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cherry tomato salad; casoncelli alla bergamesca

2015 August 23
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by james

casconcelli_bergamesca

These traditional little Lombardy ‘dumplings’, shaped, as described in a Wikipedia entry, as ‘sweet wrappers’ (the filling is generally slightly sweet), were displayed in the fresh pasta glass case at Eataly when I stopped by on Friday to tell Luca how much we had appreciated his wonderful gnocchi the night before.  I already had plans for dinner that evening, but I decided I’d come back for them the next day.

I did, and we were not disappointed.

  • casoncelli alla bergamesca [filled pasta in the tradition of Bergamo] from Eataly (ingredients: durum wheat, eggs, ‘oo’ flour, pears, prosciutto, hot capocola, walnut, breadcrumbs, parsley , butter, and sage), stirred into a pan where ramp fruit from Berried Treasures had been warmed in a little butter, then some additional butter added, along with freshly-ground black pepper [an alternative sauce would be al burro e salvia, or, as per Luca’s suggestion to me, flavoring the butter with a bit of Gorgonzola Dolce]
  • the wine with the pasta was an Italian (Veneto) white, Boirá Veneto Pinot Grigio 2014

 

tomato_salad_lovage

Although primi, before the primi (which in this case had no secondo), we enjoyed a simple salad of tomatoes and herbs.

  • deep golden/red cherry tomatoes from Berried Treasures, halved, then tossed with chopped lovage from Berried Treasures, parsley from Tamarack Hollow Farm, some good olive oil, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, proper Malden sea salt, and pink peppercorns, arranged in bowls on a bed of very flavorful organic arugula from Norwich Meadows Farm
  • slices of ‘Rustic Classic’ bread from Eataly
  • the wine with the tomato was French (Provence) rosé, with the humble, and quite serviceable description, ‘Vrac Rosé 2014

nettle tagliolini, ramp fruit, oyster mushroom, basil

2015 August 21
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by james

nettle_spaghetti2

I was originally not going to write about this meal.  Even though it would seem to have been a good candidate for publication, if for no other reason than its modest exoticism on these shores, I wasn’t feeling well while I was putting it together, and I didn’t think much better of it once I was done.  I think I was too out of it to judge its merits, but Barry said at the time that he liked it, and when I had a taste of some leftovers today, two days later, I decided that, even still cold from the refrigerator, it was actually very good; In fact I’d say it was delicious.

I’ve decided the pasta that remains will be the primi in our dinner this evening, a meal featuring grey sole and grilled ‘pink’ plum tomatoes.

I had a good photograph of the dish, and I remembered how I had assembled it, so I decided to include ‘nettle tagliolini with oyster mushrooms’ in a post after all. Unfortunately neither of us can remember the music we listened to while eating, so feel free to hum whatever tune you wish while reading this.

  • an antipasto of thinly-sliced prosciutto from Eataly, simply-dressed organic arugula from Norwich Meadows Farm, and slices of ‘Rustic Classic’ bread, from Eataly
  • Morelli Tuscan artisanal nettle tagliolini, or tagliolini all’ortica, from Eataly, served tossed with a sauce composed of roughly-chopped oyster mushrooms from Blue Oyster Cultivation which were sautéed until lightly-browned in a pan (in which ramp fruit had first been heated a little), two tablespoons of white wine added and briefly stirred with the mushrooms over heat, finished with torn leaves from the usual home basil plant sitting in a south window, finished with a drizzle of olive oil
  • the wine was an Italian white, Villa Antinori Toscana 2012

ricotta gnocchi, eggplant, tomato, basil

2015 August 21
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by james

ricotta_gnocchi_tomato_eggplant

Very simple, pretty classic, and perfect.

 

The sauce was conventional, at least by Italian convention, but it was combined with the very best gnocchi I have ever had, anywhere, so it had to be the really wonderful handmade little potato dumplings that made the dish so great.

