In 2004, I started college at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Four years later, I graduated, moved to D.C. and started preparing for a new life. A few years after that a lot had changed but one thing had become very, very clear- I was not (nor was my husband) a D.C. person. So we packed up everything and moved back to Baltimore, our new house literally two blocks from my college apartment. That was in May. It is now September and MICA has started back up in full force. Sitting at our favorite college (and post college) haunt yesterday for lunch, watching the overly enthusiastic freshman, the jaded and bitter seniors, and my judgmental husband, I couldn’t help thinking about how MICA shaped me.
Take, for instance, this fig tart. At one point in my life I probably wouldn’t have touched it with a ten foot pole. Later in life I may have eaten it but I wouldn’t have regarded it in any other way than how I think about burritos or a tomato sandwich (delicious but not necessarily anything to look at). Yesterday, however, I spent hours with this fig tart. With each step I would walk the ingredients to my bedroom (the best light on a rainy day) and position the food over and over again, tweaking here and adjusting there, the whole time basking in the glory that is the fig. Have you every seen something quite as beautiful? Yesterday, I wasn’t sure I had. Pink on the inside with this gorgeous texture, a lovely contrast between the center and the deep purple outside. Mentally waxing poetic about this fruit I thought about my experience at art school. Years of teachers and fellow students “forcing me to reconsider” whatever social issue they were creating about must have rubbed off on me. Because yesterday, in the midst of using my B.F.A. in photography, I reconsidered a fig. And then I ate it.
This month the world lost a wonderful soul. Our close family friend, Fred Cates, known to me as Capt’n Fred growing up, was an imaginative story teller, a fierce supporter of banana pudding, and a hell of a man. He meant a lot to my family, and in turn, to me. If there is a heaven, I hope he’s up there shootin’ the shit with his wife Lib and my grandparents. Rest in peace, Capt’n.
Balsamic Fig Tarts
Pie dough (recipe here*)
1 tsp cayenne pepper
6 black mission figs
2 cups goat cheese, crumbled
2 cups balsamic vinegar
*Pie dough substitutions: instead of 3 tbsp sugar, use 1. Also use 1 tbsp salt, and the 1 tsp cayenne pepper listed above
Start by making your balsamic vinegar reduction. Over very, very low heat, simmer the vinegar for an hour to an hour an a half, or until it has reduced by about half. Remove from stove and let cool.
Make your pie dough.
Roll our your pie dough into 6 4-5″ rounds. In the center of the round, spread the balsamic vinegar, about 1 tbsp per round (it will expand in the oven). Slice your figs and arrange the fig over the vinegar, leaving about 1 1/2″ between the figs and the edge. Top with goat cheese and a sprinkle of salt. Fold the edges up over the figs to form the rustic tart.
Whisk your egg until frothy. Brush the egg over the exposed dough.
Bake at 400 for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown.