Grilled Fig, Bacon, Borlotti Bean, Tomato and Mesclun Salad

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

Appears in

Salads

Salads

By Peter Gordon

Published 2005

  • About

In August 2004 I was in the Ligurian seaside town of Lerice with my partner, Michael, and our very good friends Stephen and Marina, to celebrate their son Raphael’s arrival six months earlier The beautiful sixties hillside apartment we were staying in belonged to Marina’s sister and shared a private beach with four others. One morning the gardener arrived with the first figs of the season and a few wild strawberries from the bosco (the woods from the bushy hill). We served the green figs with slices of lardo (salted and pressed pig’s back-fat from Colonnata), some local bitter greens, tomatoes and borlotti beans from the Saturday market on the harbour Here’s a version of that salad.

Ingredients

  • 700 g borlotti beans in the shell (or any other fresh bean)
  • 10 cm sprig of rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 fresh thyme stems
  • 1 small onion, peeled and halved
  • ¼ red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, unpeeled
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6–8 tomatoes
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 ripe figs, halved lengthways
  • 8 slices of smoked streaky bacon
  • 2 large juicy lemons
  • 2 handfuls of mesclun (mixed salad leaves)

Method

Pod the beans and put them in a deep pot, then pour in enough cold water to cover them by 6 cm. Bring to the boil and skim off any scum that rises, then add the herbs, onion halves, chilli and garlic, and turn down to a simmer, skimming as necessary. Cook at a rapid simmer for 30–45 minutes until the beans are barely cooked, with a wee bit of bite but not too much. If the cooking liquid falls below the level of the beans, just top up with boiling water from the kettle. Turn the heat off and stir in scant teaspoons of salt, then leave to cool completely. The beans can be kept in the fridge like this for up to 4 days, so long as they’re covered with the cooking liquor.

Drain the beans from the broth and discard all but 2 tablespoons of it, which you can pour back on to the beans. Remove the herbs, scraping the thyme leaves off the stem back into the beans, and squeeze the pulp from the garlic back on to the beans. Cut the tomatoes into a smallish dice and add half to the beans along with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and some freshly ground black pepper. Mix and put to one side.

Brush a tablespoon of the remaining oil over the cut side of the figs, season with a little salt and pepper, and cook on either a barbecue or a griddle pan, or place under a hot grill, until they caramelize (it is the fructose sugar in them that caramelizes). Take from the heat and put on a warm plate. Grill the bacon until crisp and sit it with the figs.

To Serve

Squeeze the juice from one of the lemons over the cooked beans and mix well, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary, then divide the mixture between 4 plates. Cut the other lemon into 4 wedges. Pile the mesclun over the beans and then tuck 3 fig halves into that. Place 2 rashers of bacon on top, then scatter with the remaining tomato dice, drizzle with the remaining oil and serve with a lemon wedge.