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food & entertaining
November, 2013, Page 62
The fig tree is a deciduous species native to the Mediterranean and has been cultivated by humans since ancient times. Many varieties are now widely grown throughout the temperate world. The trees make for lovely ornamental additions to the landscape because of their deeply lobed foliage, wonderfully architectural branches, and, of course, their scrumptious fruit. While well suited to the Phoenix climate, especially the Black Mission and Brown Turkey varieties, fig trees (Ficus carica) should be planted in remote areas of the garden, as they tend to be a tad messy. A south-facing wall is best but keep in mind that they can grow to be 15 to 30 feet in height; so don’t plant them too close to any structures.
In Arizona, figs are harvested between June and July and also during a second harvest in November. Dried figs are available year-round in most markets. Fresh figs, on the other hand, can be more difficult to find. The ripe fruit is very delicate and thus difficult to transport. When shopping for figs, look for unblemished fruit that is slightly firm. Fresh figs keep best at room temperature. Note that while they will keep a little longer if refrigerated, chilling can diminish their full flavor. It is best to eat them within a day or two of picking or purchasing. Figs are not only delightfully sweet and delicious but also among the richest plant sources of calcium and fiber.
If you are looking for a tasty starter for fall entertaining, try our fig tart. The deep, rich color of the mildly sweet figs combined with the tang of Gorgonzola cheese and aromatic sage make for a winning combination. The tart’s crust is made with store-bought puff pastry, which is super simple to work with; just remember to leave plenty of time for the pastry to defrost, either overnight in the refrigerator or for a few hours on the countertop at room temperature.
Fig Tarts with sage and gorgonzola
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
3 tablespoons preserves (such as fig, plum or apricot)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon local honey
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Pinch of kosher salt
1 pound fresh figs, washed, tops trimmed, and cut in quarters
3 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
3–5 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced, and 16 small leaves for garnish
Photo by Garrett Cook
oven to 350°.
thawed puff-pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface and roll out to ¼-inch thickness.
individual rounds out of the pastry with a biscuit cutter; place rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and generously prick them with a fork.
rounds to the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
the following in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat to make the glaze: preserves, butter, honey, balsamic vinegar and salt. Set aside.
chilled rounds for about 8 minutes, until the crust starts to puff and brown.
the pastry rounds from the oven and brush with the glaze.
rounds with the fresh figs and brush with glaze again. Sprinkle the crumbled Gorgonzola cheese over the figs and return to oven for 5 more minutes.
from oven and sprinkle sliced sage leaves over the figs. Bake for another 5 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and cheese is just bubbling.
on serving platter, garnish with fresh sage leaves, and serve warm or at room temperature.
Sydney Dye is a home gardener, chef and owner of First Fig Culinary Adventures in Scottsdale.
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