I just returned Sunday from Austin, a beautiful city of welcoming people and wonderful food. I was there to attend Les Dames d’Escoffier International’s (LDEI) annual conference, headquartered at the Hyatt Regency Downtown on Lady Bird Lake.
LDEI is my favorite professional conference; I enjoy meeting old friends, making new ones and learning more. Members are women leaders in the food, fine beverage and hospitality industries and membership is by invitation. There are 29 chapters of this august organization.
Sessions provide insights on everything from the culinary aspects of food to social responsibility in agriculture. And in between, we are exposed to the foods, wines and culture of the host city.
If you follow me on Twitter and Instagram, you’ve been getting a taste of the remarkable meals we enjoyed and some of the nuggets of wisdom we learned at conference.
At Saturday night’s gala, Dolores Cakebread of Cakebread Cellars was honored as a Grande Dame, joining other notables who have received this accolade, such as Julia Child, Marcella Hazan, Edna Lewis, Alice Waters and Anne Willan.
There is a lovely luncheon each year in which the food brands and agricultural commodity boards who have partnered with LDEI to support the conference collaborate on a buffet lunch. My PR client, Kerrygold, was a partner once again this year, as was the California Fig Board.
And since cheese and figs go so beautifully together, in addition to a bounty of Irish cheeses, Kerrygold served fig tartlets with Cashel Blue cheese. The recipe, developed by the fig board, was so delicious and so popular at the luncheon that I am sharing it with you today.
The chef at the Hyatt Regency baked the filling in tartlet shells instead of using the prepared frozen puff pastry called for in the recipe. This filling would even be good topping flatbread such as naan or pita, and baked, creating a sophisticated pizza.
Caramelized Onion, Fig and Cashel Blue Cheese Tartlets
Adapted from the California Fig Board, original recipe from Chef Lia Fallon
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced onion
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
4 frozen prepared 4-inch puff pastry tart shells
8 fresh California figs, sliced
4 ounces Cashel Blue cheese, crumbled
In heavy skillet over low heat, heat oil and sauté onions, cooking gently for 10 minutes or until very soft. Add butter, brown sugar and balsamic vinegar; continue to cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for 20 to 30 minutes until onions are very soft, caramelized and jam-like. Cool.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Divide onion mixture among pastry shells; top with sliced figs and crumbled blue cheese. Crimp edges of each tart in about 8 places to make free form; arrange on baking sheet. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or as directed on package, until golden and crisp.
Note: For dessert, recipe serves 2 with 2 tartlets per serving.
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