Figue’s Figs

Our baked figs at Figue Mediterranean is undoubtedly the most requested appetizer on our menu.  It is the culmination of what Figue is in one bite, charcuterie, figs, labne, Provencal honey and Sicilian pistachios.  The melding of cultures and cuisines.  The inspiration originated when I bought Greg and Lucy Malouf’s excellent and inspiring book ‘Arabesque’ and saw a similar dish.  Ours is modified from their original recipe but still pays tribute to it’s origins.

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Please click the link below for a printable copy of the recipe:

Figs by Francois de Melogue at Figue

Gimme Sanctuary

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Sanctuary

noun \ˈsaŋ(k)-chə-ˌwer-ē\

: a place where someone or something is protected or given shelter

: the protection that is provided by a safe place

: the room inside a church, synagogue, etc., where religious services are held

: the place where Beau MacMillan is a deity

About two weeks ago, I got this hair brained idea to get one last weekend before season begins at Figue Mediterranean and I will be too busy for anything except maybe nursing a Mai Tai next to my pool.  The restaurant world can be brutal and one needs a place of refuge where deities nourish your soul and stomach  I thought about a culinary tour of Los Angeles finest eateries or camping in the woods and sucking down a few choice bottles amidst legs of duck confit then it came to me…  go visit Chef Beau at the Sanctuary at Camelback Mountain in Paradise Valley, Arizona, even the name implies happiness.  We loaded our Jetta Sportwagen and headed through the desert to the Sanctuary.

The drive from Palm Springs is very easy and only took about four hours door to door, depending on how many playgrounds your three year old insists on stopping at.  We arrived at the Sanctuary and immediately felt the truly sincere and gracious welcome the entire staff gives.  I have been to many great resorts, hotels and inns in my life and sometimes have experienced staffs who are annoyed by your presence.  At the Sanctuary, they make you feel like your are a loved family member they haven’t seen in years.  Everyone from the valet to the check in attendant to the gentleman that shows you your room was beyond kind and helpful.

Sanctuary 01 Sanctuary 03We were given the Turquoise X Spa Room, a wonderful two room suite with a great balcony and many other incredible amenities.  Lisa took to the room like a fish to water.  We called room service and ordered two cocktails to quickly get us into the vacation mode. We were meeting Chef Beau MacMillan, Beau Mac, for a pizza party thrown at a friend’s house and I needed to shake the road off.

Sanctuary 05I have known Chef Beau for many years.  He actually started working with me several years ago at a small restaurant in Carver, Massachusetts called the Cranebrook Tea Room.  As a Chef you have many youngsters work for you and it is hard to keep track of all the people you meet.  I had forgotten about Beau till one day he called Claudia Springs Winery, where I was working in 2010, to track me down.  My boss, Bob Klindt, being the great boss he was, took Beau’s info and said he would pass it on.  Bob called my office and said some guy named Beau was looking for me.  Being cynical,  I quickly responded ‘did he say daddy or IRS or any other keywords that may help me remember why that name was familiar’.  Bob chuckled and had me call him.  It took two phone conversations before I remembered Beau fully who now had become a national celebrity and TV star.  Yes, 14 years of not owning a TV made me rather ignorant when it came to pop trivia.  We eventually hooked up and did a lunch and learn program at Elements, the Asian inspired restaurant at the Sanctuary and a few other events Beau was gracious enough to include me in. Sometimes being a Chef is like being a father, you take such a personal interest in those who learned the craft under your tutelage, they make you proud then they leave the nest to forge their own life and identity.  Over time, they call you either from a psychiatric ward after they’ve gone postal or when life is particularly good. Thankfully Beau called me because life had shined it’s lovelight on him and blessed him with a joyous career.   When I googled Beau and saw both the Chef and the man he became it made me super proud.  Anyone who knows Beau or is fortunate to cross his paths quickly realizes what a genuine and wonderful person he is and what an immensely talented Chef he has become.  The Sanctuary is far better off having Beau leading the culinary charge or as an employee told me this last trip  Elements is Beau.  He could not have been more correct.

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We had a few hours to kill before the pizza extravaganza and tried fruitlessly to get our son Beaumont down.  Every time we got close he popped up.  Eventually we headed to the party and hoped for the best.  To our, and especially Beaumont’s delight, the house we went to was a child’s paradise with slides, pool and Thomas the train train set.  I am so embarrassed I did not remember everyone’s name because they all were so amazingly kind and wonderful.  We drank Champagne, downed a bottle of Beaumont’s wine.  In 2010, little Beau’s birth year, I made a barrel of Cabernet Sauvignon with Bob Klindt to last Beau’s entire life and to have something to remember his Daddy by.

beaumontThe party was awesome.  Beau and I threw pies and I made some baked figs like we do at Figue.  I had a great time… thanks to all that were there.

