summer pho and the living is easy

This past weekend we went to a brunch birthday party.  (Now why haven't I had a brunch bday party before?? It is, after all, my favorite meal!  Note to self...)  Using a fresh batch of yard figs, I made this very delicious and well-received fig tart with lemon marscapone cream and a rosemary cornmeal crust (recipe to follow).

The real star of this brunch, though, was pho.  Yep, that's right, we sat outside in late July, eating steeping hot pho in 100 degree weather.  And it was delicious...

Next to the stock pot of bone marrow broth, there was a pan of rice noodles and poached eggs at the ready.  Then came a counter of fixin's for some pho real DIY-ness.  Slices of brisket and tendon, bean sprouts, lime wedges, thinly sliced onion, zucchini strands, green onions, sea salt, cilantro, jalapenos-- even that purple basil they always have in Vietnamese restaurants!

a bountiful DIY pho bar

Here is the recipe I used for the fig tart..which pared very well with both pho and Tecate!
Fresh Fig Tart with Rosemary Cornmeal Crust and Lemon Marscapone Cream
(slightly altered version of this Gourmet recipe)
For crust
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal (I used stone ground and it was fine)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (that's all I had-- and it worked great!)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons ice water
For filling
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese (8 oz)
  • 3 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • couple tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 lb fresh figs
Make crust:
1. Pulse together flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add butter and rosemary and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Drizzle evenly with 4 tablespoons ice water and pulse until just incorporated.

2. Gently squeeze a small handful: If it doesn't hold together, add more water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, pulsing after each addition and continuing to test.

3. Press dough evenly onto bottom and up sides of tart pan with floured fingers. Smooth dough with a small offset metal spatula or back of a spoon (floured if necessary), then roll a rolling pin over top of pan to trim dough flush with rim. Chill crust until firm, about 30 minutes (I only had time for 10 minutes and that was fine!)

4. Preheat oven to 400°F.   Bake crust in middle of oven until center and edges are golden, 25 to 30 minutes (don't worry if bottom of crust cracks), then cool in pan on a rack.

Prepare filling and assemble tart:

5. Whisk together sour cream, mascarpone, zest, lemon juice, salt, and honey (to taste) in a bowl.

6. Remove side of tart pan and spread mascarpone cream in shell. Cut figs lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices and arrange decoratively over cream. Drizzle with honey.