One of the things about the Midwest is that it is not the Mediterranean. And neither, actually, is California (despite it's Med-like climate). Even though the central coast of California and central Illinois are their own sort of middle lands, only one of them is good for growing figs, lemons, olive [oil], passion fruit, avocados, figs, figs, figs. To be fair, you can grow fig trees and passion fruit vines in Illinois, but getting fruit is another, more challenging, story.
This is where, in my mind, imported foods have a place--the things we can not grow here are things that I allow myself to enjoy as a treat (hello, coffee?). And so when I saw figs at the co-op the other day, I plunked my money down for a couple of clamshells full of candy striped and black mission figs. I ate half of them before I was even two blocks away from the store, so I tossed a scarf over them--out of sight, out of mind. When I got home I put them not on the butcher block with the rest of the fruit, but hidden amongst the jars of bulk grains and nuts where I was more likely to forget about them for a while.
As much as I love figs just as they are, I wanted to savor them, so I forced myself to slow down and enjoy them with other flavors that compliment them, and also to marvel at how stunningly beautiful they are.
I took a few of them and cut them in half, exposing the sweet, soft yet lightly crunchy, pink flowers, or the part that we think of as the fruit (that is another reason I like figs, because I love that they are really flowers) and served them with chevre and prosciutto. I served them on my cherry serving board with the heart-well carved out to hold the chevre, because to me, presentation matters.
And for the last few figs I decided to stretch them as far as possible, and make a tart. This is where you can really impress your friends and family, as the tart is simple to make, but looks really impressive!
5-10 Figs (depending on size)
⅓ Cup fresh chevre
2 Tablespoons honey
2 Slices prosciutto
A few sprigs of fresh mint
1 Cup flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 Teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 Egg, beaten
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
- Blend flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, and salt in a bowl with a fork or a whis
- Add butter to flour mixture and crumble together with your fingers until there are pea-sized pieces or smaller of the flour-butter mixture
- Add the beaten egg and mix until a dough forms
- Gently knead the dough on a floured surface and form into a disk
- Put the dough in the refrigerator to cool for about an hour
- Roll the dough out on a floured surface, place in a tart pan or on a cookie sheet
- Crumble the chevre into the tart pan so that the bottom is lightly covered
- Drizzle one tablespoon honey over the chevre
- Arrange the sliced figs over the chevre
- Sprinkle torn mint leaves over the top (reserve some fresh leaves, and flowers if you have them, for a garnish)
- Place on the center of rack of the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown
- Drizzle the remaining honey over the tart after it comes out of the oven, garnish with the remaining mint leaves, and serve (the tart can also be served cold)