It is tart week in my household with both sweet and savory tart recipes for yours and my pleasure. Because it is fig season, I am compelled to make something at least once using figs. I love figs. They are a beautiful fruit with its simple pear shape, deep purple color, and a seductive subtle but jammy interior. That rich eggplant purple is one of my favorite colors and I find anything with that color totally irresistible.
Fig and Almond Tart
Several years ago, I discovered this tart recipe on Food Network by Giada De Laurentiis but I thought it was very rich and sweet. Because I wanted to make a fig and almond tart, I decided to give this tart recipe another try with some minor changes. I adapted the tart recipe by reducing the amount of sweetener in the filling, so the sweet flavor does not dominate the fig and almond flavors.
The original recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of sugar in the pie crust, and one tablespoon of sugar plus 2 tablespoons of honey in the mascarpone cheese and almond paste filling. In my opinion, it was too rich, so I reduced the sweetener to only 1 tablespoon of honey in the filling. For me, this minor adjustment made all the difference.
I do like the sweetened pie crust and did not change the amount of sugar in that recipe. However, feel free to adjust the amount of sugar in the crust from 1 to 2 tablespoons (15 – 30 ml). The original recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of sugar and I believe the sweetness in the crust blends the crust with the filling. Otherwise, the strong flour flavor in the crust will compete with the figs and almonds.
My experience baking with almond paste is limited, but what I have learned so far is each brand tastes slightly different for both almond flavor and sweetness. Depending on your brand of almond paste could determine how much sugar you need to add to the filling. Before you begin mixing the filling, taste the almond paste to determine how sweet it is. Then mix it together with the mascarpone cheese and other filling ingredients, then taste again. Add more honey or sugar if you wish. I like the amount of sweetener I have in this fig and almond tart recipe, but if your almond paste is on the less sweet side, you may need more.
For another tart recipe using almond paste, make Almond Cherry and Peach Galette.
Another trick to get more almond flavor without adding extra almond paste is, add a few drops of pure almond extract. Be careful adding the almond extract because it is strong and only use pure almond extract. Imitation almond extract tastes like chemicals and not the real deal, just like imitation vanilla extract.
The most common almond paste brands available are Solo and Odense almond paste. Solo comes in a box or can, and Odense comes in a tube. You want to make sure it is pure or real almond paste. I have used both brands with good results. You will find almond paste in the baking aisle.
Almond paste and marzipan are two different ingredients and not interchangeable. Marzipan is made with almond paste and extra sugar and more egg whites. It is the almond paste that gives marzipan its characteristic almond flavor.
If you are feeling adventurous, you can make your own almond paste.
You want to use figs that are just starting to ripen and getting soft. I used black mission figs, but any type of fig will work in this tart recipe. Stay away from figs that are too soft and mushy. They are over-ripe and do not taste as fresh. I recommend inspecting the figs before you buy them because they often have moldy figs mixed in with the ripe figs. Figs are very perishable and quickly become over-ripe so use them as soon as possible after you buy them.
To store figs, remove them from the plastic container and place them on a paper towel-lined plate in one layer with space between each fig so they can breathe. Cover the figs in plastic wrap. You can keep the figs on the counter for a couple of days, but they will last longer in the refrigerator.
More recipes using figs:
Mascarpone vs Cream Cheese
What is mascarpone cheese? Mascarpone cheese comes from Italy and is similar to cream cheese, but it has a higher milk fat content because it is made with cream. Cream cheese is made in America and by law must have at least 33% milk fat and 55% moisture. Cream cheese also has additives, like gums to give the cheese a thicker appearance. They are not equally interchangeable in a recipe because of the differences in consistency, texture, milk fat percentages, and additives in cream cheese. You will find mascarpone cheese in the cheese department or deli department near the crème fraîche. If possible do not substitute cream cheese for the mascarpone cheese in this tart recipe.
