Figs are freakin’ magical.
I mean it. Just look at the way the figs in this photo float above the counter top. Heck, even the Fig Tart with Snofrisk Cream & White Balsamic Reduction is floating. I promise you this in not a Photoshop trick. This photo has not been digitally tinkered upon. So the only explanation is the power of magic. Not many fruits have that kind of power.
I love figs. I have been known to go to great lengths to acquire excellent figs. I have even been known to steal them from the neighbor’s yard. Though I prefer the term urban foraging. Getting good figs can be a chore though, depending on where you live. Fortunately, I live in Los Angeles and have access to California Figs. But you don’t have to live in California to buy California Figs. So ask around or check with your market. Look for California Figs where you live. Because there is a difference.
The truth is really good figs can be difficult to find at the grocery store for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes they are just not available. Sometimes they are not packed or shipped properly. Sometimes they are harvested sloppily. Watch out for those figs.
In my opinion, very good figs should be allowed to ripen to just the right point on the tree. But once ripe they only last a few days. Quality figs properly harvested and carefully transported are delicious. Fortunately, California Figs are available by mail order too– straight from the farm. The Fig Lady at Passion Fruit Farms is an excellent resource.
All of these facts make me love figs all the more. Because anything truly special, utterly delicious, and mind-blowingly perfect deserve to be a wee bit finicky in my opinion. So I am always surprised when tried and true foodies say to me “I don’t really like figs”. Well, in truth I don’t really understand that statement regarding any food at all. But with figs, it’s particularly baffling. So before you ask me any questions about this fig tart, let me just say: “No. You can’t replace the figs in this recipe with cherry LifeSavers.”
Because figs define what is truly glorious about food. And I don’t just mean their sweet, earthy goodness either. It’s not even their nearly erotic allure. Though these elements certainly help make a perfectly ripe fig one of the 7 wonders of the culinary world.
To put it simply, like many of the best food experiences, figs are enjoyed with all five of your senses. As I mentioned, figs are visually very sensual. There is no denying their mystique in this department. Their aroma is sweet. But there is a dusky mustiness behind the sweet floral fragrance too. Adding to their primitive appeal. If you have ever had the pleasure of picking your own figs you know what a silky, smooth skin they have. Ripe figs also have a satisfying heft that just feels right in the palm of your hand. Some say figs taste like strawberries. I say that is an over-simplification. It’s true they are sweet like strawberries, but they are oh so earthy too! And though it’s true that figs don’t make a lot of sounds all on their own, the very mention of the word is likely to cause the other 4 senses to make quite a racket. Which is why disappointing figs are very likely the culprit behind the incomprehensible phrase I mentioned– “I don’t really like figs”. Because honestly, figs are magical.
And though the flying figs in this photo are not digitally enhanced, I do have a few photo tricks up my sleeve and thought I’d share one today. This photo was taken on a piece frosted glass, frosted side up. It is lit from behind so light gets into the center of the glass and is diffused upwards. Giving the illusion that the figs are not sitting on anything because your eye sees light is sneaking underneath the figs, tart, and fork. This illusion is further enhanced because the glass is fairly thick, so the shadow appears on the surface beneath the glass, leaving space between the figs and the shadow. The thicker the glass, the higher the elements seem to be floating.
This is a photo trick from the days before digital. Fun and effective– no computer needed!
- 320 g all-purpose flour
- 1.25 t salt
- 115 g cold unsalted butter
- 3 T ice water
- 8 oz snofisk cheese
- 0.5 c sour cream
- 0.25 c honey
- 10 figs, quartered lengthwise
- 1 c white balsamic
- 0.25 c granulated sugar
Make the pastry: In a food processor, pulse the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt until combined. Add the butter and process until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. Add the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture begins to come together. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and form into a disc, about 1-inch thick. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
To make the tart shell, remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to soften for a few moments. Roll into an 11-inch round. Fit the dough into a 9-inch fluted tart tin with a removable bottom, pressing the dough into the sides of the pan. Run the rolling pin over the top of the pan to trim away the excess. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
Adjust the rack of the oven to the middle position. Preheat to 375 degrees F.
Remove the crust from the refrigerator and prick the bottom of the pastry all over with a fork. Line the bottom with a parchment round and fill with weights or beans. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the weights and paper and bake an additional 7 to 10 minutes, until golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Make the filling: In a medium bowl, whisk together the Snofrisk, sour bream, honey and remaining teaspoon of salt. Use a rubber spatula to smooth the mixture evenly over the cooled crust. Arrange the figs, cut sides up, in concentric circles on top.
Make the reduction: Combine vinegar and sugar in a small non-reactive saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until mixture is the consistency of honey and reduced to about 1/3 cup, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely.
To serve: Slice the tart into 8 pieces and drizzle each with about 1 tablespoon of the reduction sauce.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD