Come Visit Spain in La Quinta, California!

We are heading to Spain in August as part of our staycation summer program at Figue Mediterranean.  Our bar will feature Spanish influenced cocktails and wines and our menu will feature a selection of cold tapas, hot tapas and bigger dishes like Paella and fideua.  We look forward to serving you soon!

 

Figue Comida

 

Cold Tapas

Pa Amb Tomàquet     $14

Spanish Tomato Bread

Serrano Ham, Manchego Cheese

 

Piquillo Pepper     $9

Rock Shrimp Salad, fried Basil

Gazpacho Andaluz     $9

chilled Tomato and Vegetable Soup

Marinated Figs in Sherry     $9

toasted Brioche, Lavender Honey

Goat Cheese and Basil

Lobster Bocadillo     $19

Spanish Lobster Roll, smoked Paprika Chip

Hot Tapas

 

Chiperones Fritos     $14

deep fried Calamari with Chorizo,

Chorizo Aioli

 

Patatas bravas     $8

crispy Yukon Gold Potatoes, Rouille

Barcelona Canalons     $9

Canalons filled with Veal, Pork and Chicken

Parmesan Sauce

 

Spicy Pork Meatballs     $9

Tomato sauce, Cucumber salad

Plancha sea scallops     $16

Zucchini Spaghetti, Carrot Saffron Emulsion

Big Plates

Fideuà     $33

rustic Catalan ‘Pasta Paella’, Lobster, Mussels, Shrimp, Aioli

 

Figue Paella     $28

Chicken, Chorizo, Shrimp, Halibut and Clams

slow cooked with Saffron Rice, Tomatoes and Peas

Estofat de Bou     $28

Catalan Beef Cheek Mole, Butifarra Sausages

Delicias $15                                                                              Encanto          $25

Cristalino Cava Brut Rose, Penedes                                      2011 Nisia Verdejo, Rueda

2011 Paco & Lola Albarino, Rias Baixas                                2009 Ardevol Anjoli, Priorat

      2010 Tres Picos Garnacha, Campo Borja                             Lustau ‘East India’ Sherry, Perez

 

I’m feelin Shawarmie: Deconstructed Lamb Saddle Shawarma, aka Lebanese Lamb Burritos

Warning: Purists will be pissed off!  This is an upscale expensive version of what commonly is a street food in the Middle East.

Warning # 2: I do not have a tower and I did not use a vertical spit…  I used my traditional spit and basted frequently.

OK, now that I have clarified things I hope to have kept the hate mail to a minimum.  I work at a great Mediterranean restaurant in the middle of Southern California’s desert called Figue.  With temperatures soaring in the mid 110’s to 120’s this time of year I got to thinking what do other hot cultures eat this time of year.  My overheated brain wandered past cool bowls of gazpacho and cucumber soups drizzled with Greek yogurt to the Middle East, specifically shawarma.  Even with the heat I still want real food… that shocked me.  I really thought this time of year I would wither away nibbling on frozen popsicles and salads.  Part of the problem is my friend and boss, Lee Morcus, owner of Figue Mediterranean, absolutely LOVES food too and we talk a lot.  We share texts about food, emails about food, face to face conversations about food. Pretty much every single time we are together food comes up. Lee has to be credited with getting me to put shawarma on the menu recently.  I can’t remember if it was his mouth drooling description of eating shawarma at some point in his life or the fact that he is of Lebanese decent and that triggered my mind.  However it came to be, here is how I have been making it lately.  I apologize to cooks who need exact recipes, this is not one of them.  The first thing is starting with high quality lamb.  We buy our from a small cooperative of farms out East called Elysian Fields.  It is a collaborative effort between former lawyer Keith Martin and Chef Thomas Keller and has often been referred to as “Kobe Lamb” because of the unsurpassable quality.  If you want to taste what lamb should taste like please visit Elysian Field’s website and find a way to get some.

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For our shawarma I used the best cut available, a saddle of lamb.  I boned it out leaving both the tenderloin and filet attached.  Then I made a paste from garlic, cilantro and ginger and spread it all over.