Fig and Almond Tart
- 1 ½ cup 213 g all-purpose flour
- 1 -2 TB (12 - 24 g) sugar
- Zest from one lemon
- 10 TB ( g) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into half-inch (1 cm) pieces
- 3 TB ice water
- 3 ½ oz (101 g) almond paste, room temperature and cut into ½ inch ( 1 cm) pieces
- 1/3 cup (76 g) mascarpone cheese, room temperature
- 1 TB honey
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Pure almond extract to taste (if needed) a couple of drops
- 12 figs, stems removed and sliced into fourths lengthwise
- 2 tsp of Minced sprigs of Rosemary or Lemon Thyme optional
Make the pie dough
Food Processor Method
Add the flour, sugar, lemon zest, and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is evenly combined. Add the chilled butter cubes and pulse until the mixture looks like large course sand with uneven clumps. Turn on the machine and add the water in a steady stream until large clumps form being careful not to overwork the dough. Tip the mixture onto a clean and lightly floured surface and pat into a disk. Wrap the pie dough with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour, or up to 2 days.
If making by hand, add the flour sugar, lemon zest, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Whisk together until the ingredients are evenly combined. Add the cubed butter and toss them with your clean hands until coated with flour. Smash the butter with your fingers to mix into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse meal with uneven sizes. Add the ice water and stir with your hands briefly until the dough comes together. Tip the dough onto a clean and lightly floured surface and shape into a flat disk. Wrap the disk with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
Mix the almond filling
In a clean bowl of a food processor, add the almond paste, mascarpone cheese, honey, and vanilla. Process until a smooth paste is formed. Scrape down the side of the bowl to blend and process again. Make sure there are no clumps of almond paste in the mix. Taste and add a couple of drops of almond extract if you want the filling to have more almond flavor. Go very light with the almond extract because it is very strong.
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) with the oven rack in the middle position. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
Assemble the Tart
Remove the pie dough from the refrigerator and if it is too hard, let it rest at room temperature for a couple of minutes. Remove the plastic wrap and place the dough on a lightly floured and clean work surface. Whack the dough with your rolling pin across the dough to soften it up and start forming a circle. Rotate the dough 180° and whack it again 4 times across the dough. Turn the dough over and repeat.
Roll out the dough with your rolling pin starting at the center of your dough and roll it in one direction away from you. Move the rolling pin around the dough circle and roll out in one direction. Turn the dough over and continue to roll and shape the dough until you have a circle with a 12-inch diameter and is ¼ inch (.5) thick.
Transfer the dough onto your prepared baking sheet by draping the dough over your rolling pin then easing the dough into place.
Spread the almond filling over the dough in an even layer leaving a 2-inch (5 cm) border. Layer the fig slices in concentric circles over the almond filling beginning at the outer rim and working inwards.
Heat the jam for 15 seconds to loosen it up and spread the jam over the figs. You might not use all of the jam, but you want an even layer that is not too thick.
Fold the dough border over the toppings to create an edge. Pleat the border to maintain the circle shape. You can bake the tart right away, but if it took you a while to arrange the tart filling over the dough and you are concerned about the tart expanding and opening up when baking, refrigerate the tart, loosely covered with plastic wrap for 30 minutes or freeze for 15 minutes.
Bake for 40 minutes or until the crust is a golden brown color. Transfer the tart on the sheet pan to a cooling rack and cool for 10 minutes. Loosen the bottom of the tart with a metal spatula or offset spatula and slide the tart off the parchment paper onto your serving platter. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Best eaten the day it is made.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Damn the weather is funky this week, it is hard to believe it is July. There has been so much rain, I feel like I am living in a rainforest. Where did the summer go? I know rain is good for my garden, fills our reservoirs, and calms the earth, but man this constant shower is dreary. Before the deluge, I planned on making more recipes from my grill, but sadly these plans got flooded out. Fortunately, I could easily change plans with a chicken skewer recipe that has all the charm of a grilled dinner without lighting a match, Seared Chicken Skewers with Rosemary.
Seared chicken skewers are as easy to prepare as threading a needle. Ribbons of herb marinated chicken strips get skewered through rosemary stems then seared on a stove top grill pan or skillet. Once the chicken skewers get good and golden, they are popped in a hot oven to finish cooking in a wine bath. It may sound like a lot of steps, but the two-part cooking process goes by very quickly and effortlessly.
La Cucina Italiana
I first discovered the idea of using rosemary stems as skewers several years ago in La Cucina Italiana magazine, the English version, (May 2013). If you wish to browse through this lovely magazine online, you will need your browser to translate the pages for you. This picturesque magazine is all about Italian cuisine and Italy, and I only have this one volume. Their chicken skewer recipe is part of a feature on cooking with fresh herbs. I spotted their Spiedini di Pollo Marinato alle Erbe recipe, (which means herb marinated chicken skewers) because it uses woody rosemary stems for the skewers. What a clever use of something one would normally throw out.
