Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Caramelized Fig Tart

Ever since I started researching heart healthy foods and discovered that figs are pretty much a heart health powerhouse, I've been keeping them well stocked in our cupboard. They're dried, so they last a long time, they are tasty and sweet, so they don't need added sugar, and they are very toddler friendly. I've been chopping them up and using them instead of fruit snacks for my little one (I roll them in a bit of sugar to keep them from sticking together, then toss them in a baggy.)
The other day I was at our local Whole Foods Market. I had just been thinking that if I EVER saw fresh figs, I was buying them, no matter how much they cost. I was just dying to know what they tasted like. Anyway, I walked in the front door, and the very first display I saw had FRESH FIGS!


I was beyond excited. And the best part was, they weren't even that expensive! So I bought myself a pretty little carton, and happily puttered home to devise the perfect use for them.
I knew I wanted something sweet...caramelized...with honey...a pastry crust, and maybe some cream cheese. Mmm. 

I sliced some up for the babe for her lunch, and gave it a taste as well. We both loved them. She kept asking for more.
The texture of a fresh fig is really different. It's soft, yet slightly spongy. Tender, but not squishy. Very interesting. As far as textures go, it was really quite nice. The flavor is light and sweet, very unassuming and delicate. 

So, I decided to whip together this Caramelized Fig Tart. It's technically a pie, because I don't have a tart pan...but I'm a rebel, and I'm calling it a tart. So there. 

I tried a new pie crust recipe, and it was delightful! It was all butter, and perfectly simple to put together. It came out buttery, flakey, and beautiful. Yum yum.  

I sweetened it almost entirely with honey- there's just a Tbs of sugar on top to help with the caramelizing. It was perfectly balanced with the cream cheese and the delicate fig. Mmmmm...I need to go to Whole Foods now...

Figs-They are packed with fiber, plant sterols, polyphenols, potassium, and vitamin B6.  Figs have both insoluble and soluble fiber, but it's the soluble pectin fiber that may be instrumental in lowering blood cholesterol. Plant sterols may also help lower LDL cholesterol, and lower the risk of heart disease. Polyphenols help neutralize dangerous free radicals and prevent chronic disease- and dried figs have up to fifty times more than most fruits and vegetables! A potassium rich diet may lower the risk for heart attacks and strokes, and your blood pressure. Vitamin B6 is linked to improving heart health by lowering levels of homocysteine. Because of the lower water content, dried figs are actually more nutrient-dense than fresh. And, figs have the highest mineral content of any common fruit, helping to nourish blood, build bones, and protect the heart!

Honey is often considered a super food, and is nutrient dense and full of enzymes- a great choice for sweetener whenever possible. Local, raw honey has even been suggested to help with allergies. 

Caramelized Fig Tart

1 unbaked pie crust (I used this recipe, using all butter instead of part lard, and it was perfect http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2011/09/pams-pie-tutorial/)
6-8 fresh figs, sliced (with stems removed)
1 8 oz package of cream cheese, softened 
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup of honey, plus more for drizzling
1-2 Tbs sugar

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a tart or pie pan with the unbaked pie crust, but don't trim the edges. Blend the cream cheese, 1/3 cup of honey, egg, and vanilla together until smooth. You can use a food processor, blender, or mixer for this, or do it by hand. Pour into your prepped pie crust. Layer the sliced figs on top of the cheese filling. Drizzle generously with honey. Fold the extra pie crust over the edge. Sprinkle the edges and the figs with the sugar.
Place in the over for 30-40 minutes, checking often to make sure the crust isn't burning. The tart is done when the crust is golden brown, the cheese is set, and the figs are caramelized. You can enjoy it warm or cold, but I preferred it cold.