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Fig and Almond Crostata

It’s fig season here in the Northeastern U.S., and if you don’t have your own fig, there are plenty of markets selling different varieties of these luscious fruits. I had about a dozen that were ready to eat and decided to make a free-form crostata for dessert, poaching the figs first in port wine, honey and cinnamon. They’re delicious poached in red wine too, but if you have port wine, it’s a perfect match accompaniment to figs.

The figs become a little moister after poaching, which could make the pastry soggy, so I scattered a layer of sliced almonds as a bed for the figs, to act as a barrier and also give more texture and flavor.

Drain the figs from the poaching liquid and place them carefully over the almonds.

Gather the pastry around the edges, pinching to form a border. Brush with beaten egg, or some milk.

After it comes out of the oven, spread some of the reduced glaze over the top.

It’s delicious just as is, but a bit of ice cream always makes things better.

Fig and Almond Crostata
 
 
Ingredients
  • Serves two to four people (easily doubled to serve eight)
  • 10 to 12 figs, cut in half
  • ½ cup Port wine
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds
  • For the Pastry:
  • ½ cup flour
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons ice water, as needed
Instructions
  1. Bring the Port wine, honey, sugar and cinnamon stick to a boil in a saucepan.
  2. Lower the heat and add the figs. Let the figs simmer for about 5-10 minutes, depending on how ripe the figs are.
  3. Don't let them poach so long that they lose shape.
  4. Drain the figs and set aside.
  5. Meanwhile, turn the heat to high and let the Port wine mixture reduce to about half or until about the consistency of honey.
  6. Don't forget the solution will be runnier when it's hot, but thickens when cooled.
  7. Mix the flour, sugar, salt and butter in a food processor, until it resembles coarse sand. Add the ice water until it starts to hold together. Bring it out onto a board and roll into a ball. Flatten the ball, wrap in plastic and put it in the refrigerator for about a half hour to an hour.
  8. Remove from refrigerator and roll over a floured surface to a circle with a circumference of about 10-12 inches.
  9. Scatter the almonds over the center of the dough, leaving a border of about two inches.
  10. Place the poached figs over the almonds, then fold the pastry over the figs, pinching toward the edges to form a border.
  11. Brush the border with either beaten egg, or milk.
  12. Bake at 400 degrees for about 25-30 minutes or until browned.
  13. Remove from oven, and brush the reduced port wine glaze over the figs.
  14. If the glaze is too thick, put it back on the heat for a few minutes, adding a bit of water if necessary.
 

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Crostata Di Marmellata Alla Sorrentina

Crostata di Marmellata alla Sorrentina

Are you ready for Pi Day? It’s coming up next week and you need to be ready with a real pie – or in this case a crostata (close enough). Of course, you all know that Pi, represented by the Greek letter π, is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, and is commonly approximated as 3.14159.

Pi Day is celebrated around the world on March 14 (March=3rd month, and the 14th day, hence 3.14), which also happens to be the birthday of Albert Einstein, whose legacy is omnipresent here in Princeton, where the Nobel laureate gave lectures at Princeton University, but mainly served as a faculty member at the Institute for Advanced Studies from 1933 until his death in 1955.
Princeton honors Pi Day with all kinds of events, from an Einstein look-alike contest, to a pie-baking contest. (The first year of the contest, I actually won second place, with “Alessandra’s crostata.”)
I made a couple of goofs while making this crostata, but in the end, it all worked out.
It calls for a mixture of amaretti cookie crumbs to be mixed with egg, then spread on top of the jam.
But I misread the recipe and put the amaretti cookie crumbs in first, before the jam. Whoops!
Fortunately, I was able to scoop them up before I went any farther.
So after scraping out the amaretti crumbs, I put in a mixture of jams – orange and plum. You can use only one kind if you like, or mix any others – apricot and plum are delicious too.
Now is the time to spread the amaretti mixture. I didn’t have quite enough, but it was just fine. Kind of looks like peanut butter and jelly at this point, but it tastes much better.
Spread the lattice strips on top, then brush with egg.
While baking, the amaretti crumbs and eggs puff up slightly and peek through the lattice strips.
The flavor is delicious and it slices so easily you may want to eat more than just one slice. After all, you are doing research on the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, right?
Happy Pi π Day.
Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I’m cooking up each day.
You can also connect with Ciao Chow Linda here on Facebook, here for Pinterest or  here for Twitter.