Sanctuary 11 Sanctuary 12 Sanctuary 13 Sanctuary 14 Sanctuary 15At the end, or at least as long as little Beau let us stay before the inevitable meltdown, we watched Guy Fieri’s new Food Network show with some of the folks involved.  Here is my short shameless plug: make a food show about the son of a Chef who grows up cooking and his relationship with food – a kids cooking program.  I know most shows are reality based competitions and I don’t know crap about TV but my little son started his life eating Duck Confit with Truffles and helps cook whenever he can.  OK, plug over.  The other thing I feel compelled to mention is Guy Fieri’s twin works for me…

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We drove back to the Sanctuary not the least bit hungry and thirsty but managed to do some damage at the Edge Bar. I wish I could say I took that picture below but I “borrowed” it from the Sanctuary’s photo collection online.

download (1)We indulged in a few cocktails before heading inside to eat.

Sanctuary 25We thought about eating at the newly renovated Jade Bar but decided upon sitting at a proper table.  It is not often we get to dine without our son.

Sanctuary 22 Sanctuary 28We enjoyed many fantastic dishes, shoo, they all were fantastic.  I apologize about the photo quality.  Normally I am a bit more anal about getting the shots right but somehow alcohol influenced mt skillset.

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Fire Roasted Oysters, Spinach, Lop Chung, Hijiki Aioli, or what is left of it.  This is one of the best dishes I will ever eat.  I am an oyster snob.  I want nothing more than an oyster and lemon, maybe.  I never eat cooked oysters.  HOLY MOLY!Sanctuary 31

Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Shrimp Toast, roasted Scallop and Mandarin Teriyaki: a beautiful marriage of land and sea.  I order foie gras whenever I can because in California it is easier to buy Jamaican herbs than it is foie gras.Sanctuary 32

Octopus a la Plancha, pickled Mustard Root, Celery Hearts, Fingerlings and Smoked Paprika.  A great dish.  My only slam is now that at Figue we have a new way of cooking octopus it is hard to eat it any other way.  Beau’s was very good but our method is better.  Please do not take that as critical.  It is more like picking fly shit out of black pepper.Sanctuary 33

Artichoke Tart, local Goat Cheese, Preserved Lemon and Balsamic Chili glaze.  One word:  YUM!Sanctuary 34 Sanctuary 36

We ate the Char sui Pork Belly which was out of this world stellar yummo.  We were so stuffed I felt like that scene in Monty Python where a waiter (John Cleese) is trying to feed just one thin wafer mint to a guy who already has gorged himself on the food, see here.  Caution it is disgusting!Sanctuary 37We came back to our room to find Beaumont had fallen asleep sitting up…  Oh what a joyous and stupendous night.  Lisa and I thank Beau and his team at Elements and all the kind folks at the Sanctuary for giving us that safe haven for the weekend.  It was paradise.  I strongly urge any one of my three readers to venture to Arizona and enjoy Beau’s magic…  For reservations and more information please go to the Sanctuaries web site: http://www.sanctuaryoncamelback.com/index.html

Why Small Farms are Important: Support National Eat Local Food Day September 22nd.

“The joy of living, I say, was summed up for me in the remembered sensation of that burning and aromatic swallow, that mixture of milk and coffee and bread by which men hold communion with tranquil pastures, exotic plantations, and golden harvests, communion with earth.”

Antoine de Saint Exupery

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It has been said that food can be either the greatest form of medicine or the slowest form of poison depending on it’s pedigree.  Where our food comes from and how it gets there is important, but It’s deeper than that, family farms are good for the American psyche and our local economy.  Family farms are generally defined as small operations run and worked by family members.  Small organic farms tend to operate more sustainably, both economically and environmentally, than their corporate counterparts. Family farms support and enhance local economies while corporate farms remove wealth and destroy the earth with their overuse of harmful chemicals and disastrous farming practices.

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“Good farmers, who take seriously their duties as stewards of Creation and of their land’s inheritors, contribute to the welfare of society in more ways than society usually acknowledges, or even knows. These farmers produce valuable goods, of course; but they also conserve soil, they conserve water, they conserve wildlife, they conserve open space, they conserve scenery.”

– Wendell Berry

There are five million less farms in America now than there was after the Depression.  In 1900, 32% of Americans worked on farms now less than 2% do.  Industrial farming has taken over.  75% of agricultural product is produced by 6% of the farms.  Part of the blame lays on our Federal governments economic policies governing not only prices set for products but in it’s relentless support of corporations by instituting ridiculous conditions to which small farmers must adhere.

“The passive American consumer, sitting down to a meal of pre-prepared food, confronts inert, anonymous substances that have been processed, dyed, breaded, sauced, gravied, ground, pulped, strained, blended, prettified, and sanitized beyond resemblance to any part of any creature that ever lived. The products of nature and agriculture have been made, to all appearances, the products of industry. Both eater and eaten are thus in exile from biological reality.”

– Wendell Berry

Family farms shorten the food chain and bring us closer to healthful and diverse food supply.  We develop relationships with the farmers, foragers and fishermen that feed our family’s.  We become a community, together.  Organic whole foods are unprocessed, natural foods in their original form which are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein, carbohydrates, fat and fiber as well as all of the hundreds of phytonutrients that work together in the proper amounts to give our body exactly what it needs to be healthy. Unlike processed food, they do not contain added flavors, colors or preservatives.