We always have a lot of rosemary around our house because Joe makes a delicious sourdough olive rosemary bread for Rochambeau Farm Stand. Sometimes there is a lot of rosemary left over so I am always looking for recipes to use up any leftover sprigs. Fortunately, we buy our rosemary at a restaurant supply store and can get rosemary sprigs that are 10 to 12 inches long. These woody sprigs make the best skewers for grilling and a great substitute for bamboo skewers if you can get them.
Chicken Skewers with Rosemary
I love cooking with fresh herbs and use them whenever I can. A simple scattering of fresh herbs like basil, tarragon or rosemary lifts any food from standard fare to interesting and uplifting. This herb marinade is a good example of how using fresh herbs can make a big difference in flavor. It just wouldn’t taste the same if you made the marinade with dried herbs.
The only change I made is adding minced garlic to the marinade and Kosher salt to the chicken before adding the marinade. Adding the salt first gives the salt time to steep in the chicken meat. Boneless skinless chicken breasts need a lot of help developing flavor and I wanted the chicken to taste seasoned without being salty.
I thought the original recipe needed some more oomph, so I added a lot of garlic. What I then realized is this marinade is very similar to the marinade in my Lemon Herb Roast Chicken Recipe.
A bonus using this marinade is there is no acid to turn the chicken breasts mushy. As a result, you can easily prepare the marinade and chicken in advance, then skewer and cook the chicken right before you plan on eating.
Another aspect I like about this recipe is the two stages for cooking the chicken. First, you sear the chicken skewers, which only takes about 2 minutes per side, then the skewers are roasted in a very hot oven with some white wine. This creates a moist chicken with a light tasting pan sauce. This pan sauce helps keep the chicken tender and adds another layer of flavor to your meal.
If you wish, and already have the grill going for another food, sear the chicken skewers on your grill, then finish cooking them in the oven as directed.
Is It Done Yet?
The most difficult part about this recipe is determining when the chicken is done. Everything else is very straightforward. Like chicken kebab, the chicken gets packed in on the skewer making it difficult to determine when it is done. It is important to check the pieces in the middle of the skewer where it is compact and thus need a longer time to cook. Getting a good look at the inside of the chicken is difficult therefore a good instant read thermometer is your best tool for the job. I love my Thermapen thermometer, but any fast and reliable instant-read thermometer will work.
Vegetable Side dishes for Seared Chicken Skewers with Rosemary
These chicken skewers will pair well with many vegetables and sides. Here are just a few from my blog.
Check out my new Recipe Index. It is now easier to look up a recipe on my blog by clicking on a category in the recipe index. It is easy to read on a laptop or desktop computer. Unfortunately, the index and categories get spread out when viewing from a mobile device like your phone. You can find my recipe index at the top menu on my home page.
Seared Chicken Skewers with Rosemary
You can get long and woody rosemary sprigs at farmers markets, restaurant supply stores, or wholesale stores.
Seared Chicken Skewers with rosemary is an easy family meal or great for entertaining.
Depending on how big each chicken breast is, there is enough chicken for 4 people with hearty appetites or 6 to 8 people served with two other side dishes.
- 2-3 lb. (1 k -1.5 k) boneless skinless chicken breast -4 breasts
- 1 tsp (3 g) Kosher salt
- 3 - 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 heaping TB (10 g) heaping Tablespoons minced rosemary
- 1 tablespoon (1 g) thyme lemon thyme if you can get it
- 1 TB (1.5 g) minced parsley
- Zest of one lemon
- ¼ cup (60 ml) 70 ml extra virgin olive oil, plus more for searing the chicken
- 8 - 10 bamboo skewers or long woody rosemary stems
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) dry white wine or dry vermouth Like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc
Press on the chicken breast so they have an even thickness. You do not have to pound them out, just even them out a little. Slice each breast lengthwise into ¼ inch (.5 cm) slices. Add the chicken ribbons to a bowl large enough to hold all the chicken without crowding them and sprinkle with Kosher salt. Using clean hands, mix the chicken with the salt until it is evenly incorporated. Thoroughly wash your hands and the bowl of chicken aside.
