red fife pasta, duck bacon, onion, cardoon, mint; cheese

Thinking about what might be the best way to use the extra, cardoons I had prepared but not used in this meal on Monday, the answer seemed simple: Pasta!

I was concerned about the bitterness of the [thistle stems], as I mentioned in the post describing that meal; I suspected the pasta would dilute most, if not all of it, and it did. And it was good.

  • eight slices (4 ounces) of duck bacon from Hudson Valley Duck Company in the Union Square Greenmarket, cut into 1/4 inch segments, sautéed in a little olive oil inside a large, heavy, high-sided, tin-lined copper pot until the fat began to render, removed, set aside, and replaced in the pot by 2 thick scallions from Alex’s Tomato Farm, in the 23rd Street Saturday farmers market, and a section of a dried orange/gold habanada pepper, heated until the onion had softened, followed by a couple handfuls of cardoons that had been boiled and drained on Monday and placed in the refrigerator, the cardoons sautéed until beginning to caramelize, at which time 9 ounces of Sfoglini red fife blend zucca, cooked al dente, was tossed into the pot, with some of the reserved pasta cooking water, stirred over medium heat until the sauce had been emulsified, chopped peppermint from from Phillips Farms added and mixed into the pasta, which was then arranged inside low bowls, sprinkled with a little more chopped mint, drizzled with olive oil, and finished with a generous amount of freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Vache Rosse from Eataly
  • the wine was a California (grapes from 3 regions, North Coast, Lodi and Clarksburg) rosé, Evangelos Bagias California Rosé 2016, from Naked Wines

There was also a cheese course.

  • three cheeses from Consider Bardwell Farm: a blue goat; ‘Manchester’, also goat; and ‘Pawlet’, a cow cheese
  • thin toasts from 2 different several-days-old breads, a small Pugliese roll and a classic French baguette, both from Whole Foods Market
  • the wine with the cheese was a California (Lodi) white, F. Stephen Millier Angels Reserve Pinot Grigio Lodi 2016, also from Naked Wines


  • the music throughout the meal was from the Deutsche Grammophon/DGG album, ‘haydn, “sturm” und “drang”, paris & london symphonies’, the pieces performed by the  Orchestra Of The Age Of the Enlightenment, and the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century, Frans Brüggen conducting both; the symphonies we listened to were Nos. 47, 46, and 26

‘gilded’ hake, sage, parsley; cardoons, garlic, bread crumbs

I was pretty excited to find cardoons in the Greenmarket on Monday. The excitement continued all the way through its several cooking processes – even while working inside a very warm and humid kitchen – and it survived the entire meal.

Barry, who is crazy about artichokes, which are related to cardoons (both are thistles) was less enthusiastic, because he thought they were too bitter, even after some extended boiling and sautéing (“a bit like eating only the outermost leaves of an artichoke”). I think I have a higher tolerance for weird, medicinal, or bitter flavors (it’s why Barry is almost always the one who tests the wine).

The recipe I used asked for mushrooms. I didn’t have any, although had I known I could have easily brought some home from Union Square. I was reasonably confident I could do without them, and with most recipes that would be possible, but here their presence would probably have moderated some of the acidity. The other recipes for these ‘artichoke thistles’ all seemed to involve either an oven or some deep frying, and I wanted to avoid both expedients.

I think I’ll know better what to expect next time, and there will definitely be a next time. I’ve assembled several new recipes even since preparing last night’s dinner.

There were herbs (there area almost always herbs), sage and parsley for the hake, peppermint for the cardoons.