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My wife Lisa and two year old Beaumont have been eating whole foods for the last eight years almost exclusively.  90% of our diet comes from small farmer’s like De La Ranch, Bautista Creek Farm or Johnny’s Garden that we buy from at the Palm Springs Farmer’s Market.  Our weekly menu is decided on what we find that is in season rather than what a magazine tells me to eat.  As Michael Pollan once said “at home I serve the kind of food I know the story behind.”  Our Sundays are saved to enjoy the bounty of small organic farms as a family.  My son Beaumont sits on the corner and helps cook, or at least his toy pig ‘Baby’ does.

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Some small farms have Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs.  Michael Pollan says “C.S.A. reconnects you as an eater with the source of your food, offering a vivid reminder that, whatever we eat, we eat by the grace of farms and farmers, of the land, the weather and the season — not supermarkets. The C.S.A. means I also eat in the knowledge that I’m doing my small bit to defend a gorgeous patch of bottomland along Cache Creek outside the tiny town of Guinda from the oncoming wave of sprawl that threatens to engulf California’s entire Central Valley into one big, wall-to-wall housing development.”

At Figue Mediterranean, located in La Quinta (California) where I am employed as Executive Chef I buy from several small producers.  Every week I get a listing of products from dozens of farmers at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market.  I actively support the Palm Springs Farmer’s market and have several people who bring me bags of oranges, lemons and figs from their gardens that they cannot use.  My pork comes from the absolutely best pig farmer’s in the country CookPig.  We even forage for wild dates and other items we can use on our menus.  Food provides a soul satisfying and healthy connection between the Earth and ourselves.  Like St. Exupery said, we hold communion with distant farms by simply drinking our fair trade coffees and teas.  It offers our guests a very seasonal and fun way to dine that is a bit more spontaneous.  Last week I came up with seven dishes based on walking through my farmer’s market.  Our guests are sophisticated and demand healthful food.  They realize the link between whole, unengineered foods.  Here are my specials:

“Find the Shortest, Simplest way between Earth, the Hands and the Mouth”

Di Stefano Artisan Burrata Caprese $16

Slow cooked Cherry Tomatoes, Pesto, Sicilian Organic Citrus Oil

House Pickled Currant Tomatoes, Fig Vincotto and Di Stefano Burrata

Maman’s Provencal Salad $12

Bautista Creek’s simply gorgeous French Yellow and Green Beans, Fingerling Potatoes

and Tomatoes lightly flavored with Basil and organic Vallée des Baux Olive Oil

Karniyarik $14

Johnny’s Farm Eggplant stuffed with Elysian Fields Lamb, Sweet Onions and Pinenuts

drizzled with Tahini Sauce, Harissa Sauce

Diver Scallop, Piquillo pepper granite and Lime Crudo $16

Mexican Diver Scallops drizzled with Kaffir Lime Ginger vinaigrette

Piquillo Pepper Granite, Bautista Creek Finger Limes and Organic Sicilian Hot Pepper Olive Oil

Squid Ink Chitarra Pasta with Uni $18

chilled hand rolled Chitarra Pasta with fresh Dungeness Crab

Sea Urchins and Zucchini Blossom Pesto

Calamari and Octopus Salad $18

plancha fired Calamari and Spanish Octopus, baby wild Arugula,
Shiitake Mushrooms, aged Guisti 12 Year Balsamic, ‘Mother’s Milk’ Olive Oil

Jamón Ibérico de Bellota $32

shaved 2 year Iberico Ham served with Tomato Olive Focaccia, Fig Jam

14 month Mahon Sheep Cheese, house Pickled Okra

BIG PLATES

Pici with lamb Sugu $28

hand shaped rustic Pici noodles topped with slow cooked Lamb and Tomato Sugo

Roast Loup de Mer Rivieria Style – $38

Sea Bass, Swiss Chard, Reggiano Parmesan, Tomato and Garlic Confit, Saffron Jus

SWEETS

Sticky Toffee and Date Cake $9

uber moist locally foraged Date cake, Sticky Toffee Sauce

On September 22nd, Figue is proudly taking part of National Eat Local Day, a collaboration started by Chef Sarah Stegner and PR maven Cindy Kurman.  “Our hope is that leading chefs across the country can work together to raise awareness of the importance of supporting our local sustainable farms. We hope to increase the flow of local sustainable food to the restaurant tables across the country in order to protect our farm lands and to ensure their success so future generations have access, said Stegner.

Joining the two in their efforts are restaurateur Alice Waters and her chef Jérôme Waag at Chez Panesse (Berkeley, CA), Alison Price Becker (Alison Eighteen, New York City), Stephanie Pearl Kimmel (Marché, Eugene OR), Francois de Melogue (Figue Mediterranean, La Quinta CA), Mark Grosz (Oceanique, Evanston IL), Paul Fehribach (Big Jones, Chicago IL), Jamie Leeds (Hank’s Oyster Bar and Lounge, Washington DC), Nora Pouillon (Restaurant Nora, Washington DC), Norman Van Aken  (Miami, FL) and Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris (Prairie Grass Café, Northbrook, IL) and Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill and Topolobampo). The list is growing rapidly.

FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE VISIT THE WEB SITE: http://nationaleatlocalday.com/

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Figue is preparing our Diver Scallop, Piquillo pepper granite and Lime Crudo.  Mexican Diver Scallops drizzled with Kaffir Lime Ginger vinaigrette, topped with Piquillo Pepper Granite, Bautista Creek Finger Limes and Organic Sicilian Hot Pepper Olive Oil.

