Is That a Fig and Walnut Salami? Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?


Fig and Walnut Salami?  You’re joking, right?

Of course we’re joking, we’re always joking. 

Just not about the salami.  When Jody and I make edible gifts we like to prepare something a little offbeat.  For most of the year Italians, like Americans, equate salami with oblongs of cured meat, but come the holidays Americans and Italians part ways.  While a salami is cured meat year round from San Francisco to Boston, in Italy Christmas sees the arrival of salami dolce, sweet salami-shaped confections made with chocolate or figs.  

Salame di fichi is made from dried figs.  Salame di cioccolato is made from… guess what?  Despite its dolce-ness, fig salami is no sweeter than figs–and actually has a little more punch from the red wine reduction.  It makes a dynamite combination with blue cheese, and it looks great.

Chocolate salami, as you might expect, is quite sweet.  It’s usually just sliced and offered like cookies (rich cookies).

While I love a Christmas tree or a Rudolph with a red-hot nose as much as anyone, for some occasions it’s worth leaving the lid on the cookie cutter tin and searching a bit farther afield for inspiration.  In this season of parties with everyone trotting out their snickerdoodle Santas, Donders and Blixens, a Fig and Walnut Salami is a welcome alternative, especially if everyone’s knocked back a pint of  glüwein before you walk through the door.

If you want to serve this “sliced on butcher’s paper,” like in the lead photo, be sure to let the salami chill overnight.  You can even throw it in the freezer for ten minutes before slicing, as long as you don’t let it freeze.  Freezing won’t hurt it, but it will make for one of those hilarious stories that get told again and again at holidays: Hey, everybody!  Ha-ha!  Remember when Dad broke the band saw slicing the frozen salami and lost the tip of his finger! 

Joy to the world.

Ken

Fig and Walnut Salami

Ingredients:

  • ½ pound dried yellow Turkish or Kalamata figs
  • 2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoon Garam Masala
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Remove the stem from the figs. Cut into quarters and combine in a small saucepan with 2 tablespoons vinegar, the red wine, and Garam Masala over medium-low heat. Cover and simmer 10 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated and the figs are just starting to stick to the pan. Lift the cover every few minutes and stir. Cool for at least 10 minutes.
  2. Combine the figs in a food processor with the lemon zest and salt. Pulse until smooth. Taste at this point. If you think it needs more punch, add more of whatever it needs, balsamic vinegar, salt, lemon zest, Garam Masala. If it needs some sweet, add a little honey.
  3. Add the walnuts and sesame seeds and pulse to just combine.
  4. Form into a log on parchment paper.  Mold into rough log shape, then fold one side of the parchment paper over the other.  Pull the lower edge of the paper toward you while using a firm flat edge to press against the upper layer of paper, tightening the fig and nut mixture into a tight cylinder.  Twist the ends like a party favor.
  5. Chill overnight to allow the salami to firm up and the flavors to blend. 

Jody Notes:

This is my holiday wrinkle on the Mediterranean tradition of cooked fig logs, primarily served with cheese.  Italy has its Fig “Salami” or Salame di Fichi; Spain prefers comparing its own version to a loaf of bread–Pan de Higo.

The basic technique is to puree dried figs with some flavorings and then add some texture with nuts and seeds.

I started by steeping my figs in water, but found they needed a kick in the butt so I steeped a second batch in red wine.  MUCH better.  Additional tinkering led to the addition of balsamic vinegar for a sweet-sour element.

Many recipes call for ground fennel or anise.  I would have definitely used one of them but I’m trying to kick the habit of putting fennel and ginger into everything I make. Garam Masala (not to be confused with garum, the fermented fish sauce that inspired our blog) is an Indian spice blend used throughout the Indian subcontinent.  Although there are literally thousands of variations, most recipes seem to include a common core of cardamon, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, fennel, black pepper, cloves and mace.  Some have bay leaves, some have fenugreek, some have ground ginger.  You can make your own–we do at Rialto–but at home it’s fun and easy to try different brands and you can always tweak one with a  little extra pepper or ground ginger according to your taste or a particular recipe. 

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25 thoughts

  1. that is amazing. Making it this week end. I make your recipes and now I am expected to step up to the plate ALL THE TIME. (The problem is, I rarely eat out as everyone wants to come here for dinner.) The best part of my friends: They insist on helping with the dishes.
    I think Soap Suds and champagne makes a great “AFTER” party.
    Thanks again for this beautiful option Sharyn Fireman

    • Thanks! Fromage d’Affinois is one of our favorite cheese plate selections–runny and rich. When people sometimes ask me about runny cheeses I respond, “Smelly or not-smelly?” If if the answer is n-s, Fromage d’Affinois is my answer. Happy Holidays to you too! Ken

  2. I just made this recipe and it came together really easily. I divided it into three “salami” rolls, for three gifts (though I suspect I’ll keep one myself!). Any suggestions for the kind of bread underneath?

    • Boy, you’re ambitious! I’m impressed–go idea dividing it into thirds. We looked at several different cheese crackers until we found a one that we liked–relatively thin (note the edge in the photograph), with some interesting flavor (there are thin shavings of pistachio and cranberry in ours, but the cracker isn’t sweet), texture (some undulations for character), and dark color (to go with the salami and offset the blue cheese). Obviously I’m thinking visually but we also didn’t want anything whose flavor might overwhelm or clash with the stuff on top (no

      That’s a breakdown of what was, when all was said and done, about a 5 minute process. You should go with what you like. If you like little baguette toasts, use them. We chose crackers instead because we didn’t want the salami and cheese to collapse into the soft bread interior. Happy Holidays! Ken

    • I just served the salami to my mother, sister and niece with those fabulous Spanish olive oil crackers and a taleggio-style cheese. It was delicious. I sent them home a little salami as well.

  3. As someone who had the good fortune to taste this salami at one of Jody’s recent cooking classes, I can attest to how good it is. This was great as shown, on a crisp with some blue cheese, but I’m also going to use it as a pizza topping with a little prosciutto, arugula and fontina.

    • Sounds like a great combination. I’m not a BIG fan of sweet stuff on pizza, but as contrast with other savory things, I like it–I once had a fig and tartuffo cheese pizza–fabulous! Ken

  4. I hope you still check comments a year later! I am a newcomer to your beautiful blog and will undoubtedly be a long time follower. I am wondering if you can recommend a bottle of red that works well in this recipe. Do you remember what you used? thanks!

    • We look at ALL new commets, even for older posts, so you’re in luck. Almost. I’m sorry I can’t tell you exactly what you used, although I’m sure it was something obviously dry, medium-bodied, and not too fruit-forward. A decent temperanillo (Rioja) would work. Stay away from Chianti–it’s too austere. You don’t need to spend a lot of money–we’re not looking for breathtaking complexity. Good luck. Ken

  5. Looks and sounds amazing! I know a few people who would love receiving it as a present. Speaking of which, what are your storage recommendations and how long will it keep (i.e. how far in advance can I make it and what can I tell them about how long it will keep)?

    Thanks! Beautiful photography and ideas!

    • Hi, Indi–Thanks for the praise. You can think of the log the same way you think of jam–it should keep for a month. It should, however, be refrigerated and tightly wrapped. I can’t speak beyond a month because we’ve never had one last that long–they’re eaten long before then. In the post we served it with blue cheese, but it also great with farmhouse cheddar. Ken

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