I was craving a trip to Paris. After all it had been a couple of decades since we had lived there and wanted to return to reminisce and celebrate a birthday. Why not recreate our past by finding an apartment so I could cook when I felt the urge? As a chef, visiting the open-air markets is an invitation to prepare a meal that is local, seasonal and French. As I trolled the web for apartments I came across Paris Perfect, an apartment rental agency that also has a concierge for restaurants and outings, special culinary experiences and much more. I was in! https://www.parisperfect.com
I selected an apartment in the center of Paris that had been remodeled with… get this… a washer/dryer, dishwasher and air conditioning. It was beautifully furnished and even had 2 TV’s so no arguing with my husband about which French station we wanted to watch. Our location was right in the center of Paris adjacent to Pont Neuf. Every day was an adventure with visits to museums, concerts and historical monuments. Sure, I loved those outings- but going to the farmers market was truly thrilling for me. My mind was racing as I eyed the oysters, cuts of lamb and beef, rotisserie chickens juices dripping into the roasted potatoes, orange and yellow cheeses galore, a grand selection of baked goods and a kaleidoscope of colorful, aromatic and seasonal fruits and vegetables. One day we made a lunch of pates, fresh salads, cheese and a crispy baguette. So fun and memorable.
As the days ticked by we decided to have Paris Perfect’s chef Brian Defer cook us dinner in our small but well-equipped kitchen. Starting with champagne we enjoyed a dinner of this Roasted Fig Salad with Goat Cheese. The entrée was stuffed sole with leeks and creamy potato gratin Dauphinoise, followed by end of the summer peach charlotte. Chef Defer just released his first cookbook, Les Marches Francais featuring seasonal Paris market cooking and is available on Amazon.
I couldn’t get this salad out of my mind—Fresh figs are seasonal and will soon be out of season so I urge you to try this colorful and autumnal salad while figs are still available. Any fresh variety will work in this salad. I’ve now made it a few times with some adaptations. Here’s the thing, it is very versatile. Try it as a first course or as an after the main course salad. Either way it is winner.
Paris Perfect Fig and Goat Cheese Salad
Roasted Garlic Shallot Vinaigrette
3 medium shallots, peeled
6 garlic cloves, ends removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1 ½ teaspoons honey
1/2 cup olive oil
8 large fresh figs, rinsed and stems removed
8 heaping teaspoons fresh goat cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound arugula greens
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or Marcona almonds
- Preheat the oven to 375° Place the shallots and garlic on a baking sheet. Coat with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast them, turning them midway, for about 45 minutes, or until browned and lightly caramelized. Cool.
- In a small food processor combine the shallots and garlic and puree. Add the vinegar, mustard and the olive oil and blend until the dressing is emulsified. Add salt and pepper and season to taste. Before serving, stir the dressing thoroughly.
- Decrease the oven temperature to 350F. Place the figs on a foil-lined baking sheet. With a small paring knife, cut each fig ¾ of the way down making sure to keep the fig intact. Move the fig a quarter turn and make another cut so that the fig opens like a flower. Arrange each teaspoon of goat cheese in the center of each fig. Drizzle the tablespoon of olive oil equally over the figs and place a few thyme leaves on top. Roast for about 12 minutes or until cheese is soft and beginning to melt.
- While the figs are roasting combine the arugula, and pine nuts or almonds in a large salad bowl. To serve, pour enough dressing over the salad to moisten and mix to combine. Place on serving plates, arrange the warm figs on top and serve immediately.
Advance Preparation: The vinaigrette may be prepared up to 2 weeks ahead, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature and whisk before using. The salad can be prepared up to 2 hours ahead, covered and refrigerated. Make the figs up 6 hours ahead, lightly cover and leave at room temperature until roasting.