Crostata di Marmellata alla Sorrentina
from “The Southern Italian Table” by Arthur Schwartz
printable recipe here

your favorite pasta frolla recipe (pastry crust – I cheated this time and used one from Trader Joe’s)
1 12 ounce jar marmalade (I used a combination of plum and orange)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup finely ground amaretti cookies (about 3 ounces, depending on the brand)

Place a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll out the dough between sheets of waxed paper or parchment. Line a 9-inch tart or cake pan with two-thirds of the pasta frolla, bringing the pastry up the sides of the pan just to the top. Save the other third of the pastry to make a lattice top.
Mix the jams (if using two different ones) and spread evenly on the pastry.
Beat one of the eggs in a small bowl until well blended, then add the amaretti crumbs and mix well. Spread this mixture evenly over the jam filling.
Roll out the remaining pastry. With a sharp knife or rolling pastry cutter, cut it into 1/2 inch wide strips. Arrange the strips on top of the tart in a diamond-shaped lattice. Turn the edge of the bottom pastry over the edge of the lattice top.
Beat the remaining egg in a small bowl, then brush the pastry with it.
Bake the tart for 30 to 35 minutes until nicely browned. Let cool for 10 minutes, then remove the tart from the pan and finish cooling it on a rack.

Variation:
Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons of finely chopped nuts – toasted almonds, hazelnuts, or walnuts – on the bottom pastry before pouring in the marmalade or jam.
At Masseria Astapiana, Villa Giusso in Vico Equense, near Sorrento, a fifteenth century former monastery now operating as a bed and breakfast and party venue, they make a rather complex, but not difficult to accomplish, version of this tart. Instead of using 12 ounces of marmalade, use only 6 ounces. Then dip about 28 whole amaretti quickly into dry white vermouth. Arrange a layer of the cookies over the marmalade, packing them in closely and pushing them slightly into the marmalade. Now combine 2 beaten eggs with 3/4 cup toasted and finely ground almonds. Pour this over the amaretti. There should be just enough to barely cover the cookies. Arrange a lattice pastry top. Bake as above.

Domenica Marchetti’s “Preserving Italy”

Domenica Marchetti’s “Preserving Italy”

I was predisposed to love this book as soon as I heard the title. “Preserving Italy” speaks not only to the time-honored methods of putting foods by that Italians have done for centuries — but to holding on to traditions that face extinction if it weren’t for people like Domenica Marchetti.

I grew up in a family that foraged for wild asparagus and broccoli rabe in the spring, that canned summer’s bounty of peaches and tomatoes, that made its own wine in the fall and that mixed its own spicy sausages to hang and cure during the winter. Those, and other traditions to preserve food are deeply engrained in my genes and I try to not only maintain those traditions, but to enrich them with newfound ways of preserving my heritage and passing it onto younger family members and friends. So I was thrilled when Domenica’s book arrived, (including my family’s recipe for salt-preserved green tomatoes) bringing these old customs to a whole new audience.

photo from “Preserving Italy”
Aside from her wonderful recipes, Domenica leaves her imprint with her beautiful writing. Her first sentence grabbed me right away:
“When my grandmother passed away in 1971, she left behind four grieving daughters and a large jar of her liquor-soaked cherries.”

photo from “Preserving Italy”
That sentence evoked my own memories of loved ones passed on, who had left behind their own culinary mementos: the foods my father ate for weeks after my mother died — peppers and tomatoes she had prepared and stored in the freezer and cupboards; and the grappa-soaked cherries and salted green tomatoes my late husband had made – another bittersweet and tangible reminder of his absence in the months following his death.
With every bite of those cherries, roasted peppers, or canned tomatoes, we bring back past memories and at the same time, expose a younger generation to a taste they might pass onto future generations.

