This evening I had 9 friends over for a formal, multi-course, plated feast to celebrate the Fig season here in the Bay Area. Many photos were taken, alas not by me, so I will hopefully update this post with some photos from the meal in a few days.
The menu arose out of an email from the CEUSA (who run the wonderful Ferry Building Farmers Market here in San Francisco) which noted that this weekend at the market would be a celebration of figs. With that as a theme I set out crafting a menu from ingredients which were in season, local, fresh and I hoped tasty.
After I sent out the invitations multiple who were coming (though in the end did not) were vegans so I did make some choices which resulted in a nearly entirely vegan meal and as I’ll note below, I had dishes planned for the vegans as alternatives to the few dishes which involved meat (or dairy products).
Roasted seasonal organic local figs w/Cowgirl Creamery marscapone – for this dish I used medium sized figs which weren’t overripe. All I did was place them on a chef’s pan into a 350 degree oven until they looked done (juices started to flow out)
Sauteed Patron & Shiso peppers in olive oil w/gray sea salt – local peppers from a farm that specializes in peppers. Patron peppers are a Spanish pepper, Shiso are a Japanese. I sauteed them in extra virgin olive oil (very thin layer on the bottom of a pan) turning them occasionally until they were crinkled, I then transferred them to a platter with kitchen tongs & sprinkled with sea salt (if you choose to wash the peppers make sure they are completely dry before cooking them in oil to prevent splatter) This takes only about 5-6 minutes.
Local bread w/pepper infused olive oil – I chose a very simple, basic sourdough bread from a local bakery. I then sliced it into about 1cm thick slices which I then trisected – i.e. to get to about a few bites sized portions. The olive oil was the oil in which I sauteed the peppers which I let cool then transferred to a small glass bowl. The pepper flavor was infused into the oil.
Fig & Tomato Basil salad – this was a very simple plate, intended to be a great mix of flavors without an overly large portion. I used two types of organic tomatoes from the farmers market. In the center of the plate I put a large, orange colored heirloom tomato, cut in a single circular portion. Around the edges I placed one small dry farmed Early Girl tomato which I cut into small wedges. I also selected two varieties of small figs and quartered them, placing a half of each fig on each plate. I then added torn leaves of Lemon Basil as well as more traditional Italian Basil (all from the farmers market). Finally I drizzled the plate with a splash of a local Californian Balsamic vinegar (also from the market) and finished with sea salt.
Fresh pasta w/roasted heirloom tomato sauce w/olives, mixed mushrooms and figs – Earlier this afternoon I took a selection of heirloom tomatoes and quartered them then roasted them with a few cloves of garlic in the oven. After they had roasted I transferred them into a large, copper pot (taking care not to use an aluminum clad pot as tomatoes react with aluminum) and added to that pot a can of Italian tomatoes for additional color and flavor. I then let this simmer on the lowest temperature for a while. After about 30-45 minutes I added to the pot slivers of Kalamata olives (taking care that no piece of pit remained) and then continued to let the pot simmer. To finish the dish and sauce I cut a variety of large figs into thin slivers and also sliced up some mixed mushrooms also into thin slivers. I put both in a pan, sprinkled it with a light, local olive oil and sauteed it for a few minutes, adding in the roasted tomato & olive sauce until it formed a thin layer in the pan. I then cooked the fresh pasta – I used a fresh, eggless pasta from the market, my guests described it as a bit like Italian Udon noodles. I put a small portion of pasta into each bowl then spooned a small portion of the sauce onto each. The goal again was to have a great mix of flavors without an overwhelming portion size. The result was quite good, if I do say so myself. My intention was that the Kalamata olives and the roasting of the tomatoes would add depth, the figs a layer of sweetness and the mushrooms some unami as well as other earthy flavors to counteract a bit of the sweet. I did add a little bit of sea salt the sauce as it cooked but mostly the salt in the sauce came from the olives. The pasta being fresh was a great complement to this sauce.
Bone-in Leg of Lamb over roasted Purple, baby red and baby yukon gold potatoes w/a fig-mint sauce – The first part of this dish I made was the sauce. I selected the ripest figs I had purchased, the ones that were almost overripe and very soft to the touch (even already splitting). I quartered the figs and then put them in a small Le Creuset saucepan I have (their smallest size). To this pan I added apple vinegar, finely ground sea salt, and roughly cut (but in small pieces) mint. I simmered this on fairly low temperatures mashing it as it simmered to meld the flavors. Once it had all come together I transferred it to a reused jam jar to which I then added more apple vinegar (about the remaining 1/4 of the jar’s worth). Cooled this resulted in a tasty, very minty, slightly sweet sauce.
