By SIMON WEBSTER
The other day I was looking back through all of the stories I have written for this column and I realized that next week I would be celebrating my one-year anniversary. I can’t believe it has been that long.
Even more shocking, I can’t believe I have written a year’s worth of stories. It’s a lot of work to actually get a recipe out of my head and onto paper and every week it seems like that deadline comes sooner and sooner.
But all the work aside, I am truly blessed by the great response I have had from readers of this column and feel humbled to know that you look forward to reading each week. I always enjoy running into people around town and hearing that someone has tried one of the recipes or is shopping for ingredients to make one of the recipes.
Often people ask about my favorite dish or what I like to cook for myself. Really I don’t have a favorite because what I enjoy most about food is whatever is fresh, flavorful and seasonal right now. Whatever that ingredient might be, it is the best tasting thing right now, but a month from now it probably won’t be so good.
The one thing I am beginning to crave is fresh figs. They haven’t come out yet, but a friend of mine who has a fig tree says they will be ready soon. I can’t wait to get a big bag of them to use in so many ways. I love them in salads, on pizza, in preserves or just by themselves.
Last summer I did a recipe for a fig and goat cheese tart. If I had to pick, this would be one of my favorite recipes from this column. So find out who has a fig tree in your neighborhood and be really nice to them so they will share some of their figs.
Next week I will have a review of all the recipes of the year and you will have the chance to pick your favorite. And for next year I would love to hear about some things that you would like to learn how to cook. It’s always fun to try new things and perhaps stumble upon a new favorite.
FIG AND GOAT CHEESE TART
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons sugar
salt and pepper
1 package of refrigerated pie dough or batch of dough from recipe below
8 figs, quartered
4 ounces of goat cheese, crumbled
2 cups cream or whole milk
In a skillet over medium heat add a tablespoon of olive oil, the sliced red onion, sugar and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Sauté slowly until soft and caramelized, but not browned. Remove to a small bowl and allow to cool.
Line a straight-sided quiche or tart pan with your chilled dough. Carefully press the dough into the pan. Trim excess dough from the sides, leaving a small amount of overhang due to the dough shrinking during baking. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line your dough with parchment paper and weigh it down with dried beans, pie weights or dried rice. Place it on a baking sheet and blind bake for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the paper and the weights and bake for another 10 minutes until golden and no longer appears wet. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes before filling.
When your crust is cooled, arrange the quartered figs across the bottom and top with the goat cheese and caramelized onions. In a mixing bowl whisk together the 4 eggs and the 2 cups of milk or cream and a small amount of salt and pepper. Pour the liquid into the crust. Fill almost to the top. Transfer to the oven and cook at 350 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes or until filling is firm. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving.
JULIA CHILD’S ALL-PURPOSE PIE DOUGH
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks chilled unsalted butter, diced
4 tablespoons chilled shortening
1/2 cup ice water, plus droplets more if needed
Drop the flour, salt, and butter into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse five or six times in 1/2 second bursts to break up the butter. Then add the shortening, turn on the machine, and immediately pour in the ice water, pulsing two to three times. Remove cover and check dough.
It should look like a mass of smallish lumps and just barely hold in a mass when a handful is pressed together. If too dry, pulse in droplets of water. Turn dough out onto your work surface and with the heel of your hand rapidly and roughly push egg-size blobs out in front of you in 6-inch smears.
Gather the dough into a relatively smooth, flat round; wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least two hours (or up to 2 days), or you may freeze for several months. For sweet dough cut the salt down to 1/4 teaspoon and include 2 tablespoons sugar.
Simon Webster is the Executive Chef of Sabor a Pasion Country House & Bistro a multi-faceted dining destination just outside Palestine. For more information go to www.saborapasion.com or call 903-729-9500.