What's not to love

Now that that's done, we can talk about autumn, and all the lovely things that come with it. We've had such a string of gorgeous, perfect fall days that I haven't minded the transition. Although the days are getting shorter, and I regularly finish my evening runs in the dark - which just makes me think about winter.

I had bookmarked a couple great recipes with figs at the beginning of September, anticipating their short and delicate season and not wanting to miss out. I returned from New Orleans just in time to grab a pint of black mission figs. They can be kind of hard to find and you definitely want to use them shortly after buying them, they don't like to sit around. I've used dried figs before when out of season, but the delicate texture and earthy, floral flavor of fresh figs are incomparable.

I made two stand-out recipes, courtesy of Martha Stewart. I won't be tooting Martha's horn just yet - I've made a handful of her recipes that have disappointed me. But I guess she knows her figs.

This Fresh Fig and Almond Crostata is really just another fancy name for a galette. I've spent my summer making all forms of galettes, sweet and savory. What's another galette thrown in the mix? It's just too easy and too delicious. You barely even need the recipe.

The same goes for this super simple Pizza with Fresh Figs, Ricotta, Thyme, and Honey. When I saw this recipe, I immediately set a handful of my precious figs aside, destined for this purpose. I love bringing sweet and savory together. The flavor of the thyme coupled with the earthy figs and creamy ricotta is really sublime. Drizzle it with a bit of local honey and you've got a real end of summer hit.

If you can still find a fig or two in your local market, snatch 'em up! You have to try these.

After figs, I spent time with good friends and picked a half bushel of apples, a half bushel of squash, a perfect little pumpkin, and for the first time, milked a big ole' cow name Norma. What's not to love about this season of bliss?

Also, I recently read this book from Jojo Moyes. And listened to this podcast from Radiolab. I haven't stopped thinking about either of them. The Moyes book will change the way you think about the disabled, and well, we'll leave it at that. Don't go Googling this book if you plan to read it - it will spoil the impact of the story. Just read it. And the Radiolab podcast - it's about Blame and it will challenge your stance on this moral conundrum, why and how we treat blame, and "what happens when we push past it with forgiveness and mercy." I was listening to this while out on a run, which is pretty standard, but I realized I had slowed down significantly, so incredibly weighty and hard this subject is. It will shake things up.

Ok, back to Wednesday. Happy hump day, all.

Fresh Fig and Almond Crostata

For the Dough:
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
2-4 Tbs ice water

For the Filling:
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
4 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
1 lb ripe, fresh figs, stemmed and thinly sliced
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice

Make dough: In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar, and salt to combine. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons ice water; pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (if necessary, gradually add up to 2 tablespoons more water). Do not overmix. Flatten dough into a disk; wrap tightly in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour (and up to 3 days).

Make filling: Combine almonds and sugar in a small bowl. Add 1 egg, butter, flour, vanilla, and salt; mix until smooth, and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine figs and lemon juice; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a large lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll dough to a 14-inch round. Spread almond filling in center, leaving a 2-inch border; top with fig mixture. Fold border over edge of filling, pleating all around; press down gently to seal. In a small bowl, mix remaining egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water; brush dough with egg wash.

Lifting edges of parchment, transfer crostata to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until crust is golden brown, about 1 hour. Let cool on baking sheet at least 30 minutes. To serve, cut crostata into wedges.

Pizza with Fresh Figs, Ricotta, Thyme, and Honey

Pizza dough (either make whatever recipe you've got on hand or pick up the ready-made dough at TJ's for a last minute meal)
1/4 cup fresh ricotta
Fresh thyme, chopped
3-6 sliced fresh figs
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
1 Tbs honey

Place pizza stone or inverted baking sheet on rack in top third of oven. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Transfer stretched dough to parchment. Dot dough with ricotta cheese. Top with thyme and figs. Season with salt and pepper; drizzle with olive oil. Transfer to oven: Slide parchment onto stone or baking sheet. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and bottom is crisp. Drizzle with honey.

A note on figs: 
The prettiest fresh figs aren't always the tastiest. Perfectly ripe figs, which are plump and tender (but never mushy), are often slightly cracked, with a bit of "honey" forming at the stem. They're highly perishable, so use them right away, or refrigerate for up to 2 days.

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