Did you know that you can grow figs in Ireland? Crazy but true.
I used to stalk the fig tree that clung to the Ballymaloe Cookery School walls, counting the days til I could stuff my mouth with soft, fresh figs straight off the branches.
I waited for those figs to ripen. And I waited some more. And as the calendar ticked down to the end of the program, I realized my dreams of rolling in Irish figs wasn't gonna happen.
Shortly thereafter, I hightailed down to Nice in the south of France, eager to find out whether the Cours Salaya fruit market is as awesome as I'd heard. It was. And there were figs. Oh, there were figs.
I ate figs like they were going out of style. Figs for breakfast with a croissant, figs for lunch with balsamic vinegar. Figs plain, out of a bag, perched on a hostel bench next to a gaggle of hungover Canadian boys.
And finally, figs made it all the way to dinner, as a part of this very civilized and crunchy salad of green beans, walnuts and goat cheese.
So while we still have figs in season, stock up and make this salad for dinner, paired with simply grilled chicken or maybe some lamb rubbed with a Middle Eastern-inspired spice mix.
Green Beans with Figs, Walnuts and Goat Cheese
Yield: Serves 4-6
Prep Time: 10 min Cook Time: 15 min Total Time: 25 min
1 small shallot, minced
2 Tbs sherry vinegar
1 tsp honey
3 Tbs olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lb / 0.5 kg green beans, trimmed
6-8 figs (about 6 oz / 175 g), trimmed and quartered
3 oz / 85 g walnuts
2 oz / 60 g fresh goat cheese, torn into small chunks
Whisk the shallots with the sherry vinegar, then add honey and olive oil with a pinch of salt. Set aside.
Toast the walnuts in a 375 F / 290 C oven for about 5 minutes, til lightly golden. Or, you can toast on the stovetop in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, shaking every few minutes.
Meanwhile, fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add a large pinch of salt and the green beans. Cook for 2-3 minutes, til beans are bright green and still a bit crisp. Drain and rinse with cold water til beans are just slightly warm.
Toss beans with half the dressing, then add figs, goat cheese and walnuts. Drizzle remaining dressing over the top and serve at room temperature.