5 – 6 fresh figs (250 g/9 oz)
250 g (4½ oz) buffala mozzarella or ciliegine (bite-sized mozzarella)*
25 g walnuts halves (about 8)
100 g (3½ oz, 2 large handfuls) rocket (arugula)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp pink pepper corns
Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F). If using fresh buffalo mozzarella, which holds a lot of moisture, start by tearing it into bite-sized pieces. Place them on some paper towels or in a strainer and allow the liquid that is released to drain away. Chop the walnuts coarsely and place them on a baking sheet. When the oven has reached the required temperature, roast them for 8 – 10 minutes or until they start to turn golden. Set aside and allow to cool. In the meantime, divide the rocket between two plates. Wash the figs and cut them in quarters and distribute them over the rocket together with the mozzarella. Sprinkle with the walnuts. Crush the pink pepper corns lightly with a pestle in a mortar, then whisk together the ingredients for the dressing and drizzle it over the salad plates. Serve right away.
*The mozzarella can be substituted with fresh goats cheese, if you prefer. You can roast the walnuts in a frying pan on low heat, without oil, if you are in a hurry. The advantage of using the oven is that you can control the temperature, which is essential when roasting all nuts and seeds, so as not to overheat them, causing their highly beneficial oils to become oxidized creating a high content of damaging free radicals. This phenomenon is particularly prominent in walnuts as they contain extremely high levels of healthy polyunsaturated oils. Already at a temperature of 180°C (355°F) and 20 minutes of toasting, walnuts develop enormous amounts of substances connected with oxidation, 17 times the levels found in raw walnuts. So, keep the temperatures low and cooking times short when toasting nuts and seeds to avoid causing healthy substances to become poisonous. Avoid buying them pre-roasted as they generally have been subjected to very high temperatures. In this recipe you can use the walnuts raw. The flavour is milder, less nutty, but still very good.