I’ve been dealing with a really bad head cold over the last two days, so on the first of them I had produced a not particularly good meal (I’m now thinking that a combination of nettle pasta and oyster mushrooms really needs a clear head in order to succeed); for the second, I had avoided even trying to cook (an excellent pizza source is our go-to in such cases).

But I took a chance today, buoyed in the perhaps ill-judged confidence that my condition could only improve, and that, in any event, there was no way that I wouldn’t be able to put together a pretty simple sauce for a very good fresh prepared pasta I might pick up at Eataly while I was in the neighborhood.

I still have the cold, but I’m feeling much better now.

  • ricotta gnocchi, which also included parmesan and goat cheeses, made by Luca Donofrio, the pastaio at Eataly, with a sauce of Japanese eggplant from Berried Treasures, seasoned, patted dry and sautéed until slightly browned, removed and allowed to drain in paper toweling, before being combined with two ‘Striped German’ heirloom tomatoes from Queens County Farm which had been chopped, sautéed in a little olive oil in which sliced garlic from Berried Treasures had been heated and allowed to color, then seasoned with salt, pepper, and a little sugar, and tossed with basil leaves off of a Full Bloom Market Garden plant from Whole Foods, torn
  • there was also a cheese course (I mean, pasta is called a ‘primi’, and for good reason)
  • the wine was an Italian white, La Cala Vermentino di Sardegna 2013
  • the music was Antoine Dauvergne’s “Hercule Mourant’

herb-breaded swordfish; grilled eggplant & tomato

2015 August 18
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by james

swordfish_eggplant_tomato

The swordfish recipe is a Sicilian masterpiece, the vegetables were also Italian, and treated as such, perhaps in a generally mid-peninsular manner; the wine was from La Marche, and the music was Lombardy-Venetian.  The table was Chelsean.

I don’t think I’ve ever before prepared swordfish in the Sicilian style (Trancia di Pesce Spada alla Siciliana), as described by Kyle Phillips, but I now regret my neglect, and I resolve to make up for it, but with the inclusion, whenever possible, of the very American ingredient, ramp fruit.

It was damn good.

  • one inch-thick, one pound swordfish steak from P.E. & D.D. Seafood (note to purse: it was on sale this Monday), cut into two pieces, briefly marinated in a mixture of olive oil, crushed ramp fruit from Berried Treasures and chopped fresh oregano leaves from Stokes Farm, then drained well and rolled in dried bread crumbs, fried in a hot cast iron pan for about 4 minutes on each side, salted, sprinkled with a little lemon juice and drizzled with olive oil before serving
  • two tightly-curved Japanese eggplant from Berried Treasures,, split ‘lengthwise’, scored, brushed with a mixture of oil, finely-chopped early garlic, also from Berried Treasures, and basil leaves torn from a Full Bloom Market Garden plant from Whole Foods, then seasoned with salt and pepper, and pan-grilled, turning once, arranged on plates almost as yin and yang
  • one seasoned Sheboygan ‘pink paste’ tomato from Queens County Farm, pan grilled, finished with a dab of olive oil and a bit of balsamic vinegar, placed on the plates in the middle of the eggplant
  • the wine was a white Italian, Le Salse Verdicchio di Matelica 2014
  • the music was a mid-seventeenth century Venetian masterpiece, Francesco Cavalli’s ‘La Calisto‘, conducted by René Jacobs

duck breast, ramp fruit, lovage; zucchini trifolati

2015 August 17
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by james

duck_breast_trifolati

I’ve prepared this dish before, and often, but this was the first time I included ramp fruit in the finish.  It was wonderful twist on a favorite, introducing even more complexity to it, especially because it was paired with chopped lovage.

