Salade de l’ambassadeur

ambassador salad2

Salad of bresaola and late summer fruit

This salad is quick to prepare and makes an elegant start to a meal. As it’s name suggests, it is the creation of a French ambassador. He served it at a dinner party recently — and when I tasted it, I had to have the recipe, which he diplomatically agreed to share.

The salad combines fresh figs, pears, mushrooms and pine nuts on a bed of tender leaves, topped by thin slices of bresaola and drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette.

The ambassador used oak leaf salad, while I used a variety known in French as rougette — tender green leaves tinged with red at the tips — and mixed it with baby spinach. Boston lettuce or a mixture of leaves like mesclun would also work well. (If you’d like to check out different kinds of salad greens, click here to see the Epicurious visual guide.)

As for the bresaola, it is Italy’s take on dried beef and is generally more tender, in my experience, than the Swiss variety (viande des Grisons). If you can’t find bresaola, not to worry — prosciutto or any other dry-cured ham would make a fine substitute.

Full disclosure: I did take a little liberty by adding garlic to the vinaigrette. There was none in the ambassador’s version. As they say, à chacun son goût (it’s up to you).

2 large handfuls tender leaves
2 fresh figs
1 fresh pear
2 fresh mushrooms
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. pine nuts
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic (optional)
6-7 thin slices bresaola

Wash the tender leaves and spin dry. Arrange them in a mound in a broad shallow salad bowl or on a large plate.

Rinse the figs, slice off the stems, and slice each fig vertically into six sections. Scatter over the leaves.

Chop the pear vertically into quarters, remove the core, and slice each quarter horizontally into small pieces. Scatter over the leaves.

Rinse the mushrooms and cut off the bottoms. Slice the mushrooms, place in a small dish, add the lemon juice and stir (to prevent discoloration). Scatter the mushrooms over the leaves.

Scatter the pine nuts over the salad.

In a small bowl, combine the balsamic vinegar, olive oil and salt. Stir well to emulsify. Grind in some black pepper and stir again. If using the garlic, peel the clove, slice in half and add the halves to the sauce. Allow the garlic to sit in the dressing for five minutes. Remove and discard.

Place the bresaola slices over the salad. If you have an extra slice, you can shape it into a rosette, as shown in the photo, and decorate the salad with bits of fig and pear.

Just before serving, drizzle the salad with the dressing. Serves 2 to 3.

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