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Escarole and Figs with Ruby Port Dressing

Ruby port has a sweet—but quite potent—flavor. Cooked down to a syrup and combined with balsamic vinegar, it forms an intense, dessert-like dressing for fresh figs, assertive escarole and aged Gouda cheese.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) ruby port
  • 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 head escarole, leaves torn into bite-size pieces
  • 10 to 12 Mission figs, stemmed and halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 lb. (125 g) aged gouda cheese

Directions:

In a small, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer the port until syrupy and reduced to 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml), about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

In a small nonreactive bowl, whisk together the port, balsamic vinegar, sugar, 2 pinches of salt and a pinch of pepper until the sugar dissolves. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until well blended to make a dressing. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

In a large bowl, toss the escarole with 2 big pinches of salt and several grinds of pepper. Whisk the dressing to recombine, then drizzle about half of it over the escarole and toss well. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Divide the escarole among 4 to 6 plates and top each serving with 4 or 5 fig halves. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the cheese over the salads, dividing it evenly. Drizzle each salad with some of the remaining dressing and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Salads, by Dina Cheney (Oxmoor House, 2009).