The second part of the dish was the legs of lamb. I had two legs of lamb, each about 3lbs. I drizzled them with extra virgin olive oil, then added ground course sea salt & ground fresh pepper. I inserted julianned cloves of garlic into the hollow in the middle of the leg of lamb cut. I also added a half stick of rosemary into the same hollow. Then I added roughly cut fresh mint to the outside of the meat. I placed each leg of lamb onto my roasting rack and put them into my oven which I had preheated to a bit over 400 degrees. I check them with a meat thermometer (taking care to check each leg in a variety of places) and removed when the meat was uniformly at (or over 140 degrees) as I like my lamb a bit medium/medium rare. The lamb finished earlier than I had expected, taking only about 1 1/2 hours.
The third part of the dish was very simple, I took the three varieties of small potatoes I purchased at the farmers market (from a farm that specializes in potatoes) and put them into a large bowl (I quartered the larger purple potatoes but kept the baby potatoes whole). I then drizzled a small amount of extra virgin olive oil, course sea salt and fresh pepper. Using the bowl I tossed the potatoes making sure that each was lightly coated. I then put them onto a large chef’s pan and roasted in the oven at 300 degrees.
As the potatoes (and the lamb) had finished long before we were ready for the entrees, after the potatoes finished cooking I turned the oven off but returned the lamb and left the potatoes in the oven to heat back up a small amount.
To serve I put a small selection of the purple & baby potatoes into the middle of the dinner plates. I carved a leg of lamb and put two slice of lamb sufficient to just cover the small amount of potatoes. I then drizzled a small spoonful of the fig & mint sauce over the lamb and potatoes. I finished each plate with a sprinkle of Hawaiian Black Volcanic Salt both for the flavor & the color contrast.
Again not a huge portion for each guest but everyone, even the guests who don’t usually like lamb enjoyed it.
Planned vegan alternative – since the vegans I expected did not actually attend, I did not make this dish (but will probably make it later this week). My plan was to make roasted portabella & miatake mushrooms over potatoes. I would have cleaned and trimmed the portabella mushrooms and put them and whole miatake fronds onto an oven suitable pan (probably one of my trusty chef’s plates). Then i would have drizzled a bit of olive oil over each mushroom. I would then roast them in the oven. To serve I would have plated the mushrooms on the side of the plate with the potatoes on the other side and would have finished the potatoes with the fig & mint sauce (which I might have also added to the roasted mushrooms depending on taste)
Figs two ways with fig ice cream and olive oil shortbread – I made the olive oil shortbread entirely from scratch and from a recipe I made up myself.
Olive Oil Shortbread
- 1/3 cup confectioners sugar
- 5 oz extra virgin olive oil
- 2/3 cup pastry flour (I used a whole grain organic flour)
- pinch of sea salt
- seeds from one whole vanilla bean + additional generous pinch of vanilla powder (which I buy from The Spice House and prefer over using liquid vanilla as the powder imparts the flavor without the alcohol)
I mixed the sugar and olive oil, then added the vanilla, sea salt and flour. I used a medium sized metal mixing bowl (which I highly recommend, metal bowls are quite useful) once fully mixed and dough like (I mixed it with just my hand) I put the metal bowl into my freezer. I left the dough in the freezer for a bit over 30 minutes. I then spooned the dough into my Madeline pan after first adding a few grains of gray sea salt to each. The dough had a similar texture to a Madeline dough, though the results were a bit flakier and crunchier than Madelines. I baked them at about 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. My pan is an excellent one so the cookies just popped out (I did not use any spray or the like – my pan is a non-stick specialized baking pan. I then let these cool on a rack while I cooked the rest of the dinner. The resulting cookies had some sweetness, but tempered by the olive & salt flavors.
For the dessert I mixed two roasted figs with two fresh figs, taking care to ensure that every person had at least two varieties of figs (over all I purchased 5 different varieties of figs for this evening’s dinner) I scooped a small scoop of fig ice cream (from & made by a local shop) and layered the cookie on top of the ice cream in the middle of the bowl.
My original plan was to buy Fig Sorbet instead of fig ice cream. Had I managed to do so, this dessert would be an entirely vegan dessert. The sweetness of the figs contrasted well with the olives and salt of the shortbread.
And that is the menu. I ended up making a second portion of the pasta and as people arrived in two main waves of guests, I made two batches of the peppers for the later arriving group. Over the course of the meal we drank two bottles of Musketal (both excellent), a bottle of Chardonnay, a bottle of sparkling apple cider and with dessert a half bottle of a very good port.
All in all a very successful experimental meal – an experiment in that I plated each dish for all ten people (myself included) for every course and experimental in that most of these recipes I made up on the spot (including the shortbread)