In my opinion, having a friend with a fig tree is almost better than having your own because the birds make such a mess of them.
So, when one of the barristas at my local Starbucks recently invited me over to pick figs from her abundant tree, I jumped at the chance. I had never seen anything like it! The tree–which had been split by lighting to or three decades ago and had formed two enormous trees–dwarfed her suburban back yard. So, I battled all manner of flying thing for my fair share.
Though I wasn’t greedy, I nevertheless bagged more than I could eat, so when I needed to stop over at a friend’s last Sunday afternoon to consult with him about a fun project (that you will be reading about here in a few weeks; I don’t want to do anything to jinx the outcome!), I decided to make a little fig treat for him and his fiance. And I wanted to make something sweetly savory. Remembering that I had some leftover chutney-topped vegan brie in the fridge (the brie is from a recipe on p. 30 of my new Blooming Platter cookbook), and that one of my favorite all-time appetizers is fresh figs stuffed with vegan brie and a smoked almond, I decided to make a tart that combined all those flavors.
I started with my never-fail press-in crust as the base. Then I gently swirled the brie and chutney together before smoothing it evenly over the crust. Next came concentric circles of gorgeous red figs halves with whole smoked almonds nestled upright between them and a very light drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
I think you’ll agree that the result is quite stunning. Apparently it was also a taste sensation because I received an email message with the subject header “Holy Tart!” and a text message saying, “D***! It’s good!” See what you think before the last of this summer’s figs disappear from market shelves…or your friends’ trees.
1 1/4 cups vegan brie (recipe follows–make the day before or very early in the day you plan to serve it)
1 baked Press-in Pie Crust, cooled to room temperature
3/4 cup homemade or purchased chutney (if you’d like to make a fresh one–the best!–just search “chutney” on my blog and you will find several outstanding ones to choose from; in fact, for this recipe, I used a combination of two in contrasting colors)
Approximately 20 fresh figs, stemmed and sliced in half vertically
Approximately 20 whole smoked almonds
Optional: a drizzle of about 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar or balsamic reduction
In a medium bowl, swirl together brie and chutney, stopping before they are completely combined. Spread evenly over the bottom of the cooled tart crust. Arrange the figs, flesh side up, in an attractive pattern over the surface of the cheese and chutney mixture, and then tuck whole almonds, standing upright, between the figs. Serve immediately with a very light drizzle of balsamic/balsamic reduction. Or store, covered, in the refrigerator until about 30 minutes before serving time, waiting until you serve the tart to drizzle it with the balsamic.
Vegan Brie (you will need about half of this recipe, but you’ll enjoy having the leftovers around)
14 ounces extra-firm tofu, pressed, drained and blotted dry
3/4 cup roasted cashews
6 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon miso
3 tablespoons beer or non-alcoholic beer
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons onion powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
Combine the tofu, cashews, nutritional yeast, miso, beer, lemon juice, onion powder, salt, garlic powder, and coriander in a food processor. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides of bowl as necessary. Line two soup bowls, approximately 5 inches in diameter, with plastic wrap and scrape half of the mixture into each one. Smooth the tops, fold the edges of the plastic wrap down to cover the surface. Top with a smaller bowl or plate and place a heavy can on top to weight it down. Refrigerate for 4 or more hours.
Press-In Pie Crust
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat, unbleached all-purpose, or whole wheat flour (or a combination)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons unsweetened or plain soymilk
Place dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour the oil and milk over the dry ingredients and work around with a fork and/or fingers until all of the liquid is absorbed. Press the crust firmly into the bottom and sides of an 8 to 9-inch tart pan. The bottom and side of a glass work nicely for this task. Bake crust for 10-12 minutes or until firm and slightly golden. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.