Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette


Figs and Balsamic Vinegar…a match made in heaven!

Rich, Deep Flavors with Sweet and Tangy, together they tango.


Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic originates from the word ‘balm’ and years ago this rich caramel liquid was used for medicinal purposes such as curing colds and aiding heart conditions, not for cooking as we use it today.   Traditionally it was aged for decades, sometimes up to 100 years, in a series of wooden barrels (mulberry, ash, cherry, chestnut, and oak) to create this incredible nectar.  There is a saying in Italy that one generation makes the balsamic vinegar for the next, a gift of health to their children and grandchildren.

Artisan-made traditional balsamic vinegar has been produced in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy for over 1,000 years.  Today there consortiums which regulate the Tradizionale vinegars of the regions such as Modena, Reggio and Spilamberto to ensure quality and practice.  Traditional vinegars must be aged for a minimum of 12 years and can contain no added wine, vinegar or caramel color.   These brews are luscious and potent, almost like a port wine, and are usually sipped or drizzled sparingly over foods right before eating so the complex character is not lost.

There are numerous commercial varieties from Italy which strive to make a good tasting but less expensive balsamic by adding high-quality wine vinegar, reduced grape must, and sometimes caramel.  These are commonly used for cooking and blended into dishes.

There are also many imitations, some of which may be cider vinegar with coloring and flavorings.  Read the ingredient list!



How to choose Balsamic Vinegar?  Yikes, that’s like asking how to choose a wine.

Here is an article from Cook’s Illustrated (you have to subscribe to see their test results), and more from The Nibble, RouxBe Cooking School and Balsamic Vinegar Guide.   It’s a fascinating history but most people are overwhelmed by the choices!


My favorite everyday balsamic is a 10 year old vinegar by San Giuliano that is mellow and affordable.





I warmed the figs in the balsamic vinegar then let it sit for a few hours to absorb.  They are quite tasty like this—you could stop right here and add them to salads or pilafs, or just snack on them.


The figs thicken the mixture so I added water to make it a more manageable consistency.  If the vinaigrette sits for very long it may separate and need to be whipped again, so it’s easiest if used right away.



Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette

Soak Time:  4 (or more) hours    Prep Time: 20 minutes


Remove stems and chop into quarters:

1 pound Calmyrna Figs

Soak them in:

3/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar

Let sit a few hours or overnight to rehydrate. 


In a food processor, blend the figs and balsamic vinegar with:

1 cup Water

1 Tablespoon Fresh Thyme or 2 teaspoons Fresh Rosemary, minced

1 clove Garlic, minced

1/8 teaspoon Sea Salt

Black Pepper

Drizzle in slowly:

1 1/4 cups EV Olive Oil

Blend to let the oil emulsify.

Taste and adjust. 

If it is too thick add a little more water, or more balsamic vinegar if you think it needs more kick. 


Serving suggestions:

  • On a green salad
  • On vanilla ice cream with walnuts
  • Drizzle on roasted beets, corn, leeks and zucchini
  • As a dressing in a cabbage/vegetable slaw



One of the baskets made at a Willow Gathering that I catered in July—I could almost fit in it!

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