Because of the aforementioned chaos that's been the state of things around here of late, I seem to have mostly missed out on one of my favorite late summer obsessions: figs. One place from which I have been conspicuously absent is my garden. After a weekend at Bois Dore opining to my friend Claudia upon the wonder that is figs, I sheepishly went down to inspect mine. Sadly, I think that the squirrels and birds have had a fig fest going on which didn't leave but so many for me. Nevermind, the great thing about gardens, I've discovered, is that even if you "miss" a season through benign neglect as I seem to have done, it will come back around next year, hardly the worse for wear.
I do admit to being really sad, however, about my beloved fig and blue cheese tart. So sad, in fact, that yesterday I was grumbling to Madge about it on our walk. Before I knew what had hit me, we were trolling through her epic stand of figs and she was generously dolling out the very last of her harvest for my tart.
We were reminded of a particularly hilarious adventure we had with her "lower" fig trees which reside at the bottom of her garden. About four years ago or so, though they were growing like mad and appeared to be happy and healthy, they refused to bear any fruit. I read somewhere or other that they likely weren't fruiting because they didn't feel "threatened" enough to feel that they had to perpetuate themselves. According to this mad thing I read, you were meant to pummel the trees with a baseball bat and they would inevitably fruit the very next year.
How I convinced Madge of this I will never know, but in short order we were down there with a baseball bat. We were much too horrified to actually lay a hand on the fig trees, but instead spoke loudly in mock threatening tones about how, if they didn't fruit the next year, we'd have no choice but to unlimber the bat on them. We even walked up and down displaying the bat for their tree "eyes" to behold.
Wouldn't you know it, they started fruiting like mad the very next year.
But I digress. I've made a lovely fig and blue cheese tart for the last several years from the Black Cat Cookbook. Not that there's a thing in the world wrong with their recipe, because there isn't, but after reading Wednesday's New York Times food section which had a lovely plum crostata recipe, I had a sudden craze on to make a sort of free-range fig one.
I keep frozen balls of homemade pastry in the freezer, one of which I used for this. A future posting will be about these magic pastry balls, I promise, but for today (assuming you can lay your hands on some figs) either make your own trusty pastry recipe or resort to a purchased one and roll it out until it looks higgledy-piggledy.
I had some wonderful Point Reyes blue cheese which I strongly recommend, by the way, although any blue cheese of which you are fond will suffice. I dosed up the caramalized onions with a goodly splash of balsamic which was a great addition to the original recipe, as were the rosemary and the pine nuts, if I say so myself.
All I can say is, if you can beg, borrow or steal some figs this weekend, make this. You will not regret it, I promise.
Fig and Blue Cheese Crostata
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 large pie crust, rolled out to be about 1/8 inch thick
6 ounces Point Reyes blue cheese or other blue cheese
12 ripe figs, quartered
2 tablespoons pine nuts
In a large saucepan, combine butter and olive oil and put on a medium-low heat. Add the onions and rosemary, and stirring occasionally, saute them slowly and gently until they reach a deep mahogany brown color, after about 30 minutes.
In the meantime, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place parchment paper on the bottom of a rimmed cookie sheet and put the pastry on the parchment. At this point squash the sides of the pastry up to creat a 1/2 inch rim. Don't worry if it isn't beautiful and/or perfect. It's not meant to be....rustic is the look you're going for here.
Place a layer of aluminum foil on top of the pastry shell and then pastry weights on the aluminum foil (dried beans can also be used here). Bake for 10 minutes, then remove pastry weights and bake for 10 more minutes until crust is lightly browned. Remove the shell from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes but do not turn oven off.
Once the onions are cooked. Remove them from heat and add the balsamic vinegar using it to scrape up any brown bits adhering to the pan.
Place onions on the cooled shell, followed by crumbles of the blue cheese. Place the figs on top with their bottoms on the cheese and their "heads" pointing up. Sprinkle the pine nuts on top.
Place back into the oven for about 4 minutes until the cheese is somewhat melted but not brown. You're not trying to cook anything at this point, just get it warmed and the flavors melded together.
Place onto a cutting board cut it up and enjoy immediately.
Finally, plant a fig tree because you're going to want your very own next year after you eat this. Let me know if you need me to come over and give your tree a good talking to. And don't worry, I'll bring my own baseball bat.