A few intrepid home gardeners here in the Midwest are growing fig trees — but largely, figs aren’t a super local ingredient around here. Still, I always grin when I spot California Black Mission or Brown Turkey varieties in the produce section of my neighborhood Fresh Market in the fall.
Figs are incredibly versatile: I love them with pork, as in this simple appetizer of grilled figs with prosciutto. They’re delicious with cheese. They pair beautifully with green herbs in this simple recipe for fig jam with thyme (which makes a lovely gift).
I also love a fresh fig tart. We first had this essential dessert when we traveled to Italy a decade ago to visit my brother, who was teaching at a culinary school near Lucca. And we enjoyed it again on our return trip to the area this summer. This is Bill’s recipe for pasta frolla (or ‘short’ as in, buttery, ‘pastry’); it’s sweet and crisp, more like a cookie than a pie crust.
Figs pair beautifully with almonds or walnuts, so you can use either for this fig tart recipe. Just douse the fresh fruit with a splash of booze (or orange juice), tumble the figs and nuts into a sweet tart shell, and you have a lovely, seasonal fall dessert.
fresh fig tart recipe
for the pasta frolla (sweet, crumbly tart dough):
1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon or 1/2 orange
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
for the tart:
1 lb. fresh figs, trimmed and quartered
3 Tbsp. red wine or port (or use almond liqueur if using sliced almonds)
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts or sliced almonds
2 Tbsp. apricot jam, melted
To make the tart dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large mixing bowl using a hand mixer), cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and egg yolk, stir to combine well. Mix in the vanilla and citrus zest. Add the flour and salt, and mix to combine. The mixture will resemble cookie dough more closely than pie dough. Divide the dough in half, and form each half into a disc; wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. On a well-floured work surface, roll one disc of chilled dough into a circle large enough to fit into a 9- or 10-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Fit the dough into the pan, leaving a 1-inch overhang on the perimeter; you'll fold this over to make a double-thick layer of dough on the sides of the pan. Prick the dough lightly all around with a fork. (If you're making a double-crust tart, go ahead and roll out the top and set aside. If you're making a single-crust tart, as shown here, wrap the remaining tart dough in two layers of plastic wrap and freeze for future use.)
To prepare the filling: In a large bowl, combine the quartered figs and the liqueur. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch, and stir this into the fruit. Let sit for 30 minutes or so. Stir in the nuts.
Brush the unbaked tart shell with melted jam (this helps keep the shell from getting soggy). Transfer the figs and nuts to the shell, pouring any reserved juice over the top. Place the tart pan on your lined baking sheet (to catch any spills) and bake 30–40 minutes, or until the filling has set and the tart shell is deeply golden brown. Cool, then remove the tart from its pan.