Last week I made a quick trip to Dallas, Phoenix and Barcelona.
OK, I lied about the Barcelona part. But the dinner I had at Lola Tapas in Phoenix was so evocative of my favorite Spanish city I kept turning to J and saying, "I love this place. I LOVE this place."
Housed in a tiny building, the interior is dark and cozy, with a pressed tin ceiling and a large, charming photo of the owner's daughter, Lola, on the far wall. All the seating is communal: most of it at two long wooden tables. Co-owner and co-chef Felicia Ruiz Wayne told me she and her husband, Daniel, consider the table-sharing as important as the food: "When we lived in Europe for a year, we loved the way many casual restaurants felt like family gatherings. Sometimes people come here early and sit at the far end of a table so they can be private, but as the restaurant fills up, they soon find themselves talking and laughing with strangers."
"We get everything possible from Spain," Ruiz Wayne told me. "The olive oil, the sausages, the cheese, the olives."
The menu is limited to nine tapas plus two especials del dia. J and I pretty much ran the list -- twas more than we needed, but since we don't get to Phoenix -- or Barcelona -- nearly often enough, we embraced our inner gluttons.
The following recipe comes not from Lola Tapas but from the Spanish city of Merida, via the superb "Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain" by Penelope Casas. I served this at a housewarming and even though it isn't the most attractive dish (in fact, it looks a bit like a dog's dinner), my guests raved.
Sausages with Sweet-Sour Figs
Prepare the figs one day in advance
1 cup sugar
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 stick cinnamon
1 slice lemon
1 pound fresh small figs or 1 pound bottled figs in syrup, drained
Combine sugar, vinegar, cinnamon, cloves and lemon in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Add the figs, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes if using fresh figs, just five minutes for bottled. Cool the figs in the syrup and let them sit, covered, at room temperature overnight.
The next day, cook 1 and a half pounds sausage (I use sweet Italian) in 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 tablespoons white wine until the wine evaporates and the sausages are cooked and brown. Remove them to a warm platter and pour off most of the fat. Deglaze the pan with 4 tablespoons water and two more tablespoons of wine. Add 2 teaspoons of tomato sauce, salt and pepper and simmer, uncovered, for two minutes.
Drain the figs and discard the syrup. Add them to the pan, along with the sausages. Cover and cook briefly until the figs are heated. To serve, cut each sausage into 3 or 4 slices. Cut the figs in halves or quarters, depending on their size. Spear pieces of sausage and fig on toothpick and transfer them with the sauce to a serving dish. These can be assembled in advance and reheated, covered, when ready to serve.