“We’re seeing more and more of these traditional methods being used today,” Domenica said. “Some people are putting modern spins on it and putting in new flavors.”
Italy has long been a country where people, especially those living in the country with substantial gardens, put up their own food for the leaner winter months, but there are a lot more artisanal items on store shelves in Italy now too, she said.
“It’s a way for regions to stand out in terms of culinary trends and I feel like we are in some ways going back. You see it not just with preserves, but in interest in old traditional recipes, like the sour dough bread baking movement, for example. These techniques that were in danger of being lost, are finding a new audience. I also try to find recipes that are in danger of being lost. I don’t want these traditional recipes to fall by the wayside.”

photo from “Preserving Italy”

The book contains instructions not only on the techniques of making and preserving vegetables, meats and fruits, jams and liqueurs, but also many ideas on how to use those items in various recipes.

From foods preserved in oil, like eggplants, zucchini and butternut squash; to foods preserved in vinegar, like cauliflower, carrots and fennel; to sweet jams and jellies; to tomatoes and sauce; to cheeses, cured meats; liqueurs and syrups, the book provides a step-by-step guide to creating a bountiful pantry.

photo from “Preserving Italy”
After you’ve finished seasoning and curing that guanciale, you can use it to flavor the pasta alla gricia recipe from the book; or try your hand at making mint syrup, then incorporate it in the book’s recipe for mint chocolate chip cake.

photo from “Preserving Italy”
There’s something for even the busiest working man or woman, including easy-to-make porchetta salt that will elevate your next pork shoulder to new heights. Domenica also includes the recipe for making a simplified home version of porchetta that anyone can make.
“The porchetta is simple because it’s just a matter of making the salt, rubbing it into the meat and then it’s hands off while the roast is in the oven.

from “Preserving Italy”

Most of the recipes in the book are “small batch” and just enough for a small family, she said.
“They
don’t produce quarts and quarts of food – just enough for you to have
something on hand. I like the feeling of having a larder with jars of
food stocked in it. If you do a little bit of work on the front end,
then you can just open a jar of tomato sauce and have a quick and easy
great pasta dinner for example,” she said.
Although Domenica has been making
limoncello and other liqueurs for years, as well as jams, fresh cheeses
and yogurt, many of the techniques in the book were new to her. “There
was definitely a learning curve, which made the book all the more fun,”
she said.

photo from “Preserving Italy”

Writing a cookbook where you are first preserving the raw
ingredients does takes a bit longer than just creating a recipe alone,
but it was a labor of love, Domenica said.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the
process,” she said, although the tight deadline imposed by Houghton
Mifflin presented a challenge. The original six months stretched to a
year in order to include ingredients from all four seasons of the year.
“I
had a lot of fun sourcing the different things,” she said including
finding wine grapes she could use to create the syrupy liquid called
mosto cotto in her kitchen in Virginia.
photo from “Preserving Italy”
“I put out a tweet asking winemakers to share some fresh grape must and I got a reply from one of Virginia’s oldest winemakers – Horton Vineyards – who gave me a few jars.”
Winemakers in general are the most generous people, she said, but “As I started working on this book, it became clear to me that there are so many talented and hard-working food artisans in Italy.”
As a result, the book includes essays on many of the people she met while conducting research for the book.

photo from “Preserving Italy”
“They do what they do because it’s their livelihood and they love it and maybe they’re doing it to bring back those traditions. I really wanted to showcase the work they are doing. But it doesn’t even scratch the surface when it comes to the whole country and the number of food artisans there.”

photo from “Preserving Italy”
Domenica will be promoting “Preserving Italy” in the next few months, starting with a book launch and dinner at Le Virtù restaurant in Philadelphia on June 15. She continues through the summer with appearances at bookstores, cooking schools and other sites throughout Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maine and North Carolina. For more details, click here.

