rye pasta with savoy cabbage, garlic, anchovy, peperoncino

I wasn’t sure this would work out.

I had been hoping to enjoy an evening meal that would be almost like a day off, or at least something close to it, by putting together a simple pasta. I never take these simple pasta breaks too lightly however, because with a little creativity and a very good pasta, they can be pretty awesome (I think one of pasta’s most appealing qualities of pasta is it’s ability to show off other, often very special ingredients by lightening their intensity with its almost neutral presence, making them both more subtle, sophisticated, and enjoyable.

That’s something like what I was hoping for, and I did have a lot of possibilities in the “special ingredients” category, but then I remembered that I had a small head of Savoy cabbage in the back of the crisper, but I also remembered that it had been there for weeks, probably at least a month and a half. I felt now was the time to use it.

The bit of wine left in a bottle of a Pfalz Scheurebe that I would be using had also been hanging around for a while, but not so long as the cabbage, more like a matter of days than weeks; we had opened it and shared it as an aperitif only the week before.

So there was a chance the whole thing might not work out, but I thought the odds were in favor of its success, and so I didn’t share my initial concerns with Barry.

What I didn’t expect was to be almost bowled over by its goodness when we sat down to eat it. Hurrah for cabbage and German wine!

I used Mark Bittman’s recipe for the pasta, following it pretty much to the letter, although I reduced its proportions by 50%. I used a very different pasta from the one he indicates, and I finished it with lovage rather than parsley, and garnished it further with a bit of chive I had just purchased that day.

  • In last night’s (somewhat altered) incarnation of Bittman’s recipe there were 8 ounces of Sfoglini rye trumpets (organic rye flour, organic durum semolina flour, water); 2 cloves of dry garlic from Foragers Market; 2 rinsed salted anchovies, 2 bay leaves, and one dry Calabrian peperoncino, all from Buon Italia; 9 ounces of shredded Savoy cabbage from Norwich Meadows Farm; a quarter cup of a Weinhaus Meßmer 2015 Pfalz Scheurebe, from Burrweiler; a bit of dried orange/golden habanada; some chopped lovage from Two Guys from Woodbridge; and scissored chives from Lani’s Farm; and I added a bit of olive oil around the pasta once it had been arranged in 2 shallow bowls
  • the wine was an Italian (Tuscany) white, Antinori Toscana Bianco Villa Antinori 2015, from Garnet Wines
  • the music was the album, ‘Thea Musgrave, Chamber Works For Oboe’, featuring works dominated by Nicholas Daniel on oboe

skate with a ramp-lemon-clam butter, sage; spinach, garlic

We had finally gotten our schedules together and we were going to sit down to dinner with a friend we had invited months ago. We expected a lively conversation, so in what turned out to be an excess of precaution, we told him we would either dine at a restaurant or at home. I never really had much doubt it would be the latter, mostly because, especially in the last year or two, I’ve become more confident about cooking generally, and even when it comes to including guests, and less easily stressed about focusing on cooking while also trying to be a part of the conversation.

And then only the day before I finally admitted to myself that I really did prefer cooking and dining at home to almost any restaurant experience, when it was about sharing a meal with friends old or new (and possibly also when it’s only the two of us, but of course this applies only in New York).

As it was, last night I presented a meal slightly more creative than most of those that we enjoy with guests, since normally the risk of a cooking failure or of my being distracted from good conversation keeps me from trying to be too innovative. 

I picked up some skate wings at the Greenmarket that morning, but even before I left the fishers’ stand I was having my doubts about the quantity I had asked for: More than the 6 that I bought would never fit into the pan I had in mind, but a second one would mean my range top would be monopolized by the fish alone. While I could add  that pan, it would complicate everything, including the vegetable I had not yet decided on, and it seemed to me that asking for 3 more skate (giving each of us a serving of 3) seemed indecorous.

I decided I’d make up any deficiency in the quantity of 6 by serving a second vegetable, but then I over heard Jan and Karl talking to each other about having only 9 clams left. My ears perked up: Nine clams would mean a just right 3 for each of us as a raw shellfish appetizer (more would have been even better but I was the one who would have to open them that night, in addition to my other cooking duties. I bought the clams sight unseen; they were large littlenecks as it turned out.

