summer obsession

This time of year, I get a little obsessed with the fig tree in my back yard. I go back, look at it, peer under the leaves, squeeze fruit, chase away birds. In 2004, when we were house-hunting, I peeked over the back gate of this house, saw the fig tree, which was roughly the size of a barn silo (okay, maybe not quite, but at least swimming pool size), and knew that, even though I didn't particularly like the looks of this house, this was the one. Yes, really. Four years later the house is finally starting to look how I'd like, and I'm still in deep smit with my fig tree.

We picked a few precious fruits from it on Thursday, several more on Friday, Saturday, and then on Sunday, I had enough to make this gorgeous, easy, and delicious fig tart for my friend Lisa's final going-away reception at the Cathedral. Today I'll start gathering figs to turn into fig butter to take with me to my upcoming girls' weekend in DC- our hostess dreams of the stuff, which I haven't made in several years.

Every year I do something different with the figs. The first year, it was the butter- we had just moved in at the start of the season, so I unpacked my cuisinart, bought several pounds of butter and little 1/4 c containers to store them in, and went to town. The second year, I dried them all. The third year, I saved them up for my aunt to make preserves out of (WAY too sweet for my taste, but it was the best birthday gift I could have given her). Last year we had a late freeze then drought, so I let the birds eat what we didn't eat out of hand. The crop was pretty measly. This year, I'm going back to the butter. Oh, and this fig ice cream! Recipes, you say?

Fig Tart
1 sheet puff pastry (like peppridge farm)
1/2 brick cream cheese (or goat cheese would be so divine)
a squirt of honey (maybe 1-2 tsp)
1T fresh minced rosemary
quartered fresh figs (I used maybe 20)

-Mix the cheese, honey, and rosemary. You can also add chopped dried figs if you have them to increase the fig flavor. I keep the home-dried figs in the freezer and use them on lots of things. They keep for years.
-Spread the square of pastry on a baking sheet (use a silpat or parchment liner because it leaks!), score a square inside the pastry (1/2 inch from the edge).
-Spread the cheese mixture over the pastry up to the score line and arrange fig quarters over the cheese mixture in a pretty pattern.
-Drizzle with honey (but not much, just a few thin ribbons over the top)
-Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes

Cut in squares after it cools with a serrated knife. Cut carefully and you won't mar the figs!

Fig butter

1 lb butter, salted or not, softened ( I like salty with my sweet)
1-2 c fresh figs
1-2 T honey, to taste

Whirl around in a food processor until the figs are completely broken up and everything is nicely blended. Pack into 1/4 c containers and freeze until you need them. This is SO good on hot french bread. I stole this idea from some caterer friends in Oxford, MS.