  • a small duck breast from Pat LaFrieda at Eataly, the fatty side scored, rubbed with a mixture of salt, pepper, and a bit of sugar, left to rest for about half an hour before it was pan-fried, removed, cut into two servings, then finished with a sprinkling of ramp fruit from Berried Treasures which had just been heated in olive oil for a minute, some lemon juice, chopped lovage, also from Berried Treasures, then drizzled with olive oil
  • zucchini trifolati, made with baby zucchini from Berried Treasures, heirloom tomatoes from Queens County Farm, fresh garlic from Berried Treasures, basil leaves pulled from plants of Full Bloom Market Garden, purchased at Whole Foods, torn, the preparation allowed to rest 15 minutes before serving with the duck
  • the wine was a California white, Jim Olsen Fair Angel California 2012
  • the music was Gluck’s ‘Orfeo & Euridice’, in  a performance by  René Jacobs, the Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus, and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra

stuffed scallops; Romano beans; fennel; heirlooms

2015 August 16
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by james

scallops_fennel_tomatoes_Romano2

I just got carried away with the vegetables and herbs this time, including lemon verbena; because it was there.

A generous and very thoughtful farmer shared a sampling of herbs with me the other day when I was at the Greenmarket, and among them were a few sprigs of lemon verbena, something I hadn’t used in the kitchen for years. Last night I decided to substitute it for the basil I usually use when I want to grill stuffed scallops, or stuffed monkfish medallions.  The results were pretty luscious, as I had expected.

The only other thing I have to say about this delicious plate is that those little ‘scallop sandwiches’ in particular would make a great finger food at some fancy catered event, especially if skewered on little bamboo picks.

 

  • scallops from P.E. & D. D. Seafood, rinsed, dried, and inside a slit made in the side of each, stuffed with a finely-chopped mixture of a small amount of ramp fruit along, with lemon verbena, both from Berried Treasures, black peppercorns, and salt, a tablespoon of olive oil added to make a paste, the assembly then rolled around on a plate with a little more olive oil, pan grilled about 2 minutes on each side, removed to plates, where lemon juice and olive oil were drizzled over the top
  • a combination of golden cherry tomatoes from Berried Treasures, halved, and one red heirloom tomato from Norwich Meadows Farm, cut into wedges, all mixed with olive oil, salt, pepper, a little balsamic vinegar, and tarragon from Stokes Farm
  • baby fennel from Paffenroth Gardens, quartered, mixed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, pan grilled until soft, then tossed with green fennel fronds
  • yellow Romano beans from Berried Treasures, parboiled for a few minutes and dried, reheated in a heavy cast iron pan with some ramp fruits which had been briefly sautéed in oil, the vegetable then finished with salt, pepper, chopped copper (or bronze) fennel fronds, and lovage, both also from Berried Treasures
  • the wine was a great German pinot rosé, Becker, Petit Rose, 2013, from Flatiron Wines & Spirits
  • the music was Antonion Salieri, ‘La grotta di Trofonio

dolphinfish; minutina; tomato and cucumber salsa

2015 August 16
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by james

Dorado_Schlaff650

Becca Schlaff Dorade oil on canvas 36″ x 60″

 

I forgot to put the SD card back in the camera after uploading the last batch of my pictures to the computer, so unfortunately there are no photo images of his meal.  Instead I’ve located the painting above as a stand-in for the main focus of the meal, and I managed to save some phone images of some of the vegetables while they were still at the Greenmarket.

Dolphinfish, perhaps the males especially, with their prominent square foreheads, are among the most spectacular-looking finned creatures in the sea.  In addition, they are apparently among the most plentiful, at least among fish of their size.  They are also absolutely delicious, which brings them to this blog.

Maybe it’s the New England in me, but I don’t like using the name, ‘mahi-mahi’ on this side of the continent, so I will continue to refer to this creature as a ‘dolphinfish’, or ‘dolphin’ (or, in cookery, as ‘dorade’, or ‘dorado’, the name by which online sources say Europeans have come to know it, at least in their kitchens and on their dining tables).

After writing all of that, I will confess that I remain confused about the freedom with which the name ‘dorade’ seems to be thrown about on the other side of the Atlantic, at least according to the Wikipedia entry for ‘mahi-mahi’.  In Europe, Dorade actually seems to be a form of bream, and not the ‘common dogfish‘.

