Blue Cheese Tartlets With Fig Jam and Walnuts
Old recipes and cookbooks can be an endless source of culinary inspiration. Time stops when I’m pouring over an old copy of Gourmet Magazine rife with spritz cookies and other hallmarks of the 80s. Or my worn copy of Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey’s New York Times Cookbook. Oh the pâtés I’ve seen!
The easier-than-they-look hors d’oeuvres pictured here were inspired by a recipe from a woman I baked with many, many years ago: my mom. I tweaked the savory pastry dough recipe she used for her holiday Pecan Tassies, swapping out the cream cheese for a creamy blue. (If you caught my last post about the cocktail biscotti, you know I’ve been mildly obsessed of late with turning my favorite sweet treats into savory ones.) Pleasant thoughts of mom sprang to mind as I worked the dough into the mini muffin pans. I’ve made hundreds, thousands of pecan tassies over the years. The work is repetitive and tedious at times, but strangely relaxing, the soft dough, so malleable beneath my rough, warm fingers. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Yet, like snowflakes, no two ever look the same. My mind always wanders as I work, and when it returns the muffin pans are ready for the oven.
Later, as I filled my delicate, golden shells with the sticky jam, I tried to plan my outfit for the party that my tartlets and I were heading to later that night. But mom kept creeping back in. What would she think of my figgy treats? I didn’t question whether or not she would approve of them, or me. Thousands of dollars of therapy helped me work that kink out. I simply wondered if she would enjoy them. Were they the kind of party snack that she would love so much she’d wrap a few in a napkin and stuff them into her bulging, tattered purse between a wad of crumpled singles and a stack of lotto tickets? Would a single bite have her fervently prodding the hostess for the recipe, the way she did when she tasted her first ever Seven Bean Salad?
We ate a lot of figs when I was a kid–Fig Newtons that is. I was well into my 30s when I came across my first fresh fig. I suspect mom died in her 60s without ever tasting a fresh fig or fig jam.
Maybe I’ll wear my leopard print wrap dress?
I carefully placed a few toasted walnut pieces on top of the glossy jam. Mom never toasted our walnuts. The raw nuts–always in tiny pieces, seldom, if ever whole–made their way into Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies and banana bread, but never on top of a salad with pears and blue cheese–one of my favorite ways to enjoy them today.
Nah, a dress is definitely overdoing it. Maybe my dark wash Citizens jeans….
I turned the orange in my left hand, while holding the zester in my right. Brilliant orange ribbons spiraled onto the counter. I remembered the frozen orange juice concentrate mom used to flavor her Macaroon Kiss Cookies.
Do those jeans even fit? Crap, I’ll just go with the black ones then.
I held a long sprig of fresh thyme between the thumb and index finger of my left hand and slid the fingers of my right hand along the woody stem, releasing the tiny fragrant leaves. Fresh herbs were something I didn’t appreciate until my 20s. Our parsley was a jar of dried, grey-green flakes nestled between jars of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and garlic powder.
Eek! When was the last time I had a manicure?
I sprinkled the verdant leaves over the tartlets and loosely covered the tray in plastic wrap. I left my thoughts of mom alongside the tray and hurried upstairs in search of cute jeans that I could button.
Blue Cheese Tartlets With Fig Jam and Walnuts
Blue cheese and fig jam go together like PB&J, but you can make these savory treats with any soft cheese and any filling. Not a blue cheese fan? Make the shells with goat cheese and fill them with a spicy strawberry jam.
3 ounces blue cheese
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup fig jam
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
1 orange, for zesting
fresh thyme leaves (optional)
Mini muffin pans
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease the cups of the mini muffin pans, unless you’re using non-stick pans.
- In a medium bowl cream together the blue cheese and butter. Add the flour and use your hands to bring the dough together in the bowl.
- Divide the dough into 30 pieces and roll into balls. (If you prefer a more delicate shell, divide the dough into 36 pieces.)
- Using lightly floured fingers evenly press the dough against the sides of the mini tart pan until the dough rises slightly above the rim of the muffin cup.
- Bake for 15 minutes, until golden brown. Cool in pans for 5 minutes. Remove shells to a wire rack to finish cooling.
- Store cooled shells in an airtight container until ready to use. (They freeze well too. Bake frozen shells for 8 minutes at 325°F before filling.)
- Spoon jam into cooled tartlet shells. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts, orange zest, and thyme leaves if using.
Makes 2 1/2 – 3 dozen.