I then went looking for some particularly sweet greens, which is what Barry had answered was his preference when I texted him asking what he would like to go with skate that night. He was remembering the collards we had on Saturday, but lately we’ve been enjoying so many terrific sweet things Brassicaceae. I decided on some beautiful overwintered spinach, mostly because one of the people at one of my favorite vegetable stands was so certain that should be my best choice for sweetness. He was right about the sweetness, and there was a bonus was the tender stems that made the cooked greens look a bit like noodles.

Once I was home it occurred to me for the first time that I might not have to pry open the clams the hard way if I could come up with an exciting approach that would combine them with the skate; at the same time I wouldn’t have to worry about the post-clam downtime Barry and Jesse would have to endure while I prepared the next course. I did a search on line and I came up with this recipe. Although in the end I deviated from it quite a bit, I want to credit chef Ana Grgić for what turned out to be a wonderful entrée.

Yay dinner!  And yay friends!

  • six small, yet fairly ‘thickset’ (if that can be said of rays) skate wings, weighing just over 16 ounces altogether, from P.E. & D.D. Seafood, coated all over with a local whole wheat flour from the Blew family of Oak Grove Mills Mills, purchased in the Union Square Greenmarket, that had been seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, sautéed in olive oil and a bit of butter, for a couple of minutes or so on each side, inside a heavy rectangular enameled cast iron oven pan, the fish removed to 3 plates and kept warm in a very ‘slow oven’ while a little more than a tablespoons of butter was added to the pan, and 9 good size littleneck clams, also from P.E. & D.D. Seafood, added to the pan, covered loosely with tin foil and cooked until they had opened [these were pretty big, and they didn’t open very widely for me, so I gave them a little help with a knife and they ended up finished very nicely al dente (if that can be said about clams), and so absolutely fresh and delicious], the flame then turned off under the pan and, with the clams still there, allowed to call jsut a bit before a couple tablespoons of butter were added and pushed around with a wooden spatula until melted, then the finely-chopped bulb sections of 5 small ramps from Lucky Dog Organic Farm, the zest from half of an organic Whole Foods Market lemon, along with a small amount of juice from the lemon, were all stirred around in the pan before the thinly-sliced green leaves of the ramps were tossed in and mixed with the warm sauce, which was checked for seasoning and poured over the warm skate, with the clams arranged around and on top, a bit of chopped Salvia Mandarino (Eng. ‘mandarin sage’, or ‘pineapple sage’) from Stokes Farm sprinkled on the fish, which was garnished with red micro mustard from Two Guys from Woodbridge

  • a generous amount of overwintered spinach from Lani’s Farm, washed in several changes of water, drained, wilted inside a large enameled cast iron pot in a little olive oil in which 2 cut up stems of spring garlic from John D. Madura Farm had first been allowed to soften, the spinach seasoned with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, finished on the plates drizzled with a bit more of the olive oil
  • there were 2 wines, because, well, we were at the table for hours: the first was a Portuguese (Alentejano) white, Esporão V Verdelho 2016, from Garnet Wines, and the second was also Portuguese (Lisbon)Dory Branco 2016, from Garnet Wines    

There was a sweet.

  • ‘slices’ of an almond cardamon pound cake from Bread Alone, in the Unions Square Greenmarket, served with a scoop of Talenti (New Jersey) Vanilla Bean Gelato from Whole Foods Market


lemon pork chop with mandarin sage; tomatoes; broccolini

I’m not a fan of sweets, but when the attribute shows up, unbidden, in your savory dinner, especially in every part of it, I can take the salute.

Otherwise this meal wasn’t much different than many others I’ve prepared using an extremely easy recipe for pork chops I’ve been working with for years [copied in this 2014 foot blog post]. One thing that was new this time was a good closeup image of a very juicy chop, helping, better than the pictures of these dinners I’ve published before, to explain why I’m so fond of the recipe (the word, ‘succulent’ always comes to mind, one that’s not associated with most pork chops served, anywhere).

In fact, 2 images.