IMG_20130727_131019_455 IMG_20130727_131514_517I sprinkled a spice mix tentatively called “Shawarma Lamb Mix” all over the lamb and tied it up.  The spice mix was basically a mixture of black pepper, cardamon, fennel seed, cumin, star anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, paprika, sumac and smoked Maldon salt.

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Then I cooked our lamb in our almond wood fired rotisserie and cooked it for six hours basting it frequently with it’s own juices.  Obviously the picture below is chickens (stuffed with herbs and preserved lemons seasoned with Moroccan spices) spinning on our rotisserie…  Sexy, isn’t it?

Figue Training 36We shave the lamb off when it is fully cooked and served it on flatbread we make in house.

Baking Bread 02I top the flatbread with a sauce made from Harissa Paste and Tomatoes, cover with shaved lamb dripping in it’s cooking juices, a salad of cucumbers, red onions and heirloom tomatoes flavored with sumac and parsley and mint, then drizzled with a tahini sauce (tahini, lemon juice, salt, pepper, lamb fat and shawarma spice mix)…  WOW is it good!  I sold out both Friday and Saturday nights.  Come soon to taste this dish!

Here is an incredibly bad shot from my camera phone:

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Salumi: How many Chefs have been led astray by this Book?

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Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn…  What an amazing book, absolute food porn for us Chefs and foodies alike.  The problem is two fold, first, it has me curing everything in sight.  I got five Kuni Kuni pigs from Cook Pig the other day.  I normally use them all for Porchetta but got a bug up my ass and decide to make a ton of charcuterie.  I suppose I should back up and mention that I am Chef of Figue Mediterranean in La Quinta, California…  a relatively new restaurant hopefully popping up on the national level soon.  One of the big features of our operation is a charcuterie bar reminiscent of a high end sushi bar.  The intent was always that we would make our own charcuterie but I never had much time till now.  I suppose the whole opening a restaurant thing got in the way.

Figue Training 09So today sous chef extraordinaire Alex Hernandez and myself set about curing everything in sight.  Filetto cured with Aleppo Pepper and Orange; citrus and fennel cured lonzo, pancetta, spicy guanciale and my first attempt at coppa…  I scared our sommelier Celeste because I told her that I would hang my meat in her wine box since the temperature and humidity was perfect.  I think the thought of over 100 pounds of meat hanging next to her great wine selections scared her…

 

Here are photos from the day’s work sprinkled with a few other forays into Charcuterie world:

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Lamb Mortadella made from Elysian Fields lamb…  It tastes so good!  I have been serving it with house made Fig Pickles

IMG_20130712_123929_178Truffled Veal Sausage that I featured for my Bastille Day menu…  The focus was Famous Last Meals from the Bastille.  The Marquis de Sade ate these.

IMG_20130727_160925_333 IMG_20130727_144426_338cures and a rather tattered kitchen notebook dating back to 2003

IMG_20130727_145246_158 IMG_20130727_144354_346 IMG_20130727_142702_887All in all we cured 100 pounds of freshly butchered pork.  We used the salt box method which essentially is rubbing every single crevice of meat in coarse sea salt, vacuum packing everything then letting it sit refrigerated for a few days.  The basic procedure for all whole muscle meats is the same.  What varied and will vary is the seasoning in the final curing.  Since my palate of flavors includes France, Italy Spain, Basque region, Lebanon, Greece, Morocco and anywhere else in the Mediterranean I have a lot of historical flavor combinations to pull from, not too mention the mixing of cultures.  In six weeks we will have a tasty selection of house meats for our charcuterie bar.

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Desert Star Weekly Published my article about BBQ

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It’s hard to even fathom turning my oven on with summer’s heat so hot that if you dropped a grape it would turn to raisin before hitting the ground.  More and more my mind wanders towards thoughts like: Would an egg really fry if I dropped one on the sidewalk? Or could I really bake cookies on the dashboard of my VW Jetta? Yes, it’s my first summer in the Desert, yes it is hot, but that is no reason to stop cooking.  In fact, summer forces me to light the barbecue and explore outdoor cooking with renewed passion.

There are so many colorful theories as to the true origins of the term barbeque.  Ask a group of fervent believers and you will get a host of different answers.  The two most plausible originate with the French term ‘barbe a queue’ and the Taino Indian word ‘barbacoa’.

