I go through food moods that I will obsess on a certain dish or ingredient for an intense period of time and seek them whenever I go out to eat. Figs was (and sort of is still) my ingredient obsession ever since I was having an incredible lunch at Joel Robouchon in Monte Carlo and saw and ate slices of the gorgeous, gold leafed fig tarts on the dessert cart and the best ones I’ve had were from the large, juicy, super ripe figs from Cours Saleya market in Nice.
Figs hold a special place in my heart because of its intense, sweet honey and jam flavors that no other fruit has and it’s a short growing season in New York (and the stuff I find in most grocery stores aren’t that good either). I’ve partnered with California Figs toward the end of its season and thought up of ways to use California’s Brown Turkey figs and Black Mission figs. If you’re wondering what’s the difference between the two figs, the Brown Turkey figs, I find them to be delicate in terms of its sweetness and flavors; it’s soft and velvety, and heavy, sweet and juicy within. The Black Mission is the smaller but most lauded and commonly used fig. It’s a versatile fruit with purple-black skin, dense pink flesh heavily studded with seeds that give a pleasant crunch to the silky flesh. The texture of a perfectly ripe one is sticky and jammy
For the subtly flavored Brown Turkey, I use it on the fresh application as a topper for my whole wheat, pistachio yogurt cakes. The Black Mission figs are used in a pistachio, orange, balsamic vinegar tart since this fig can stand up to a lot of strong flavors and I like my desserts to have a savory edge. I know pistachio is used in both desserts just because I love the classic pairing of pistachio and figs (it’s very Mediterranean or Italian).
Pistachio Crust, Pistachio-Orange Frangipane with Balsamic Vinegar Fig Tart
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill Organic All-Purpose)
2 1/2 ounces unsalted pistachios, finely ground (yields to 1/2 cup)
In a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with the sugar and salt at medium speed until creamy. Add the vanilla and egg yolk and beat until smooth. Add the flour and pistachios and beat just until incorporated. Scrape the pastry onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Flatten the pastry into a disk, wrap in the plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Roll out the pastry between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to a 13-inch round. Remove the plastic and ease the pastry into a 10-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom; trim the overhang and patch any tears. Refrigerate the pastry until firm, about 10 minutes.
Line the tart shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights and bake for 15 minutes longer or until golden and cooked through. Let cool completely.
Filling – Pistachio-Orange Frangipane with Balsamic Vinegar
75 grams butter, softened
75 grams granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk, room temperature, lightly whisked
100 grams ground pistachio
Zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon Grand Marnier (optional)
1 tablespoon finely ground black pepper
3 tablespoons reduced balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 pints of California Black Mission figs, rinsed and cut into quarters
1/4 cup honey
5 tablespoons medium to finely ground black pepper
In a standing electric mixer, cream the butter and granulated sugar until the butter is pale and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and mix until blended. Add the ground pistachio, orange zest and Grand Marnier and turn on to a low speed to initially incorporate the flour (you don’t want to have pistachios all over your kitchen) and turn it to a medium speed and stop when it’s incorporated.
Microwave the honey in a small bowl for 15 seconds or until it’s heated through. Stir in the black pepper to the honey. Set aside.
Add the frangipane to the cool tart shell. Take a spoon and drizzle the reduced balsamic vinegar all over the frangipane. (You may add as much or as little as you like or you could skip the vinegar portion entirely. The tart is still delicious without the vinegar.)
Place the sliced figs in a circular pattern working from the outside edge in and brush the honey-black pepper all over the figs. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes. Set aside and cool the tart on a wire rack until room temperature. Slice and eat.
Whole Wheat, Yogurt Pistachio Olive Oil Cakes with Figs
170g whole wheat flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill Organic Whole Wheat Flour)
50g finely ground pistachio
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
125 ml extra virgin olive oil
125 ml honey
180g plain Greek-style yogurt (I used Nounos) and extra for decorating
Halved or quartered fresh Brown Turkey figs
Preheat oven at 325°F. Grease an 8-inch cake pan or a standard sized muffin tin or a 6-cup bundt cake pan. (If you’re wondering, I have used the Nordic Ware Heritage Bundtlette Cake Pan and Shortcake Baskets Pan.)
In a large mixing bowl, sift the whole wheat flour, ground pistachios, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Set aside. In another large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, vanilla, olive oil, yogurt and honey. Pour the dry ingredient mixture into the wet ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 20 – 30 minutes until it’s golden brown on the edges and the cake tester comes out clean. Set aside to cool. Top the cake(s) with plain yogurt and place the sliced figs on top. Serve immediately. (You may save the cakes without any garnishing for a few days by wrapping it tightly in plastic wrap.)