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Recipe: Summer Fig Rocket Salad

April 11, 2024 13:04 IST
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Photograph: Kind courtesy: Charles Haynes/Wikimedia Commons

Sweet figs in a salad, dressed with a garlic balsamic vinaigrette...

Bizarro combo, right?

No. Not at all.

Rather, this timeless mixing of sweet with salty is a heavenly and complex food pairing. It's quite like other much-loved savoury+sweet combos: A feta-basil-watermelon salad, a roasted pear salad, a pineapple gazpacho soup, a spinach and strawberry salad, orange with avocado on poached eggs over toasted sourdough bread, chocolate-covered pretzels, pumpkin ravioli, honey-glazed ham, cheese with apple/grapes, margaritas with their salted rims, caramel popcorn, or, closer to home, ripe mango curry, chaat, khatta meetha karela (sour sweet bitter gourd), some varieties sol kadhi made with kokum and a hint of jaggery or menaskai (Mangalorean pineapple raita/relish).


In fact as your palate gets more sort of 'sophisticated', it learns to accept the marriage of Mr Sweet and Ms Salty and radical flavour layering. And find pleasure in those freaky preparations, where sweetness competes with the salty, spice, the sour, the umami, the bitter and heat in just one dish. The perfect but bold recipe is one that combines the five basic tastes and more, and nudges the boundaries of the conventional in food. They are in fact some of the most gourmet delights you can find.

This classic Fig Rocket Salad is part of that culinary pantheon and slices of ripe, stringy fig offset the slight peppery bitterness of rocket leaves, while the balsamic dressing, feta, walnuts and spicy onions add an additional sort of chorus of flavours.

They say what grows together, goes together and this salad, of probably Greek-Mediterranean origin, given its ingredients, is the ideal entree for a summer day.

Fig rocket salad

Photograph: Zelda Pande

Fig Rocket Salad

Serves: 2


For the salad

  • 3 ripe figs, halved and thinly sliced, skin on
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced into rings
  • 5 whole walnuts
  • 80 gm rocket or arugula leaves
  • 5 tbsp feta cheese, crumbled
  • 4-5 tbsp chopped greens of spring onions

For the dressing

  • 2 tsp kasundi or any mustard paste
  • 3 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2-3 pods garlic
  • 1 tsp black pepper powder or freshly crushed black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp honey


For the dressing

  • Blend all the ingredients for the dressing in a blender till creamy.
    Pour into a small bowl and refrigerate.

For the salad

  • Toast the walnuts in a small frying pan over low heat for about 10 minutes till heated through and begins to develop tiny brown/black spots.
    Slice and keep aside.
  • Remove some of the fatter stems of rocket leaves, and retain the more tender stems, and arrange the rocket leaves at the bottom of flat bowl or wide salad bowl.
    Add a layer of sliced figs and then the chopped spring onion greens, onion rings, sliced walnuts.
    Sprinkle the crumbled feta evenly all over the salad.
    And then drizzle the dressing over the salad.
  • Serve immediately either with a side of bread, a bowl of soup or as the first course to a pasta meal.

Zelda's Note: This is a cold salad, so make sure the figs and rocket leaves were chilled before beginning the preparation of the salad.

The beauty of a fig rocket salad is its simplicity, but you could try a few more additions or swaps like slices of 5-6 green olives, baby spinach/mixed salad greens instead of rocket leaves, roasted pecans or roasted almonds instead of walnuts, a few cherry tomatoes sliced. Instead of feta, which is now made by several Indian companies, opt for crumbled salted paneer or even grated Parmesan cheese. Ordinary grated cheese will do too.

It's good to locate asli (authentic) balsamic vinegar because plain red vinegar does not make up for the richness of balsamic vinegar. Having balsamic vinegar around is handy. It's a good addition to soups, pastas and salads.

Vegans might opt for fried and finely chopped tofu. And brown sugar instead of honey in the dressing.

For a Jain version, omit the onion and the garlic.

Those who like their meat can opt to sprinkle 3-4 tbsp chopped salami.

Lead Image: Kind courtesy: Ivar Leidus/Wikimedia Commons

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