Fig and Fried Goat Cheese Salad with Nectarine Vinaigrette ~ oh wow, where to start? With the gorgeous fresh figs, or the crispy goat cheese all warm and melty inside? The nectarine vinaigrette is an explosive flavor bomb, too!
The figs are here! This is the only time you’re going to see them fresh in the marketplace, so be sure to grab some while they’re around. I like the dark purple Black Missions, they’re so special all you really need to do is slice them into wedges and indulge. A salad like this Fig and Fried Goat Cheese Salad with Spicy Nectarine Vinaigrette will steal the show — your main course will have to play second fiddle for a change, but that’s perfect because you can serve the simplest thing with it and still have a hit on your hands. Between the voluptuous figs, the toasted walnuts, the warm creamy cheese, the peppery arugula, and the sweet/hot/tang of the nectarine dressing, you’ve pretty much covered all your foodie sensations.
If I’ve accomplished nothing else on this blog, I hope I hope I’ve convinced you to play around with vinaigrettes. They’re ingenious little flavor bombs. A ripe nectarine and a small food processor or blender is all you need to create this one. The rest of the ingredients are the usual suspects…olive oil, champagne vinegar, a little grainy Dijon mustard…oh, and a habanero pepper. That might not be a usual suspect, but it’s good! I first made this dressing with jalapeno, but I didn’t like the flavor it added, so I went with half a habanero pepper and it’s just perfect. The habanero adds lots of fire but doesn’t compete with the nectarine.
Be sure to fry the rounds of goat cheese at the last minute, just before you serve the salad. They’ll have a little crunch on the outside and be warm and oozy inside. The contrast between the warm cheese and the greens is really nice. Salad with this much going on is a feast for all the senses, with a mix of enticing colors, textures, and flavors.
- 4 handfuls baby arugula (one handful per serving)
- 4 ripe black mission figs, quartered
- 1/2 cup toasted walnut halves (toast for 10 minutes at 350F)
- 1/2 heirloom tomato, cut in small wedges
- 5 oz block of goat cheese
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp assorted dried herbs (I used thyme, oregano and dill)
- oil for frying
- 1 nectarine, washed and sliced (don't peel)
- 1/2 habanero pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 Tbsp champagne vinegar
- 1 tsp grainy Dijon mustard
- pinch salt
- First make the dressing. Puree the nectarine with the habanero in a small food processor, processing until fully pureed.
- Pour just 3 tablespoons of the puree into a jar or small bowl and whisk in the rest of the ingredients. Take a taste and adjust it if you like. Refrigerate until needed.
- Put the arugula in a wide shallow salad bowl. Scatter the figs, walnuts and tomatoes over the top.
- Slice the goat cheese into 4 rounds. If your log is long and thin, you can make smaller rounds, or reform the soft cheese with your hands to make larger patties.
- Whisk the egg in a small bowl. Put the crumbs in another and stir in the salt and herbs.
- Coat the bottom of a skillet with oil and heat on medium until hot. Dip each goat cheese pattie into the egg and then into the crumbs. Make sure the crumbs coat all surfaces of the cheese. Fry in the hot oil until golden on each side, it should only take a couple of minutes.
- Drain the patties on paper towels and then set immediately onto the salad. Serve with the vinaigrette.