My first stop at the beach every year is Rosebank Farms near Kiawah Island in South Carolina. When my now HS and college age kids were little, Rosebank Farms had an eclectic roadside stand with chickens and bunnies running amok, an informal petting zoo, a one room schoolhouse museum, lush pomegranate bushes, local art for sale, a woman weaving and selling sweetgrass baskets, gorgeous field grown flower bouquets with cheerful zinnias and seasonal local produce, honey and farm fresh eggs.
Rosebank was ousted from their sweet little spot a few years ago. A corporate building for the Town of Kiawah Island is replacing the goats, chickens and sunflower fields. Progress.
At this stage of life, I’m fine shopping under a big white tent a little bit further down the road where Rosebank Farms has moved. The quirky charm is gone, but it’s still the best place to get locally grown produce, farm fresh eggs, honey, and those stunning flower bouquets.
We typically spend the month of July at the beach so if we’re lucky, we hit the tail end of the local blackberries. Blueberry, watermelon, tomato and peach season are always in full swing during our stay. My focus though is on the local figs. I visit Rosebank Farms every day asking when the figs will be ripe so I don’t miss their debut. This year when I went to the market shortly after our beach arrival, a lovely woman who has worked there for years recognized me and before I could say anything, the first thing out of her mouth was “the figs are almost ready”. Long wind up story, but seriously, eating soft, plump and somewhat sexy fresh local figs is one of the highlights of my summer.
The initial pint of figs is always eaten out of hand so I can savor their figgy splendor. I then assemble my fresh Quick Pickled Fresh Fig & Onion Salad with Arugula and Parmesan and don’t stop making it until the figs disappear from the farmers market. Every fig season I expand my collection of delicious ways to eat fresh figs, yet this salad always remains my favorite.
The sweet and vinegary pickled fresh figs and onions, slightly bitter arugula, nutty parmesan cheese, and minty basil make for a timeless classic flavor combination I can’t get enough of during the all too short fig season.
Quick Pickled Fresh Fig & Onion Salad with Arugula and Parmesan
(Serves 4 as a side salad, 2 as a main meal)
Note: The quick pickled figs and onions serve as a vinaigrette for the arugula leaves. The proportion of vinegar to oil in the pickling liquid is a perfect way to offset super sweet fruit like figs.
6 cups washed and dried arugula leaves, long stems removed
½ cup parmigiano-reggiano shaved into ½” – 1” pieces with vegetable peeler
Quick Balsamic Pickled Figs and Onions
2 cups quartered fresh figs
1 cup thinly sliced red onions – about 1 medium onion
1 tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
¼ cup balsamic vinegar (if you can find Fig Balsamic it is preferable, but not essential)
2 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs chiffonade basil (about 5 leaves stack, rolled and cut crosswise into ¼ strips)
- In a large bowl whisk the salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, sugar and olive oil until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the onions, basil and figs and let sit at room temperature for at least an hour.
- Drain fig and onion mixture over a hard mesh colander or strainer before using. (You can save the pickling mixture, add more sliced onions, and refrigerate for up to a week to use on salads or sandwiches.)
- Place arugula on a large platter. Scatter drained quick pickled onion and figs evenly over arugula then sprinkle shaved parmigiano-reggiano over the salad.