‘Barbe a queue’ comes from French speaking Haitians who were quite fond of spit roasting whole animals (and the occasional tourist) over slow burning fires. Barbe means whiskers and queue is the tail, therefore barbe a queue denotes a spit roasted whole animal skewered from it’s whiskers to it’s tail.

Others theorize barbeque is the Americanization of the Taino Indian term barbacoa, which refers to a framework of green wood built to slow cook fish and meats over an open wood fire.  When the Spanish made their way from the West Indies to the shores of our continent, they brought this cooking technique everywhere they conquered and pillaged.

By the early 1600’s, backyard barbeque feuds in Virginia were so frequent it was illegal to carry a firearm to one in Jamestown.  Probably even back then folks argued whether or not what they prepared was true barbeque. The word barbeque shows up in George Washington’s 1769 diary where he mentions that he traveled to Alexandria to attend a “barbicue”.

Lamb was the favorite meat of early barbeques giving way to pigs when Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto arrived in 1539.  Pigs adapted better to the lazy colonial lifestyle than cows.  Colonists found it easier to let the pigs run wild, foraging on wild apples, nuts and other goodies and then recapture them rather than to shelter and raise them.

The battle over authentic barbeque continues to rage to this date with no side emerging as the clear winner.  No matter what history you prescribe to, get out and enjoy, if for nothing else than to keep cooler inside.

 

Get yourself a copy of Desert Star for the photos and recipes or go to their website: http://desertstarweekly.com/

Si Bon: Quite Possibly the BEST Waffles on the Planet!

Si Bon 08Last night, Lisa and I had the great pleasure of dining at Belgian restaurant Si Bon, a lovely simple eatery created by Edith and Philippe Caupain.  Philippe was opening Si Bon at the same time we were opening Figue.  He came in one day during construction at Figue to check us out and I had a great conversation with him.  My boss Lee spoke very highly of his cooking so I was excited to give it a try. My experience with Desert dining hasn’t been kind so to throw money at another restaurant lacking in quality scared me.  For instances, at lunch the same day, Lisa and I stopped in a Palm Springs seafood restaurant that was,  ‘GOD AWFUL’.

Thank god for bistros like Si Bon.  The food is absolutely fresh and delicious.  Our evening started by being greeted at the door by Philippe’s wife Edith and the dining room manager.  I apologize I forgot his name.  They seated us in the corner of the dining with a perfect view of the dining room and kitchen.  The dining room was simply decorated which perfectly fit our expectations.

Si Bon 09We were inspired to eat by the small but well thought out menu with selections like ‘fried zucchini blossoms with goat cheese; Juniper Gravlax, Cucumber & Goat Cheese Dill Cream; 9 Holers Escargots Waffle; Pan-Fried Wild Oregon Sand Dabs with Capers and Lemon; and Veal Ravioli “Florentino” Tomato Basil Sauce or Alfredo.  We settled on the fried zucchini blossoms and “San Daniele” Prosciutto on a Toasted Waffles.  Si Bon 12 Si Bon 11 Si Bon 10Philippe was kind enough to send out some waffles with gravlax for us to nibble on while we waited for our appetizers.  We ordered a bottle of Chateau du Prieur 2010 Bordeaux that was unbelievably approachable in it’s youth and an absolute steal at $30.  The waffles really steal the show at Si Bon.  Philippe said he has been working on the recipe for ten years now… it shows.  Forget every preconceived notion you ever have had about waffles.  These are not you diner or supermarket frozen waffles drenched in corn syrup and whip cream. Si Bon’s waffles are light as a feather and supremely crisp and are the perfect vehicle for a plethora of savory and sweet topping.  They danced with the gravlax and sang with the prosciutto.  I could have eaten about ten more easily.

Si Bon 13 Si Bon 14 Si Bon 16The staff was highly trained and not pushy at all.  I cannot stand eating in a restaurant and having food cleared before everyone is finished.  Maybe it is a French thing.  I call it politeness.  I also cannot stand when restaurants bring food so fast you have no time in between courses to relax and restore yourselves.  The wait staff at Si Bon was brilliant in this aspect.  The waitress was remarkable in her anticipation of our needs.

