la crostata col fichi secchi: dried fig tart

by Silvestro on January 25, 2012

 

Her tiny features appear in my cameras viewfinder as I focus, her self-consciousness something new between us. ‘So, Anna, tell me what you’re doing while you’re doing it’, I say, the tiny mirror in my camera clinking up and down.

‘Hello, I am Anna, Silvestro’s house keeper and I’m making a dried fig tart’, she says, her neratino accent as thick as motor oil. I start to laugh.

‘If you’re going to laugh, I’m going to go home’, she says. ‘No, I promise I’ll be good’, I say, wanting to point out that I’m taking her picture, not recording her. Still, her earnestness at self-declaration is adorable.

 

‘So, tell me what you’re doing’, I say.

‘OK. I am taking two eggs, and breaking them into the flour’.

‘What kind of flour’?

‘The normal kind’, she says, proud of herself.

‘Then you add butter’, I ask.

‘No, we are pugliesi and we use olive oil for everything’.

‘How much do you add’, I ask.

‘Just enough, not too much. In other words, the right amount’.

‘Good to know’.

 

‘Then a pitch of salt’, she says, starting to open up a bit.

‘ Then you roll it out with a rolling pin’.

 

‘This are the dried figs that Silvestro has left over when he makes vincotto each year, the ones that flavour it. We keep them in a jar of vincotto and then eat them over the winter’, she says.

 

‘They are good but they are very caloric’. This from a woman that could slide down a drain if not careful.

‘Then you line the baking tin with the figs cut into quarters. They are sticky’.

‘How long do you bake it’, I ask.

‘Until it’s done, about half an hour’.

‘How hot’.

‘Hot’.

‘Very hot’?

‘No, normal hot’.

‘I see’.

We put the crostata into the oven and then we go and fold sheets and table clothes together, folding towards the centre of the room and each another. We tells me about her making her first crostata, when she was a little girl.

‘I thought the oven was magical’, she says.

‘I remove the crostata from the oven of Silvestro’, she says after we’ve returned to the kitchen.

‘Do you make crostate often’, I ask.

‘When my man comes over I do’, she says with a smile. ‘I’ll tell you more when you’re older’, she adds.

I take the last picture, we sit down together and each eat a piece of Anna’s crostata,the dancing steam twirling up and off the tart as our forks click against the ceramic plates.

‘Thank you Anna, that was delicous’, I say, just as the espresso percolator begins to spit as we finish.

As we clean up the plates and pass the broom, I catch her from the corner of my eye, and for the very first time imagine her as a little girl, tiptoeing barefoot towards the kitchen, experiencing its magic for the very first time.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Giuseppina January 25, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Amazing , even here in Provence we have this sort of dough made with olive oil instead of butter..the medirerranean sea is a great link !

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Natalina Campagnolo January 26, 2012 at 8:34 am

Looks wonderful! We don’t have fresh figs here now. (i wish…in Canada) Could i use dried ones soaked in some liquid? If so, what would you recommend? Thanks, love your blog!

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David January 26, 2012 at 9:39 am

That was excellent, Silvestro. The story was engaging and multilayered and I felt that I was there in the house with you. Bravo!

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AdriBarr January 26, 2012 at 10:33 am

What an absolutely charming and lovely post. And how I enjoyed Anna’s cooking directions “…just enough, not too much… hot, normal hot…” They are just like those of my grandmother, Angela Barra Crocetti. Funny thing is that when I was learning to cook, as a kid and young woman, I wanted details! Explicit details! But over time and as my confidence built, I came to appreciate such directions, and I even found myself giving such directions. Thank you for a great post – and the tart looks wonderful!

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Jeff Denno January 26, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Every year I dry some of my Mission figs and put them in a jar and cover them with port wine. I think I will try a fig tart Anna style with them. What a delightful and charming person.

Ciao

Jeff Denno

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Silvestro February 9, 2012 at 6:07 am

Jeff,
Your figs sound great! Yes, Anna is great. I’m lucky to have her.
S

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Yadsia @ShopCookMake January 26, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Amazing pictures of a very delicious looking tart. I still remember the great desserts I had in Italy. they’re so different from the ones here in the US.

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Tonia January 26, 2012 at 2:47 pm

This reminds me of my grandmother — one day when I was, oh 13 or 14, I followed her around to see how she made some traditional German food that didn’t she have recipes for. I still have the original papers with my guesses at her measurements (1 glass full; a cup *teacup* full; this much in your hand)and the instructions on how and when to do things. Fond memories. . .

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Lynne in New York State, USA January 29, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Oh my, she is so real in this post! You did a great job, and bring out her beauty and strength in showing her talents in cooking and rolling dough, and in her expressing her understanding of what’s needed for the right outcome. She has very vibrant eyes . . . kinda have her glowing.

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Lizzy (Good Things) February 26, 2012 at 12:41 am

Hello there from Australia! I enjoy reading your web site and seeing all these delicious things. I, too, co-owned a cooking school at one time. I hope we can keep in touch and would to visit you some day! Fig tart…. mmmmmm!

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Nancy/SpicieFoodie March 11, 2012 at 7:36 am

What a beautiful post. Anna is cute as a button :) The story made me feel like I was there experiencing it all. Thanks for sharing.

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Giulia March 12, 2012 at 11:57 am

mamma che buona!ma i fichi secchi in “buccacciu” li fai con la procedura normale per fare la marmellata?

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Giulia March 12, 2012 at 11:58 am

english version: do you make the figue jam with the standard procedure for making marmelades/jams?

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Damaris Wilson March 12, 2012 at 5:24 pm

A lovely story – delectable tart, and a delightful lady. Thank you for sharing these photos; I can’t wait to try making the tart!

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Amy March 13, 2012 at 6:29 am

Thank you for this simple, well-told story. It reminds me that cooking is not a science, but an artform, and you have to make the ingredients come together according to their needs.

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Pat March 16, 2012 at 10:00 am

Deizioso! I am going to try and find some vincotto.

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Amber March 18, 2012 at 11:19 am

Wonderful!
I love this.

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Donna June 7, 2012 at 2:24 pm

I love this: food as it is meant to be… and a pudding that looks devine. Your words remind me of very fond tims with my grandmother who taught me to make wonderful old English puddings in just the same way. Thank you.

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jillian June 7, 2012 at 2:28 pm

I am a little obsessed with figs, and I loved this. Beautiful!

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Cynthia December 16, 2012 at 7:54 pm

Stunning photographs. I must confess I’ve never made anything other than a butter crust, and I look forward to trying one with olive oil. Anything with figs is wonderful. Anna herself is of course beautiful, but her hands are especially so.

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sydneycool January 8, 2013 at 9:36 am

absolute simplicity – magnifico

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sydneycool March 1, 2013 at 12:31 am

A THING OF BEAUTY

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