Childhood is as much a place as it is a time. When I remember my childhood, it is often not events that I call forth, but rather pathways, shortcuts, hedges, fences, nooks, forts and treehouses. The map of my grandmother’s backyard is still firmly etched in my mind–it was the landscape of time itself–dreamy afternoons that stretched on forever, days caught in a glittery web of make-believe. I can’t remember anything from eye-level then, only from the bird’s eye vantage of the ironwood tree or, most magical, from the froggy perspective of underneath hedge or elephant ear, drops of caught rainwater spilling off the sides. The most magical space of all was under the fig tree. Space and time shifted entirely inside the embrace of its far-reaching branches, heavy with fruit and leaves as big as my face. It was dark under the tree, cool and hushed as a church, and the branches bled white when we broke off figs to eat. Grownups voices couldn’t penetrate there, and if you were still, no one would ever see you, and time would stop, and you could live in your fig tree kingdom forever.
Toffeed Fig Tart
adapted from Artichoke to Za’atar by Lucy & Greg Malouf
10 sheets filo pastry
1 3/4 sticks butter, melted
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c water
12 figs, halved
2 Tbs. sugar
1 extra Tbs. butter
3/4 c. hazelnuts, toasted and roughly crushed
1/2 c. mascarpone or creme fraiche
Make a sugar syrup by combining sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to boil, making sure the sugar is completely dissolved. Lower heat and simmer for five minutes.
Brush each sheet of filo dough with melted better, stacking one on top of the next. Cut out four 4-5″ circles from the stack of pastry. Place pastry circles on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately drizzle a little sugar syrup over each pastry circle.
Sprinkle 2 Tbs. sugar in a small skillet and cook over medium high heat until sugar caramelizes. Swirl in the butter and stir until smooth. Place each fig cut side down in the caramel, then remove from the pan and set aside.
To assemble, lay a circle of pastry on each plate and stack the figs, then top with mascarpone or creme fraiche, sprinkle with hazelnuts and drizzle with additional sugar syrup.