I heard somewhere that August was National Olive Oil month, but I'm not exactly sure that's true. It did, however, get me thinking about Fig + Olive, the super fashionable new restaurant in West Hollywood.
The place is mammoth by restaurant standards, with olive trees in the main dining room, an olive oil tasting bar in the front, and a large patio. But one look around, and you'll realize it's all about the olive oil here.
Owner Laurent Halasz, who brought the Mediterranean-inspired spot to L.A. from New York, considers it an "olive-oil oasis," where even the desserts are made with the good-for-you fat instead of butter. It makes sense: Olive oil has long been considered one of the healthiest cooking oils, the centerpiece to Mediterranean diets. But there are so many different kinds, each taking on the characteristics of its region and farm, much like wine. That's why it's so good to use beyond your vinaigrette.
"Olive oil brings richness to dishes without unhealthy fats like cream and butter," says Halasz. "And so much flavor, from a ripe and sweet olive oil from the coastal region of Nice, to an assertive and peppery Tuscan oil, to the green and herbal Spanish oils."
You can even taste the difference at the restaurant: Get a flight at the tasting bar--there are more than 30 to taste and buy for home.
Olive oil is used in just about every dish on the Fig + Olive menu, which always features something seasonal. Right now, chef Pascal Lorange is making great use of our local figs and heirloom tomatoes on a simple tart. It's a great dish to start with at the restaurant, but super easy to make at home, too. Here's the recipe:
Fig & Gorgonzola Tartlet
Recipe adapted from Pascal Lorange, Fig & Olive
Makes 4 servings
- 1 sheet fresh or frozen puff pastry, thawed
- ½ cup diced scallions
- 4 heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges
- 8 fresh figs, quartered
- 8 ounces gorgonzola cheese
- 2 ounces chopped walnuts
- 1 teaspoon fleur de sel
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 400°. Roll out puff pastry and cut four 6-inch circles out of it (use a the rim of a bowl as a guide, if necessary). Using a fork, poke a few shallow holes in the pastry, and place the circles on a well-greased baking sheet. Sprinkle the rounds with the scallions, and arrange the tomatoes and figs evenly around the tarts. Top with salt, pepper, walnuts and cheese, and drizzle each with olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the tarts are golden brown. Serve immediately.