i invited my family for dinner.
i spent one week thinking and
talking about making lasagna,
but it wasn't until the morning of
that i actually started to look
i've said before that when i'm
cooking a bunch of things, i
prefer to wake up with the
ingredients already in the house.
it was unsettling to make a list
at 11am, leave the house, head
to two grocery stores to collect
five different kinds of cheeses,
three packages of lasagna noodles,
a lot of romaine,
several cans of plum tomatoes,
two loaves of bread,
three heads of garlic
and many other odds and ends.
on the menu:
romaine salad with slow-roasted tomatoes and blue cheese
butternut squash, hazelnut and sage lasagna
spicy turkey sausage and spinach lasagna
garlic bread with chives and lemon zest
fig tart with vanilla bean ice cream
it was a lot.
i even - and this is hard for me
to admit - made a list.
and that's why, when we got home
at 12:30, i started cooking,
grabbed my camera and took
exactly two pictures.
it wasn't until
i pulled the lasagnas out of the oven
that i remembered the camera,
lonely and abandoned,
on the far end of the kitchen.
the lasagnas were a huge hit
and probably catapulted the
night to the top of our dinner
party list. but, without any pictures,
they're a hard sell. so, instead,
i want to tell you about the
delicious, gorgeously rustic,
truth be told,
there aren't many pictures
of the fig tart either,
but this is a dessert that
is both so fast, lovely and simple that
i still feel ok talking about it.
two days before the dinner,
i decided to make crack pie -
we've talked about it in our
office many times and when
the recipe appeared in the
september issue of bon appetit,
i was thrilled. even though
it's a multi-step dessert -
asking you to make cookies,
then grind them up to form
the crust, i knew that it would
be worth it and that my family
would love the pie.
the day before, i started to doubt
the whole thing. i had to work
late that night and i still
didn't have lasagna recipes
chosen. i switched my focus
to a chess pie, a dessert that
every summer i vow to make,
but never do.
but, now it was the morning
of the dinner. i had gotten
home from work at 9pm
the night before and in spite
of drinking two cups of coffee,
i was still feeling that
maybe i unknowingly took
a sleeping pill last night feeling
(i hadn't). between the yet to be picked
lasagna recipes and the tomatoes,
i knew that i would need the oven
for most of the afternoon,
i was again doubting my choice.
and just like that,
the chess pie was out.
i don't remember what i searched
in google. but, the best fig tart, ever,
from chez pim popped up in the first
spot. i scanned the recipe, looked at
the pictures, understood that i would
have to commit to spending a pretty
penny on a lot of figs, that i would
have to make an almond filling
and that i would have to make pastry dough.
i also realized that it is fig season,
that the whole dessert could look a little
imperfect and still be delicious and that
after years of fearing homemade pie dough,
i can now hold my own.
so, somewhere in between
roasting the squash and frying the sage leaves,
water into the food processor.
while i peeled the roasted garlic,
larry grabbed the dough, flattened
it into a disk and covered with plastic
wrap and chilled until ready to use.
as larry started to cook the sausage,
i tossed roasted almonds and sugar
into the food processor before adding
butter and an egg. the mixture was really
thin, but at that moment the bechamel
started to boil, so i switched gears. when
i returned to the frangipane, it had
and when all parts
of both lasagnas were just waiting to be
assembled, i quartered the ripe,
sweet black mission figs, rolled the dough
into a shape that sort of resembled a circle,
and spread the frangipane to just an inch
of the edge. i added the figs, from the inside
out, in sort of concentric circles and folded
the dough in to form a crust.
i sighed and realized that even though i really
didn't want to, i would later regret not
brushing the dough with an egg wash. so i did,
before sprinkling on coarse sugar crystals.
dessert was made and it took less than 20 minutes.
i loosely covered the tart, placed it
back in the fridge and kept it there
until we sat down to eat the salads.
while we ate, the tart baked,
sweetly scenting the house
with caramel and jam.
i wasn't sure which way my family
would fall with this tart - figs are not
something we saw
a lot of growing up. but later,
after playing a very passionate
game of catchphrase, i cut seven slices
and larry added a scoop of vanilla ice cream
to each. we sat around the table.
we ate. just a couple crumbs were left
on only a few plates.
and that night,
i fell asleep glad that we pulled
off a marathon dinner in only a fraction
of the time. i was glad that when
my family arrived, the kitchen
was clean and i was calmly tearing
romaine leaves into a bowl. i was
glad that everyone had a good time.
and, i was glad, that even though
i can often go a little overboard
in the kitchen and out,
i'm starting to know where
to draw the line.
free-form fig tart
adapted from chez pim
i used my standby recipe for the dough that i've written about several times. it's worth repeating it here, so that you don't have to worry about going to another page. als0 - it's up to you, but i always re-chill my pies and tarts for at least 20 minutes before baking to ensure that the dough firms back up, producing a flaky crust. i used black mission figs, but i think that if you find fresh turkish figs in the market, you would enjoy a tart made with those, too.
the almond paste mixture calls for a combination of confectioners' sugar and granulated sugar. if you do not have confectioners' just use 1/3 cup total of granulated sugar.
one more thing: i didn't realize this until i started to write out the recipe, but apparently, i really should not pretend that i can handle math. the recipe called for 75 grams of butter, which i thought i had successfully converted to tablespoons. however, upon further inspection attempting to reconvert for you, it looks like i undershot. and that, probably, is why my almond filling was so thin. below, the correct amount.
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1-3 tablespoons ice cold water
cut butter into cubes; place back in fridge until ready to use. in bowl of food processor fitted with the dough attachment, pulse together flour, salt and sugar until combined. add cold butter; pulse just until combined and the mixture resembles small pebbles. with food processor running, drizzle in 1 tablespoon water through tube. continue to drizzle in water, a few drops at a time, just until the mixture combines and forms a cohesive dough. form dough into a ball and flatten into a disc; wrap in plastic wrap. keep in fridge until ready to use.
heaping 1/2 cup whole almonds, toasted and cooled
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/8 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature
in bowl of food processor, combine almonds and sugar; process until fine. add the butter and the egg; pulse until completely combined. chill three quarters of the mixture for another use.
1/4 frangipane mixture
15 medium black mission figs, quartered
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
heat oven to 400˚f. place dough between two pieces of plastic wrap; using rolling pin, roll dough into 11" round. transfer round to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, removing plastic wrap. spread dough with frangipane, leaving a 1" border.
starting in the center, place figs on top of frangipane, leaving 1" border. fold dough over figs, pressing to secure.
using pastry brush, coat dough with egg mixture (use a paper towel to carefully sop up any egg that has dripped onto the parchment paper). sprinkle liberally with coarse sugar.
chill loosely covered at least 20 minutes. bake 40-50 minutes, or until golden brown. let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.