Saturday, June 12, 2010

Fig Fantasmagoria

During a recent dinner party where I gathered with foodie friends to celebrate the beginning of summer, we decided to lighten the fare by only cooking vegetarian. 

A non-carnivorous evening where creativity was key included an exquisite menu of fresh, chilled and pureed edamame soup in margarita glasses with a dollop of creme fraiche; eggplant parmesan; hearty beet, feta, arugula and wheatberry salad; soft and buttery tomato and vegetable tart; and a tangy lentil salad. 

But the stars of the evening were the soft and pliant dark purple figs, plucked that day from our host Mary's tree, three of which went straight from branch to my mouth before I tried the two dishes that she cooked for our pleasure. An appetizer of warm halved figs filled with walnuts and topped with a gorgonzola cream sauce kicked off our feast and an exquisitely moist and rich carmelized Fig-Upside-Down-Cake ended it with a round table of sighs from all of the guests. While figs are in season, I think I will make this one often! Not only are the fruits one of the most beautiful and sensual to eat, but they are rich in potassium and help to lower blood pressure in a season of over 100 degree heat!

Fig Upside Down Cake 

Cooking spray

2 tablespoons butter melted
3 tablespoons brown sugar  
10 medium Dark skinned fresh figs halved, about 1 pound 
1 1/2 cups All purpose flour  
2 teaspoons baking powder 
1 teaspoon ginger ground 
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon  
1/4 teaspoon cloves 
1/4 teaspoon Mace  
1/8 teaspoon salt  
1/3 cup butter softened 
3/4 cup brown sugar packed 
1/2 cup Light molasses  
2 large egg yolks 
1/2 cup 1% milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
2 large egg whites

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Coat a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray. Coat bottom of pan with melted butter, and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons sugar. Arrange fig halves over sugar, cut sides down. Set aside.
3. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 6 ingredients (through salt), stirring with a whisk. Place 1/3 cup butter and 3/4 cup brown sugar in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until blended. Add molasses and egg yolks; beat well. Beat in milk and vanilla. Add flour mixture to butter mixture; stir with a whisk just until blended.
4. Place egg whites in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into batter; spoon over figs in prepared pan. Bake at 350 fot 55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Loosen cake from sides of pan using a narrow metal spatula. Place a plate upside down on top of cake; invert onto plate.

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