In a recent post, I mentioned a recipe which had introduced us to a “new genre of summer dining pleasures”. Now I will tell you what I meant by that and explain how we prepared the salad and applied its logic to other ingredients.
It is common enough for a salad to include salad leaves and a protein. Think of the classic Caesar salad and its many variations. I have been making that style of salad for at least 25 years.
And it is not unusual for a salad to consist of a mixture of vegetables and fruit. Think orange and fennel, or, with some nuts, the classic Waldorf.
Then there are the many different salads built on a foundation of rice, lentils, pasta etc, some of which include vegetables, fruit and protein.
What is less common is to find a salad which comprises just leaves, protein and fruit, ie with no other vegetables, no carbohydrates, no seeds and no nuts. (But please tell me if I am simply revealing the limitations of my knowledge of the world’s cuisines.)
Until this summer just gone, the only dish in our repertoire which approximated this formula was a semi-warm salad of leaves, fig, spiced duck breast and walnuts. In fact, for several years, this was our go-to dish on Valentine’s Day, accompanied by a glass or two of pinot noir. (Alas, its place in our culinary pantheon has been taken by our version of duck larb, inspired by a meal we enjoyed in Vietnam on 14 February this year!)
But I digress!
In Melbourne, black figs begin to appear on our greengrocer’s shelves around mid-December, which is when we found a Neil Perry recipe for a warm salad featuring leaves, fig, prosciutto and grilled halloumi.
We pared the recipe back by doing without the pine nuts and the sumac. And we dressed the salad by tossing the rocket and mint leaves with some mild olive oil and lemon juice before assembling the salad, as shown in the first photo.
Delighted by the satisfaction of preparing and eating this salad, we went on to apply its logic to other combinations of ingredients to go with various types of salad leaves. These included: prawn, avocado and tomato; ditto with caramelised mango replacing the tomato; poached chicken breast, fig, avocado and prosciutto; and ditto with fig being replaced by the mango.
Fig season is drawing to a close now but, thanks to Neil Perry, we have many happy palate memories that will sustain us until next December.