Fresh figs: One of the nicest surprises to come out of farmers markets in the last decade has been the explosion in availability of summer’s fresh figs. Once they were scarce, now they are relatively plentiful. That is certainly something to be celebrated: When a fig is good, there are few fruits that can compete with it. Figs are harvested twice in a year. The first growth, called the breba crop, comes from branches that sprouted the previous year. That’s the harvest we’re seeing now and it’ll last for several more weeks. The second, and larger, harvest comes on this year’s growth and will begin in late summer and run as late as October for some varieties. Because of the geographical distribution of fig orchards in California, the seasons at farmers markets overlap to the point that we’ll have fresh figs with nary a hiccup through fall. Most of the figs we’re finding now are Brown Turkeys or Black Missions. If you have a choice, the Black Missions usually have better flavor. Later in the summer we’ll see Kadotas and Calimyrnas and beyond. Kadotas are primarily drying figs, but Calimyrnas can be quite exquisite. If you see Adriatics or, even scarcer still, Panachees, grab them.
Toss the walnuts with one-fourth teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil in a small bowl. Spread the nuts on a sheet pan and toast in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the shallots, thyme, rosemary, vinegar and 6 tablespoons olive oil. Season with one-half teaspoon salt and a grind of black pepper, or to taste. This makes a scant two-thirds cup vinaigrette.
Halve the figs lengthwise. Remove any wilted outer leaves from the radicchio and slice it lengthwise into eight wedges. Trim the top off the fennel, and slice it crosswise into half-inch strips, discarding the core.
Brush the radicchio wedges with a little of the vinaigrette and place them on an oiled grill heated over medium-high heat. Grill the wedges for about 2 minutes on each side, until slightly wilted with defined grill marks. Remove and reserve in a warm place. Do the same with the fennel.
For the figs, brush the cut side with the vinaigrette and place the halves on the grill, cut-side down. After about 30 seconds, rotate slightly and cook for another 30 seconds.
Divide the radicchio, fennel and figs evenly among four plates. Crumble the goat cheese evenly over the salads, and scatter the toasted walnuts over each serving. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of the remaining vinaigrette over each salad. Serve immediately.
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