All of which reflects the fact that, like most fish species, dolphinfish are both blessed with, and easily confused through, the use of many names.  Today most people in the western hemisphere know it as mahi-mahi, a rather cute-sounding Hawaiian name (meaning ‘strong-strong’, possibly an allusion to the fish’s sturdy appearance as much as its fighting spirit when hooked). That tag was apparently broadcast beyond the central Pacific by merchandisers who wished to avoid the common confusion of the sport and commercial fish with a beloved mammal [yeah, you’d thnk..].   They share the name because, it is said, both creatures have a habit of swimming alongside boats.

Finally, when it comes to the word, ‘dolphin’, my imagination is never very far from the graceful creatures that appear so frequently in classical design and architecture. I mentioned this in my first Food Blog post about preparing dolphinfish.  But of course I would love them for that alone.

  • exactly one pound of dorade fillet from Pura Vida Fisheries, dry-marinated with more than half a tablespoon of lemon zest, an equal amount of thyme leaves from Keith’s Farm, salt, and pepper, set aside for 20 minutes or so, then seared in a hot pan for about 3 minutes, carefully turned over and that side seared for 3-4 minutes, the heat lowered and the pan loosely covered for a few minutes (depending on thickness), with aluminum foil if no other cover is available, during which time some bruised fresh ramp fruit from Berried Treasures and thinly-sliced shallots from Keith’s Farm were introduced and briefly sautéed with the fish before it was removed and put onto two plates, and the pan juices poured over

minutina

  • minutina from Norwich Meadows Farm, washed, drained, then wilted very slightly in low-to-medium-hot olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper

golden_cherry_tomatoes

  • a salsa of halved tiny golden cherry tomatoes from Norwich Meadows Farm and a smaller amount of delicious little [about an inch-and-a-half-round] lemon cucumbers from Berried Treasures, sliced, together dressed with olive oil, salt, pepper, a bit of white balsamic vinegar, and chopped copper fennel from Berried Treasures
  • The wine was an Argentinian white, Jelu Estate Torrontes 2014, from San Juan
  • the music was Lully’s ‘Amadis’, Clavecin et direction par Christophe Rousset

 

[image at the top is from the website of Becca Schlaff]

grilled portobello; sautéed peppers; grilled zucchini

2015 August 14
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by james

portabello_peppers_zucchini

It’s not red, and it’s not even meat, but it sure is scrumptious.

 

I’m not really trying to engage specific food categories with these dinners; I actually just like variety. This time the meal wasn’t just vegetarian, but genuinely vegan, although, had a carnivore not been informed in advance of the nature of its components, a guest might have easily been oblivious of that fact.

Regular visitors to this blog know that it’s not about meat, so when I talk about meat substitutes it’s not so much about me.

I’ve always laughed at the idea that vegetarianism may too often involve the fabrication of dishes which imitate animal flesh, as in so many boring tofu configurations.  If you can’t get to a good South Indian restaurant, or if the objective is Western-like food with the suggestion of meat rather than the real thing, grilled portobello mushrooms would do it, and there is absolutely no nonsense or fakery, or a strain on the environment.

I always knew that mushrooms, and these mushrooms in particular, can easily evoke both the appearance and the taste of meat, but without the mess, or the perhaps a bad conscience, but I really haven’t done much to demonstrate it to myself, or anyone else – until now.  This was a delicious, totally satisfying dinner on every level.

Additionally, there is real convenience for the cook, because each of the elements of this meal is equally as tasty whether served at room temperature or warm, making it a perfect summer prescription.

Now if I could just find a mushroom to evoke the appearance and the taste of seafood…  Oh, wait, there’s the Oyster mushroom.  That will just have to be another Food Blog outing.

Last night’s meal also invited some thoughts about wine pairing.

The wine with which we accompanied it was a very special discovery we made during our Québec trip two months back.  ‘Special’, also, for still being totally invisible on line.

