Fig, Bacon, & Blue Cheese Salad

Fig, Bacon, & Blue Cheese Salad with Fig Balsamic Dressing | Will Cook For Friends

You know when people say, “wow, this tastes delicious! And I don’t even like _____ ingredient!”

I can’t help but cringe a little. I get the sentiment, I really do, but I can’t help but think… I love _____ ingredient. I love it in all its tasty gloriousness. So if you hate it, but like the dish? That must not be saying much for the use of the ingredient.

Now, I know this isn’t fair, because usually what people mean when they say this is, “I’ve never had _____ prepared in such a delicious way.” Which is a lovely compliment. But I can’t help but be skeptical when I hear those words: I don’t even like ______.

Then there’s me, who has never, ever said those words in my life. Oh, except the other day, when I posted a photo of this salad on my facebook page with these words: “You guys, I don’t even like blue cheese, and I CANNOT GET ENOUGH of this salad.”

Fig, Bacon, & Blue Cheese Salad with Fig Balsamic Dressing | Will Cook For Friends

That’s right. Hi, I’m Willow, and I’m a hypocrite. Also, this salad is delicious, and what I really meant to say when I said I don’t even like blue cheese, is this:

If you love blue cheese, you are going to love this salad. And if you don’t love blue cheese? I strongly encourage you to try it anyway, because there’s some kind of magic that happens when that weird, tangy blue mess meets the sweet fig and balsamic dressing and salty bacon.

Really, this salad is just straight-up GOOD. I don’t want to hear any blue-cheese hatin’ discriminatin’ until you’ve tried it. M’kay? Grab yourself a nice, mild Stilton, and get your bacon cooking. Then come back and see me.

Fig, Bacon, & Blue Cheese Salad with Fig Balsamic Dressing | Will Cook For Friends
Fig, Bacon, & Blue Cheese Salad with Fig Balsamic Dressing | Will Cook For Friends

Now that I think about it, I’ve actually been down this road before, last year, when I shared this Roasted Pear and Gorgonzola SaladWhen I first made that recipe, I knew I had hit salad gold. Again, the combination of sweetness from the pears, and the balsamic dressing… magic.

Thinking about these two salads has me day dreaming about how much fun it would be to open a restaurant and call it “The Salad Bar.” Imagine it with me: a small joint, serving up seasonal salads with a gourmet twist. It wouldn’t be an actual, buffet-style salad bar, so much as a bar where you get served up off a menu specialty salads. And the best part? I would never surprise people by putting cheese on a salad without telling them.

It is a major pet peeve of mine when I order a salad, and it doesn’t say on the menu that cheese is an ingredient, and then it comes with a mountain of cheddar on top. Don’t get me wrong, I love a little feta, or parmesan, or goat cheese, or even blue cheese where appropriate, but I do not appreciate a heaping mound of shredded cheese on an otherwise perfectly good bed of greens. This is lettuce, people, not nachos. Get it together. Instead, each salad on the menu would have a list of recommended cheeses people could choose from, or they could opt for no cheese at all. No surprise cheese.

Fig, Bacon, & Blue Cheese Salad with Fig Balsamic Dressing | Will Cook For Friends

You guys, these are the types of things that run through my head when I’m left alone for too long. I get angry about cheese, and dream up a world in which I am a salad-mixing bar tender and you all are my regulars, who come in and banter late into the night over a plate of baby greens and toppings of your choice.

I sincerely hope that in some other universe, this is a reality.

Fig, Bacon, & Blue Cheese Salad with Fig Balsamic Dressing | Will Cook For Friends
Fig, Bacon, & Blue Cheese Salad with Fig Balsamic Dressing | Will Cook For Friends

So, humor me on this, and imagine you’re pulling up a chair at The Salad Bar. The (salad)bar-tender (me) finishes polishing the bar and slings the towel over her shoulder, and asks “what’ll ya have?”

If you could order any salad, ever, what would it be? Go!