  • two hake fillets (a total of one pound), from P.E. & D. D. Seafood, dredged in local North Country Farms Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour seasoned with plenty of sea salt and fresh-ground Tellicherry pepper, dipped in a shallow bowl in which one egg from Millport Dairy and about a tablespoon of Trickling Springs Creamery 2% milk had been beaten together with a fork, sautéed in 2 tablespoons of Organic Valley ‘Cultured Pasture Butter’, along with 3 very large fresh sage leaves from Phillips Farms, inside a heavy tin-lined oval copper pan for about 7 minutes, turning the sections half of the way through, then sprinkled with organic lemon juice from Whole Foods Market and the small amount of pan juices that remained, arranged on 2 plates, garnished with chopped parsley from Keith’s Farm, served with lemon wedges on the side
  • one stalk of cardoons form Alewife Farm, trimmed, cut into one-inch lengths, prepared (including blanching for about 20 or 25 minutes), along the lines of these instructions, placed without crowding too much, over medium heat inside a large heavy cast iron well-seasoned pan after several tablespoons of the same Organic Valley butter had been placed in it, had melted, and the had foam subsided, the flame reduced to medium-low, the vegetables sautéed, stirring occasionally, until they took on a bit of color, or for about 10 to 12 minutes, followed by one section of an orange/gold dried habanada pepper and one large clove of Rocambole garlic, chopped, from Keith’s Farm, cooked for a very few minutes, or until the garlic was tender, and finally about half a cup of fresh bread crumbs (a white baguette from Whole Foods Market baked a day or two before) and a pinch of salt, the heat turned up to medium-high, and the contents of the pan cooked, stirring occasionally, until the crumbs browned a bit and the cardoons fully tender (and, ideally, sweet), or about 5 minutes longer, the dish seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, arranged on the plates, a bit of lemon juice and some chopped peppermint from Phillips Farm sprinkled over the top
  • the wine was a California (Clarksburg) white, Richard Bruno Clarksburg Chenin Blanc 2016, from Naked Wines
  • the music was the album, ‘Ligeti, Murail and Benjamin: Musica Viva Vol 22’, George Benjamin conducting the Bavarian RSO and Pierre-Laurent Aimard

spaghetto con zucchine fritte, timo, pecorino

Fred Plotkin is the author of this simple pasta concept. It was one of several excellent very minimal recipes that appeared in an article, ‘Pasta From the Provinces’, which I tore out of the May, 1986 issue of ‘GQ’. The magazine’s pages have frayed and torn (they were printed before many of our friends had even been born), but the recipe has not; in fact it only gets better as its competition becomes increasingly complex in this increasingly complex age.

Fred writes that the recipe came from Signora Francesca Santonocito, “ excellent Sicilian cook whose recipes I have come to know through her daughter, Luciana.” (it seems that most recipes, or at least the very best, are only restatements of ones created earlier, which were most likely themselves restatements).

I’ve made this dish a number of times, beginning inside my Broad and Water streets loft weeks after I cut it out of the magazine, but tonight, when Barry requested it, I realized we had not enjoyed it since I began writing this food blog in 2009.

Spaghetti with fried zucchini.

The only change I made to this classic last night was the addition of some fresh thyme.

  • two round zucchini from Alewife Farm (10 or 11 ounces). sliced very thinly (approximately 1//16th of an inch), sautéed, without crowding, in 2 batches, turning once, inside a very large heavy cast iron oiled pan over a relatively hot flame until they had almost caramelized, scattered with chopped thyme leaves from Stokes Farm, before the squash was joined and mixed inside its pan by 8 ounces of Afeltra Pasta di Gragnano Spaghetto from Eataly, cooked al dente, and a little of the reserved pasta cooking water (to emulsify the sauce), seasoned with freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper and arranged in 2 low bowls, some Sicilian olive oil drizzled around the edges of the pasta, and a modest amount of freshly-grated Fulvi Pecorino Romano DOP, from Eataly, distributed over the top
  • the wine throughout was an Italian (Sicily) white, Corvo Bianco 2015, from Philippe Liquors and Wines
  • the music throughout was a recording of Beethoven’s three Razumovsky [or Rasumovsky] string quartets, opus 59, performed by the Alexander String Quartet

simple breakfast, with some low-key spice, and Messiaen

There were several internationally-sourced ‘spicy’ elements, broadly understood, in this breakfast, including Indian black pepper, a heatless Cornel habañero, peppery Connecticut nasturtium leaves, and a Basque piment powder.

Otherwise it was mostly bacon and eggs and toast.

