To all of us at La Cuisine, the month of September means local figs (and also better not- so- local ones) There is even a giant fig tree two blocks up from the shop in a side yard of a Georgian house which is now an office building. And we have been known to snatch a few when we run errands. So here are a few ideas that we have loved from some cookbooks we have featured in our shop: figs wrapped in prosciutto and then grilled quickly–arugula, sliced figs, Parmesan shavings, thin slices prosciutto, culatello or speck, drizzled with walnut oil and sprinkled with your best quality aceto balsamico, with maybe a little sel de Guerande over the top.
But so far the best fig dessert I have ever done is the one from Patricia Well’s first cookboo0k called Bistro Cooking.
It is really an easy to do fig jam in a slightly precooked crust. I use a different crust than the one suggested in her cookbook. The crusts from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook are really good.
Her proportions for a crust are 1 cup or 4.5 oz all purpose white flour, an optional 2 teaspoons of sugar and 8 tablespoons of cold salted butter. For a flakier crust you can add a trickle of very cold water. Mix your flour and sugar in a wide bowl. Cut your butter in slices lengthwise, then mix it in with the flour until you have rough pebble shapes. For a flakier crust, dribble a a bit of cold water over the mass. Then form a mass, and reshape it into a disk. Wrap in Stretchtite and refrigerate until firm. Freeze it if you are not going to use it within a day. Allow it to come to room temperature before rolling out. Roll your circle around your rolling pin and unroll it over your tart pan. It is best to refrigerate this type of crust again before baking. If baking without the filling, use ceramic pie weights to help the tart maintain its shape. Place them on a foil or parchment inside the chilled crust.
But back to the recipe of this sublime fall dessert:
2.2lbs fresh figs of your choice, they can be mixed.
3/4 cups India Tree Golden Baker’s Sugar
Partially baked tart shell approximately 9″ in diameter
Whipped cream with a taste of vanilla and powdered sugar
In a heavy saucepan, combine figs, sugar, vanilla bean (you can scrape the seeds into the fig jam at the end before discarding the split hulls) with 1/2 cup water. Stir to dissolve the sugar and bring mixture to a boil over medium heat. Lower to a simmer as you do not want the sugar to burn before the figs soften and cook. This should take about an hour. Do not allow this mixture to scorch.
Preheat your oven to 375 F. Spread the cooled fig mixture into the partially baked tart shell. Bake about 20 minutes. Allow to cool before serving with a scoop of vanilla flavored sweetened whipped cream. A rich vanilla ice cream is not a bad second choice.