Arugula Salad with Maple-Balsamic Figs

Someday, I'm going to have an orchard. Having grown up in Minnesota, where there are only apples, and now living in New York, where there is clearly not enough space on my fire escape even for tomato plants, my dream of an orchard will still be just that: a dream. But someday, I'll have avocados, lemons, peaches, and especially figs. Figs are only available for a couple of short months at the end of summer here, which means that I buy them whenever I can find some. I stumbled upon these beauties at the fruit stand outside my office, and immediately brought them home to figure out what to do with them. Of course, I love figs with just a bit of honey and Greek yogurt for breakfast, but this salad has definitely become one of my favorite summer meals. And on top of that, it's impressive enough to serve at a dinner party.

Arugula Salad with Maple-Balsamic Figs (serves 2-3 as a main course, 4-5 as a first course)

1/2 + 1 tablespoons butter

1 lb figs, cut into quarters

2 tablespoons maple syrup

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup white wine

2 large shallots, thinly sliced

1/4 cup good quality olive oil

8 oz arugula

2 oz blue or Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

3 oz walnuts, toasted

Melt 1/2 tablespoon butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add figs, and cook one minute. Turn heat to medium-high, and add maple syrup, vinegar, and wine and cook until liquid begins to boil and figs are beginning to wilt, 2-3 minutes. Season with black pepper. Drain figs, reserving liquid in a small bowl. Set figs aside. Return liquid to pan and boil over high heat, until it is reduced by about half. Remove from heat, and let cool.

Meanwhile, melt remaining tablespoon of butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add shallots, and cook until caramelized and golden, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

Whisk balsamic-maple syrup mixture with olive oil in a small glass or measuring cup. Season with salt and pepper. Place some arugula on a plate, top with walnuts, shallots, and blue cheese. Spoon figs over, then lightly drizzle with vinaigrette (you may have extra). Serve immediately.