Any time a dish -- sweet or savory -- doesn't taste quite perfect, or seems to need a little spark of something, I reach for a lemon. Lemon juice and zest breathe new life into flavors, bring zippy contrast to the sweetness of fruit, and add an element of springy freshness to almost any recipe. Here, I use zest to pick up the flavor of a basic tart crust – and it also perfumes the figs, mild goat cheese, and honey that are dotted on top.
Crostata is my favorite quick-trick for making fruit tarts, because you can skip the tart pan altogether. It's an Italian flat-hand formed tart. On top, you can use almost any jam plus soft fruit or berries, as long as it isn't too juicy (orange sections or grapes, for example, would be too juicy).
Make the dough: Blend the flour, sugar, and lemon zest at low speed in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the butter and continue blending at low speed until the mixture is coarse and sandy-looking. Add the beaten egg and blend just until the mixture comes together. Form into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
On a floured surface, roll the dough out to a rough circle, about 8 inches in diameter. The dough may seem crumbly but you can just push it back together and make patches if necessary. Transfer to the prepared pan. All around the circle, fold in the outer 1/2-inch of the pastry to form a naturally raised, "rustic" edge to the tart. Don't press the edge down.
Using your fingers, break the goat cheese into small pieces, sprinkling it over the bottom of the tart (not the edges). Arrange the fig halves in concentric circles over the goat cheese and drizzle the figs with honey. Bake about 25 to 30 minutes, or until the underside of the tart crust is browned.
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, "Gale Gand's Short and Sweet" by Gale Gand and Julia Moskin, Clarkson N. Potter Publishers, 2004