4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar, divided
2/3 cup mascarpone, preferably imported, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon powdered gelatin
1/3 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pre-baked sweet nut cookie tart crust
4 cups fresh black figs, about 20, cut lengthwise into 1/4 -inch slices
1 tablespoon good-quality balsamic vinegar
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1. In a heat proof bowl or the top of a double-boiler, whisk the egg yolks together with 2 tablespoons of the sugar and the Marsala. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the water does not touch the bottom of the upper container. Whisk constantly until the mixture nearly triples in volume and begins to thicken, 3 to 5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the yolks or they will scramble.
2. Immediately place the bowl with the egg mixture into a larger bowl filled with ice water, and continue to whisk a couple of minutes until the mixture cools.
3. In a large bowl, whip the mascarpone over low speed until creamy, about 10 seconds. Increase the speed slightly, and gradually beat in the cooled yolk mixture until completely incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl once or twice with a rubber spatula. Set aside.
4. Place 1 1/2 teaspoons water in a small, heat-proof measuring cup. Sprinkle the powdered gelatin over the water, allowing the gelatin to soften. Place the measuring cup in a small pan of lightly simmering water to allow the gelatin to dissolve and warm.
5. In a chilled mixing bowl, combine the heavy cream with 2 teaspoons sugar. Beat on medium speed until the cream just begins to thicken, about 2 minutes. Add the warmed gelatin and the vanilla extract and beat just until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised.
6. With a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream mixture into the mascarpone mixture; you should have about 2 cups. Scrape the mixture into the baked tart shell, smooth the top with the spatula, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to set.
7. Remove the chilled tart from the refrigerator. Starting at the outside edge, place the fig slices, pointed ends upward, in concentric circles on the filling, tilting the slices so they lean slightly toward the edge of the crust in a petal-like fashion.
8. In a small saucepan, combine the balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon water, the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and cornstarch and stir until the sugar and starch are dissolved. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly so the mixture does not burn. Immediately remove from the heat and pour the glaze into a heat-proof glass measuring cup or bowl. Using a pastry brush, brush the glaze onto the figs. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before unmolding. The completed tart will keep, refrigerated, for up to 2 days.
Each of 10 servings: 365 calories; 5 grams protein; 37 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 24 grams fat; 12 grams saturated fat; 133 mg. cholesterol; 48 mg. sodium.