Wednesday, January 15, 2014


<medical prelude>
This struck a chord. I haven't even been involved in clinical medicine for three years, yet I've seen that situation play out over and over. We often forget that while the look of a patient or certain phrases in the medical history tell us that the patient is extremely unlikely to recover, the vast majority of family members don't have that intuition. Having to correct someone who assumes that, for instance, a tracheotomy is the next step on the road to recovery is if anything more heartbreaking than fully and properly explaining the patient's situation the first time around. The country has recently seen a number of serious crises involving end-of-life care and related issues; I look forward to the medical community improving our skills and avoiding as many similar conflicts as possible.
</medical prelude>

The pasta roller wasn't the only nifty gadget I was generously given this Christmas. My mother gave me one of these orange peeler devices:

On first use, I promptly sliced open my hand and have been forbidden from using it again by a certain occasionally paternalistic live-in garbage disposal.

I also got a tin of mini pie pans, which I used to make what I think might be my first totally original recipe (as in, no online sources used): fig and hazelnut tarts.

There is a lot I want to change about these. First of all, they're kind of ugly; next time, I'm going to chop the hazelnuts and make a toasty hazelnut layer for the top. It would also be nice to have an herbal element to cut the sticky sweetness, maybe with a blood orange and rosemary salad. Bringing mascarpone into the mix would probably be too much, right?

Fig and hazelnut tarts
I'm giving ranges for some of these proportions because, well, I forgot to measure. Sorry.

1 recipe pie crust (a single-crust portion worked fine for six mini pies, but I suppose it depends on the size of your tins. Use a single-crust recipe in a flat tart dish if you don't have a similar baking dish.)
3/4 lb dried figs
1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/3 to 1/2 cup dry red wine
1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp butter
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 to 1/3 c blood orange juice
2-3 tbsp molasses (not blackstrap; I think that would be a little intense)
1 egg
1/4 tsp salt
hazelnuts, raw, blanched and peeled

Chop the figs. Warm the red wine and vinegar with the cloves, then soak the figs therein until they have absorbed most or all of the liquid; toss occasionally and reheat if necessary.

In a saucepan, heat together the brown sugar, butter, orange juice, and molasses until thick and blended. Allow to cool. Stir in with the figs, along with the egg and salt.

Fill the pie crusts with the fig mixture and top with the chopped hazelnuts, patting the mixture down gently. Sprinkle with a little brown sugar if you like. Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes, or until the pie crust is golden brown and the hazelnuts toasty.

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