For main courses we tried the steamed Mussels and braised short rib.  The big fat juicy mussels were from Penn Cove swimming in a well seasoned and delicious broth.  I do not know why but I was expecting some mayonnaise to dip my Belgian fries in. The only blemish of the dinner was the short ribs.  They were very good but not as special as everything else on the menu.  Maybe it is just I am jaded.  Lisa enjoyed them, guests all around us enjoyed them, but I just keep thinking about those damned waffles.

Si Bon 17 Si Bon 18I normally am not a dessert person.  In fact, the only time I eat dessert is in France at the end of an extravagant meal.  I tend to prefer stinky, runny cheeses.  But at Si Bon, how can you leave without eating yet another waffle, especially doused in Belgian Chocolate and custard, topped with sugar and burnt like a creme brulee?  I could not.

Si Bon 19 Si Bon 20We finished out excellent meal with two single espresso’s properly served at the end of the meal and not with dessert.  Pure paradise.  I cannot wait to go back and eat more waffles.  My Chef hat off to Philippe and his beautiful wife Edith for creating a very simple, casual bistro with amazing food.  I highly recommend eating there soon, before season starts again and you won’t be able to find a seat!

Si Bon Belgian Bistro

40101 Monterey Ave #E5 – RANCHO MIRAGE, CA 92270

Phone: 760/837 0011  –  Fax: 760/837 0051

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Tarte Tatin: Memories of My Maman

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Tarte Tatin has been popular worldwide since its birth at Jean Tatin hotel since its creation in the late 1800’s.   Jean Tatin opened his hotel (l’Hotel Tatin) in the 1800’s.  In 1888 his two daughters Caroline and Stéphanie took over when he passed away.  Caroline managed the books while Stéphanie cooked.  From morning to night, she worked in her kitchen.  She was a great and gifted cook but not the brightest of people. Her specialty was an apple tart, served perfectly crusty, caramelized and which melted in the mouth.

The sisters were always busy during hunting season and their restaurant was exceedingly popular. One day, Stéphanie, running late because she had been flirting with a handsome hunter, rushed into the kitchen, threw the apples, butter and sugar in a pan and then rushed out to help with the other duties. The odor of caramel filled the kitchen, Stéphanie realized she’d forgotten the apple tart, but what could she do now? She decides to put the pàte brisée on top of the apples, pops the pan in the stove to brown a bit more and then turns it upside down to serve. Raves of delight emanate from the dining room. The story continues a bit from that first day. Curnonsky, the famous gastronome of the time, hears about the Tarte and declares it a marvel. Word of this new gastronomic delight reaches Paris. Maxim’s owner hears about it and he decides he must have the recipe.  He supposedly sent a cook/spy, disguised as a gardener, to Lamotte-Beuvron to discover the secret. The spy is successful, brings the recipe back to Maxim’s, and it has been on the menu of that famous restaurant ever since.  Our version features fresh California figs which currently are in season.

Figue Tarte Tatin│ Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Chef François de Mélogue

 Yield: 10” tart

ingredients:

¾ c.                Sugar

¼ c.                Butter

15                    Figs cut in half

1                      Orange, zested

1 pinch          Cinnamon

1 recipe         Tarte Tatin Dough

Directions:

In a heavy gauged pan, preferably a 10” cast iron pan, caramelize sugar and butter.  Add zested orange and cinnamon.  Arrange fig halves in pan.  Top with dough, tuck in edges around the sides and then bake in a 500˚ oven till the dough is golden brown, about ten to fifteen minutes.  Let cool slightly then flip over onto plate, dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately.

Tarte Tatin Dough

 Ingredients:

12 oz.             All Purpose Flour

¾ t.                  Salt

1 t.                   Baking Powder

½ pound       unsalted Butter

½ c.                ice cold Water

 

Directions:

Mix the flour, salt and baking powder together.  Cut the butter into small cubes and mix into the flour mixture.  You’ll know it’s mixed in correctly when it looks like coarse corn meal.  Add just enough ice cold water to make a dough.  You want to be very careful NOT to over mix the dough or else it will be tough.  Flour develops gluten which acts very similarly to a muscle.  It’s what gives our bread and pastries structure.  Let the dough rest for one full hour, or overnight.  Roll the dough out to a 12” circle.

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