Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fig and Mozzarella Salad

I have written before about why I like Donna Hay recipes. Apart from the delightful photography and styling of her magazines and cookbooks, she earns her place in my kitchen pantheon for the utility of her recipes. If you are time-pressed, but still like to put a "from scratch" dinner on the table every night, Donna's your girl. Her dishes are good-tasting and good-looking, and simple enough that there is usually no possible margin of error. Most of her recipes have only a handful of ingredients, and none of them are ever too difficult to source, even at 6.45pm on a Wednesday night. While other recipe writers might challenge you more, with demanding technique, or wow you with exotic flavour combinations, there are days when a simple Donna salad is unsurpassable.

Like today. I was racing around like a mad thing trying to get 75 things done and it was only 9am. I needed petrol, and as I stood, filling my car, I was listing the day's tasks in my head. After about 20 seconds, I started to panic about how I was going to get everything done. The only option - breathe deeply and just get on with it. So I hopped into the car and headed off to the supermarket. It was only once I was a couple of kilometres away, I realised I hadn't actually paid for my petrol. A new urgent task - return to the petrol station and pay before I was thrown in jail or hunted down by a current affairs program. By the time I got back to the petrol station one of the attendants was busily reviewing the camera tape for my licence plate details. Happy ending. Stolen petrol paid for. No jail. No news crews. Repeat after me "Breathe deeply and do less".
This month's We Made It challenge is focusing on Donna Hay Feb / Mar 10. The We Made It challenge began because Melinda from Melbourne Larder and I both wanted to put our cooking magazines to use, instead of treating them as bedtime reading or coffee table decorations. After mining Gourmet Traveller in December and Delicious in January, we have arrived at Donna in Feb. I must admit that I was expecting a beautiful Valentine's spread in this month's magazine and instead it is all about keeping life easy in summer: 50 Fast Dinners, a feature on an amazing array of tacos and some luscious fruit desserts. But maybe the gods (or Donna) knew what they were sending me: I think this is probably a good time for me to be concentrating on keeping things simple.
This fig salad fits that mantra: figs + buffalo mozzarella + baby rocket. I wound up also adding some crisped pancetta just because it needed using. Donna's dressing was equally simple - just caramelized red wine vinegar. On a crazy busy day, this is a great salad recipe to keep in your back pocket.

Fig and Mozzarella Salad
adapted from Donna Hay Magazine Feb / Mar 2010

6 fresh figs, halved
180g buffalo mozzarella torn into chunks
80g baby rocket leaves
100g pancetta, cooked in a 180C oven until crisp (5 mins)
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup water
1 tbl caster sugar
2 tbl olive oil

To make the dressing, mix vinegar, water and sugar together in a small saucepan over high heat. Stir to dissolve sugar, then boil until it seems syrupy (2-3 mins). Set aside and allow to cool (pouring it into a cold bowl will speed the process). Arrange figs, mozzarella and rocket in a salad bowl (with pancetta if using). Drizzle with glaze and olive oil.

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