This summer’s deluge and gray skies cut our usually paltry blueberry crop to merely pitiful. But the torrents of rain have turned our fig tree into a monster:
As you can see, even the mockingbirds are going to leave us with plenty of ripe figs come September. I’ve looked up recipes for crock-pot fig butter and homemade fig paste, so I’m ready. Trouble is, I’ve never had fig butter, so I don’t know how it’s supposed to taste and look.
Problem solved. I recently visited some old friends in Philadelphia and before my feet even hit their porch, their eight-year-old son came running out of the house shouting, “Look what we got you!!”
Yep, fig butter from Trader Joes. Eerie, isn’t it?
You may think he was overexcited by this simple gift. Wait, aren’t all eight-year-olds overexcited by, well, almost anything? But the truth is that his mother, in a valiant attempt to cut down on the sugar he and sister consume, has barred jams and jellies from the house. So, this hefty little jar of fruit and sugar was a rare sighting for him.
I was going to offer him a taste the next morning when his mom served up piping hot scones for breakfast. It only took one look at Alicia’s stern face to make me quickly damp down my generosity.
I’m thinking he would have been amazed by the thick, seedy, spread touched with lemon juice. I could have argued that, by definition, fruit butters contain a lot more fruit than sugar – but that look… If she ever learns to raise just one eyebrow like my mother did, she will become a formidable force for all time.
So I took the fig butter home, slathered it generously on my toast and started thinking of other uses for it. Since fresh figs are a natural partner with cheese, why not use this boiled down essence with gooey melted cheese? And offset the sweetness with salty ham?
Lately, we’ve all been seeing dozens of recipes offered by earnest Facebook friends who use muffin tins to cook everything from meatloaf to cheesecake. So I decied to make tartlets. (Also, because it’s a funny word – tartlet).
And with no one around to shoot me dirty looks, I can cook in peace.
Cheesy Fig Tartlets
Makes 12 tartlets
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 cup fig butter
4 oz Gorgonzala, Maytag or other strong blue cheese
4 oz mild soft cheese, such as Gouda, Edam or Fontina, grated or shredded
12 oz. proscuitto or cooked country ham, diced
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and move a rack to bottom position.
Coat 12 muffin cups with cooking spray.
Place the puff pasty dough on a floured surface or wax paper, and using a drinking glass, cut out 12 circles. Press the dough lightly into the muffin cups. Load with fig preserves and cheeses and top with ham. Bake 15-17 minutes on lowest rack.
If you have extra puff pastry, cut out as many circles as possible and bake them along with tartlets. They make an excellent snack simply smeared with fig butter.