Monday, October 25, 2010

Meatless Monday: Arugula Salad with Figs, Feta, and Marcona Almonds (Plus Tasting Notes on the 2005 Alban Syrah Lorraine Vineyards)

Happy Meatless Monday!

It's a blustery day in Los Angeles, but at least it's a break from the rain. I did manage to sneak in a trip to the Hollywood Farmers Market yesterday, so I've got more great recipes coming in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, here's my favorite salad that I made recently. For years, I've dedicated myself to the art of the salad. There are so many different combinations of ingredients and flavors. Who needs the same old iceberg lettuce salad? There are summer salads, fall salads, winter salads. Your imagination is your guide.

The inspiration for this salad came from the lovely organic figs that have been showing up at my grocery store. For this "fall" salad, I paired the figs with baby wild arugula from Kenter Canyon Farms, one of my favorite organic lettuce and greens producers from Ventura county (available at both Whole Foods and local farmers markets). To complete the flavor profiles, I topped the salad with a raw goats milk feta from Redwood Hill Farms, which has nice tang, and Marcona almonds. The dressing was a simple balsamic vinaigrette.

Now, I bet you're wondering, "What the heck is a Marcona almond?" If you've never tasted them, then you're in for a treat! Here's from Wikipedia:
"The Marcona variety of almond, which is shorter, rounder, sweeter, and more delicate in texture than other varieties, originated in Spain and is becoming popular in North America and other parts of the world.[17] Marcona almonds are traditionally served after being lightly fried in oil, and are also used by Spanish chefs to prepare a dessert called turrón."
Both Kuzak and I were "ooohing" and "ahhing" over this salad. Not only was the presentation beautiful, but the flavors were spot on. Even better, this is a healthy dish with plenty of fruit (figs), greens (arugula), healthy fats (olive oil, almonds), and protein (almonds, feta) to go around. I loved it so much, I made it again for dinner the following night...

Arugula Salad with Figs, Feta, and Marcona Almonds
Serves 4 people
Prep time: 5 minutes
Print Recipe

1 pint figs, quartered
4 cups organic arugula
1/2 cup Marcona almonds
1/4 cup goat's milk feta

balsamic vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons good balsamic vineger
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

To make the balsamic vinaigrette, place the balsamic vinegar in a bowl. Slowly, whisk in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Layer one quarter of the arugula and figs on a plate. Repeat with remaining ingredients, placing them on three more plates. Top each plate with one quarter of the almonds and feta cheese. Drizzle with the vinaigrette. Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients
organic figs, Kenter Canyon Farms organic baby arugula, Redwood Hill Farms raw goats milk feta, Marcona almonds, balsamic vinegar,  and extra virgin olive oil from Whole Foods

Wine Pairing
Arlight, I'm not writing about this wine here because it pairs amazingly with this dish (in truth, it may be a little too bold). I'm writing about it because it's one of the best wines I've tasted recently -- the 2005 Alban Syrah, Lorraine Vineyards. This seminal wine was rated the coveted 100 points (a perfect score) by Robert Parker, who tends to be a lover of big Central Coast Syrah. Alban is a Central Coast producer who specializes in Rhone varieties.

We decanted this bottle, which is still considered to be drinking on the young side (and should drink well until 2022), for over two hours before drinking it. One first taste, it was clear of the quality of this wine. It was mellower and smokier than I'd anticipated, the fruit on the more subdued side for California (blackberries, darker fruit). The real sensations were the smokey, almost bacon-y smells and tastes. This was it -- I'd found another bacon wine! And the finish on this wine. It lasted for almost a minute, slowly unfurling over my palate like a plume of smoke.

Thank goodness we have two more bottles lurking in our cellar. We'll let them lurk for a while longer...


  1. I checked out your site -- very cool!


  2. This salad looks unbelievably good! For the longest time I tried getting figs from my local farmer's market, but they were always sold out by the time I got there :(

    I don't eat or cook with arugula very often, but every time I do I really enjoy its strong flavor. I've never tried pairing arugula with feta before, but I can easily see how doing so would make for quite the taste combo