Fig and sweet pepper salad with mint, crème fraîche, and great olive oil

Fig and sweet pepper salad with mint, crème fraîche, and great olive oil
Cal Peternell, New York Times bestselling author and former head chef of Chez Panisse Restaurant and Cafe

I love the fresh and spicy flavor of Ancient Olive Trees olive oil. It reminds me that when your ingredients are just right, all they really need is a generous dousing of good olive oil like this one. I especially love the way it brings together this summer salad of figs and sweet peppers!

This one of those super simple salads that, when the ingredients are right, can be a revelation. In fact, it’s an embellishment on an even simpler salad that I learned, appropriately, from Simple French Food by Richard Olney, a book that has a kind of biblical standing at Chez Panisse. I may be, as a malaprop popping friend used to say, gillying the lily by adding thin rings of sweet red peppers, but I do it for their crunch and color. Soft, ripe, sweet figs are what I call for here, but if yours are otherwise and you just gotta have it, quarter and roast them, tossed with oil and a pinch of salt, for 10 minutes or so before proceeding.


Serves 6

5 sprigs mint

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

Freshly cracked black pepper


4 tablespoons crème fraîche

1 medium red or orange sweet pepper (gypsy, flamingo, lipstick)

Ancient Olive Trees olive oil

1 basket ripe figs, black or green

Leaves to garnish

Crush two of the mint springs in your hands and put them in a small bowl with the lemon juice, vinegar, black pepper, and salt. Stir and let sit for 20 minutes to get the mint flavor into the dressing. Pluck out the sprigs and discard them. Set aside a teaspoon of the mixture. To the rest, add the crème fraîche and stir well.

Slice the pepper into rings, as thin as you can. Trim the seeds and white membrane from the rings and dress them with the reserved lemon juice/vinegar, a pinch of salt, and enough olive oil to coat them. Toss and arrange on plates or a platter, a few rings per person. Cut some of the figs in lengthwise quarters, and some in crosswise circles, and arrange them over the peppers. Stripe the crème fraîche dressing over the figs and peppers, tear the remaining mint leaves, and scatter them over the salad. A final swirl of delicious olive oil, a last sprinkle of salt, and serve.

Every composed salad says garden more clearly with a little tuft or scattering of salad leaves such as watercress or other cress, wild rocket, baby red mustard greens, chervil. They can be lightly dressed or, if very small and fragile, not dressed.

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