Chef Lindsay Smith-Rosales of Nirvana Grille in Laguna Beach comes by her emphasis on fresh, sustainable, and organic quite naturally. She was raised in the bohemian beach town by an Ayurvedic doctor mother. Add in culinary school at Orange Coast College, a stint at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, and a whiff of her husband and co-owner Luis’ Mexican culture, and you begin to see how her eclectic menu came together.
Another important influence, it turns out, is the overachieving fig tree in her Laguna Hills home garden. Smith-Rosales harvests so many figs from her single, not-giant tree that she’s able to supply her restaurant all season long with enough fruit for two favorite dishes, a starter and a dessert, both including Laura Chenel goat cheese, which is of course one of the most compatible partners a fig can have. Offered as a special, the starter isfigs stuffed with fresh goat cheese, wrapped in prosciutto, and roasted ($13).
And the dessert? Lucky for us, chef Smith-Rosales was nice enough to share her recipe. Inspired by a classic bananas Foster, quartered figs are glazed in a butter-sugar syrup flamed with Grand Marnier, and served over Nirvana Grille house-made goat cheese maple ice cream ($10). The custard ice cream has bits of goat cheese throughout, and is a wonderful complement to the figs and their light syrup. And since Smith-Rosales sells the goat cheese ice cream at the restaurant for $10 a pint, you can come quite close to her restaurant dish at home. (But using a favorite high-quality vanilla ice cream would work, too.)
Nirvana Grille Grand Marnier-Glazed Figs and Goat Cheese Maple Ice Cream
(Makes 1 generous or 2 smaller servings)
Goat cheese maple or vanilla ice cream
2 large or 3 small figs
2 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ½ tablespoons sugar or vanilla sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract, if using plain sugar
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier liqueur
Scoop ice cream onto serving dish or dishes; hold in freezer. Quarter figs and set aside. In small sauté pan over medium-high heat, combine butter and sugar. Cook, stirring, until light syrup forms, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in vanilla extract, if using. Add figs and toss to coat. Add liqueur and flame if desired, or simmer quickly to reduce. Cook until figs are heated through and coated with syrup, 1 to 2 minutes, then pour over prepared ice cream. Garnish with mint if desired.