A {Fig} Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Yet another excellent installment in the Gran Fran birthday lead-up. I have included a recipe from my own kitchen using figs, as I don't ever recall her cooking with them. Rather, they were served alongside Prosciutto di Parma and maybe some almonds.

From Gran Fran's Lips to Your Ears: My brother moved to Oklahoma City to plant a fig tree. He plans to bring a bit of Brooklyn Italian to the home of the Cherokee, the Choctaw, and the Chickasaw. He’s lived without a fig tree for well over half a century, but now that he’s retired the view from his West Side condo lacked tangible proof of his childhood.
For him and for me, the longer we’re grown-ups, the more magnetic is the lure of childhood. And I yearn for those things that spelled home and comfort, and miss the loving embrace in the hefty arms of a strong solid grandma, a neighbor’s pat on the head and her admiration of my dark thick curls as I take a walk—a passegiatta—with my grandfather, and even the cheek-scraping kiss of the rosey rotund (very flabby armed) cumare with her whiskery chin. Those who peopled our childhood are now gone, but I continue to search out the scents, foods, and traditions that I grew up with so I can share them with my children and so that I can remind myself of where I came from –a Brooklyn neighborhood teeming with street-level stores, open cellar doors, ill-lighted tenement hallways, and a fig tree in every backyard.
Now every August I search greenmarkets to find a green cardboard container filled with figs. I touch the fruit and it yields enough to expose its seeds and its sweet sticky scent. And I'm in Brooklyn, sitting on a folding chair at the curb eating the sweet fruit and planning what I'll wear to the first day of fourth grade.
Fig Puff Pastry Tart ala Gran Fran's Daughter
adapted from Bon Appetit, 1993
  • 1/2 17 1/4-ounce package (1 sheet) frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
  • 1 egg, beaten to blend (glaze)
  • 7-ounces of nuts, pulverized in a food processor
  • 3 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup apricot jam (any jam works well here, experiment a little!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Sliced assorted fresh fruit (such as kiwi fruit, strawberries and figs)
  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Roll out thawed pastry square on flour dusted work surface to 9 1/2-inch square.
  • Pull edges of dough up slightly, to form a higher edge then the center of the tart.
  • Brush edges of square with egg glaze.
  • Pierce center of pastry all over with fork.
  • Bake until pastry is golden brown about 25 minutes.
  • Melt jam with ginger in heavy small saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently. Meanwhile, blend nut paste and cream in processor until almost smooth. Spoon almond filling into center of tart and spread evenly. Bake 5 minutes.
  • Arrange fruit decoratively atop tart, and brush jam glaze over fruit.
  • Place back in the oven for 10 minutes until fruit has softened.
  • Enjoy!