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.
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
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
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.
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.