Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fig and Jam Tart for Slow Food $5 Meal Challenge

Slow Food USA believes that “slow food shouldn’t have to cost more than fast food.” In an effort to take back the “value meal” they issued a $5 meal challenge. Lisa and I co-hosted a potluck to participate in the challenge.

We asked potluck attendees to bring a dish, such as an appetizer/salad, side, main course, or dessert with the caveat that the cost of the ingredients in the dish be limited to no more than $1.25 per serving. The per serving price was based on approximately 4 food items per meal. That way, by eating one serving of each course, the whole meal would be $5 or less.

In my usual fashion, I came at the challenge in a bass akwards manner. While in Atlanta for a business trip, I dined at a few local restaurants doing farm-to-table cuisine. I came away really impressed with the food overall but absolutely bowled over by the desserts. I was so knocked out, I couldn't wait to re-create the desserts at home and the potluck seemed like the perfect opportunity. So instead of purchasing ingredients that fit within the price per serving parameter, I had to work backwards and adjust recipe quantities and serving sizes to squeak under $1.25 per serving. (Math is not my strong suit but I managed.)
My first meal in Atlanta was at Miller Union, where I had a fig tart in a brown butter shell topped with whipped cream. When I first cut into the tart shell it was so brittle it cracked- I initially thought the dough had been overworked and was tough but when I tasted the brown butter flavor and the lightly crisp texture, all was forgiven. That tart was so simple and yet flat out divine.

I started researching recipes to create a brown butter tart shell immediately upon my return home. I tried three different iterations and have not yet hit on one I’m satisfied with, which is why I didn’t share a recipe here. You can be sure that if I finally achieve that crispy yet light and supremely flavorful brown butter tart crust that I had at Miller Union, I’ll update this post with the recipe.

The prototype shown above was a good start but the tart crust flavor was off a bit and the taste of the fresh, raw figs got lost. Also, there was no way I was going to make the cost per serving limit with individual tarts so I went back to the drawing board. The second crust attempt didn’t even rate filling and got tossed into the trash. On my third attempt, I decided I could live with it even if it wasn't exactly the crust that I was looking for.
In the end I went with a 9 inch tart shell filled with figs roasted in honey arranged over Confituras award winning Texas fig preserves and served with cream whipped with Pure Luck Dairy June's Joy goat cheese and honey. I estimated that when cut judiciously, the tart would yield 10 slices with a cost per serving of 87 cents. Topped with 1 1/2 tablespoons of whipped goat cheese cream at 13 cents, the grand total per serving came in at exactly $1. Whew!

I admit I was a little skeptical at first that you could serve a delicious meal made from high quality ingredients for only $5 per person. After enjoying the creative and delicious dishes that the others came up with for the challenge, I can attest that it's a fact.


  1. What a great challenge! I love figs and your tart looks fabulous, Shelley! Looking forward to your brown butter tart recipe.

  2. What a great idea for a potluck, and your tart looks delicious! I think I need more figs in my life - especially if they are roasted with honey!

  3. Figs always scare me a little bit. I always cut them and seem to have trouble in the process... maybe I am dumb!! But this looks really, really good. I just bought my first tart pan, so I can try it!!! :D Love everything surrounding the 5 dollar dinners. Wish I could have been at THAT meal!!!

  4. That is a thing of beauty! That tart would not be out of place in a Parisian patisserie, you did an awesome job.
    *kisses* HH

  5. I love that this beauty of a tart, with whipped goat cheese cream, was $1 per serving! That kind of low-cost dining is something I can do happily.

  6. I thought I had left a comment before but it did not make it I guess! I did not want to leave this great fig tart without a comment! What a great way to celebrate slow food! I like the way you did it under budget! I always loved the purple-greenish color of figs.

  7. Shelley, so nice and pretty your fig tart...looks delicious and great price!
    Hope you are having a fantastic week :-)

  8. Your fig tart turned out so pretty and I bet it was just yummy!