Have you ever wondered how raisins are made? I have. Raisins bring out some of the fondest of memories from when I was a child.
My appreciation for fresh food and real ingredients was stilled in me by my grandmother, Maruja, in Spain. She considered cooking, baking, and meal planning a necessary skill for every homemaker.
Maruja had her methods of teaching basic culinary skills. From cracking eggs into a bowl without breaking the shell into small pieces to whipping egg whites by hand until they became a thick merengue.
Frosting a cake? That’s something I was allowed to do after I learned to whip egg whites, make frosting and demonstrated that I had a steady hand. Her methods worked. I can do those things and many more thanks to her.
When we were finished practicing the culinary skill for the day, we often sat and drank warm tea and ate raisins. I used to love eating a handful of raisins, filling my mouth with warm tea and letting them puff up! Silly, I know but really cool when you are 5 or 6 years old. Other times, when I asked her for a “snack” she would gladly hand me my yellow plastic cup and fill it with a handful of raisins.
So, you can imagine my excitement when I was offered the opportunity to become a California Raisin ambassador. Maruja would be really happy!
I had the pleasure of going to California to “raisin country” aka Fresno and tour Circle K Farms as well as the Wilt Residence for an amazing dinner. Although I loved all the dishes prepared by Chef Mike Siegel using California Raisins, one of the recipes I wanted to re-create at home was a balsamic raisin vinagrete he used in our salad that night. The figs, cheese and raisin vinaigrette was out of this world.
Ok, so I might not have recreated the recipe exactly -I actually forgot to ask him how he made it- but I created my own version and I have to say that it is delicious. I’ve since used it on salads, roasted eggplant and I even used it to marinate steak. Enjoy!
- ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar (regular will work too)
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons of raisins
- 1 garlic clove
- 2-3 basil leaves
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 TB lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2-3 large handfulls of field greens
- 4-6 ripe figs, rinsed and kept at room temperature, sliced vertically and quartered
- 5 oz parmesan cheese, grated
- 4 strips of prosciutto, pan fried until crispy
- Combine all ingredients in a blender and process on high for 1-2 minutes.
- Pour in a glass jar and refrigerate to allow dressing to thicken.
- Oil will rise to the top. Don't worry, shake it well before pouring over your salad.
- *Note: you might want to soak your raisins in hot water for about 5 minutes and allow them to "plump" in order to get a smooth consistency.
- In a large bowl, combine the field greens and salad dressing. Toss to coat all leaves evenly.
- Plate and top with fig strips, parmesan cheese and prosciutto strips.
And in case you need some table setting inspiration… here is the beautiful table set for us during the trip.
This post was written in my participation of the California Raisin Ambassador program. All opinions are my own and the recipe is yours to enjoy!