Prepare the herb marinade
In a small bowl add the minced garlic, minced rosemary, thyme, minced parsley, lemon zest, and olive oil. Stir to combine. Remember to wash your hands after you mix the chicken before you touch anything else.
Add the herb marinade to the chicken and toss with your hands until the chicken strips are evenly covered in the herb marinade. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 8 hrs.
Cook the Chicken
If you are using rosemary stems, cut the end to make a pointed tip for easy threading. Soak the bamboo skewers or woody rosemary stems in water for 30 minutes. Bring the chicken out of the refrigerator to rest on the counter and come up to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 450°F / 230°C / Gas Mark 8. Slide the oven rack in the middle position.
Thread each skewer with the chicken slices. You can roll up each slice and spear it on the skewers, or weave each slice of chicken, over and under the skewer creating a ribbon of chicken. Squish the threaded chicken to make room for another slice. Depending on the length of each skewer, you can fit 3 to 4 slices of chicken on each skewer. Be careful not to pack the chicken in too tightly.
Heat a grill pan or a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the grill pan is good and hot, add the chicken skewers to the pan. Only add enough skewers to not crowd the pan, about 3-4 skewers. Sear the chicken until nicely browned, about 2 minutes. Turn the chicken over and sear the other side, about 2 minutes more.
Place the seared chicken skewers in a baking dish large enough to hold all the chicken in a single layer without overcrowding, but small enough so the liquid won’t dry out when cooked. See Note.
Continue to sear the remaining skewers in batches until all the chicken is seared.
Add the white wine or dry vermouth to the baking dish holding the chicken skewers. Add more if the wine does not cover the bottom of the pan.
Place the chicken in the oven and roast until done, about 10 minutes. Start checking the chicken at around 8 minutes. A good instant read thermometer is your best tool here for determining if the chicken is done. Aim for an internal temperature of 165°F / 74° C. Once done, take the chicken out of the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes.
Serve hot with pan juices with grilled asparagus or zucchini.
The original recipe calls for a 9" x 13" (23 x 33 cm) baking dish. That is a little too small to fit 8 skewers without overlapping. Often, I needed to nestle each skewer around the dish with some laying vertical and others horizontal at the top and bottom of the dish. Trim each skewer to help them fit easily in the pan. Other times I used a larger baking dish 15" x 10.5" (38 x 27 cm) which is a tad too big. When I use a bigger baking dish I add more wine to make sure the liquid covers the bottom of the pan, so it does not dry out in the oven.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
This time of year I keep my eye out for ramps, a stunning wild and rare plant with a unique flavor all of its own. Ramps have two green leaves the color of spring green with an oniony stem that turns from green to purple to a creamy white at the bulb and root end. I believe they are as beautiful to look at as it is to eat, but I am a total fan of green and purple foods.
There are countless ways to prepare ramps, but my favorite way is to grill them. When grilled, the harsh garlicky bite turns sweet and compliments the smoky flavor from the grill. If you have never tried them before, grilled ramps are simply delicious and the perfect introduction to their unique onion flavor. All you need are a couple of grilled ramps to pair with your favorite grilled fish, meat or vegetables with a side of potato salad for a memorable spring BBQ feast.
Likewise, grilled ramps make an excellent hors d’oeuvres. Mix them with fresh ricotta cheese and lemon zest then smear it on grilled French bread. The ricotta tones down the sharp bite from the ramps but is makes a creamy garlicky lemon blend that tastes great on grilled toast. Only use fresh ricotta cheese and not the commercial brands. The ricotta flavor of these toasts stand out with the ramps and commercial ricotta just doesn’t sing the way homemade or freshly bought ricotta does. Seared toast with a smear of ricotta cheese and grilled ramps are a crowd-pleasing appetizer at any cocktail party, graduation party, or picnic in the park.
If you want to have a more potent grilled ramp flavor, omit the ricotta just add 1-2 grilled ramps per slice of bread. Chop them up and arrange them decoratively on each slice then add a squeeze of lemon juice right before serving.
Ramps are a member of the Allium family with a harvest season of only three weeks in May/June. The taste is like a cross between garlic cloves, scallions and leeks yet has its own unique garlicky-oniony flavor. Often ramps are referred as wild leeks or spring onions, ramps are neither. They are simply and uniquely ramps.
