Sometimes the extra mile isn’t that far down the road. Take this Fresh Fig Salad for example. I think we can all agree this dish looks pretty fancy. It has segmented orange slices, whipped ricotta, and figs, arguably the fanciest fruit. So yeah, it’s a little over the top. But while this salad looks high-end, it’s actually fairly simple to pull off. And it’s so satisfying, you could serve it as the main event to much fanfare. There are certainly a few components to this dish and it does unfortunately generate its fair share of dirty dishes. But there is a lot here that you can make ahead, and as I mentioned, make this salad and a dessert and call it a day. Your dinner guests will not be left wanting.
So let’s break this bowl down, shall we? At the base of the bowl, you have ricotta whipped with honey. Whipped ricotta is incredibly simple to make and dynamite on so many things. I love it on toast and I even used it in place of whipped cream on an upcoming dessert. To make whipped ricotta, simply place the ricotta in a large food processor and add some salt and a little honey. Turn the food processor on and slowly stream in some olive oil. That’s it! And you can add plenty of other things to it besides honey. Garlic, chili flakes, or simple salt and pepper. It’s such a versatile recipe to have in your arsenal.
On top of the whipped ricotta, there is a tangle of arugula. Now, I realize arugula has been a little overdone as of late. But for my money, you can’t beat its peppery, slightly bitter hit. It’s particularly welcome when you’re working with something as lush and creamy as whipped ricotta. Contrast is everything. The arugula is dressed with a simple vinaigrette made with olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, garlic, and whole grain dijon. I added a splash of orange juice by squeezing the remaining innards from the oranges after segmenting them. The orange really brings a hit of sweetness and freshness to the dressing.
Perched on top of the arugula are the stars of this salad – the figs, the oranges, and the fried olives. Now, the figs and oranges require nothing more than a little fancy knife work. And if segmenting citrus is not your gag, slice the oranges in a way that makes sense to you. Just make sure you leave the peel out of it for easy eating. But the fried olives are another story.
I’m not going to lie, the olives are a little fiddly but they are so so worth it. Have you ever had a fried olive? They are simply beyond delicious. Now, there’s nothing fancy going on here. The olives are breaded in the classic flour dredge, beaten egg, and panko breadcrumbs. Remember not to add any salt to any of the breading, the olives are salty enough. And speaking of the olives I used green olives stuffed with garlic because they’re my favorite. But you use your favorite. I bet pimento would be delicious, as would the blue cheese stuffed variety.
I shallow fried my olives, which I like to do because it doesn’t leave me with an excess of fry oil. But it is a little awkward to maneuver the olives and fry them evenly on all sides. Tongs make this task easier. But if you’d like to sidestep the olive shuffle, I recommend giving them a true deep fry. But if you don’t mind a little inconvenience, the shallow fry will save you some cleanup.
And finally, this Fresh Fig Salad is finished with a sprinkling of shaved manchego cheese. Manchego is a cheese that hails from the La Mancha region of Spain. It’s aged anywhere from 60 days to 2 years. It has a buttery mellow flavor, so if you’re unable to find it I would suggest substituting it with a Grana Padano rather than Pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano as they tend to be slightly sharper. But if you can find Manchego, get it. It really is the cheese for the job.
So that’s the Fresh Fig Salad. Now, let’s talk about what you can make ahead because I realize dirtying a food processor, frying pan, and a handful of bowls in one go is a little much. The whipped ricotta can hang out in the fridge for 2-3 days. I recommend taking it out of the fridge 15-30 minutes prior to serving to get the chill of the fridge off of it. And the texture can be quite thick when it’s fresh from the fridge, so a little time at room temperature should loosen it up a bit. It may separate a little the longer it sits in the fridge but a quick stir will remedy that.
You can also make the salad dressing in advance. Just store it in a sealed jar until you’re ready to dress the greens. Add the orange juice after you’ve prepped the oranges for the salad. But do that the day of. Sliced fruit does not hold up well in the fridge. The other item you will have to save until the day of is the olives. You can bread them a little in advance, but they should be fresh from the frying pan when they hit the salad. And don’t dress the greens until you need them, they will wilt something fierce if you do otherwise.
That’s everything you need to know about this Fresh Fig Salad with Fried Olives. Add a dessert and maybe your favorite piece of protein and you’ve got a dinner party on your hands. Simple, beautiful, and exceptionally balanced, what more could you want from a salad?
Fresh Fig Salad with Fried Olives
- 1 Large skillet
- 1 Food Processor
Honey Whipped Ricotta
- 350g (12oz) full-fat ricotta
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 clove garlic minced
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 3 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp orange juice
- 1 tbsp whole-grain Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp salt
Fried Green Olives
- 12 garlic-stuffed green olives
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- ⅔ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 large eggs beaten
- ¼ cup neutral oil for frying
For the Salad
- 142g (5oz) arugula
- 5-6 figs cut into wedges
- 2 navel oranges segmented
- Manchego cheese shaved, for sprinkling
For the Whipped Ricotta
- Place the ricotta, salt, and honey in a large food processor. Turn on the food processor and slowly stream in the olive oil. Blitz until smooth. Transfer the ricotta to a bowl and set it aside. **350g (12oz) full-fat ricotta, 1 tbsp honey, 1 tsp salt, ¼ cup olive oil
For the Vinaigrette
- Place all of the ingredients in a small jar and seal. Shake the jar to mix and set it aside. ***1 clove garlic, ¼ cup olive oil, 3 tbsp white balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp orange juice, 1 tbsp whole-grain Dijon mustard, 1 tsp salt
For the Fried Olives
- Pour the flour, panko bread crumbs, and eggs into separate bowls. Working with one olive at a time, dip the olives in the flour, then the eggs, and finally the panko breadcrumbs. Transfer the breaded olives to a plate and set them aside.12 garlic-stuffed green olives, ⅓ cup all-purpose flour, ⅔ cup panko breadcrumbs, 2 large eggs
- Pour the oil into a large skillet and heat until shimmering. Add half of the olives to the oil and fry until golden, rotating and flipping the olives frequently so they brown evenly. Transfer the fried olives to a plate lined with a paper towel and set them aside to drain. Repeat with the remaining olives.¼ cup neutral oil
For the Salad
- Place the arugula in a large bowl and pour the dressing over top. Toss to coat.142g (5oz) arugula
- Spread a little of the Honey Whipped Ricotta into the base of each bowl. Top the ricotta with a pile of the dressed arugula. Top each pile of arugula with the figs sliced, oranges segments, and 3 fried olives. Sprinkle the salads with manchego cheese and serve immediately.5-6 figs, 2 navel oranges, Manchego cheese