Chef Francois de Melogue…  I support local farm to table so much I even had my VW Westfalia tattooed

The Magic Bus

“Odd as I am sure it will appear to some, I can think of no better form of personal involvement in the cure of the environment than that of gardening. A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world. He is producing something to eat, which makes him somewhat independent of the grocery business, but he is also enlarging, for himself, the meaning of food and the pleasure of eating.”

– Wendell Berry

Here are some pictures from two of my favorite farmer’s markets, UC Davis’s and the X Street Market in Sacramento:

Vacation August 2013 Sacramento259 Vacation August 2013 Sacramento257 Vacation August 2013 Sacramento256 Vacation August 2013 Sacramento250 Vacation August 2013 Sacramento X Street Market and Jam295 Vacation August 2013 Sacramento X Street Market and Jam294 Vacation August 2013 Sacramento X Street Market and Jam290 Vacation August 2013 Sacramento X Street Market and Jam282 Vacation August 2013 Sacramento X Street Market and Jam278 Vacation August 2013 Sacramento X Street Market and Jam277

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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Asparagus Salad │ Chilled Asparagus, 63 degree Egg, Parmesan Fonduta, Crispy Speck, Baby Frisée

Sometimes copying is the sincerest form of flattery.  This dish originated in my repertoire after a cook book written by the folks of Boulevard.  Who doesn’t love a cook book with an obvious slant towards adding bacon to everything.  I never ate there but I love them!   Here is my version:

Asparagus with 63 degree egg

Asparagus Salad │ Chilled Asparagus, 63 degree Egg, Parmesan Fonduta, Crispy Speck, Baby Frisée

Chef François de Mélogue

Ingredients for four servings:

20                    Asparagus Spears, cooked, cooled

4                      63 degree Eggs, peeled

½ c                 Parmesan Fondutta

4                      sliced crispy Speck

4 oz                baby Frisee

 

 

Mise en Place:

 

1                       63 degree egg: cook eggs in circulator at 62.5 for one hour.

2                       Lay speck in a single layer on silsheet.  Cook in 200 degree oven for three hours.

 

To Order:

 

  1. 1.              Lay five asparagus spears on rectangle plate.
  2. 2.              Spoon fondutta over stalks.
  3. 3.              Top with speck then egg.
  4. 4.              Cover asparagus base with frisée tossed in olive oil.

 

Parmesan Fondutta

Ingredients for four servings:

 

1 c                  Cream

1/2  c             Parmesan

2                      Egg Yolks

pinch             Nutmeg

Mise en Place:

 

Boil cream, add cheese and nutmeg.  Whisk in egg yolks.

Figue Mediterranean’s Italian Cooking Class

Figue Mediterranean

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It is said, the Mediterranean Ends

Where the Greeks stopped planting Olive Trees.

Figue, Where the Olive Trees End

and the Tradition lives on!

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The menu of Figue is the story of the Mediterranean. It is the shared history of conquest, immigration and exploration, each wave bringing far off ingredients, cooking techniques and a cultural melding of the peoples. Savor sensations inspired by the ancient Romans who shared the art of salting and curing meats and fish, to the Moors who spread the habit of sharing many small dishes to the modern cuisines of France, Italy, Spain, Morocco, Greece and the Middle East. Each culture shared their knowledge, wisdom and cultural preferences to create the world’s first fusion cuisine.

Today’s class is focusing on Italy and Italian inspired cuisine.  The traditions of antipasti, which translates to “before the meal’, and primi piatti have their origins in Italy’s long and colorful history.  Waves of invasion spanned over 3,000 years with the Greeks, Etruscans and Arabs all leaving their indelible mark on Italy. The Greeks brought wheat and olive trees.  They showed Italians how to make wine and honey and introduced spit roasting.  The Etruscans brought early forms of polenta and the Arab Moors brought rice, nuts, saffron, flaky pastries, couscous and citrus.

The first pasta makers in southern Europe were the Greeks.  The Greek word itria is the oldest recorded word for pasta in the Mediterranean and was quickly adopted by Arabs (as itriyah) and then appeared in Spain in the 8th or 9th century known as alatria.  It appeared in the very first known Catalan cookbook written in 1324.

Pizzas originated in ancient Greece and spread throughout the Mediterranean, in particular Italy.  Prior to the discovery of the New World, almost everything we associate with a pizza today did not exist.  Pizzas were made with dough, vegetable and rarely cheese.  Tomatoes had not been discovered until the 16th century along with coffee, peppers, squashes and beans.

Northern Italy is well irrigated, lush and fairly prosperous.  Creams, eggs, butter, prosciutto, Parmesan, pancetta, balsamic, gorgonzola, basil, Umbrian olive oil, beef, truffles and other ingredients abound.  Southern Italy is more rugged and poor.  Crushed red pepper appears in the food because in former times the price of black pepper skyrocketed and the industrious Southerners substituted red pepper flakes.  Pasta, buffalo mozzarella and tomatoes reign.