Because they are rare and only grow in the wild, people get ecstatic when they spot them at the farmer’s market or out in the wild. Like a lot of rare food finds they have a devoted following among chefs, home cooks, and foragers. But their popularity has led to some problems. As I was researching ramps for my post, I learned that ramps are on the protected plant list in Quebec Canada and on the watch list along the eastern continental United States.
The reason for the protection status is because of over harvesting combined with the length of time it takes for ramps to make seeds, germinate seeds and grow mature enough for harvesting. Like a lot of wild plants, it takes several years. Because of the slow germination period, as explained in this article in Epicurious, only 10% of a single crop should get harvested over the course of the season. Unfortunately, as with most trendy wild foods, they are in high demand and command a high price. The higher the price the greedier foragers get and pull up more ramps than the regulated amount and the plant cannot sustain its life cycle.
Eat Ramps Responsibility
Once I learned about ramps protected status in Canada and being on the watch list in the US, I felt very guilty not only for buying them but posting a recipe with ramps as the main focus. I take these concerns very seriously. Yet, I believe if we eat ramps as a special treat and not excessively then the ramp population can sustain itself. It is the consumer’s responsibility to demand responsible behavior from the farmer and not support foragers and markets that do not follow the guidelines for foraging ramps. If we get greedy and take more that is sustainable and buy from individuals not following the rules, there is a strong likelihood ramps will get protected status list as it is in Canada. Hopefully chefs, and especially celebrity chefs, will take action and help protect ramps like they have done in the past.
More Ways to Cook with Ramps
Add fresh ramps as a substitute for chives in Cheese and Chive Herb Bread.
Replace the leeks with chopped and sautéed ramps then add to Leek Asparagus Risotto.
Mince then sauté ramps then add to the Farro with Mushrooms and Rosemary.
Use sautéed ramps to replace the garlic in Garlic Bread.
Grilled Ramps, Two Ways
Grilled Ramps are delicious hot of the grill or minced into fresh ricotta cheese and smeared on toasted French bread.
Serve hot grilled ramps with your favorite grilled meat or fish like Arctic char or with other grilled vegetables. Or, mix them up with fresh ricotta cheese, lemon zest and mint then smear on toasted bread for a crowd-pleasing appetizer. Perfect for a cocktail party.
Substitute grilled or braised leeks for the ramps with one clove of roasted garlic.
The toasts are best eaten as soon as they are make or the bead will get soggy and stale.
- 16 ramps
- 1 Tb Extra Virgin Olive oil
- 1 pinch of Kosher Salt
Grilled Toast with Grilled Ramps and Ricotta
- 12 slices of French baguette cut thin on the diagonal
- ½ lb. fresh ricotta cheese
- 16 grilled ramps
- Zest from half a lemon
- 5-6 small mint leaves chiffonade
- Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat your grill, gas or charcoal to up high with the charcoal pushed to one side.
Clean, dry and trim off the root from each ramp. Cut away any soggy parts of the leaves, if any. Place the ramps on a rimmed sheet pan and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil then sprinkle with Kosher salt. Toss the ramps about using your hands to get the olive oil and salt evenly distributed over the ramps.
When your grill is hot, lay the ramps in a single layer over your grill and away from the coals to cook with indirect heat. Turn them over after a couple of minutes and grill the other side until charred and beginning to get soft.
You can also grill ramps indoors with a grill pan on a burner. Depending on the size of your grill pan, you will need to grill the ramps in batches.
Remove from the heat and enjoy hot or make into an appetizer. If serving as a side dish figure on 2 ramps per person.
Crispy Toast with Grilled Ramps and Ricotta
Toast both sides of your bread until browned on your grill or under the broiler. Set aside.
Place the ricotta in a small mixing bowl. Cut the green leaves off the ramps and mince the ramp bulbs . Add them to the ricotta.
Set aside a few, about 3, ramp leaves for garnish. Chop up the remaining leaves and add to the ricotta.
Grate the lemon zest into the ricotta and add the chiffonade mint. Stir everything together and taste. Correct the seasoning with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Spread a spoonful, about 1 tablespoon, of the ricotta and ramp mixture over each toasted slice of bread. Garnish with thin strips of grilled ramp leaves and lemon zest. Serve immediately.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.