Tuesday, August 5, 2008

More Figs, More Mascarpone

With another package of figs, some more mascarpone to be used, and a couple of get-togethers, I've been experimenting on my friends.

First, I had about 3 figs that were getting ripe before the others--certainly ripe and ready to use, but not yet overripe--so I removed as much of the thin fuzzy skin as I could by gently scraping with a paring knife (which worked nicely) and cut the soft figs roughly. That was mixed with about 1/2 cup of mascarpone cheese.

The result: a sweet-but-not-too-sweet spread just right for crackers. I failed to add an appropriate garnish--in fact I couldn't think of anything I wanted to add that I had around the house. Nuts would have been too much. Perhaps a sprinkle of fresh mint would have been nice. But even without a garnish, it was a yummy snack.

Next, when the remaining figs in the fridge were ready for use and an opportunity to share them yet again for movie night at a friend's house, it was time to make a tart. I rolled out a sheet of thawed frozen puff pastry and baked it off at 400*F (as directed by the puff pastry package). I tried docking (poking all over with the tines of a fork) the center so there would be a pastry rim and a flatter section for the filling, but during baking it didn't work at all--the whole sheet puffed up. As the cooked pastry cooled, I pressed the center section down and it worked just fine that way. I took a whole cup of mascarpone and mixed it with 1/4 cup of sugar replacer and 1/4 cup of hazelnut-flavored sugar-free non-dairy coffee creamer (but you could use cream, half-and-half or milk). That was spread on the puff pastry and topped with cut-up figs. A sprinkle of chopped hazelnuts finished the tart and gave a nice crunch.

The result: One of the guests at movie night hates figs, but took a small taste. And then another. Finally, she said that she quite liked the tart in spite of the figs! I can think of no higher praise than that. I found the tart very tasty with a pleasing texture. Even though the mascarpone cream was a bit thin, it held up beautifully on the tart base for several hours at room temperature.

Both were delicious and company-worthy snacks with minimal preparation time. The flavor was outstanding for both--but the tart really had that wow factor.

Cream cheese could replace mascarpone for a more economical option, and I'm sure it would be good--but the mascarpone had people rolling their eyes and asking, "What is in this?" It's about $3.49 for an 8-ounce (1 cup) container, and worth every penny when you're looking for a show-stopping, eye-rolling treat.

Experiments can be such fun!


Mary said...

Both dishes look fabulous! I only wish I could find fresh figs around here. I've always wondered what they taste like.

carol said...

Gosh I'd love to slip this past my husband who blanches at the thought of ever eating a fig newton. I wonder if figs are regional--can't find them here in central Texas.

Amanda said...

I think the season for fresh figs is so short and they are so popular that it's hard to find them in climates where they don't grow well. Here in Central NY state, I've been watching for figs for TWO YEARS and only found them this year. I think it's just hit-or-miss. I'd ask produce managers. I have learned that at grocery stores they will make an effort to acquire a product if you ask.

Mary--thank you. Fresh figs don't taste anything like dried ones, in my opinion. They are mildly sweet (but get sweeter as they ripen further); I can't compare them to any other fruit that I've ever tasted--they definitely have their own flavor. A dried fig is different in taste and texture. Also, the seeds in the fresh fig are somehow softer and less annoying than in the fig newton!

Carol--if you can get your hands on fresh figs, I'm sure your husband wouldn't know what they were and be able to enjoy them. The figs I've been getting are California-grown and called 'Calimyrna' figs.

Figs grown here in NY are few and far between--most farmers can't afford to grow them because trees have to be greenhoused all winter long, and bear only a few fruit per year. I imagine it might be the same depending on your climate--but I'd certainly ask around.

(BTW, is it the taste that bothers your husband, or the seeds?)

carol said...

I think it's the CONSISTENCY that bothers him. But this is a man who basically only ate potatoes and meat that once moo-ed when I met him.:-)

Amanda said...

Aah, texture sensitivity. My husband is that way with many foods--I understand the frustration!

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