We had tasted Maurice Dufour’s surprisingly good white (surprising only because of the far northern latitude of its origin), a Muscat, while we were in Charlevoix in June, but we had not enjoyed his newest offering, a red, until Barry suggested we try it with this meal. The Le Charlevoyou was an excellent companion to the slightly quirky seductions of the vegetable plate.  If we were asked to describe the wine in the most general terms, we would both probably say something about it’s resemblance to a Bordeaux.

This is a link to a beautiful short video from ‘La Famille Migneron de Charlevoix’, whose first and primary occupation is the production of some excellent cheeses; there are images of the vineyards beginning almost half of the way through.

Yes, I know Norway has vineyards too, and it’s much closer to the North Pole, but the Gulfstream doesn’t come even close to Baie-Saint-Paul.

We’re now looking forward to Dufour’s rosé, one bottle of which we had also brought back from our visit to that beautiful province.

  • four portobello mushrooms from John D, Madera Farm (weighing just under a pound when first brought home on Wednesday), stems removed, wiped free of soil, and their ‘gills’ scraped off, allowed to rest for half an hour in a pan just large enough to hold them, with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and almost as much lemon juice, plus half a dozen sprigs of oregano from Stokes Farm, turning once, then removed from the marinade and pan grilled for about 5 minutes per side, put onto two plates, squeezed with fresh lemon juice, scattered with more oregano, now chopped, and drizzled with olive oil
  • tiny red and yellow bell peppers  from Bodhitree Farm, each halved or quartered and sautéed over high heat until slightly caramelized, finished with torn basil from a Full Bloom Market Garden plant from Whole Foods, and a light splash of balsamic vinegar
  • baby zucchini from Berried Treasures, sliced to about a quarter inch thick, dipped in olive oil mixed with salt and pepper, pan grilled, then tossed with Gaeta olives from Buon Italia and torn spearmint from Eataly
  • the wine was a red, au QuébecMaurice Dufour‘s Le Charlevoyou (Radisson 80%, et Sainte-Croix 20%) 2014
  • the music was Huang Ruo, Drama Theater Nos. 2-4

tuna, fennel; Rattlesnake beans, lovage; tomato

2015 August 13
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by james

Rattlesnake_Beans_Franca

the beans

 

Franca steered me toward these outsize, slightly homely beans shortly after I had stopped by her stall in the Greenmarket on Wednesday.  Her knowing look, her nod, and my follow through to her enjoiner, “taste one”, were all I needed to scoop up enough of these Rattlesnake beans for dinner.  They were terrific even raw (always an indication of a good bean), and they more than lived up to that promise after a little parboil and the addition of lemon and one of my favorite herbs;  they had so much flavor however that neither would actually have been missed.

 

tuna_rattlesnake_beans

The tuna was unusually high at the fish monger’s on that same day; when I cut a very thick 11-ounce steak into two pieces, they each ended up looking more like ship’s prows than representatives of the undersea aristocracy that they were.

  • two five-and-a-half-ounce sections of tuna loin from Blue Moon Fish Company, rubbed on both top and bottom with a mixture of fennel seed and dried peperoncini, ground together, plus salt and pepper, then pan-grilled for a minute or so on each side, finished with a good squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil
  • Rattlesnake beans from Berried Treasures, strings removed and the beans ‘snapped’, parboiled for a few minutes, then dried inside the same pan while shaking it over a brisk flame, and later reheated with oil, tossed in a bowl with lemon zest and a little lemon juice, seasoned with salt and pepper, and, finally, chopped lovage, also from Berried Treasures, cast over the top of each portion
  • one small heirloom tomato from Norwich Meadows Farm, sliced into four horizontal layers, briefly placed in the grill pan next to the tuna, then removed, distributed onto two plates, seasoned, drizzled with a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar and some olive oil
  • the wine was a California rosé, David Akiyoshi Sangiovese Rosé Lodi California 2014
  • the music was Huang Ruo Chamber Concertos, performed by ICE

lamb with ramp fruit; artichoke-olive-tomato sauté

2015 August 13
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by james

artichoke_olive_tomato_saute

artichoke_saute_2

lamb_chop_artichoke_saute

The images above show two stages of the vegetable sauté process, and as it was served with the lamb.

