A salad for the changing season
Chanterelles and figs signal a transition, saying goodbye to summer and hello to fall
Taste of Norway Editor
There’s a moment when summer and fall intersect, the slowly fading warmth of the sun mingling with the crisp breeze that whispers through the trees. At this exact point, you will find a small window of time in which figs ripen on the trees and chanterelles appear at the market. This salad originated one day in mid-September some years ago when I found a generous handful of figs from our friends’ garden in our kitchen along with some chanterelles. I had another salad in mind at the time, one from Danish chef Trine Hahnemann in her book The Scandinavian Cookbook that combined chanterelles with plums and bacon. But the figs were calling out, signaling the perfect representation of this moment between seasons, one of my favorite times of the year.
Eating locally and according to the seasons is something that crosses cultures and generations. A strict adherence to what’s native and a commitment to food bound in time and place also helped bring about New Nordic cuisine nearly 15 years ago and informs much of modern Nordic cooking. So while this salad may not look like traditional Scandinavian fare, it embraces Nordic ideals. Food is often at its most flavorful this way, and it also becomes a way to signal the transition of seasons throughout the year.
Cook with all your senses whenever possible. Listen to the chanterelles as they cook; in the first couple of minutes they will squeak as you stir them; that noise will diminish as they get cooked through. As they cook, the chanterelles’ golden hue will turn impossibly even more vivid, evoking the warm palate of autumn. Smell the cooked mushrooms and take note of their warm, nutty aroma.
This salad truly contains some of the small pleasures of the season. Enjoy!
Chanterelle, Fig, and Blue Cheese Salad
This salad is forgiving, so if you don’t have all the ingredients for the dressing, feel free to improvise. I’ve also made this using sherry vinegar and olive oil in place of the white balsamic vinegar and walnut oil, and that also turns out lovely.
5 oz. chanterelles
1 tbsp. butter or extra virgin olive oil
4 figs, halved lengthwise
1 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. walnut oil
1⁄8 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
3 oz. baby arugula (or a mix of baby arugula and baby spinach)
1 ½ oz. Danish blue cheese, crumbled
Gently wipe dirt off the caps and under the gills of the chanterelles using a damp paper towel.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chanterelles and sauté, stirring occasionally, until they are tender but still retain their shape. Start removing the smaller mushrooms after about 3 minutes, allowing 5 to 7 minutes for the ones with thicker stems. Remove the skillet from the heat and return all chanterelles to the pan. Season with a pinch of salt and stir, allowing the residual heat to help the liquid dissolve the salt into a sauce that adheres to the mushrooms. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Make the dressing in a small bowl by stirring the vinegar, walnut oil, and salt vigorously with a fork until emulsified.
Toss the arugula and spinach with the dressing in a serving bowl until the vinaigrette evenly coats the leaves with a glistening sheen. Add the reserved chanterelles and figs and stir gently, then add blue cheese. Serve immediately.
Makes 2 large or 4 small-sized salads.
Daytona Strong is The Norwegian American’s Taste of Norway editor. She writes about her family’s Norwegian heritage through the lens of food at her Scandinavian food blog, www.outside-oslo.com. Find her on Facebook www.facebook.com/OutsideOslo; Twitter @daytonastrong; Pinterest @daytonastrong; and Instagram @daytonastrong.
This article originally appeared in the Sept. 22, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.