Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Seriously, though...

I know some of you may feel like I've already done the "fig thing", and all.  But, I'm not sure I've really given my final testament to the versatility and sheer sexiness of this seasonal gem.  

People often ask me how I come up with unusual combinations in my dishes.  I'm always taken by surprise on this question, because I don't consider myself by any means an experimental chef.  Oh sure, I experiment in what I cook and what I eat, but not- and never- on my guests.  Family- sure!  But, people don't come to a restaurant to pay their hard-earned dollars to "dig" what the chef is trying to pull-off.  We don't pay to see dress rehearsals of a play, so why drop your cash on a lab experiment?

I'm a right-brained guy, and I will always see things differently than the science and math type peoples.  But, oddly, when it comes to the science of cooking, there is a strange merging of hemispheres in the brain when composing dishes.  The creative side confers with the the logical side, and suddenly, they're playing happily together and then- BAM!  You get a dish like heirloom tomatoes with basil and fresh figs with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt.  And each ingredient is as important as the next.  

Remove the basil, and you have a 2-dimensional dish.  Use an oil other than  a nice , fruity extra virgin, and you're cheating yourself of the flavors that await you.  So, you say, can I substitute sweet for sweet?  Of course.  In this case, the figs can be replaced by plums, watermelon or berries.  The tomato is a fruit, don't forget, and when they're ripe- well, you know.  

Variations on this dish can include adding an imported prosciutto or a nice acidic cheese with good salt levels (i.e. chevre, or try shaving ricotta salata). 

While this weather is still holding out, experiment with your food.  Before you know it, you'll find that some of the pieces of the puzzle will fit into place. 

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