the problem with salad

 

warm fig, prosciutto & buffalo mozzerella salad

Braces.

It’s been a lot longer than I’d care to admit since my mouth was emblazoned with train tracks. Let’s just say that it was long enough for me to take for granted the fact that my teeth are straight when I look in the mirror. Long enough to have forgotten that uncomfortable and sometimes down right painful feeling of having your smile behind bars. And definitely long enough to have forgotten how it felt to be wishing for the day when you could just chomp into a crisp fresh apple or nibble hot buttery corn straight from the cob.

That distance from the memory of braces all changed early last year. I turned up to a first date – a little late and a little nervous. It wasn’t technically a ‘blind’ date as we had been introduced a few weeks earlier but that meeting, while memorable, was very brief and didn’t really allow a girl to check out the finer details. Details like the bloke in question happened to have braces.

Yes. I was a little surprised to find that this gorgeous guy in his 30s with the most dreamy Irish telephone voice had a mouth full of metal. A quick mental flash back to my teenage years confirmed that braces hadn’t hindered my abilities in the kissing department even when my partner in crime also happened to be in a similar dental situation. Phew. It wasn’t going to be a deal breaker. And as they say – the rest if history.

In terms of the kissing part I can definitely confirm that braces don’t cause any problems. But the surprising thing that I have become reacquainted with is just how tricky salad can be for those with braces. On the top of the most difficult list is wild or baby rocket – those little individual leaves with spiky bits that just love to tangle themselves around metal teeth. Watercress, can be almost as treacherous.

In the ‘not so bad’ range are things like baby spinach, butter lettuce and other soft leaf lettuces which, while not being so readily caught, can still get stuck. The more crunchy and easy to masticate leaves like cos (Romaine) or baby gem or witlof are by far the most preferred.

Then there are the wilted green and leaves which are problematic because of the ‘chewy factor’. These are things I really love, like cavalo nero or your Asian greens like bok choy or choy sum. And another thing that I recently discovered to be in this category, BBQ radicchio.

Which brings us to this week’s recipe. With the leaves on the plane tree outside my bedroom window turning that Winter-is-coming shade of brown there’s no escaping the fact that the Seasons are a changing. As is usual at this time of year I’ve been consoling myself that Summer is over by making the most of my favourite Autumn bounty – fresh figs.

The figs have been teamed with some not-so-braces friendly wilted BBQ radicchio, torn bread and the usual suspects of buffalo mozerella and prosciutto or Parma ham. Finished with a balsamic dressing given a little spike with some garlic and rosemary, they all combine to make an easy Autumn main course salad. A one bowl dish that you can dress up and serve on individual plates, or keep to a more informal style by presenting it on a platter and letting everyone help themselves – perfect for when you happen to be sharing dinner with someone who is having some orthodontic work done and would prefer to steer clear of anything braces-problematic.

warm fig, prosciutto & buffalo mozzerella salad
serves 4

This salad started out life as Jamie Oliver’s sexy fig salad which is still a favourite of mine as a starter but I like to think that my warm salad gives Jamie a run for his money. Especially when the evenings are getting cooler and you’re more in the mood for a quick main course salad.

Buffalo mozerella can be a bit tricky to source so If you aren’t able to get hold of any or it’s not quite in your price range you could substitute in some bocconcini. It won’t have quite the same lovely milky melt-in-the-mouth texture but it will be a hundred times better than rubbery old supermarket mozerella. Of course you could always try another angle with some fresh ricotta or even goats cheese.

If you don’t have a BBQ or feel a bit weird about BBQing lettuce – which I do understand – you could either leave the radicchio as is for a lighter feel or ditch the radicchio altogether and go for a couple of handfuls of basil or flat leaf parsley leaves.

A final option, if you or your guests are more of the vegetarian persuasion you could leave out the prosciutto (although if it were up to me I would be tempted to have a go at trying to convert them) and substitute in some roasted walnut halves or pinenuts.

a hunk of sourdough or other rustic bread (approx 120g or 4oz)
1 head radicchio, leaves washed and separated
2T aged balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
6T extra virgin olive oil
1 small sprig rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
6 fresh black figs, halved lengthwise
200g (7oz) buffalo mozerella, bocconcini or ricotta, torn into chunks
4 – 6 slices prosciutto, torn into bight sized pieces

Preheat your BBQ or a char grill pan.

Tear bread into bight sized chunks (stale bread is fine) and lightly toast under the grill or broiler to warm and freshen it up a little but not to make it golden or crispy.

Whisk together balsamic, garlic, oil and rosemary in the base of a large bowl and season well. Take out 2T of the dressing and reserve for serving. Wash radicchio leaves but don’t worry about drying too much. Cook leaves on the BBQ for a minute or so until the leaves have started to wilt and char around the edges. Toss the wilted leaves through the dressing with the bread and allow to stand for at least 10minutes.

To serve, fish the garlic out of the salad and place the leaves and bread on a platter or divide between individual plates. Artfully arrange the figs,cheese and prosciutto over the top. Drizzle each fig cut side with a little of the reserved dressing.

Serve straight up but I find if you happen to be sharing with someone who has braces it helps if you’re prepared to eat their share of the radicchio.

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{ 9 comments }

jennifer March 24, 2009 at 5:25 am

It is rude to keep dropping by to read and admire your blog without thanking you – so stylish and great recipes. Love the photos!

jules March 25, 2009 at 10:01 am

jennifer
thanks so much for your lovely thoughts. really appreciate you taking the time to say hello.

KT March 25, 2009 at 11:29 am

This looks amazing! I made a fig reduction dressing (a few figs cooked in water over low-ish heat for a few minutes, mashed, skins removed, olive oil & balsamic mixed in), for a similar salad back when it was end of summer in this part of the world. The salty prosciutto is a great counter point to the sweet figs, isn’t it? I’d like to try your version too! (I love buffalo mozzarella – probably a LOT healthier than the fried goat cheese I put on the top of mine!) Thanks for sharing this!

Jess March 26, 2009 at 6:06 am

Braces or no braces…that salad is the sex.

Em March 26, 2009 at 12:13 pm

I hate figs, what else can I use?

jules March 27, 2009 at 12:27 am

KT,
Love the idead of a fig reduction dressing. Wondering if it would work as a sauce for roast pork?

thanks jess

em,
not love figs?? you could just leave them out and go for a buffalo mozerella & proscuitto fest but if you still wanted something slightly sweet to freashen it up maybe some sliced pear would work or even grapes. Would love to hear back if you try either.

Kasey March 30, 2009 at 6:10 pm

I am pretty much obsessed with figs, so this salad is naturally something I’ll have to try. I love the pairing with the buffalo mozzarella. Good luck with the braces–I hear it’s not so bad once you get used to them :)

jules April 1, 2009 at 11:19 pm

hey kasey
I’m hearing you about the figs & buffalo mozerella.
My braces days are long gone and Glen only has a few months to go but thanks anyway

Kasey April 11, 2009 at 8:47 am

Jules,

It’s so lovely of you to respond to your comments–really refreshing :) That last sentence was meant to be addressed to Glen, but somewhere in my hurry to type, it got totally misconstrued! Anyways, silly silly me.

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