Fig, Fennel, and Lemon Tart

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

This southern Italian-inspired tart is made especially aromatic with just a touch of fennel seed. But it’s the figs, standing between the two contrasting flavors—lemon and anise—that bring this dessert together. Be sure to macerate the lemon slices and make the pastry a day in advance.

Though figs come in a rainbow of colors ranging from black to purple to brown to green to tan, for me black ones work best here. Whatever type you choose, please be sure they’re ripe and bulging, without soft spots or broken skins.


  • 1 large (6 ounces) organic lemon, washed
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ recipe Flaky Pastry (recipe follows)
  • 1 large whole egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons almond meal or tablespoons flour
  • pounds (about 24) fresh black figs
  • teaspoons lightly bruised fennel seeds


  1. A day in advance, to prepare the lemon: use a 1mm slicing blade fitted on a food processor or a mandoline to make paper-thin slices. Remove all the seeds and put the slices in a bowl. Mix with the sugar and salt; cover and let stand for 24 hours at room temperature.
  2. Also a day ahead, make the pastry as directed in the following recipe and refrigerate overnight.
  3. The following day, butter a 9-inch shallow tart pan with a removable bottom. Remove the pastry round from the refrigerator and let soften for 10 minutes. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to an 11-inch thin round. Fit the pastry into the prepared pan; press the dough gently into the bottom and up the sides of the pan without stretching. Chill in the coldest part of the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prick the bottom of the pastry shell in several places with a fork. Line with foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights, rice, or dried beans. Put the pastry shell on a baking tile or the bottom rack of the oven and bake for 12 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and let cool for about 15 minutes.
  5. While the pastry is cooling, drain the lemon slices, reserving the juices. In a food processor, combine the whole egg, egg yolk, butter, drained lemon slices, and almond meal or flour. Pulse until well blended.
  6. Raise the oven temperature to 400°F. Spread the lemon filling over the cooled tart shell. Cover with the halved figs; sprinkle the fennel seeds on top. Bake for 40 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, in a small nonreactive saucepan, bring the reserved lemon juices to a boil. Cook until reduced to 2 tablespoons glaze. Let cool until just warm to the touch.
  8. Remove the tart from the oven. Brush with the lemon glaze. This tart is best served at room temperature.