A sweltering summers day

For the past couple of days a sweltering heat wave has swept over Brisbane bringing with it scorching temperatures and muggy, stagnant, humid air leaving me hot, just a little bothered and craving cool, crunchy, refreshing and rejuvenating summer salads. 

And today this blistering heat has me obsessing over baby fennel, chilled pear sliced paper thin on a mandolin, emerald hued mint, zesty lemon dressings and pink plump figs.  Oh and frozen mango and banana yoghurt, one of the most delicious ways to cool down other than a dip in the ocean.

So for lunch today I took the baby fennel that I’ve been fixated with and sliced into wafer thin slices, I did the same with my cool pear and along mixed leaves I created the base to my very simple summer salad.  From the fridge I grabbed a chunk of reggiano parmigiano and sliced wafer portions of the sharp cheese over the salad.  I then took to my roasted almonds with a kitchen knife and roughly chopped, leaving some almonds whole and others almost obliterated to almondy dust.  These wonderfully warm roasted almonds nestled serenely a top of the salad waiting to be anointed with the incredibly zesty vinaigrette.

This vinaigrette has to be one of my all time favourites, I just love its perfect balance and zesty lemon hit.  This simple vinaigrette consists of Dijon mustard, a little honey, freshly squeezed lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper which when combined clung ever so perfectly to the leaves, fennel and pear making it a wonderful accompaniment to a hot summers day.

After lunch I decided my leftover beautifully ripe and plump figs needed tending to so I decided to use them up in a frangipane fig tart.  It’s a wonderful tart recipe that is both simple and delicious.  The figs can be replaced by stone fruit, thinly sliced apple or pear making it a great tart for anytime of the year.

Frangipane is a sweet almond mixture held together with butter and eggs and usually spiked with the flavours of vanilla and lemon.  I love the almondy sweet flavour that it lends to tart fillings and adore its sticky and dense texture.  When baking it gives off the most wonderful aromas of almond, vanilla and lemon zest and marries wonderfully with the figs as they caramelise in the midst of the frangipane.

As the afternoon heat subsided I retreating to the balcony with a delicious slice of the flaky caramelised fig tart simply adorned with a dollop of smooth, cool, vanilla greek yoghurt, a little honey and some pistachios.

Fennel, Pear & Almond Salad with Lemon, Mustard & Honey Vinaigrette

1 pear, sliced thinly (place the sliced pear and fennel in a small bowl of water with a squeeze of lemon juice to avoid browning)
1 baby fennel, sliced thinly
1 large handful of mixed leaves
50gm parmesan, shaved
1 small handful of almonds, toasted and roughly chopped

Lemon, Mustard & Honey Vinaigrette:
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

For the vinaigrette, place mustard, honey and lemon juice in a small bowl or jar and whisk to combine.  Slowly whisk in extra virgin olive oil and season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
For the salad, place pear, fennel and mixed leaves in a small bowl.  Add a tablespoon or two of the vinaigrette to the leaves and gently toss.  Place dressed pear mixture on a serving platter and top with parmesan and almonds.  Serves 2.

Fig Frangipane Tart
Adapted from Good Food

2 sheets all-butter puff pastry
1 tbsp double cream
1 egg yolk
125g blanched almonds
75g caster sugar
50g unsalted butter , softened
1 egg
1 lemon , zested
6-8 ripe figs
Pistachios, honey and greek yoghurt to serve

Cut the edges of the pastry over to make a 1cm wide border.  Beat the double cream and egg yolk together and use to brush the edges of the pastry.  Place the cut strips on top of the brushed edges to form a border.  Brush the pastry with more of the glaze and chill the pastry on a baking sheet for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200°C.  Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast for 6 minutes or until pale golden.  Cool and whizz the toasted almonds in a food processor until finely ground.  Add the caster sugar, softened butter, egg, lemon zest and a pinch of salt.  Whizz again until smooth.  Spread the almond filling over the bottom of the pastry and chill for 10 minutes while you prepare the figs.
Cut each fig into quarters through the stalk. Arrange the figs cut-side up over the almond mixture. Place the tart in the oven and cook the tart for about 35-45 minutes or until golden.
Serve warm with pistachios, honey and vanilla greek yoghurt.

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