A very, very short history of some ingredients we are using today:

Anchovies:

Anchovies have been an important part of cooking since the days of the Greeks and Romans.  Anchovies were the key ingredient in Garum, an early forerunner to Anchoiade.  Anchoiade, Bagna Cauda, Pissaladière, and Pissalat (an anchovy seasoning) are among the more popular uses.

Cherries:

Cherries originated in Asia and became well loved by the ancient Greeks first appearing in print in 300 BC in the writings of Theophrastus.  By the first century AD, Pliny the Elder had listed eight different varieties under cultivation, some grown in the far off parts of the Roman Empire like Britain.

Fennel:

Fennel has been a common ingredient in Gaul long before the Romans came.  Every bit of fennel is used, the seeds as a seasoning, leaves are added to a salad, the bulb cooked in a variety of vegetable preparations and the stalks are dried and used as a fuel to cook whole fish over.

Garlic:

Garlic figures prominently into the palates of Provence and Southern Italy because of both their early influences from the Greeks. As one of the more popular uses for garlic in Provence, Aioli (Ail means garlic; Oli means oil) has to stand out as the favorite.  It is sometimes referred to as the butter of Provence.  Other popular dishes include: Aigo Boulido (garlic soup), Rouille (the rust colored sauce for Bouillabaisse) and roasted Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic.

Olives and Olive Oil:                   

The Greeks spread olive all over the Mediterranean.  Highly flavorful oils are saved for raw dishes and as a last minute seasoning while second and third pressings are used for cooking.

Peppers:                  

Christopher Columbus’s journal gives us the first mentions of chilies.  The Spanish and Portuguese brought it back to the old world. Europeans didn’t care for it as much as the Asians, Africans and Arabians. The Abbé J. F. Rozier’s “Cours complet d’agriculture”, published in the late 1700’s, says that it was the usual breakfast of people in Provence.

Pistachio:

Pistachios are native to Western Asia and the Levant between Turkey and Afghanistan.  The earliest traces of pistachios being eaten is 7,000 BC in Turkey, and cultivated and introduced into Europe by the Romans in 1st century AD. 

Polenta:

Polenta’s name was originally derived from the Roman staple puls, or pulmentum. Pulmentum also was the Roman’s soldiers’ primary food.  The soldiers were issued grain which they toasted on hot stones and either made into a porridge or baked into crude breads.

Polenta was originally made from millet, spelt or chickpeas, only when corn came from the New World in the 1600’s did polenta’s turn into a cornmeal porridge we know and love.

Saffron:

Saffron has been an important spice in cooking since the days of the Romans.  Saffron growing came to Europe from the Moors occupying Spain in the 8th thru 10th centuries. The French began growing saffron in the 14th century in the Comtat Venaisson.  It contributed greatly to the increase in wealth in that region.  Saffron was believed to lengthen your life. At the Papal Court in Avignon, saffron was added to many of their dishes. Tripe simmered in saffron was very popular in Aix and Marseilles.  Saffron remains an important ingredient in Provencal cooking, mainly appearing in Bouillabaisse, Rouille and other regional dishes.  Other typical uses in the Mediterranean include Paella (Spain), Tagine (Morocco), Shish-Kebobs (Oriental), and many other dishes. Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice. It is the dried stigma of crocus flowers. Each flower produces just three strands of saffron.

Silk Road:

The Silk Road was a series of paths and trade routes connecting the Mediterranean to Eastern Asia.  The famous camel routes brought cinnamon, nutmeg and other fantastic flavors into the Mediterranean melting pot. 

Tomatoes:

Tomatoes, while originally from Mexico and Central America, have figured very prominently in the cuisine of the Mediterranean since the 16th  century.  It was by the way of Naples, a Spanish possession, that the tomato entered Italian cuisine.  Tomatoes reached Provence via Genoa and Nice.  It came just in time, for the traditional produce of the South of France were going through a crisis.  Tomatoes are so associated with Provencal cooking that it is hard to imagine what they ate prior to the tomatoes arrival in France.  They are stuffed, air cured (an old Provençal method of preservation), used in Ratatouille, made into sauces, roasted with sweetmeats and served as desserts.

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Watermelon and Tomato Salad

Piquillo Sorbet, Parmesan Tuile

Chef François de Mélogue

Figue Mediterranean Restaurant

 

Ingredients for Four Servings

1 small                         Watermelon, peeled and sliced ½ inch thick, cut into circles

1 each                         Yellow Tomatoes, peeled, sliced ½ inch thick, cut into circles

1 each                         Red Tomatoes, peeled, sliced ½ inch thick, cut into circles

1 each                         Green or Black Tomatoes, sliced ½ inch thick, cut into circles

2 T.                               fruity Olive Oil

1 T.                               Balsamic Vinegar

1 c.                              Reggiano Parmesan, finely grated

Piquillo Sorbet

1 T.                               Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4 each                         Shallots, rough sliced

28 oz. can                  Piquillo Peppers

1 cup                           Simple Syrup

1 t.                               Fleur de Sel

1 T.                               Aleppo Pepper, or Espelette Pepper

1 each                         Lemon, juiced and zested

1 T.                               fresh Thyme, chopped

 

Mise en Place (before your party)

 

  1. Sauté shallots in olive oil.
  2. Mix shallots, Piquillo peppers, simple syrup, fleur de sel, Aleppo pepper, lemon juice and fresh thyme and puree in a blender.
  3. Freeze in your ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Reserve.
  4. Put small mounds of parmesan on a sil baking sheet and bake till melted, bubbly and lightly brown.  Let cool for a few seconds, then pick up and lay over a wine bottle.  Allow to cool fully retaining a rounded tile shape.
  5. Cut watermelon and tomatoes.
  6. Arrange tomato and watermelon circles on chilled plates.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill till you are ready to eat.

