Figs, the deliciously sweet, tear-drop shaped fruit, tend to baffle those who are unfamiliar with it's distinctive taste and texture. Most commonly recognized as the sweet fruit filling in Fig Newtons, or in their dried version, this cousin of the Mulberry bush can be utilized in sweet or savory dishes.
Excitedly, there are several varieties of figs. The Brown Turkey’s reddish-brown skin blends with its similar shaded pulp. But, Black Mission figs have a distinct contrasting blackish-purple skin and pink pulp. The lighter Kadota figs and their green skin coordinate with a lavender-like flesh, while the greenish-yellow Calimyrna fig’s sport a tawny flesh. Whichever kind you choose, one thing is for sure. A blink of an eye in the summer may just cause you to miss them because the fig season is comparatively shorter than other summer fruits.
Nonetheless, their brief appearance doesn’t change the reality that figs add terrific flavor and sass to a healthy diet. It is a fiber-rich fruit that is also a good source of potassium, without compromising taste. And, don’t worry about attempting to decipher what figs are ripe. It is super simple. When at the market, no more than a day or two within using them, select rounded, tender figs that have a plush, concentrated color and firm stems. Avoid bruises. Once home, and just before use, wash the figs under cool water, wipe dry with a thin towel and remove the stem. Voila! Read-to-eat snack.
Or, quarter the figs, add to a bed of fennel and arugula and/or spinach, top with shaved aged Gouda or Parmesan cheese and a beautifully fresh summer salad is born.
What about warmed figs? Place the quartered, flower-like fig on a lined cookie sheet, add a bit of goat cheese in the center of each, and broil them for 5-6 minutes, or until the goat cheese browns. Top with a warm honey drizzle and your taste buds will be in heaven.
Prefer a heartier dessert? Try making someone coping with Celiac intolerance a happy camper with a gluten-free tart. Gluten free pastry doughs don't have to be difficult and here is one that works. Don’t have any intolerance? No problem. If you do not have allergies and prefer to a traditional tart, substitute the rice flour with all-purpose or pastry flour.
Frangipane Fig Tart (Gluten Free)
Gluten-Free Pastry Dough
2 ¼ cups brown rice flour
½ tsp salt
¾ cup cold butter, cut into pieces
¼ cup turbinado (raw) sugar, fine ground (fine, white sugar is okay)
1 egg, lightly beaten
4-6 Tbsp. cold water
½ cup ground almond meal
¼ cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
1 Tbsp.brown rice flour
¾ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. salt
12-15 fresh figs (about 1 pound), halved*
2 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. water
Heat the oven to 375 ° F.
Prepare the tart shell:
Place flour, salt, butter and sugar in a food processor and pulse several times until butter is incorporated. Add the egg and pulse to incorporate. Gradually add cold water and pulse until the dough begins to form a ball. Remove from bowl and press into a disk (If dough is too dry, sprinkle water on top and knead it into the mixture). Wrap and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 ° F.
Prepare the Frangipan:
In a food processor, grind the almond meal, sugar, egg, butter, flour, extract and salt to make a smooth and creamy, somewhat fluid paste (similar to a really thick pancake batter). Spread the almond mixture in the base of the tart. Arrange the figs, cut side up, on top of the almond mixture. Be sure to gently push the figs into the batter slightly for stability.
Place the filled tart on a baking sheet and bake until the almond mixture is puffed and golden, 40 to 45 minutes.
About 5 minutes before the tart is done baking, warm the honey and water in a small saucepan mixed. Once the tart is removed from the oven, use a pastry brush to lightly coat the top of each fig with the honey mixture. Let cool. Serve at room temperature.
* Don't have access to fresh figs? Plump up dried by reconstituting the dried figs on the stove top. Simmer in water for 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool completely. Strain before using.