Executive chef-partner at Driftwood Kitchen, Laguna Beach, and The Deck on Laguna Beach, Rainer Schwarz, knows how to deliciously nuance seafood, incorporating vibrant flavors and contrasting textures into everything from whole crisp-skinned branzino to hamachi crudo, buttermilk-fried soft shell crabs to seared sea scallops adrift in truffle-spiked risotto.
That polished skill-set also applies to his Grilled Spanish Octopus, an alluring concoction that appears on the Driftwood Kitchen’s small plate menu.
The eight-legged wonder is tenderized by long, gentle braising in a mixture of fruity red wine, leeks, herbs, dried chili flakes and garlic. A wine cork is also added to the pot, an ingredient trick that Schwarz says insures tenderness. Once cooled, the legs are grilled until heated through and caramelized, a light char gracing their exterior.
Watch the short video to see Schwarz’ prep and plating.
On the plate the diagonally-cut chunks of octopus sit atop hummus-like garbanzo puree. And draped over the top is an heirloom tomato vinaigrette, a mixture that flavor boosts the dish with Spanish sherry, capers, shallots and agrumato, a lemony extra-virgin olive oil that is made by pressing whole lemons along with the olives. Zahtar (a tasty condiment made with dried herbs, sesame seeds and salt) is judiciously sprinkled over the top.
Born in Austria, Schwarz originally came to the U.S. to work with the Patina Group’s Joachim Splichal; the two chefs met when Schwarz was Chef de Cuisine at the Grand National Hotel in Switzerland.
Restaurant favorite: Other than one of his restaurants, Schwarz says that his favorite eateries are constantly changing. Jaleo, Chef Jose Andres’ restaurant in The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, is his current pick. He loves Jaleo’s baby squid from southern Spain sautéed with Spanish white beans. It’s a dish he dubs “simple delicious food.”
What’s always in the fridge at home: Plugra butter (European-style American-made high butterfat butter, the only brand his son, Max, 15, will eat), a good white wine and good cheese.
Early Austrian days: He studied accounting in school and was a professional chess player until he fell in love with cooking at age 15.
Thanks to Curt Norris for his time and talent – his mouth-watering photography and video-taping (and editing).
Driftwood Kitchen’s Grilled Spanish Octopus
Yield: about 6 to 8 servings
1 Spanish octopus, 4 to 6 pounds
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves peeled garlic
White and light green portion of 2 leeks, washed, thinly sliced
1 bottle fruity red wine
2 tablespoons dried red chili flakes
2 bay leaves
Heirloom Tomato Vinaigrette:
5 ripe heirloom tomatoes, finely diced
1 large shallot, finely diced
1/2 cup Pedro Ximenez (Spanish sherry)
1/4 cup capers, drained, rinsed
1 cup agrumato (extra-virgin lemon olive oil)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Garbanzo Bean Puree:
2 cups cooked, drained garbanzo beans, canned beans OK
Extra-virgin olive oil, enough to give a smooth creamy texture
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon
For grilling octopus: olive oil
Optional garnish: tiny peppardews, microgreens, radishes cut into matchsticks
Cook’s notes: Note to home cooks, this vinaigrette would be delicious atop any grilled fish. Agrumato oil is sold in shops that specialize in gourmet items, such as Surfas in Costa Mesa. Zahtar is sold in Middle Eastern markets and in spice shops such as Savory Spice Shop.
1. Start by rinsing the octopus by hand in cold water, scrubbing it with your hands in the process. Heat oil in large Dutch oven on medium heat. Add garlic and leeks; cook on medium heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in wine, chili flakes and bay leaves. Add octopus; simmer gently on low heat, covered, until tender. Remove octopus from liquid; cool.
2. Meanwhile, prepare vinaigrette. In a bowl or glass measuring cup, combine all vinaigrette ingredients except the oil; stir to combine. Add oil in a very thin stream, stirring constantly. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Set aside.
3. For garbanzo mixture, place beans in food processor. Process gradually adding olive oil, whirling until mixture is a smooth puree. Strain through sieve. Stir in the juice of 1 Meyer lemon. Add sea salt to taste; set aside.
4. Once the octopus is cooled, cut legs off body. Heat a grill pan on medium-high heat and oil it generously with extra-virgin olive oil. Grill octopus legs until caramelized and lightly charred. Cut legs on the diagonal into 1- to 2-inch pieces. Smear some of the garbanzo mixture on each plate. Top with octopus. Stir vinaigrette and spoon over octopus. Sprinkle with zahtar to taste. Garnish with tiny sweet peppadews, radish and microgreens, if desired.
Source: Chef Rainer Schwarz, The Deck on Laguna Beach and Driftwood Kitchen, Laguna Beach
Here’s a quick tip from Melissa’s …
Use kale in an open-faced sandwich.
Kale-topped toasts adorned with sunny-side up eggs make a delectable breakfast treat, but they also could be the centerpiece of a tasty lunch or supper. If you prefer firmer yolks, turn the eggs to cook on both sides, or substitute moist scrambled eggs or scrambled egg whites.
Breakfast Toasts with Kale and Sunny-Side Eggs
Yield: 4 servings
4 (3/8-inch thick) slices rustic whole wheat bread
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
5 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided use
1 large garlic clove, minced
6 cups Tuscan black kale (cavolo nero) or curly-edge kale – that has been washed, patted dry, midrib removed, loosely packed, cut into 1/4-inch wide crosswise slices, see prep
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1. Adjust oven rack to 8 inches below broiler element. Turn on oven light and broiler. Place bread in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Broil until just lightly browned, about 30 seconds. Remove from oven, turn bread over and lightly brush with olive oil, using about 1/2 tablespoon. Sprinkle each toast with 1 tablespoon cheese. Return to broiler. Keep a close eye on the toast; broil until lightly browned, about 40 to 50 seconds.
2. Line a large plate with paper towels. Heat oil in large, deep skillet on medium-high heat. Add garlic, kale and water; season with salt and pepper. When liquid comes to a boil, cover and cook until tender, about 6 to 8 minutes, tossing mixture 2 or 3 times during cooking (common kale will take longer to cook than Tuscan kale). Remove lid and cook until most of liquid evaporates, about 1 minute. Add lemon juice and toss. Place on paper-towel lined plate.
3. Place toasts on 4 plates. Generously spray a medium-size nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Place on medium-high heat. When hot, add eggs one at a time, placing them in a single layer. Reduce heat to low. Cook until white is set, about 2 minutes. Divide kale between 4 toasts. Using a spatula, remove each egg from skillet and place on top of kale. Sprinkle eggs with seasoned salt and remaining cheese. Serve immediately.
Nutritional information (per serving): calories 300; fat calories 120, total fat 14 grams; sat fat 4 grams, cholesterol 190 milligrams; sodium 710 milligrams; total carbohydrates 27 grams; fiber 5 grams; sugars 4 grams; protein 17 grams; vitamin A IUs 310%; vitamin C 210%; calcium 30%; iron 20%
Source: “50 Best Plants on the Planet” by Cathy Thomas (Chronicle, $29.95)