 

Better than ever, thanks to ramp fruit.

The two lamb chops we had last night were the second of two pairs inside a single package I had brought home frozen from the Greenmarket over two weeks back.  I defrosted the first two overnight and prepared them the next day, finishing with a little sliced shallot and some sorrel butter. At the time I thought lamb chops do not come any better, but the treatment I gave the second pair yesterday (again, defrosted overnight) may have excelled them.

The reason lies in one simple ingredient: ramp fruit, my favorite new thing, and one which is making its appearance just when I had decided the spring ramp craze had gotten totally out of hand.

The fruit were displayed on long stems in Franca’s Berried Treasures stall at the Greenmarket this past Friday;  they were new, and I had no idea what they were.  Her hand-lettered sign didn’t help much , since someone on the farm had put the wrong one in the truck that day.  There was still a good chance I was going to take some home, even before Franca said something about ramp buds, or maybe it was ramp capers, adding, when someone else asked what to do with them, that we should think of them as garlic.

I was now sold. totally.

On Tuesday I still had some ‘buds’ remaining from that same bunch (‘bouquet’), even though I had been using some in virtually every meal I’d prepared since.  Last night I snipped off another small amount of fruit from the end of their long dry stems and I did little more than gently heat them in a small tin-lined copper pan (recently acquired from a sidewalk vender, and becoming increasingly indispensable to my kitchen operations.  The tiny fruits gave up a terrific aroma and ended up on top of the pan-grilled chops. The meat had been seasoned with salt and pepper, but I did noting else to it squeeze a bit of lemon and a drizzle some olive oil over it.  It was terrific, the taste of the excellent lamb had grown a little garlicky and subtly floral.

I picked the superb vegetable recipe [from Mark Bittman] that accompanied the lamb as a way to use 12 of the smallest of artichokes which I could fine in the Greenmarket on Monday.  I had selected them from a basket containing both them and some a bit larger, because I had thought a diminutive size would make it unnecessary to perform any serious operations involving pulling off petals, slicing off ends and tops, or removing hairy chokes.

The au naturel route worked for me, but then I’m someone who always eats grape pits, usually skins of all kinds, and occasionally even peanut shells. Barry preferred to remove the outermost leaves before consuming the rest of the artichoke and its companion vegetables, so next time I really should bring home more artichokes, and allow myself a few more minutes of preparation time.

  • two thick loin lamb chops from 3-Corner Field Farm, thoroughly dried, cooked on a very hot grill pan for about 4 minutes on each side, seasoned after both had been seared, removed from the pan and each topped with about 8 slightly-crushed ramp fruit from Berried Treasures, the ‘buds’ having been heated earlier in a bit of olive oil, the chops finished with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil
  • I followed the vegetable sauté recipe, which appears on the Times site here, pretty closely, using thyme from Keith’s Farm for one of Bittman’s alternatives in its first stage (rosemary being the other), but I substituted tarragon from Stokes Farm for the parsley he specifies for the garnish at the very end (because I love tarragon, and because it seemed Provençal, although mint would also have worked very well);  the walnut-size artichokes were from Norwich Meadows Farm; the garlic was from Phillips Farm; the oil-cured black olives were from Buon Italia; the heirloom tomatoes were from Norwich Meadows Farm; and the tarragon came from Stokes Farm
  • the wine was a French red, Château Valcombe Les Hauts de Valcombe Rouge Ventoux 2013
  • the music was the magnificent ‘Iphigénie en Tauride‘, by Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck, performed [here the full-length recording] by Marc Minkowski and Les Musiciens du Louvre

And, speaking of fruit, we enjoyed a dessert of a fine homemade sorbetto, made by a friend.

 

sorbetto_Tim_Evans

  • the sorbetto incorporated several varieties of plums, blackberries, lemon, sugar, and gelatin), and after I had placed it on a deep blue saucer and garnished it with spearmint leaves from Eataly, it managed to look more than a little holiday-ish