Guest Blogger: Southern Lifestyle Expert P. Allen Smith

A huge welcome to renowned garden designer, author and television personality P. Allen Smith! We truly could not be more thrilled to kick-off our Holiday Guest Blogger Series with P. Allen’s delicious holiday recipes: fig chutney and a cranberry-pear tart! He served us that delicious chutney along with warm brie and crusty bread when we visited earlier this season to photograph the holiday project ideas you’ll find in our sister magazine’s December issue. We think you’ll enjoy both the recipes and the projects!


(photo by Nancy Nolan)

The holiday season is in full swing, and I for one could not be happier. This is one of my most favorite times of the year””what’s better than spending time with friends and family, exchanging gifts and good cheer, and of course, indulging a bit in delicious food?

I am of the opinion that the best food is fresh food; using seasonal ingredients imparts a level of flavor that simply cannot be matched by canned and processed foods…especially when it comes to fruits and vegetables. There’s just something special about picking out fresh produce from the farmers’ market or, even better, from my own garden, and heading straight to the kitchen to prepare a feast.

Now, I admit there’s another reason I’m excited about this particular holiday season””my sixth book comes out at the end of December, and it’s a cookbook! After years of featuring cooking segments on my television shows and on the web site, creating a cookbook for the Garden Home book series just seemed like the natural next step! P. Allen Smith’s Seasonal Recipes from the Garden is a celebration of using fresh, seasonal ingredients to create wonderful meals, and is filled with my own recipes, as well as memorable recipes from friends and family members.

The hardest part of creating the cookbook was narrowing down all of my recipes, and some just had to be left out. Two particular recipes, for fig chutney and a cranberry-pear tart, are just perfect for the holidays, so I wanted to share them with you all. I love the versatility of the chutney, as it can be used as either an appetizer or an accompaniment to pork and poultry dishes, while the balance of sweet and tangy in the tart makes for a truly decadent finish to a holiday meal.

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do, and I wish you a wonderful holiday season! Cheers!

Fig Chutney

2 1/2 cups red wine vinegar

1/2 lb. light brown sugar

1 1/2 cup diced white onion

1 1/2 tsp. yellow mustard seeds

Zest of one lemon

1/2 cinnamon stick

1 3/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. ground allspice

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

1 1/4 lbs. firm, slightly ripe fresh figs, rinsed, stems removed and sliced

In a large saucepan combine the vinegar, sugar, onion, mustard seeds, lemon zest, cinnamon stick, salt, allspice and cloves and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until mixture is thickened and reduced by two-thirds, forming a fairly thick syrup. Add the figs and cook gently until the figs are very soft and beginning to fall apart and most of the liquid they’ve produced has evaporated, about 15 minutes. The mixture will be quite thick.

Transfer the chutney to a non-reactive container and let come to room temperature before serving. The chutney may be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks. It is great served over brie or as an accompaniment to roast pork or poultry.

Cranberry-Pear Tart

For the crust you may choose to use readymade rolled crust from the grocery rather than making a crust from scratch. This is a 9-inch crust and you will need a glass, ceramic or metal pie plate for this. Follow the manufacturer’s directions on the box, and allow the crust to cool completely.

Tart filling

3 cups dry red wine

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups water

3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 tsp. lemon zest

6 whole cloves

1 cinnamon stick, broken in half

5 large slightly under-ripe Bosc pears, peeled, halved and cored, each half cut into 3 long wedges

1 cup fresh cranberries

1 8 oz. package of cream cheese

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 Tbsp. chopped unsalted pistachios

Allow the cream cheese to soften to room temperature. Combine the wine, sugar, water, lemon juice, lemon zest, cloves and cinnamon stick in large skillet. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add the pears and return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until pears are tender when pierced with a knife, turning occasionally, 15 to 20 minutes depending on ripeness. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pears to a plate and place them in the freezer to cool while you continue with the remaining steps.

Add the cranberries to a bowl of hot water to soften. While the cranberries are softening, boil the poaching liquid in the skillet until reduced to 1 1/4 cups, stirring often, about 10 minutes. When the cranberries are softened, drain and transfer to a plate. You can make the pears, cranberries, syrup and crust one day ahead of time, refrigerate, and then assemble prior to serving. You will need to let the reduced syrup come to room temperature if you choose to do this.

To assemble the tart, combine the cream cheese and sugar in a bowl using a spoon or handheld mixer. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the inside of the cooled crust. Starting at the outer edges of the crust, arrange pears closely like the spokes of a wheel with stem ends toward center. Arrange remaining pears in the center in a smaller circle. Scatter the cranberries over the pears and drizzle the tart with the reduced syrup. Top with the chopped pistachios. Slice and serve.