 

Fire (when your guests are seated)

Drizzle with fruity olive oil, balsamic vinegar and season with fleur de sel and black pepper.  Put a scoop of pipérade sorbet in the center and top with a parmesan tuile.

Chef Notes

Nature is the perfect Chef. Things that grow in the same region, in the same season tend to go well together, especially fruits.  The watermelon and tomato combo may sound odd but it will be an epicurean epiphany once you try it.  It is so refreshing and easy to make and perfect for your next Desert dinner party.

Try adding fresh mozzarella and basil or creamy Feta cheese.  They go amazingly well with watermelon and tomato.  Next time you make gazpacho add watermelon!

Wine Notes

Dry rosés pair unusually well with summer produce. Rosés usually have wonderful watermelon flavors that do nothing but complement the flavors in the salad.  I would suggest a more robust rosé or perhaps a chilled light bodied red wine, such as a Gamay Noir.

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Gauzzetto of Wild Salmon, Mussels and Shrimp

Light Tuscan Seafood Stew

Chef François de Mélogue

Figue Mediterranean Restaurant

 

Ingredients for Four Servings

2 oz.                             Olive Oil

2 medium                    Carrots, peeled, sliced

1 each                         Leek, cleaned, diced

1 rib                             Celery, peeled, diced

2 cloves                       Garlic, mashed

Pinch                           Saffron

2 t.                               fresh Thyme Leaves

1 T.                               Flour

1 c.                              White Wine

4 cups                          Fish Stock

1 each                         Tomato, diced

½ c.                             Tomato Sauce

Four – 4 oz. pieces        Wild Salmon

24 each                       Mussels

12 each                       Shrimp

4 sliced                        Crostini

1 T.                               chopped Parsley

Mise en Place (before your party)

 

  1. Sauté carrots, leeks and celery in olive oil for about five minutes, or until tender.
  2. Add garlic and saffron and continue cooking till the aroma permeates the air and causes you to drool.
  3. Sprinkle flour and thyme and stir into vegetables.
  4. Deglaze with white wine and fish stock.  Bring to a boil and let simmer.
  5. Add tomatoes and tomato sauce.  Check seasoning.  Chill.  Reserve.

Fire (when your guests are seated)

Bring Gauzzetto to a boil.  Add seafood.  Cook about five minutes, or until seafood is cooked.  Spoon into four warmed bowls, garnish with chopped parsley and a crostini then enjoy!

Chef Notes

Leave the flour out if you are gluten intolerant.  The flour simply adds a bit of body.  Try adding a touch of chopped anchovy instead of salt.  The anchovies give it a more authentic flavor.  Try finishing with a splash of brandy.  Most importantly, use whatever seafood is absolutely freshest.  Remember recipes are simply guidelines rather than firm unbendable laws.  Cooking for family and friends is one of the best ways to express love and friendship.

‘Whoever receives friends and does not participate

in the preparation of their meal does not deserve to have friends.’

 

– Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Wine Notes

 

Ah, the age old question, white or red with fish?  Old wisdom would dictate a white but I think a light bodied red would work as well.  For white wines I would suggest a Viognier, Gewurztraminer or any other white varietal that has a touch of residual sugar to counterbalance the acidity in tomatoes and spice in the broth.  For reds, try a light Pinot Noir, Gamay, Sangiovese or Grenache.  Salmon and Pinot is always a fantastic combination.  If you can’t decide then default to Champagne.  Champagne goes with everything!

3 

Pistachio, Polenta and Olive Oil Cake

Vanilla Ice Cream, Silk Road Cherries

Chef François de Mélogue

Figue Mediterranean Restaurant

 

 

 

Ingredients for Four Servings

50 grams                      fine Polenta

200 grams                    ground Pistachios

50 grams                      Flour

1 t.                               Baking Powder

125 ml.                         Extra Virgin Olive Oil

100 grams                    Butter, melted and cooled

3 each                         Eggs

200 grams                    Sugar

1 each                         Lemon, zested

1 each                         Orange, juiced

Silk Road Cherries

 

250 grams                    Cherries, pitted

25 grams                      Butter

75 grams                      Sugar

25 grams                      Pistachios, ground

1 stick                           Cinnamon

Pinch                           Nutmeg

1each                          Vanilla Bean, split and scraped

 

Mise en Place (before your party)

 

  1. Mix polenta, pistachio flour, flour and baking powder together.
  2. Mix extra virgin olive oil and melted butter.
  3. Beat eggs and sugar till pale.
  4. Mix eggs into olive oil.
  5. Add wet to dry.
  6. Add lemon zest and orange juice.
  7. Butter and paper four – 4 ounce ramekins.
  8. Pour batter in and bake at 300 degrees till done, about ten minutes.  Reserve.
  9. Melt sugar and butter together.  Cook to light caramel.
  10. Add spices, vanilla, pistachio and cherries.  Cook till liquid again. Reserve.

