Quinoa and Fig Salad with Feta, Pistachios, and Za’atar Vinaigrette


Figs are the sexiest fruit. Aside from their feminine shape and sweet, squishy interior, they’re sexy because they’re elusive, at least in these parts. The New England–grown figs I’ve eaten have been dry and disappointing. A good, ripe fig spews its jellied guts when you take a bite. I guess there’s an exception to the “better local” rule.

But California figs, if you can get your hands on them, are awfully good. My favorite variety of those I’ve been able to try isn’t the slinky purple Black Mission Fig, but the green Kadota. I can eat only one at a time; they’re diminutive but their sweetness is concentrated and it goes right to my head. That’s why I never use them in desserts; they can’t take the sugar.


Here I’ve paired figs with earthy (quinoa, za’atar, and pistachios), fresh and bright (lemon and scallions), and briny (feta cheese) Middle Eastern flavors so their sweetness is welcome. I’ve cut them into quarters so the figs, from their smooth skins and fleshy exteriors to their succulent centers and crunchy seeds, have a strong presence. And I’ve used their pulp in the dressing, too. If figs are sexy then quinoa salad can be sexy, too.

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Quinoa and Fig Salad with Feta, Pistachios, and Za’atar Vinaigrette
Serves 4 to 6

Different za’atar blends have different salt contents. Taste your dressing and season accordingly. Quinoa cooking method adapted from America’s Test Kitchen.

11/2 cups quinoa, rinsed
21/4 water
1 pint ripe figs
5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 teaspoons za’atar
3 ounces feta cheese, cubed
1/2 cup shelled pistachios, toasted
4 scallions, green parts only, sliced

1. Toast quinoa in large saucepan over medium-high heat until lightly browned and fragrant, about 7 minutes. Add water and 1 teaspoon salt to pot and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer gently until quinoa is just tender. Spread quinoa on baking sheet and drizzle with 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Let cool completely. (Cooled quinoa can be refrigerated for up to 3 days before using.)

2. Scrape the pulp of three figs into a small jar. Add oil, za’atar, and remaining 5 tablespoons lemon juice to jar, cover tightly, and shake vigorously until pulp is broken up; set aside.

3. Quarter remaining figs. Toss quinoa, feta, pistachios, scallions, and figs together with vinaigrette to taste, holding back a small amount of feta, pistachios, scallions, and figs for garnishing. Top salad with garnishes and serve with remaining dressing.

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