Black Mission figs, Rubenesque and sweet, are the focus of this installment of Salad Daze. Executive Chef Jeff Mosher of Julia's Kitchen at Copia in Napa shows us how to adapt the restaurant's fig salad (served in-house with greens from Copia's Edible Garden, Cambozola cheese, balsamic onion, fig crostini and fig vinaigrette) for home. Chronicle wine editor Jon Bonné reported on Friday that a San Francisco location of Copia could be open by March 2009, though there are no plans for a restaurant at this point. —Tamara Palmer
Copia Fig Salad
By Chef Jeff Mosher, Julia's Kitchen at Copia
1 lb. mixed greens or baby lettuces
16 fresh ripe Black Mission figs
2 sweet yellow onions (such as Maui, Walla Walla or Vidalia)
3/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. sherry vinegar
1 ½ c. grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil)
4 one-inch slices of pain de mie or other rich white bread (such as brioche)
8 2"x 3" x ½" slices of Cambozola cheese
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Caramelizing the Onions
Slice the onions in half from top to bottom, then slice them very thin across the onion into slivers. Heat 2 T of the grapeseed oil in a heavy bottomed sauce pot. When the oil is somewhat hot (not smoking), add the onions and turn the heat down to a simmer.
Simmer the onions slowly, stirring occasionally; they will develop a nice caramel color after approximately an hour. When they have achieved this color, add ½ c. of the balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper.
Reduce the vinegar over the onions until the liquid is gone and the onions are coated in the vinegar. Remove from the pot and place into a pan or onto a plate and into the refrigerator to cool.
Roasting the Figs and Making the Vinaigrette
Wash 12 of the figs, trim the tops and slice in half from top to bottom. Reserve four of the figs to slice and toss into the salad when ready to plate the dish. Toss the halved figs with half the remaining balsamic vinegar, half of the sherry vinegar and 4 T of the grapeseed oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Place the figs and the liquid into a baking pan. Cover with foil and roast at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. The figs should be nice and soft and have absorbed some of the vinegar. Set aside eight of the figs to make the crostini.
Place the remaining four figs into a blender with the vinegar marinade. Finely mince the shallot and add it to the blender. Turn on the blender and blend on medium speed until you have a smooth fig puree. Add the remaining vinegar and combine. Then slowly drizzle the remaining grapeseed oil into the blender. You should have a smooth emulsion. Season with salt and pepper and add additional oil or vinegar to your own specific taste. You should have about one pint of vinaigrette, which is more than you will need, but making anything less will be difficult in the blender. It is also quite delicious with grilled birds such as quail, squab, duck or chicken.
Making the Crostini
Trim the crusts off the bread and slice each piece into two rectangles. Brush with grapeseed oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toast in the oven at 350 degrees for five minutes or until lightly golden brown. Let the crostini cool. When cool, spread the balsamic onions onto the crostini, and place two fig halves (cut side up) onto of each crostini. Place one slice of Cambozola on top of each crostini. Cambozola is a Camembert and blue cheese mix that is creamy and delicious. It also melts extremely well.
When ready to plate the salads, place the built crostini into a 400 degree oven and bake for three minutes or until the cheese is melted and the figs are warm. These crostini go very well with the salad, but are also good on their own as an hors d’oeuvre.
Plating the Salad
Wash the greens and spin them dry. Toss the greens with some of the vinaigrette (two T per person is usually good) and salt and pepper. Slice the remaining four figs and toss them into the salad. Drizzle a small amount of the vinaigrette onto the plate; we use squeeze bottles for this in the restaurant and draw a zig-zag pattern on the plate. Have fun with it!
Place the greens in the middle of the plate with a warm crostini on either side of the salad. Serve immediately (serves four). Bon appetit!