 

Fire (when your guests are seated)

Unmold a pistachio cake unto a ten inch plate.  Top with cherries, drizzle sauce around and garnish with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Chef Notes

 

You will have extra everything in this recipe.  It is so good you probably won’t mind that fact.  The batter for the pistachio cakes is better made one or two days ahead.

Figue Mediterranean previews 2014 Jaguar F-Type Roadster

3T9A2319Figue Mediterranean to preview 2014 Jaguar F-Type Roadster

Figue Mediterranean (47-474 Washington St., La Quinta; (760) 698-9040) has joined forces with Desert European Motorcars (71-387 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage; (760) 773-5000) to host a special preview of the all-new 2014 Jaguar F-Type Roadster at a cocktail reception 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, June 7.  This will be the first opportunity for area residents to get a preview look at the new F-Type, which officially launches nationwide the week of June 6.“We believe that our guests and luxury car enthusiasts have a lot in common, including a passion for great style and fine taste,” said Lee Morcus, owner of Figue. “With the F-Type Roadster, we also share the common element of being true to tradition on one hand and cutting edge on the other. At Figue, we’re proud to say we’re changing the way people of the Palm Springs area enjoy exciting food and wine, while the F-Type Roadster is Jaguar’s first truly new sports car in 50 years and it’s been getting stunning reviews. It makes perfect sense to combine the two into one fun and delicious event.”

“The purity and elegance of the Jaguar F-Type design gives the F-Type lasting beauty. The proportions and stance communicate muscularity and latent energy. High power and low weight means effortless speed. Truly breathtaking,” says David Murphy, president of Jaguar Rancho Mirage/Desert European Motorcars.

At the Jaguar long lead press launch last fall, Car & Driver reported, “The F-type revealed its cunning on the Navarra Circuit in Spain and while attacking the Pyrenean foothills. After living with the comeback cat for a couple of days, we are certain this is not the reprise of your uncle’s vintage sports car or an abridged version of the Jaguar cruisers battling the luxury German juggernaut. Rather, the F-type is a feline bred with a wild streak and a feral yearning to meet or beat Porsche’s best moves.”

“We cast one unanimous ballot for the F-Type for top honors in Paris. We were simply taken with the style, the performance potential, and the heritage,” said Autoweek.com at the Paris Auto Show in October.

See for yourself at Figue Mediterranean on June 7. For information and reservations, contact Diana Marlo at Diana@deserteuropean.com or call (760) 773-5000.

About Figue Mediterranean: Figue Mediterranean, located at 47-474 Washington Street in La Quinta, (760) 698-9040. Figue Mediterranean seats dinner from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday and from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The Figue Bar opens at 4 p.m. and remains open until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday night for cocktails and light food. Brunch is available on all major weekend holidays. Figue also is available for private events or celebrations, and for on- and off-site catering. Complimentary valet parking is available. All major cards accepted. For more information or to make reservations, please call Figue at (760) 698-9040 or visit their website atEatFigue.com. “Like” Figue on Facebook at facebook.com/EatFigue and follow them on Twitter: @EatFigue.

 

New Jaguar F Type Unvieling at Figue 060713 09 New Jaguar F Type Unvieling at Figue 060713 10 New Jaguar F Type Unvieling at Figue 060713 12 New Jaguar F Type Unvieling at Figue 060713 13

Eating at your own restaurant is bit like witnessing a slow death…

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Let me clarify that.  I think when we die we get front row seats to a review of our entire lives…  we firsthand relive the proud moments of achievements completed and we watch, eyes fixated to the screen, the disasters of our lives feeling every bit of emotions we did the first time.  We cannot hide from ourselves.  You never can.

In 30 years of cooking I have never eaten where I worked.  It is near impossible to separate myself from being so intimately connected to simply being a guest.  It was voyeuristic to watch firsthand how people react to your soul being laid out on a plate naked for the world to gawk at, criticize, compliment.  It is one thing to get a good/bad review on the internet where people hide behind computer screens and critic your efforts anonymously and it is completely another thing sitting next to them, hearing their comments live, unfiltered.  I wasn’t sure I had the fortitude to do so.

My Dinner at Figue17

Last night my wife and I went on a date to Figue in La Quinta, California where I am Executive Chef.  We walked in the massive front door and were promptly greeted by one of our hostesses.  We settled on a few drinks and a charcuterie plate at the bar before going to our table.  We ordered two different bubbly cocktails.  I had the Poinsettia and Lisa tried the Fraises Embrouille.  I really enjoyed mine, it had the perfect balance of flavors, sweetness and tartness.  Lisa fraises embrouille lacked flavor and needed some amping up.  Celeste, our sommelier, had our drinks remade and it was much better the second time.

