. The recipe comes from Chef Alice Waters, one of the chefs credited with developing California cuisine.

This is a beautiful salad. It was my first time trying figs, except for a failed attempt with Fig Newtons, I had never had figs. I was unable to get fresh ones, but reconstituted dried Kalamata figs. It was quite delicious and can’t wait to try it with fresh figs.

Fig and Grape Salad with Pancetta Crostini
Serves 6

3 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar*
6 thick slices bread
Extra-virgin olive oil
12 thin slices pancetta
9 ripe figs**
1 cup grapes, stemmed
6 small handfuls arugula
Salt and pepper to taste

*The recipe calls for good quality, aged balsamic vinegar. All I had was decent quality balsamic, so I went ahead and followed the instructions to reduce the vinegar to syrup. This is how: 

*Add approximately 1/2 cp of balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan and allow it to slowly simmer until it reduces by a little more than half and the vinegar is thick and syrupy. This took me about 20 minutes and I stirred it often. Allow it to cool and set aside.

**As I mentioned, figs weren’t in season, to rehydrate dried figs I trimmed the stems and sliced them into quarters. Placed them in a microwave safe bowl and added just enough dry white wine to cover them(about 1/2 to 2/3 cp). Cover it with plastic wrap and zap it for 2 minutes. Remove from the microwave and allow it to cool in the wine. Remove when softened. Reserve the liquid for later use.

Preheat the oven to 375°. I had baked some focaccia a few days before, so that’s the bread I used for it. Either way, you want to cut the bread into 1-inch thick breadsticks. Trim away any crusts. Make 12 long breadsticks. Brush them lightly with olive oil and wrap with slices of pancetta-spirally, like candy canes. I actually sliced the pancetta disks in half, then carefully wrapped it around the bread. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment or silpat and bake for about 10 minutes or until the pancetta begins to crisp.

In the meantime, get the fruit ready. If you find fresh figs, cut them in quarters, if you’re rehydrating them, remove them from the wine at this time. Cut the grapes in half, give the arugula a good rinse and pat it dry. Toss the arugula and fruit with a pinch of salt and fresh black pepper I also added a couple of tablespoons of the wine I used to rehydrate the figs, plus 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.

Mound the arugula and fruit on plates, drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and set a couple of crostinis on the side as garnish.


Cookingly yours,