Monthly Archives: September 2012

fig tart

fig and frangipane tart
crostata di fichi
it’s getting chilly around here. i heard the word “crisp” from the morning news anchors to describe this morning–crisp, and makes you sort of groan and moan when you realize you have to get up and do the morning run. no complaints, especially if you have some leftover fig tart to go with that hot strong espresso. we’ve been indulging in a fit of an Italian-food “jag” and even though it is by way of a British chef i think it will pass muster.
i had to break down the recipe a little bit–to make it a bit more user-friendly. it’s not that hard, just read it over a couple of times. the pastry can be done ahead.
husband doesn’t usually like dessert, but he practically swooned over this tart. it’s that good! (i’m going to try other stone fruits like peaches or nectarines for my next attempts.)

(recipe from Jaime Oliver’s Italy)

shortcrust pastry:

9 tbsps. unsalted butter
1 cup powdered sugar
a small pinch of salt
2 cups all purpose flour
2 large egg yolks
2 tbsps. cold milk or water
zest of half a lemon
grease an 11-inch tart tin with a removable bottom. cream together the butter, sugar, and salt, and rub in the flour, lemon zest, and egg yolks–by hand or in a food processor. when mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, add the milk or water. pat and gently work the mixture together until you have a ball of dough, then flour it lightly. don’t overwork the pastry, it will become elastic and chewy not flaky and short. wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least an hour. roll it out and line the tart tin. freeze for an hour.
preheat the oven to 350F and bake the pastry for around 12 minutes or until lightly golden. remove from the oven and turn the heat down to 325F.

frangipane:

10 ozs. almond flour
2 tbsps. all purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 tbsps. butter
14 tbsps. sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 vanilla bean, cut in half and seeds scraped off, or 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
whisk almond flour and all purpose flour in a large bowl.
process the butter and sugar until light and creamy. add to the almonds and flour, then add the eggs, vanilla and fold in until completely mixed and smooth. refrigerate for at least half an hour to firm up.

prepare the figs:

15 figs, washed, patted dry
2 tbsps. sugar
2 tbsps. water
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
zest of 1 orange

remove the stems, score each one on the top in the shape of a cross, then using your thumb push up from the base to open it out.
heat the sugar and water and stir until sugar is dissolved. remove from heat and stir in the thyme and orange zest.

spoon the chilled frangipane mixture into the pastry case, then lightly push the figs into the frangipane with the scored side up. sprinkle the sugar syrup over the figs.

bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes or until the frangipane mixture has become firm and golden on the outside but is still soft in the middle. allow to cool for about 30 to 40 minutes before serving.
crostata di fichi

chicken liver paté

IMG_1293
so why is there a photo of a little nip of Courvoisier, instead of a ramekin of paté? because honestly paté is not so cute to look at. i mean it’s mostly grey with a tinge of pink and flecks of black pepper.
you can use your favorite brandy, i picked Cognac in a little fit of nostalgia: that’s what i’ve been using since i started making paté, when i was maybe 14 years old. yes, it’s true…my Ma had a little fat paperback from a spice company and the paté recipe was one of the few things i could make with ingredients all at home (though i had to sneak into Dad’s stash to get the liquor).

at $1 a pound chicken livers are a not-too-secret chef’s delight. a minimum of fuss to prepare but what a punch it packs! i prefer this version now because it is not too cloyingly rich with its proportion of butter to cream to liver… if you have some good rustic bread, or even a plain sliced white loaf, toast it up and slather on a little or a lot. i like to munch mine with cornichon pickles on the side. a hand-held stick blender makes it all easier, and oddly empowering.

2 tbsps. butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 pound chicken livers, trimmed
2 tbsps. cognac/brandy
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
2 sprigs of fresh thyme, or 1/4 tsp. dried
1/4 tsp. freshly-ground peppercorn medley or black peppercorn

in skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until tender and golden, about 10 minutes. stir in garlic and livers and cook until livers are lightly browned but still pink inside, about 5 minutes. stir in cognac, cook 5 minutes. in blender or in food processor with knife blade attached, puree chicken-liver mixture, cream, salt, thyme, and pepper until smooth, stopping blender occasionally and scraping down side with rubber spatula. [or use stick-blender–so much easier!]
spoon mixture into small bowl, cover, and refrigerate at least 3 hours or up to overnight. let stand 30 minutes at room temperature before serving.
serve with toast points, crackers, sliced apples…
er, okay, [sige na nga!]there it is:
chicken liver paté

(based on a recipe from The Good Housekeeping Cookbook, ed. Susan Westmoreland, 2001.)

*if you’re feeling fanciful, you can try this laborious, delicious!, duck and orange terrine!