I have a love/hate relationship with a produce stand in my neighborhood. The hate part comes from the crowded parking lot and aisles, teeming with people drawn to the super cheap prices (we’re talking 2 pounds of pluots for $1!), not to mention stomping around in the outside venue when it’s pouring rain sideways or freezing cold in the winter. The love part comes from the smells of roasted corn from a stand at the back of the parking lot, the guy who makes me giggle because he sells homemade tamales but makes his offer of sale sound like he’s selling stolen babies on the black market, and the diversity of the people who shop there.
Lately, the love part more than outweighs the hate part thanks to little surprises that I’ve found there. Amidst the usual produce finds like apples, oranges, heads of lettuce, and carrots; in addition to the produce for the various ethnic communities that live here like bok choy, dried chilies, and stalks of lemongrass; I’ve seen foodie gems like chanterelles, morels, and figs. Where else can you find a pint of black mission figs for under $3.00???!! I find myself these days embracing the headache of the crowds and giddily stowing a pint of figs in my shopping basket like a 4-year-old putting on her best and cutest “Can I please, Mom” face for a pack of bubble gum at the checkout in a grocery store.
I often don’t have an idea what I want to do with my impulse buys– it really is a case where I add this to my pile from the CSA and decide what I’ll do based on what I have at home. In this case, I had some homemade brioche leftover from when I baked some for an ultimate BLT to try out the first of John’s delicious tomatoes. I also had some pistachios in my freezer, leftover from other recent meals. Figs and pistachios seem to be popping up lately as a pairing so I thought I’d give it a try.
I finely ground my pistachios then mixed them with marscarpone cheese, some honey for sweetness, and a little bit of lemon zest. I could have taken a spoon and just eaten it straight with no other adornment: creamy with a light tang, a warming, toasty nuttiness from the pistachios, faintly sweet yet bright from the underlying citrus. I resisted the urge though and proceeded with smearing large dollops of my pistachio marscarpone on toasted wedges of richly buttery, tender brioche. I sliced the figs and although they were sweet and gorgeous with that dark outer layer of deepest purple-black, that rim of cream-colored flesh, and that center of grapefruit pink, I thought they could use an extra dose of pizzaz. The solution? A light sprinkle of sugar and a torching with my blow torch. These figs now had faint specks of caramel color brown, still juicy but now with a light crackle to them when bit into.
We devoured these little toasts as soon as they hit the table, their only embellishments– a cup of hot coffee and a couple of pieces of perfect bacon. These toasts make for an indulgent breakfast, the kind you linger over, well, if you can pace yourself when confronted with such deliciousness.
Note: Serve these for breakfast, or maybe cut these into 2 inch squares and serve as an appetizer at an elegant dinner party. I bet these would also be delicious with a touch of the savory if you wrapped the figs in prosciutto. Leftover pistachio marscarpone is amazing when spread on french toast, spread on water crackers, or served with pieces of ripe pear or apple.
- 1/2 cup shelled, roasted pistachios
- 8 oz marscarpone cheese
- 1 tablespoon honey
- finely grated zest of 1 medium lemon
- pinch of salt
- 1 pint Black Mission figs, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- brioche slices
In a food processor, fitted with a steel blade, pulse until pistachios are finely ground. Add the marscarpone, honey, lemon zest and pinch of salt then mix until combined. Scoop out into a bowl, cover tightly with plastic, and refrigerate until ready to use.
Place fig slices on a heat proof surface like a pizza stone. Sprinkle figs with the tablespoon of sugar. Holding the flame of a blow torch about 1/2 an inch away from the tops of the fig slices, heat the figs until sugar melts and figs are specked with light brown color. Let figs cool for five minutes before using. (Alternatively, place fig slices on a broiler pan and place 4-5 inches under the broiler and broil for 1-2 minutes or until sugar melts, being careful as sugar can quickly burn under the broiler.)
Toast pieces of brioche and spread with a thick layer of the pistachio marscarpone. Top with slices of bruleed figs and serve.