Announcing the winner of the September Cooking Contest! Charlene Sax, a Los Angeles native and an exceptional home cook, shared her inspiration for this simple and lovely composed salad, which features fruit in an unconventional way.
I was thrilled to find a way to use the figs from my tree before the squirrels got to them first. Sliced like amethyst coins and quickly “pickled” in sherry vinegar and sugar, they are a perfect sweet counterpoint to tangy feta cheese, creamy avocado and toasty walnuts. If you can’t find fresh figs, roasted beets are a delicious, earthy substitute.
Charlene recounts the story of how she learned to cook: “When my brother was six and I was twelve, Mom had no interest in cooking. My brother said, with his hands on his hips: ‘Sis, if you don’t learn to cook, we are going to starve to death!’ Luckily, my grandmother took over and taught me her recipes…I guess I am a people pleaser, and cooking makes me so happy.”
Charlene enjoys shopping at local farmers markets, cooking with organic produce, and trying new recipes. Though she has traveled all over the world with her husband of almost 30 years, she says living in Los Angeles is what seasons her cooking best.
10-12 fresh ripe figs
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon organic sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces fresh spinach leaves (about 3 generous cups), washed and dried well
1 firm-ripe avocado, sliced
4 ounces feta cheese (I like goat milk feta), crumpled
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
1. Slice the figs crosswise into 1/4-inch coins and place in a small bowl. Sprinkle with vinegar and sugar and quickly “pickle” the figs for 10 minutes.
2. Drain the juice from the figs into a small bowl and make the dressing: Whisk the mustard into the fig juice, then continue whisking while drizzling in the oils. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Place the spinach leaves in a serving bowl and toss with the dressing. Top with the pickled figs, sliced avocados, feta cheese and walnuts. Season the entire salad again with salt and pepper and serve.
Looking for more salads for the fall season? Try my Iceberg Wedge with Light Ranch Dressing, Arugula Salad with Radishes and Creamy Parmesan Hemp Dressing, Shredded Tricolor Salad with Pine Nuts, Currants and Lemon-Parmesan Vinaigrette, and Frisée Salad with Green Beans, Poached Eggs and Sherry Vinaigrette.
You, too, can be a winner! Enter our October Cooking Contest with your favorite apple recipe for a good chance to collect an autographed copy of my book, The Summertime Anytime Cookbook: Recipes from Shutters on the Beach, and a surprise kitchen utensil!
Photo credit: Blake Slatkin