My favorite way to eat figs is warm, in hand, right off the tree. In fact, I often feel a bit greedy and selfish when in the backyard, surreptitiously nabbing the mouthfuls of rich, decadent delights, looking one way and the other to make sure no one sees me consume all I can pick in one setting.
The thing is, we had a really hard freeze back in May when the first crop of figs had set. We lost them all. The summer has been pleasant, with enough erratic rains to keep the trees going. We made sure to feed them well with compost. They are loaded, but with tiny, second crop, not quite ripe figs. We are impatient. Five or ten ripe figs a day are just not enough!
Imagine my delight when my sister brought me two and a half gallon ziploc bags filled with washed figs from her tree in Austin!
They went into the freezer and my mind went into overdrive, trying to think of a recipe worthy of such a gift. Figgy oatmeal tarts seemed like the thing. I boiled a gallon bag of the figs with two cups of sucanat, a pinch of sugar, minced fresh ginger, perhaps three tablespoons worth?, zest of one organic lemon, juice of two, a cup of water to keep the mixture from burning as it started to boil. I stirred and stirred as the mixture bubbled away. When it was thick as preserves, I took it off the burner and worked on a recipe for the tart.
Yum. This stuff tasted great!
I dug out the cute little pampered chef tart pans and set them aside. Turned on the big bakery oven and got to work. Keep in mind this is a process that took a couple of weeks. First week I made a batch, I didn't have any fresh ginger. They were delicious, but missing something. The addition of ginger gave it a nip and texture that was just perfect. And besides, who is the baker making these treats anyway?
The tart shells were pretty basic. A mixture of coconut oil, sucanat, vanilla and freshly milled spelt. I pressed the dough into the cute little pans and baked it for 15 minutes or so in a 350 degree oven. When they were just turning brown, I pulled them, and generously filled the pans with the fig mixture. Topped with a mixture of spelt flour, sucanat, coconut oil, oats, almond extract, pinch of salt and crushed almonds. The first go around I made the topping without almonds and it was lovely, but the nutty crunch was a perfect counterpoint to the ginger in the figs. The oatmeal topping went on top of the figs and into the oven they went. The week before I drizzled the tarts with honey brought to me by a friend from his bee hives. It was a great touch. I forgot to do that this past week, and noticed the difference. The figs are sweet enough, but there is something about a tiny drizzle of raw honey that adds a bit of depth to the whole thing. Can you tell this is a work in progress?
Oh, another little detail: coconut oil. It is a magical, wonderful ingredient, and if you have done any research the last few years, you will know it is no longer one of the bad guys. It has to do with how the body metabolizes the fat globules in the coconut oil. I love the stuff. I use two varieties. There is the first press, cold press coconut oil which has a decidedly coconutty smell and taste. And then the second press, which has all the benefits, but none of the smell and taste. The first press is extremely expensive, but worth the cost in certain recipes. This is one of them!
Oh dear. These treats are so delicious, so decadent, I couldn't make enough. My customers want them year round. I need some friends with abundant figs! Will trade bread for figs! Perhaps we need to enjoy them now, knowing that to everything there is a season. A season for figs. A season to dream of figs. A season to fondly remember what we had, and to hope for what will be again...
Here's the recipe, scaled down from bakery version. I hope you will try it! And if you are not into the many steps, or only have access to a few figs, then try my all-time, second favorite way to enjoy them: still warm from the tree, place on a plate with some chevre, through on a handful of almonds, drizzle with honey and feast, preferably under the dappled shade of a tree, with warm sunshine and a friend.
2 cups whole figs
1/4 cup sucanat
one knob of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
a squeeze of lemon juice to taste, 1/2 tsp lemon zest, minced
pinch of salt
1/4 c water
place in heavy saucepan over high heat, bring to a boil while constantly stirring. The figs will soften and burst. The juices will thicken. This mixture is wonderful spread over buttered toast if you have leftovers. Or served with roasted pork tenderloin. Or spread over goat cheese. It will store in the fridge nicely.
1/2 c. coconut oil
1/4 c. sucanat
1/4 tsp vanilla
1- 1 1/4 c. spelt flour
Mix well and press into pans. Bake for 15 minutes in 350 oven.
Spread figgy jam into tart pans, and top with oatmeal topping:
1/4 c. rolled oats, i prefer a thick roll
1/4 c. spelt flour
3 TBSP coconut oil
1/4 c. chopped almonds
1/4 tsp almond extract
Drizzle a tiny bit of honey over the oatmeal topping.
Bake tarts in 350 degree oven until top is lightly browned and figgy mixture is bubbly. Try to let the tarts cool before you eat them so you don't get burned!
Enjoy. If you wish to be really fancy, garnish the lovely things with a piece of lemon zest curl, a halved fresh fig and an almond.