Fig season is here! This Fig Salad with Goat Cheese and Baby Arugula is a beautiful and elegant dish that’s perfect for a light lunch or a summer salad course. Prep the components ahead and assemble just before serving for easy summer entertaining.
Confession: when I woke up this morning, I didn’t plan to make or photograph a Fig Salad. Actually, I went to the market to shop for ingredients for another recipe post.
Then, the most gorgeous fig display greeted me at the door, and, well, you know what they say about the best laid plans. Another recipe on the docket or not, I just had to have those figs!
Fig Salad is one of my favorite quick and elegant recipes for a summer luncheon menu. I toss peppery baby arugula with a walnut oil-honey vinaigrette and top it with juicy, fresh figs, toasted walnuts, and crumbled goat cheese. Heavenly!
What Type of Figs Should I Use?
Depending on the month and where you live, you might find different fig varieties stocked at your local market. Generally, my local markets will stock either Black Mission, Brown Turkey, or Kadota figs.
The figs I bought for this recipe were the dark-purple-skinned Black Mission variety. When harvested ripe, these figs are sweet with a soft, juicy interior that’s studded with a lot of tiny, crunchy seeds.
Black Mission figs pair beautifully with creamy cheeses (figs and goat cheese are such a classic pairing), and make a great contrast to the tangy, peppery components in this fig salad.
When shopping for figs, bear in mind that they really don’t ripen well once they’re picked from the tree. You’ll want to make sure that any variety of the figs you’re buying are soft (but not mushy), with just a bit of give when you press on them. They should not feel solid.
Figs spoil quickly, so buy them as close as possible to when you’re going to serve them.
Want to learn more about fig varieties? Check out, “6 Types of Figs to Try Right Now,” from Food Republic.
Walnut Oil Vinaigrette
I love using walnut oil in dressings. Not only is it a healthy oil, but it has a warm, nutty flavor that pairs well with a variety of greens, including the arugula in this fig salad.
Vinaigrettes, finishing drizzles, and cold recipes are generally the only times I reach for my bottle of walnut oil. It isn’t an oil I use to sauté or fry, as heating it tends to break down its flavor and make it bitter.
Walnut oil is also pricier than other oils, so it’s one that I look to use in smaller quantities, where the flavor can really be appreciated and shine through.
For this simple walnut oil vinaigrette, I chose fruity white balsamic vinegar to complement the sweet figs. Combined with a touch of honey and minced shallot, this dressing plays well with each ingredient in the fig salad without overpowering any of them.
Assembling and Serving Fig Salad
While the individual components of the salad can be prepped in advance, this salad should not be assembled until you’re ready to serve it.
The delicate baby arugula will begin to wilt after it’s tossed with the vinaigrette. I like to serve it while the leaves still have some crispness to them, so I toss and plate the salad when we’re going to sit down at the table.
For the best flavor, I like to lightly dress the baby arugula, and then drizzle some of the remaining vinaigrette over the figs when they’re added to the platter.
I like to serve this simple salad with warm, crusty bread, and a glass of well-chilled Pinot Gris, champagne, or brut Prosecco. While it comes together quickly, this is the type of salad that you’ll want to sit back and savor on a warm summer day.
Fig Salad with Goat Cheese and Baby Arugula
- 1/2 cup walnut halves
- 1-1/2 teaspoons minced shallots (1/2 tablespoon)
- 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt or fine sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons walnut oil
- 4 large fresh figs (or 8 small), I used Black Mission
- 5 cups baby arugula (5 oz package)
- 2 ounces goat cheese , crumbled
Toast the Walnuts
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread walnuts into a single layer on a small baking sheet. Roast for 5-10 minutes until fragrant and toasted, stirring halfway through. Let cool while you prepare the vinaigrette.
Make the Vinaigrette
- In a small bowl, stir together shallots, 1 tablespoon vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper. Slowly drizzle in walnut oil, whisking, until emulsified.
- Taste the dressing. If you like it to have a more tart flavor, add an additional 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons vinegar. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.
Assemble the Fig Salad
- Cut stems from figs and slice in quarters if large and in half if small.
- Toss baby arugula with the toasted walnuts and half of the vinaigrette. Arrange figs on the top of the salad and lightly drizzle each with a little of the remaining vinaigrette. Sprinkle the salad with crumbled goat cheese.
- If desired, finish the salad with a few grinds of cracked black pepper and a few pinches of a medium-grind sea salt. Serve immediately.
Serving Variation: Crispy ProsciuttoFor an extra layer of flavor and texture, this salad is also lovely topped with crisped prosciutto. To make it, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F with the rack in the middle position. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Lay a few pieces of thinly-sliced prosciutto on the baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until prosciutto begins to crisp. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool to room temperature (prosciutto will continue to crisp as it cools). Break into small pieces or crumbles and sprinkle over the salad.