Sunday, July 18, 2010

Fig and Blue Cheese Tart with Prosciutto

Our neighbors, Larry and Jerry, have a Mission Fig tree that borders our yard. 
Each year we benefit from the close proximity of the tree to our wall.  This tree seems to always produce a bumper-crop of beautiful sweet little jewels which dangle to just within reach.  
We have a fig tree as well, but it is a Calmyra fig. This year, we also have an abundance of fruit, but the summer heat is quickly turning them to spongy, tough little fruit. Calmyra figs are typically used to make dried figs rather than for baking and our recent extreme summer temperatures of 115F to 118F are quickly allowing Mother Nature to take the liberty of drying these figs for us. 
The Mission fig, which is purple, and the Calmyra fig, which is green are very different in flavor and texture.  In my opinion, the Calmyra has a much more subtle flavor.
The other morning, when Larry was picking figs for jam, he kindly offered to let me climb the tree to reach some of the higher ripe fruit.  I took him up on his offer, and have decided to experiment cooking with figs; something that I haven't really done before other than to slice and place on an appetizer cheese plate.
I can only think of one other appetizer that I've made for the holidays, which I will probably share closer to "the season" which consists of dried mission figs that are made with a Port reduction. This is a very good recipe, but today it's a Mission Fig tart baked with Blue Cheese and Prosciutto. Given the availability and ease of getting Mission Figs right now, I hope to experiment more cooking and baking with them.
I don't really know how to categorize this recipe. It seems to fall between an appetizer, a main course, and a dessert.  I think it could be served as any of these, but it certainly lends itself well to a main course with a salad and a nice glass of Pinot Gris for a lighter summer meal.  The Prosciutto really adds a nice flavor that compliments the sweetness of the figs and the pungent blue cheese.  I originally thought the addition of the Prosciutto with the blue cheese would make this a bit salty, but it doesn't and compliments this robust tart quite nicely.

1 Package (about 10 oz) prepared puff pastry, thawed
4 oz blue cheese, such as Maytag, at room temperature
1 Tbl, Half and Half or Milk
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
8 to 10 figs, stemmed and cut lengthwise
1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, julienned

To Bake

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface into a 10-1/2 in diameter circle, about 1/4- inch thick.  

Carefully place the pastry into to a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Pat into the pan, then trim the pastry even with the rim.

Combine the softened blue cheese, half and half, and pepper in a bowl.  Mash with a fork to smooth. Spread evenly in the pastry. Arrange the figs over the cheese, alternating cut-side up and cut-side down.  Sprinkle with thyme and olive oil.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until pastry is golden brown and puffed and the figs are plumped and glistening.

Transfer to a rack and let stand for 10-15 minutes.

Serve warm and garnished with prosciutto.

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