Food & Drink

What’s Cooking: Fresh Berry and Balsamic Fig Salad with Goat Cheese

For our second installment of What’s Cooking, Nordstrom Blog Editor Jeff makes a sweet and tangy salad with balsamic fig vinaigrette from the Nordstrom Family Table Cookbook—also featured as a seasonal offering in selected Nordstrom restaurants.

With another simple-to-follow recipe developed by our corporate chef, Michael Northern, and his small army of chefs and contributors, Jeff proves (with his photographic evidence) that you don’t have to be a professional chef to transform beautiful ingredients into irresistible food that’s meant to be shared with family and friends.

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After that decadent White Chocolate Mousse, I thought I’d lighten things up a bit with a fresh but complexly flavored salad. Ripe berries bring a juicy flair to this party, but there are three more things I also love about this salad:

1. The goat cheese: I’m a sucker for anything with chèvre (though I am an equal-opportunity fromage-ophile).

2. The spiced almonds (recipe below): sweet and spicy with a satisfying crunch, these not only add great texture to the salad but also make a seriously addictive snack for guests—or a late-night nosh.

3. The balsamic fig vinaigrette: I’ve probably made gallons of vinaigrette over the years, but the fig-and-balsamic reduction in this one—with savory roasted garlic and bright cherry preserves—transforms it into the most sumptuous, flavor-layered vinaigrette of them all (no joke). I’ll definitely be making it again for salads that I want dressed to impress.

Fresh Berry and Balsamic Fig Salad with Goat Cheese
From the Nordstrom Family Table Cookbook
(makes six servings)

Balsamic Fig Vinaigrette:
½ cup (1½ ounces) coarsely chopped dried mission figs
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup cherry preserves
1½ teaspoons mashed Simple Roasted Garlic
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup canola oil

Salad Fixings:
10 ounces mixed baby greens
6 ounces baby arugula
15 dried mission figs, cut lengthwise into quarters
1 cup Spiced Whole Almonds (recipe below)
2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
1½ cups fresh blueberries
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1½ cups (6 ounces) crumbled rindless goat cheese (chèvre)
1½ cups fresh raspberries
1½ cups fresh blackberries

1. To make the vinaigrette, bring the figs, balsamic vinegar, and sugar to a simmer in a small nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. Simmer, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add the cherry preserves and roasted garlic and cook for 1 minute longer. Let cool. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add the red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. Process until the figs are finely chopped. With the machine running, add the oil in a thin, steady stream to form an emulsion. One tablespoon at a time, add 3 tablespoons of water.

Spiced Whole Almonds:
(Makes about 2½ cups)
1 large egg white
¼ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2½ cups (12 ounces) blanched whole almonds
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper

A. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

B. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg white, Tabasco, and salt until very foamy with no liquid. Add the almonds and brown sugar and fold gently with a rubber spatula to coat. Spread the almonds in a single layer, without touching each other, on the prepared baking sheet. Bake, without stirring, until the almonds are crisp and golden brown, 16 to 18 minutes.

C. Mix the granulated sugar, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper in a heatproof medium bowl. Scrape the hot almonds into the cinnamon mixture and toss to coat. Spread on a platter and let cool. (The almonds can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.)

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2. Combine the mixed greens and arugula in a large bowl. Add the figs and the almonds, drizzle with 1 cup of the vinaigrette and toss. Add the strawberries and blueberries and toss again. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Divide the salad evenly among 6 chilled salad bowls. Scatter equal amounts of the goat cheese, raspberries, and blackberries evenly over the salads. Serve immediately.

Note: The recipe for Balsamic Fig Vinaigrette makes about 1½ cups, although only 1 cup is needed for this recipe. Place the extra vinaigrette in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days to use on other salads. Shake well before using.

Download a PDF of this recipe to print, or find it in our Nordstrom Family Table Cookbook. Have a favorite recipe from our restaurants or cookbooks that you’d like to see featured? Let us know in the comments!

[Photos by Jeff Powell]