Char Bar

Our Italian American charcuterie plate was amazing.  On the plate was slices of charcuterie from various salumi producers in America who make Italian charcuterie, olive and mostarda.  The absolute best was the lardo made from Spanish Bellota pigs by la Quercia in Iowa.  Lardo is completely decadent and rich and amazing. We enjoyed the perfect bit with the richness playing off the saltiness of our house made focaccia.  The varzi salumi with it’s distinct cloves and nutmeg flavors from Creminelli in Utah was the perfect foil for the sweet, mustardy mostarda.  Javier, our waiter, brought the complimentary bread service which tonight was Turkish flatbread served with Labne, a house made yogurt cheese dusted with Aleppo pepper.  Mistakenly he called the bread Syrian mountain bread but I wasn’t here to correct while eating.  The bread was doughy and undercooked and felt like a dagger being stuck into my heart.  I live and breathe my food and it hurts to see it served incorrectly.  I pushed it aside and continued with the amazing focaccia.

My Dinner at Figue18

The hostess returned and took us to our table.  On the table are beautiful, hand made pottery diamond shaped plates made by the Wheel in San Diego that we use as share plates.  They are incredible plates.

Day One with New Camera 10

Normally when I eat out I scan the menu for dishes I really am excited to try.  Any belly, pork belly, hamachi belly, usually gets my vote.  Tonight I picked dishes I normally would never pick. I love scallops but I never order them.  Part of the problem is they usually suck.  It is more normal to get water added, or wet scallops, than it is to get diver picked dry scallops.  We also ordered the charred tuna crudo with Moroccan Charmoula.  The whole tuna served raw thing is so over played now that it is easy for me to look past that on any menu.  Tonight I ordered both and was reminded of how gorgeous and delicious they can be.

My Dinner at Figue21

The thin slices of charred tuna marinated in Moroccan spices served with orange segments and deep fried garlic chips sang in my mouth.  Every bite was an explosion of exotic flavors.  The scallops were perfectly seared by my sous chef Alejandro Hernandez and served with a pile of zucchini spaghetti and a carrot juice and saffron emulsion.  Like a bad infection, the underdone flatbread reappeared at our table.  I returned it, hoping never to see it again.  Celeste our unbelievable sommelier picked a Pic Poul that went spot on with both dishes.

My Dinner at Figue22

We moved onto two newer dishes, a Piquillo Pepper roasted and stuffed with Cypress Grove Sgt. Pepper’s Goat Cheese served over a Mache Salad dressed in a shallot vinaigrette that to me was jaw dropping in it’s flavors, richness and creaminess.  We also had the Spring Sweet Pea and Mascarpone Ravioli in a Lemon Vegetable Brodo with Truffled Pesto.  It was outstanding.  I had eaten my fair share of these raviolis in the kitchen but to get them table-side was orgasmic.  We decided to let Celeste go and surprise us with wine choices.  She knows my palate well enough.  She picked a Cinsault Rose that sang to the gods.

We moved onto probably my favorite dish on the current menu, a whole Daurade Royale served with Artichoke and Fennel Barigoule with Olive Tapenado.  Celeste served two wines, a Domaine Coulerette Chablis that sang and an effervescent Getariako.  Both were great in their own way.  One thing I always wonder is why more guests coming to a restaurant do not leave the experience in the hands of the Chef and sommelier.  It is a far more interesting way to eat and you will probably try things you are unfamiliar with.  Part of the problem is we fear letting go of control.  We think we are open minded and ready for spontaneous things.  When in reality we want to be firmly in control fearing the unexplored and the new and different.

While eating the Daurade the table next to us returned the Porchetta, a spit roasted acorn fed pig slow cooked over a wood fire on our custom made Italian rotisserie.  I ordered some to try it myself.  Another dish I love in the kitchen but would never order.  The customer felt it was too fatty.  I felt it was perfectly cooked and would not change a thing.  Sometimes dear friends the customer is NOT right.  The Pigue Newton, a fig and bacon compote we serve with it went extremely well.  Celeste had picked a Burgundy to match the pork.  Another great choice.

My Dinner at Figue27

While eating I noticed a gentleman I had spoken with a few days before sitting at the table next to me.  The attempt of dining incognito ended.  I bought two desserts for the porchetta table and introduced myself when they received it.  I said hello and talked with the gentlemen I met before and started a great conversation with the folks next to me who happened to be from my hometown of Chicago.  I also met the owner of a few area restaurants and discussed our concept with him.  Celeste is pictured above with the doctor who owns three area restaurants.

My Dinner at Figue23My Dinner at Figue25 My Dinner at Figue26

We finished the night off with a dessert me and former pastry Chef Sarah Smith had come up with while working at Copper Beech Inn in Connecticut a few years back.  It has been re purposed and modified with current pastry chef Carla Rojas.  It is a Strawberry Soup with a Vacherin of Mara de Bois Strawberries and Frozen Lavender Yogurt.

My Dinner at Figue24

All in all it was a great night and everyone made me proud.  I am so happy with my sous chef Alex and my entire kitchen staff.  Javier and the front of the house did really really well minus a few mistakes on menu knowledge.  Micheal my charcuterie bar Chef did an amazing job with the cold food.  I forgot to mention he served us a delectable parmesan shortbread with tomato confit and Bulgarian feta…  I slept very easily knowing we are on the straight and narrow road.  I may eat here again before thirty years pass…  If you come to visit ask for me!

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