The first figs of the season have started popping up in markets around here. They are small–almost bite-sized–deep purple in color, soft and perfectly ripe. The combination of sweet figs wrapped in salty prosciutto is a classic Italian appetizer, but this version elevates this wonderful combination by combining it with arugula as part of a green salad. This arugula salad with fresh figs and prosciutto is the perfect way to start off a summer dinner, or, to enjoy on its own as a light lunch.
I first had this salad about 10 years ago, when we lived in Rome and my husband made it for me on my birthday. I recently discovered the torn page of an old “Gourmet” magazine with this salad as part of a simple summer menu. I read the recipe and all the notes my husband made on the margins about adjustments, with what to serve it, and with whom we enjoyed it, and wanted to make it right away.
If the figs are sweet and red inside all you need to do is just cut them in half or in quarters and add them to the salad. I wanted to enhance the flavor of mine–which were slightly under ripe–so I simply cut them in half and sautéed them on both sides in some butter for a few minutes, until they barely caramelized. This really brought out the flavor of the figs. I used my standard balsamic-mustard vinaigrette to toss with the arugula and then all was left to do is to arrange some prosciutto, the figs and shaved Parmesan cheese on top. I have to say that not only was this salad delicious, but it was very photogenic as well!
- For the balsamic-mustard vinaigrette:
- 3 TBSP. balsamic vinegar
- ½-1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- ½ tsp. sea salt
- --- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- ½ TBSP. extra-virgin olive oil
- For the salad:
- 6 oz. arugula
- 8 oz. ripe & firm purple figs, small size, cut in half
- 8 very thin prosciutto slices (like San Daniele or Parma)
- 4 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Make the balsamic vinaigrette: in a small bowl whisk together the balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, sea salt and pepper. Whisk in olive oil slowly, in a steady stream until the mixture becomes emulsified. (This recipe makes extra, which you will want to save for later salads!).
- For the salad: trim the tough stem ends from the figs and cut them in half. Taste one. If they are sweet and perfectly ripe, they are ready for the salad. If they are not, place them in a skillet cut side down and sauté them with a tablespoon of butter for about 2-3 minutes on the cut side and another 2 minutes on the other, so they caramelize a bit and soften. Set aside to cool.
- Place the prosciutto on a cutting board, trim most of fat, and then cut it lengthwise in two or three strips. Cut each strip in half. Use a vegetable peeler to shave the Parmigiano-Reggiano into slices.
- In a bowl, toss the arugula with half or one-third of the vinaigrette. Place on a large platter or on four individual plates. Arrange the prosciutto pieces, the caramelized figs and the Parmigiano slices on top of the arugula. Drizzle the salad with a bit more of the vinaigrette and serve.