Fig, Bacon, & Blue Cheese Salad With Fig Balsamic Dressing
Recipe type: Salad
Serves: 2
For the dressing:
  • 3 TBSP fig preserves
  • 1-2 TBSP water, as needed
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
For the salad:
  • 4-5 slices bacon, cooked and roughly chopped
  • ½ cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 3-4 fresh figs (can be omitted if not in season)
  • Crumbled blue cheese, to taste
  • ~4 oz. mixed salad greens (I particularly like arugula, or a mix with frisee or watercress, which all have a peppery bite to them and go well with the sweetness of the dressing, or you can use whatever you like)
For the dressing:
  1. In a microwave safe bowl, stir together the fig preserves and water. Microwave for ten second intervals to help loosen the fig preserves, and to warm the dressing through (it is best served warm). This can also be done in a small pot on the stove. Add the balsamic dressing, and adjust to taste (more fig jam can be added for sweetness, more balsamic for a bit more acidity, or more water if the dressing is too thick). Set aside.
For the salad:
  1. Start by toasting the walnuts -- I like to do this in a dry skillet over medium-low heat. Keep a close eye on them, and stir or shake the pan every minute or so to prevent burning. They should be toasted and flavorful after about 5-6 minutes. Remove from the heat, and set aside.
  2. Cook the bacon until crispy, then drain on a paper-towel lined plate. Chop, or roughly crumble.
  3. While the bacon cooks, crumble the blue cheese, slice the figs, and get the greens in a bowl large enough for tossing.
  4. Here's the most important part: when you're ready to serve, assemble the salad. Add the walnuts and bacon, while still warm, to the salad greens, along with the blue cheese and sliced figs. Pour the warm dressing over everything (dressing can be reheated in the microwave, or on the stove, if needed), and toss everything until evenly coated.
  5. Divide into bowls, and serve immediately.
Yes, it matters that the salad be dressed like this. Something about every little piece being coated by a light, even layer of dressing brings all the flavors together. You could serve it up un-assembled, and have people assemble and dress their own bowls of salad, but I strongly recommend that they toss the salad well before digging in. What can I say, it really does make a difference.



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9 Responses to Fig, Bacon, & Blue Cheese Salad

  1. Liz @ Floating Kitchen August 29, 2014 at 5:15 pm #

    Beautiful photos! I love everything in this salad!

  2. Katie | Healthy Seasonal Recipes August 31, 2014 at 7:51 am #

    I totally agree about the “I don’t even like…” bit. And I forgive you for being a hypocrite, ha ha. I love the Salad Bar idea. I would be a regular for sure.

    • Willow September 2, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

      Haha, thanks, Katie! Glad I’m not alone.

  3. Jennie @themessybakerblog September 3, 2014 at 10:27 am #

    I hear people say that phrase all the time. Me… Well, I’ll try anything once before I go announcing that I don’t like a particular item. I love the folks that claim they don’t like something but have never actually tried the thing that they claim they don’t like. Honestly, how do you know? This salad looks fan-freaking-tastic! I love all of those sweet figs and crispy bacon. It’s perfect!

    • Willow September 10, 2014 at 10:44 am #

      Agreed! I grew up in a household where you weren’t allowed to say you didn’t like something until you had tried it. It turns out, I don’t dislike very many things, haha! (And a lot of the things I did dislike as a kid, I’ve grown to like as an adult — just further proof you should give things a second chance rather than just say you don’t like it and refuse to even try.)

  4. shannon September 3, 2014 at 10:59 am #

    AGREE with so many things in here! First off, i also bristle at the whole “oh i love this and i don’t even like ____” compliment. To me, it sort of makes me sad because more often than not, they had an initial bad experience with the ingredient in question and instead of trying to prepare it differently, they’ve just discarded that. It’s happened here with Mr. Table and countless vegetables, all because his mom only new how to boil and not roast. it’s a simple switch that makes ALL the difference, and it’s sad when people don’t take the time to give things a second go-round.
    nacho salads: TOTALLY. It’s my biggest pet peeve ever when salads get crushed by over-cheesing: it’s gross, and makes the salad almost gooey, and weird, and it’s obnoxious. so many times, salads don’t even require cheese, and are better off without it, you know? and when it comes to something like this (gorgeous and i would eat many plates of this), a little goes a long way, but a lot makes me want to hide. Thank you for being a salad bartender in my own alternate universe: you are obviously qualified. :)

    • Willow September 10, 2014 at 10:43 am #

      Yes! I see that so often, where someone tries something once (often at a young age) that was prepared badly, and then decide they don’t like that thing and refuse to ever eat it again. Um, hello? Just because you don’t like boiled-until-it-has-no-color-left green beans, doesn’t mean you don’t like green beans, it means you don’t like bad cooking. Which is understandable, but really, the green beans shouldn’t take the blame. Anyway, I’m all about getting people to retry things, and seeing them totally fall in love with whatever it is. Then again, sometimes there’s just something you really don’t like, which is understandable, too, but at least you’ll have given it a chance.

      And definitely, a little cheese is good, a lot of cheese, not so much. And seriously, we should get together and play pretend that I’m your salad bartender. I can already see myself shaking salad dressings instead of cocktail shakers, and pouring them with flare. :)

  5. mimi September 18, 2014 at 9:03 am #

    Love love this salad. I honestly prefer dried figs over fresh. Is that weird? But I’d definitely order this salad if it was on a restaurant menu!

    • Willow Arlen September 18, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

      Haha, that’s not weird at all! I think they gain a lot of sweetness when they’re dried, plus you never have to worry about how ripe they are. Dried figs would be lovely in this salad, too, if you wanted to swap them for the fresh. :)

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