Below is a recipe from Domenica’s book – a beautiful and delicious crostata using homemade jam:

photo from “Preserving Italy”

 

Favorite Jam Crostata
from Domenica Marchetti’s “Preserving Italy”
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
1 cup confectioner’s sugar, plus more for dusting the crostata
finely grated zest of 1 orange
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 to 2 cups rustic grape Jam, strawberry-apricot preserves, green tomato preserves (recipes in the book); or any favorite jam.
-Measure the flour, sugar, zests and salt into the bowl of a food processor fitted with at the metal blade. Process briefly to combine. Distribute the butter pieces around the bowl and process until the mixture is crumbly. Add the egg and egg yolks and process just until the dough begins to come together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat it into a disk. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 1 hour.
– Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
-Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut it into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Rewrap the smaller piece and set it aside. Roll the larger piece into an 11-or 12-inch circle. Carefully wrap the dough around the rolling pin and drape it over a 9- or 10-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Gently press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
-Spoon the jam into the prepared hell and smooth it out with the back of your spoon. Roll out the remaining dough and cut it into 3/4-inch thick strips or use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes such as flowers or stars. Place the strips in a lattice pattern on top of the jam or arrange the cutouts on top. (Save any excess dough to roll out later; you can cut out shapes and bake cookies) Fold the edge of the crust over the jam and lattice.
-Bake until the crust is lightly browned, about 35 minutes. Let the crostata cool in the pan on a wire rack to room temperature. To serve, remove the rim of the pan, transfer the crostata to a decorative serving platter, and dust lightly with confectioner’s sugar.
Pear Apple Crostata

Pear Apple Crostata

Last week I promised you this recipe, courtesy of my friend Jan who brought it for dessert recently following our dinner of stuffed shells. It was warm and beautiful. I wish I had thought to take a photo of the entire thing before we sliced into it, but one can only resist so much temptation. You can call it a galette, a croustade, a crostata or even an open-face pie. But whatever you call it, call it fantastic.

Jan used dried cranberries and dried cherries, but if you don’t have both, you can substitute more of one or the other. Eat this warm topped with a scoop of ice cream, and it could become your go-to dessert.

pastry crust:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel (maybe even a little bit more, but not a tablespoonful)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chilled unsalted butter cut cross-wise in 1/2 inch slices
1/4 cup or more heavy cream

Whisk flour, sugar, lemon peel, and salt in medium bowl. Add butter; using pastry cutter, blend butter with flour mixture until coarse meal forms. Drizzle 1/4 cream over; toss with fork until moist clumps form adding more cream by teaspoonfuls as needed if dry. I added 2 more teaspoons. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 1 hour. You may do this a day ahead. In that case, let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before rolling out.

Filling:
5 firm but ripe Bartlett pears, peeled cored, and thinly sliced
1 large granny smith apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
2-3 tablespoons dried cherries
5 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons all purpose flour
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons (maybe a bit more) finely grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon (generous) ground nutmeg
heavy cream for brushing
sliced almonds for edge

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix all fruit, sugar, flour, lemon juice, lemon peel, and nutmeg in a large bowl to coat. (I whisked together the sugar, flour, lemon peel and nutmeg before adding the juice or the fruit.)
Roll out pastry on sheet of floured parchment paper to 14inch round, Transfer crust on parchment paper to baking sheet. Mound fruit in center of pastry, leaving a 2 inch border all around. Fold pastry border over fruit, crimping slightly. Brush edges with cream and gently press on sliced almonds.

Bake until filling bubbles and almonds are lightly toasted, about 1 hour. Cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream if desired.

Related Posts:

Fig Crostata