Roasted Fig Salad: Vancouver Edition

Continuing where I left off, I’d found some beautiful Black Mission figs at a produce stand in the Granville Public Market. I have loved figs ever since John and I got this delicious tapas plate of grilled chorizo and Black Mission figs in a red wine reduction at an anniversary dinner in Salt Lake City. I rarely see them in the grocery stores so when I saw these, I pounced even though I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with them.

One thought was to roast them with the lamb and fennel, but at the last minute, I nixed the idea because I was afraid that the anise flavor of the fennel when mixed with the sweet figs might make everything taste like a Fig Newton. We’d also bought a little package of baby spinach leaves for a salad, but no other veggies to brighten it up out of a sense of pragmatism since it was our last night in the condo. We didn’t want to buy too much produce as it would only go to waste when we’d have to throw it out instead of bringing it over the border. (Odd, since I’m pretty sure that spinach was from a farm in California.) So why not roast the figs to dress up the salad?

Now in a dress-up mindset, I thought I’d try roasting the figs so that they’d be sweet, juicy, and warm, hoping that the heat would also slightly wilt the spinach leaves. Even better– we had some leftover cranberry stilton (purchased at the nearby super expensive grocery chain equivalent to Whole Paycheck) in the fridge that needed to be used up, so why not make stuffed figs for the salad? And why yes, that is a grill pan that you saw above, as I had no other roasting pan in my meager (but still perfectly usable!) condo kitchen.

Lastly, what to do about a salad dressing. John and I rooted through the cabinets– a sometimes scary experience given the number of people who stay there and leave behind random groceries (I’m thinking of you, 3-year-old brie wedges wrapped in wax paper and sitting in the freezer.) At first we couldn’t find balsamic vinegar to mix with olive oil, but we did find some creamy cinnamon honey. Here we had a disagreement as I thought that the cinnamon would be a nice, warm spicey background for the figs and salty-sweet cheese. John thought it’d just be gross mixed with any salad dressing that we might be able to muster. After further digging, we found some balsamic salad dressing in the fridge that couldn’t be too old as we were pretty sure it was the bottle we’d purchased when we’d been there in March, but that cinnamon honey just kept calling to me, if anything for the pioneering adventure of cooking with what you’ve got on hand. We ended up compromising by tossing the salad greens with the dressing then lovingly drizzling the honey on just the figs themselves.

This was such a great salad– a little fancy but so simple at the same time! The stilton with its cranberries added a slightly salty and tart backdrop to the sweet, plump figs. Warm from the oven, the soft fruit provided a nice texture contrast to the crisp spinach leaves. And the cinnamon honey added just enough spice to keep the whole thing interesting– a kind of sparkling unexpectedness peeking through the flavors of the roasted fig. I bet this would be a really pretty salad to warm up a holiday dinner table if you want to give it a try!

  • 1 pint Black Mission figs
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 2 oz cranberry stilton
  • balsamic salad dressing
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon honey
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Using a paring knife, cut a X about 1/2 inch deep into the top of each fig. For each fig, crumble about 1/2 tsp, or however much will fit, of the stilton into the hole left by the X shape. Set the figs down on a lightly oiled roasting pan. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Roast the figs for about 15 minutes or until soft. While figs are roasting, toss the spinach with the dressing and plate. Sit the figs on top of each plate– since there were 2 of us, I indulged us with 5 figs each, but if you’re plating for 4, probably 2-3 on each plate would be good for a first course salad. Drizzle the figs with the honey for some added spicy sweetness.

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