Local & Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert: Figs

Fig Frangipane

Fig Talk on the World’s Most Ancient Fruit


Figs are my passion – the fruit and the tree. Figs just have a certain cachet! Maybe it’s the ancient history, or the Mediterranean origin which makes them so alluring, or possibly the exotic ingredients which complement them in pairings. Different varieties of figs can be paired with varietal wines. This is some brief chit-chat on a topic aficionados love to go on about. If you want to talk figs, contact me on Facebook or through Annapolis Green.

I am happy to say I’ve had some great fig education this year during an especially robust harvest. Recently  I met the farmer who, by arrangement, picked up 35 pounds of figs from me for her CSA members. What a huge learningexperience this year! Refrigeration was a key roadblock as there is just never enough space and these East Coast delicate figs must be refrigerated. Rain taught me the other lesson – big time! At near ripeness it will crack due to the rain as the inside fruit grows too fast for the skin to manage. So for trying to fill this large order for me I had to pick, pick, pick when I knew a rain storm was coming.

Fig plant

Then there is packaging. How do I get 35 pounds to a farmer and how will she store and distribute to her many CSA customers. Also, there was juggling on how to keep supplying my accounts such as restaurants and individuals.

Now the major bearing trees are winding down and I have some later figs coming from a black mission and another tree of unknown variety.

I’m sharing a recipe I developed as a special birthday fig tart/cake. It complements the exotic caché of this ‘fruit of the internal flower.’ I am told by Facebook the photograph of my Fig Frangipane Tart is the most popular from all of my posts. I’ll give other fig ideas after the very special tart recipe.

Fig Frangipane Tart

I used a rectangle tart pan just because it is different enough to be an extra attention- getter! I have also made this more freeform as in a rectangular gallette.

This frangipane recipe makes enough almond cream for 1 large tart or several small tartlets.

figs in basketsIngredients
1 dozen large fresh figs (about 1 full pound) more if figs are small, cut in half
Sea salt
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed but still cold

1/2 cup ground almond meal (can use almond flour)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch salt
1 egg
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash almond extract
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Using a food processor, combine all the ingredients until a smooth, creamy paste is formed.

First make the Frangipane.
Preheat oven to 375ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Unroll the puff pastry and place it on the parchment paper. Refrigerate to keep cold.

Spread Frangipane on puff pastry sheet, leaving 1/2 inch border around the edges. Bake 10 minutes on rack positioned lower in oven to get bottom crust completely baked.

Place fig halves, cut side up, on top of frangipane & sprinkle very lightly with salt, return to oven & for the final 30 minutes bake on a rack placed in the middle of the oven. Puff pastry edges should be crispy and golden brown.

Cool for a 10 minutes, then brush with melted black currant jelly to glaze. Let cool to solidify.

Fig Frangipane

Other Fig Ideas

Splendidly Simple – Use abundantly on charcuterie trays

With Mascarpone
Cut large figs in half lengthwise
Spread generously with mascarpone

With Carambola
Cut large figs in half lengthwise
Spread each half with a large soft dollop Saint Andre or Carambola cheese
Drizzle with balsamic glaze (not vinegar)

With Prosciutto
Wrap whole medium size figs with a band of prosciutto
Bake in 375ºF oven for 5-7 minutes

Fig Toast
Brioche bread, mascarpone, crumbled crisp bacon, figs-bake briefly – 400ºF

Figs in Salads
Figs pair beautifully with cheese, nuts, arugula, lettuces, homemade croutons so use your imagination

Sautéed halved figs with a dash of red wine and caramelized onion complement chicken, lamb and pork beautifully.

With over three decades in the food, media production, marketing & public relations fields, Rita Calvert has created myriad programs, events, cooking sessions on national television, the stage & The Annapolis School of Cooking. She has partnered in writing cookbooks and product lines to showcase the inspiration & nourishment of food. In her cookbook with Michael Heller, The Grassfed Gourmet Fires It Up, Rita supports the effort for Regenerative Agriculture.


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