Showing posts with label the Lot River. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the Lot River. Show all posts

01 February 2014

Fig-and-Walnut Tart with Cognac


It was so much fun to gather windfall figs from the yard.

I'm reposting this original recipe because this dessert is really exceptional and very rich. It's exactly the kind of dessert to serve in winter. 

France, The Lot, Fall, 2008 - It was late September, and we left the house* each day at mid-morning, ready to explore the meandering river country, driving up into mountain villages and down into vineyards: Montcuq, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, Luzech, Albas, Douelle, Catus and up into the still-green Dordogne to visit lovely LaRoque Gageac. And every day, into Cahors, sometimes taking the dizzy-ingly high bridge that sneaks up on you as you snake around the city.

Nights were dark and still, and mornings so cold you could see your breath. We'd eat a hearty breakfast, load the market baskets into the Mini and drive off to enjoy the warm heart of the autumn days. We'd return to our tiny village by late afternoon, my husband to a nap, and me to the kitchen and the yard to ponder supper.

I loved this time of day, when we could hear the rush of traffic climbing the hairpin turns of the road beside the gorge: Workers returning from the city to the village, where the air was fragrant with grapes and woodsmoke. There was excitement, too; the grape harvest was near.

The figs on the tree in the yard that sloped toward the vineyards were ripe and falling; I picked a basket of them and paired them with the ubiquitous walnuts of the Quercy. A smidgeon of cognac and voila! Truly the richest dessert I have ever tasted.

Here is what you will need to make my very simple Fig-Walnut Tart:
  • 1 pie crust
  • 10-16 ripe figs, halved from top to bottom
  • ¼ cup Cognac 
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 5 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 cup walnuts, broken
  • dash orange zest (about a teaspoon)
  • dash sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare your pie crust as usual; originally, I used a pate brisée (pie crust) mix from Carrefour, a somewhat upscale French supermarket. Place in a round tart pan or pie plate.

Prepare figs and drizzle with Cognac, brown sugar, orange zest and 1/2 of melted butter. Place open side up in pan. Sprinkle walnuts on top and drizzle with the remainder of the butter and a dash of sea salt.

Bake tart on lower shelf in oven for 40-50 minutes. Watch carefully to ensure walnuts do not get too dark. Allow to cool a bit before serving with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Since I made this in France, and have not replicated it in the US, I recommend checking it frequently during cooking time.

It was rich and rustic; softness and crunch with deep dark hints of pleasure. How satisfying to create a dessert this good from fruit plucked from your own backyard, even a rented backyard!

One of the reasons I have not recreated this dish is that I have not found a source for fresh figs. Plums or apricots would be a good substitute; you may have to adjust the amount of sugar used.

*Readers can rent the house we stayed at here.

PostScript: What about this take on figs? Yum!

18 January 2009

Apricot-Walnut French Toast and a Visit to Albas

Entering Albas on the Lot River from the south.
Growing up in Frenchtown (which felt like home to us in a way our neighborhood on the other side of town did not), we felt closest to our French roots on Sundays. Perhaps it was the crow of the neighbor's rooster at sunrise, or the chatter of old folks in French after mass, or the long family meal at midday, or the feeling of lassitude that came over us in the afternoon.

In France, I find that feeling again, in the quiet of a rural afternoon. Sundays are nearly always the time for a late breakfast, a brief nap and a drive in the country.

One sunny Sunday last September, we set out to follow the meandering River Lot as it made its lazy way west.

First we conquered Douelle with its narrow streets. We have experienced Douelle often enough to know that Sundays are quiet there and we don't have to hold our breaths or cross our fingers or pray that we do not meet any traffic from the opposite direction.

We breezed through and set out for a more open road that took us past prosperous vineyards. Here the land looked more like Wisconsin, save for the houses and barns. We wound our way through Luzech, charmed by the feel of it. The wine country is prosperous, and Luzech seemed so. We stopped along the river, and took photos at the river's edge.

It was Albas that caught my imagination, with its narrow winding streets and its welcoming view. The sight of a village clinging to a cliff above a river is not something I see in my everyday life. My husband stopped the car at a small lookout over the river so I could take the photo above.

Fortunately our hearty breakfast kept us fueled as we explored the Lot River valley to the west of Cahors that afternoon. So many twists and turns!

Apricot-Walnut French Toast is a good use for stale bread.
Apricot-Walnut French Toast

  • 6 slices apricot or cinnamon-raisin bread
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup cream or milk
  • tablespoon brown sugar
  • teaspoon vanilla extract
  • dash cinnamon
  • pinch salt

For the sauce:
  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves
  • tablespoon melted butter
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
Beat eggs, cream or milk, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon in large bowl. Soak bread until it is thoroughly moist, but not falling apart. Place in buttered skillet and brown.

While bread is turning golden brown, heat preserves in a small saucepan over a medium burner. Add butter and walnuts.

Remove bread from skillet and smother in apricot-walnut sauce. This is delicious when served with vanilla yogurt and apricot nectar.

Like any other French toast recipe, this one is a good way to use up bread that is growing stale. Since I cannot resist buying bread while in France, French toast or pain perdu is a pretty typical breakfast for us when we travel.