It took me all of ten seconds to decide I should attempt a warm goat cheese salad for this month’s Recipe Redux’s “Most Memorable Vacation Meal” challenge.
Even though it’s been more than a decade, I can still see and taste the original warm goat cheese and fig salad on which this one is based. It just goes to show how powerful food memories can be!
So, where did this food memory take place? In a fancy restaurant? Nope. In a food court. Not just any food court, but the Galeries Lafayette department store food hall, a cross between a gourmet supermarket and food court, in the heart of Paris.
Photo Credit: Flickr – designmatters
I was taking part in a weeklong culinary vacation, called “Unpolished Paris” that forever changed my relationship with food. It was on this trip I vowed to never again settle for tasteless, over-processed food. (Life is too short and delicious real food too wonderful!) And to try to live my life more like the the slim and elegant French ladies I saw everywhere.
The flavors and textures of that warm fig and goat cheese salad delighted me in a way food never had done before. It was one of many food memories created that week, for which I am forever grateful.
This is my interpretation as best as I can recall and recreate it with the ingredients available. I enjoyed this warm fig and goat cheese salad for lunch today and was immediately transported back to that Paris department store lunch counter…
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons water
- ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 8 small fresh figs, divided
- 3 ounces soft goat cheese
- 4 large handfuls of arugula
- 1-1/2 tablespoons, chopped toasted walnuts
- Preheat the oven or toaster oven to broil and line a small baking pan with foil.
- While the oven preheats prepare the dressing by whisking together in a small bowl, the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, water and Dijon mustard.
- Remove the tiny top stems from the figs.
- Cut 4 of the figs into quarters from top to bottom, slicing almost but not all the way through, leaving the fig attached at the base. Place them on the prepared baking pan and spread them open.
- Place a teaspoon of goat cheese in the center of each fig.
- Slice the other 4 figs into thin rounds.
- Broil the figs and goat cheese for a few minutes, until the cheese begins to bubble and turn lightly golden. (Check them often to prevent melting/burning.)
- While the figs and cheese are broiling, toss the arugula with the dressing and divide them among 2 salad plates.
- Arrange the sliced figs and dollops of remaining goat cheese on top of the arugula.
- When ready, place two broiled figs on each salad and sprinkle with nuts. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately.