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GRILLED ASPARAGUS + VIDALIA ONIONS WITH FIGS AND AN AGED BALSAMIC DRIZZLE

AnD JUST LIKE THAT, IT’S FIG SEASON AND I’M BACK TO ENJOYING MY FAVORITE TRANSITIONAL SALAD FOR THE SEASONALLY CONFUSED.

Figs have long been my favorite markers of the changing season, but here in Southern California, summer is technically just getting started with September temps being the hottest of the year. It’s a bit of a tug-of-war as pumpkin spice things begin to make an appearance, and I want to be enthusiastic about that, but it just feels a little incongruous to me.

However you do Autumn – whether you’re slipping into your flip flops like me, or tugging on your cozy Hunter rain boots, there’s no better way to return to the table than with this hearty salad of tender-crisp grilled asparagus, sweet Vidalias kissed with a bit of char, ripe succulent figs, toasty hazelnuts, an earthy flutter of fresh thyme leaves, and a drizzle of rich, aged balsamic.

ingredients

2-1/4 pounds asparagus (preferably with large stalks), trimmed
2 medium sweet onions (such as Vidalia), cut into ½-inch disks and threaded onto metal skewers
olive oil
Himalayan salt
1/2 cup aged balsamic vinegar or balsamic reduction  – see notes
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves  (measure after stripping them from their stems) plus extra whole sprigs for garnish
8-10 fresh ripe figs, quartered (I used brown turkey figs)
1/3 cup (roughly chopped) toasted hazelnuts
flake salt + freshly ground black pepper, for finishing

do it

Serves 6. Put trimmed asparagus and skewered onions on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle asparagus and both sides of the sliced onions very generously with olive oil and sprinkle with Himalayan salt.

Grill the asparagus (uncovered) until they have grill marks and are tender-crisp, transfer from grill to a large platter. Grill onions (covered) until tender and browned, approximately 40 minutes, flipping every 10 minutes. Return the grilled onions to the baking sheet for a few minutes, until cool enough to handle.

Break up the rings of onion and scatter over the asparagus. Top with the quartered figs and chopped hazelnuts. Sprinkle the thyme leaves over the top. Finish with a generous drizzle of the balsamic, several turns of black pepper, a sprinkle of flake salt, and serve.

Garnish with extra thyme sprigs if desired. This salad is best at room temperature.

notes

Costco’s package of asparagus is exactly 2-1/4 pounds.

Asparagus with thick stalks are best for this salad and are easier to grill.

A good (thick) aged balsamic is spendy –  Trader Joe’s brand Platinum Balsamic is  an inexpensive option.

To make a balsamic reduction, simply simmer one cup of regular balsamic vinegar in a saucepan on medium-high heat, (allowing it to bubble for about 7-10 minutes) until it’s reduced in volume and has some body. Cool before using.

Recipe heavily adapted from this original.

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FRESH FIGS DIPPED IN DARK CHOCOLATE + SPRINKLED WITH FLAKE SALT

THIS RECIPE (IF WE CAN EVEN CALL IT THAT) IS A BIT OF AN HOMAGE TO A BOOK I DO NOT ACTUALLY OWN. ONE I HAVE NEVER HELD IN MY HANDS. AND WHOSE RECIPES I HAVE YET TO PURUSE… 

 

The title alone, of David Tanis’ book A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes has had a profound and lasting impression on me, and serves as a reminder that the best food is as simple as the title implies. His book, an ode to the beauty of simple food, reminds us to give ingredients their due.

These dark chocolate dipped figs are just that: a study in harmonious simplicity. Ripe, juicy, and subtly fragrant mission figs take a dip in velvety dark chocolate and then get the star treatment with a delicate sprinkle of flake salt.

These gems are the perfect way to punctuate a meal! Make ’em while you can because fig season is ruefully short…

Cheers to the simple things in life (and being morally superior) – wink.

ingredients

1 dozen fresh black mission figs, ripe but not mushy
8 ounces dark chcocolate, up to 72% dark chocolate
Maldon salt,  or your favorite flake salt

do it

Makes 12. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt the chocolate (double-boiler style) in a heatproof bowl over boiling water. The smaller the bowl the deeper the pool of melted chocolate – I use a 7 inch glass bowl over a 6 inch saucepan.

Holding each fig by the stem, dip in the melted chocolate, give it a little shake to allow any excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl. Sprinkle with flake salt and place on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Once all the figs have been dipped, refrigerate for five minutes to firm up. Set a timer,  if you leave them in the fridge too long they will produce condensate.

Best enjoyed the day of, at room temperature.

notes

Chocolate chips are not recommended for this use – most brands contain waxes and will be matte looking and brittle once melted and cooled.

I used Trader Joe’s dark chocolate pound plus bar, (they also make a 72% pound plus bar) it’s good and really inexpensive. If you prefer chocolate that’s soy free, Theo makes my favorite 70% baking bar which can be found at Whole Foods.

Any leftover chocolate should be enjoyed with a spoon (while standing at the counter, hovering over the bowl). Hypothetically, of course.

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