Fig and Halloumi Salad – a taste of the Mediterranean
I love salads because they are such quick and fuss-free meals which are extremely versatile and virtually effortless to make. Given the right melange of components and ingredients, they can also be visually stunning and most certainly help to work up one’s appetite and get those salivary glands raging. That is when you’ll realise that a salad alone may just not be enough. *chuckles*
The other important thing about salads for me, is how they epitomise one of the doctrines of what good food should be, freshness. When the ingredients are crisp and just off the vine, very little needs to be done to tease out all those wonderful flavours and aroma which Mother Nature has put into nurturing them, be it fruit or vegetables. They will sing their own song, with lyrics which speaks of their innate sweetness which make all other condiments redundant. The other thing I love about salads, is how they could easy be assembled using the produce of the season. Midsummer August now and many stone fruits and other exotic varieties are in season. For me, the real treat are figs, especially Black Mission figs. I’d used them in Hidemi Sugino’s Tartlette aux Figues before and they were absolutely lovely. This time round its a red simple Fig and Halloumi Salad, a taste of the Mediterranean summer.
The ingredients were pretty impromptu. Firstly, a bag of salad greens from a local gourmet food store that was incredibly fresh. Yes, a premium one has to pay for such quality, almost twice compared to what I’d usually pay for a regular packet of salad greens elsewhere, but perpetually every leaflet was crisp and green, so attrition and wastage was kept to a bare minimal making the bag
really somewhat worth it. I’d used two stone fruits as embellishments. Turkish apricots are also in season and they look so plump and radiant in their golden robe. Rainier cherries, which came from across the Atlantic ain’t Mediterranean of course but I just love their graduated pastel hues for good appeal and colour contrast, not to mention how delish they are, making the regular Bing taste so drab and run-in-the-mill. Moreover, this year’s crop is excellent in quality, almost blemish-free in the large punnet I’d gotten with stalks still green. Chopped almonds or for that matter of fact any toasted nuts work really well in salads for textural contrast. Now in retrospect, Silician pistachios would have been more apt and in sync with the Mediterranean theme but they lack the distinctive nutty aroma and crunch which toasted almonds have. Oh well, in life you can’t have it all…
Figs are in season and there are quite a number of varieties seen so far. I’d seen Israeli figs in practically every supermarket around me and they are dirt cheap this year at SGD 2.75 for a punnet of 4. Super excited about seeing figs and seeing them so cheap, I grabbed 5 punnets only to realise why. They ain’t sweet, probably prematurely harvested, which makes perfect sense. Give how fragile these babies are and how poorly they travel, they would have to be harvested when they were still green to make the journey. Can’t help but feel disappointed but all is not lost, I could probably make a tart with them but not a la Sugino anymore, but probably something more rustic. We shall see…
Thankfully I’d managed to chance upon another batch of figs in a local supermarket and this time round, my favorite Black Mission figs grown in Turkey. They are inredibly nectary…. just incredible, incredible, incredible…So yes, you see the “facade” of Israeli figs in the “ingredients list” photo just above while the actual figs used on the plated salad are acually Black Mission figs.
Halloumi is also a lovely variety from Cyprus that is made from goat’s milk. I’d gotten to know about Halloumi some years back, thanks to Nigella’s cooking shows incidentally. Before that, I didn’t even know cheese could be pan-fried! They are much more briny than other cheeses but goes very well with just crackers and sweet fruit or pastes like quince.
The only cooking involved in the making of this dish, pan-frying the slabs of Halloumi til they are golden brown on both sides. Spanish olive oil is used, again very Mediterranean! Pardon me but I’m trying to make the dish relevant here! LOL
Fig and Halloumi Salad Recipe (serves 1)
1 large Black Mission Fig, or 2 smaller ones. Use whichever sweet fig variety that is available
1 cup of salad greens
2 Turkish apricots (can be substituted with semi-dried ones which also taste quite good)
2-4 cherries (I’d used Rainier cherries but feel free to use other varieties, or simply omit)
4-5 toasted almonds, or nuts of any preferred variety, chopped coarsely
1 packet of halloumi cheese
2 tbsp olive oil for pan frying
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
1 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar (optional)
1. Cut Halloumi cheese into slabs and pan-fry them with olive oil in a saucepan. Place fried pieces over kitchen paper to absorb excess oil.
2. Cut figs into quarters or sixths, depending on size, and set aside.
3. Quarter Turkish apricots, remove the stone,
4. Halve the cherries, if using, remove stalk and stone.
5. To assemble, simply lay a bed of salad greens onto serving plate, place fig pieces over them followed by pan-fried Halloumi, cut stone fruits and finally chopped almond.
6. In a small bowl, emulsify olive oil with balsamic vinegar and drizzle over salad.Serve immediately.
You know life ain’t that bad if the croissants are good 🙂