  • two thick, bone-in loin pork chops (approximately 10 ounces each) from Flying Pig Farms, dried thoroughly, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, seared in a heavy enameled cast-iron pan, half of an organic Whole Foods Market lemon squeezed over them and left in the pan them while they roasted in a 400º oven for about 12 or 13 minutes total (flipped halfway through and the lemon squeezed over their surfaces once again), removed from the oven, sprinkled with chopped Salvia Mandarino (Eng. ‘mandarin sage’, or ‘pineapple sage’) from Stokes Farm, and the pan juices spooned over the top (there were enough to be transferred to a sauce boat which was brought to the table, along with a ladle)

  • six halved Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods Market, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-grrund black pepper, gently heated, face down first, then turned, inside a small copper skillet, arranged close to the chops and sprinkled with chopped thyme leaves from Stokes Farm

sunday breakfast: bacon, eggs, and birds real or imagined

It looks a bit unkempt, and perhaps a bit over the top.

Also, I don’t know why I’m having so much trouble these days with yolks that break, sometimes even well after they’ve landed safely in the pan. Although I was very, very careful on Sunday, this time I set a record: 3 out of the 6 refused to stay in place. I’ve just done a little research on line, but all I learned was that there doesn’t seem to be agreement about the cause.

But breakfast was, all of it, scrumptious.

  • aside from the green (John Stoltzfoos says they’re green, even though in more official descriptions I always read ‘blue’) Millport Dairy Americauna chicken eggs, there was smoked bacon from the same Amish farm; ramps from Lucky Dog Organic Farm; beautiful, really bitter young radicchio plants from Tamarack Hollow Farm; eight Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods Market; lovage from Two Guys from Woodbridge; a micro red mustard garnish, also from Two Guys from Woodbridge; and slices of a sourdough bâtard from She Wolf Bakery, very gently toasted
  • the music was that of the birds in our garden, beyond the open breakfast room window; they were joined inside by Messiaen, his ‘Catalogue d’oiseaux’ and his ‘La Fauvette’, both performed by Anatol Ugorski

bluefish ‘baked Greek style’; potatoes sage; collards, garlic

For a ‘recipe’ which was originally little more than a sentence I found in a conversation on line about bluefish cookery, this one has really taken off in our kitchen. The header on one of my posts readS, ‘bluefish as I’ve always wanted it to be; turns out it’s Greek’, although I’ve not actually included one of the most particular Greek ingredients, crumbled feta cheese, or at least not yet.

  • one 15-ounce bluefish fillet from American Seafood Company, at Chelsea’s Saturday’s Down to Earth Farmers Market on 23rd Street, rinsed, cut into 2 sections, rubbed with olive oil and a little Columela Rioja 30 Year Reserva sherry vinegar, placed inside an oval tin-lined copper au gratin pan, sprinkled liberally with a very pungent dried Sicilian oregano from Buon Italia and a bit of dried peperoncino Calabresi secchi, also from Buon Italia, covered with one small-to-medium-size thinly-sliced red onion from Norwich Meadows Farm, a couple handfuls of small, halved, very sweet (candy-like), ripe grape tomatoes from Kernan Farms [and some chopped fresh oregano, if available, although this time it wasn’t], 9 pitted and halved dark olives [I used Gaeta], and several thin slices of lemon [it’s probably best not to be too extravagant in these amounts, as I was this time]baked at 425º for 15 minutes or so, garnished with micro red mustard from Two Guys from Woodbridge

  • ten ounces or so of pink pearl potatoes from Berried Treasures Farm, boiled with a generous amount of salt until barely cooked through, drained, halved, dried while still inside the large still-warm vintage Corning  Pyrex Flameware blue-glass pot in which they had cooked, tossed with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and some absolutely wonderful chopped Salvia Mandarino (Eng. ‘mandarin sage’, or ‘pineapple sage’) from Stokes Farm

  • one good-sized bunch of collard greens from Lani’s Farm, washed 3 times, drained, some of the water retained and held aside to be added, if necessary, as the greens cooked, the leaves and tender stems cut roughly, braised together gently until softened/wilted inside a large, heavy vintage, high-sided copper pot in which one sliced stem of spring garlic from John D. Madura Farm had been heated until it also had softened, finished with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and a small drizzle of olive oil
  • the wine was a Portuguese (Douro) white, Quinta Do Crasto Branco 2014, from Garnet Wines
  • the music was the album, ‘Dame Ethyl Smythe: Chamber Works’