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IMG_1288 Figs, prosciutto, and ricotta piled high on a parmesan short bread. A kind of mini tart/tartine hybrid inspired by A Farewell To Arms, by Ernest Hemingway.

The figs were sweet and sticky and the seeds crunched between our teeth. Those we did not eat we used in cooking. We worked until it was evening and when the sun had gone down suddenly we were not so hot anymore. The breeze was light and the sound of the birds outside the window was pleasant, we laughed and talked well into the night and the wine was very fine.

That was my Hemingway impression. You’re welcome.

Spoiler-Free Summary:

Frederic Henry is a young Lieutenant in the ambulance corps of the Italian Army during World War I. While stationed there he meets a young English nurse named Katherine and the two fall in love. Frederic becomes injured, Katherine becomes pregnant, and the two must find a way to be together in spite of their continuing responsibilities to the war.

Notes From The Piebrary:

Whenever someone mentions audiobooks I always recommend A Farewell To Arms. Do you know who read this book to me? John Slattery. From Mad Men. That man was made to read Hemingway and if you disagree, I will fight you. He’s got that old school romantic radio voice and does the accents and everything!

Farewell to Arms is Hemingway’s third novel, published when he was still fairly young (thirty) and loosely based on his own experience of World War I. Like Frederic, he also drove an ambulance in Italy until two months into his service, when he was wounded by an artillery shell and his legs riddled with over 200 pieces of shrapnel. Many people have speculated that Farewell is a kind of ode to or attempt to get over Agnes von Kurowsky, a nurse seven years his senior whom he was madly in love with and hoped to marry. Of course this is a dangerous game to play, blurring the lines between an author and his art, but it’s interesting to try and parse his feelings on the matter, especially in light of the ending.

Parsing This Pie:

I’m committing sacrilege. We’re stepping away from the traditional pies and tarts towards more of a tartlet/tartine hybrid. Initially this was going to be a tart, but I decided to play with the construction to make it more bite-sized. It was probably going to happen at some point, and I think this is pretty apropos for Hemingway. My reasoning being that Hemingway was a man who loved his drink and he loved Spain. While this book has nothing to do with Spain, I thought it might be interesting to try a tapas-style (or primi, I guess, if we’re keeping it Italian), small plate version of the tart I was envisioning for this book.

When Hemingway himself was injured bringing chocolate and cigarettes back from the canteen, but in the book Frederic is transporting a hunk of cheese for some cold pasta the other ambulance drivers are eating. I knew I wanted to start with parmesan as the base and build some refreshing, cooler layers on top. I love prosciutto, period, but it is especially good wrapped around figs (which will be in season again in August! Bookmark this recipe now!). Ricotta seemed the logical choice to stick it all together.

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Recipe:

Parmesan Shortbread:
-1 3/4 cup flour
-3/4 cup parmesan
-1 tsp salt
-1 cup butter, cubed

Toppings*:
-12 tbs ricotta
-6 slices of prosciutto
-8 figs

*Approximate for two dozen tartlets

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine all the ingredients for the shortbread in a food processor. On a floured surface, divide the dough into two and use the flat of your hand to roll it into a log about a foot long each. Cut into twenty-four equal pieces, about an inch thick each. Press each round flat and place two inches apart on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes until the edges are lightly browned.

When the shortbread has cooled, simply layer with a bit of prosciutto (I used about a fourth of a slice per round, although the saltiness of the meat is really nice and I wish I’d made it more pronounced), about a 1/2 a tablespoon of ricotta per round, and a few little slices of fig. (I also tried sprinkling with balsamic vinegar, but it made the shortbread kind of soggy.)

Were I to make these again I would probably use a bit more prosciutto on each round and might add some more seasoning to the shortbread. The recipe I based it on used garlic, cayenne, and salt, but I was afraid to overpower the toppings.

Enjoy with wine or grappa or vermouth in the company of a loved one on a fine summer night.

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