  • There were six pastured chicken eggs from John Stoltzfoos’ Millport Dairy Farm stall in the Union Square Greenmarket, fried sunny side up; Millport Dairy thick bacon, toasts from two different sturdy breads, a multigrain baguette (unbleached wheat flour, whole wheat dark rye, white starter, honey, sugar grain mix {millet, sunflower, coarse rye, oats, flax seed, sesame) from She Wolf Bakery, and a loaf of Balthazar Bakery sourdough rye from Schaller & Weber; stems of some baby French Leeks from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm; Maldon Salt, freshly-ground Tellicherrry pepper, pinches of a homemade French Basque piment d’Espellate purchased in a small town north of Baie-Comeau, Quebec 3 and a half years ago from the producer’s daughter; more of the same mix of herbs assembled for the dinner of two days before , and for the tomato salad last night as well (a combination of peppermint, bush basil, and oregano from Norwich Meadows Farm, summer savory and thyme from Stokes Farm, fennel frond from Alewife Farm, and dill flowers from Eckerton Hill Farm); a little Organic Valley ‘Cultured Pasture Butter’, for the toasts that were too rigid for dipping into the egg yolks; and micro nasturtium leaves from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • the music, which we listened to while we sat at the breakfast room window open to the garden, was ‘Olivier Messiaen: Complete Bird Music For Piano Solo’, performed by  Carl-Axel Dominique, in 3 CD discs (3 hours, 29 minutes)

smoked hatch pepper sausage, Spätzle noodles; tomatoes

Red or green?

The sausage was German, but with a bit of a kink (there was a lot of spice). Still, it was produced by a family-owned and now legendary New York German butcher shop, so we both thought of pursuing the idea of a German meal through a judicious choice of its accompaniments, even if it would be more of a creative, 21st-century and (narrowly) cosmopolitan German meal.

I had probably, without knowing it, been saving that package of Spätzle noodles for just such an occasion, as I hadn’t felt they represented the echt thing (which has to be egg noodles made by hand, at home), and I was reluctant to pass them off as such. This seemed to be the right moment to try them out.

We had first tasted these fantastic sausages, on buns, with condiments, at Schaller’s Stube, which is, naturally (was sonst?), a ‘sausage bar’. Half of the name, and probably almost half of the sausages special interest, comes from a certain ingredient, ‘hatch pepper‘, identified with New Mexico, and not with Germany.

So I thought it made at least some sense, at least using a little imagination, to accompany these capsicum-flavored sausages, and the German ghost pasta, with some really excellent tomatoes I had ripening on the breakfast room windowsill, since both peppers and tomatoes originated in the lands of what is today known as Latin America.

  • four smoked hatch chile sausages from Schalle & Weber, pan grilled until they looked just a little blistery, served with a bit of ‘Meretina’ horseradish spread from Schaller & Weber and some organic German-style Texas-manufactured mustard from Whole Foods Market
  • eight ounces or so from a packaged Swabian specialty, ‘Traditional German Egg Pasta Spaetzle’, made in Trochtelfingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
    by Bechtle (I don’t remember where it was purchased), cooked in a large pot of salted water for about 10 minutes, turned into a large high-sided tin-lined copper pot in which most of one thinly sliced red onion from Alex’s Tomato Farm in the 23rd St. farmers market had been sautéed, along with a little dried orange/gold habanada pepper, in a couple tablespoons of Organic Valley ‘Cultured Pasture Butter’ from Whole Foods Market, until the onion was more than softened, the mix seasoned with sea salt and Tellicherry pepper, a couple teaspoons of chopped thyme from Stokes Farm added and tossed in, garnished on the plates with purple micro radish from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • two large heirloom tomatoes from from Sycamore Farms, cut into wedges, tossed with a roughly-chopped section of the same red onion used with the Spätzle, seasoned with sea salt and Tellicherry pepper, drizzled with some Sicilian olive oil from Whole Foods, and a little white balsamic vinegar, sprinkled with the same mix of herbs assembled for the dinner of the day before (a combination of peppermint, bush basil, and oregano from Norwich Meadows Farm, summer savory and thyme from Stokes Farm, fennel frond from Alewife Farm, and dill flowers from Eckerton Hill Farm)
  • the wine was a California (Central Coast) rosé, Keith Hock Central Coast Rosé 2015, from Naked Wines
  • the music was the album, ‘The Eos Ensemble / Jonathan Sheffer ‎– Music For Merce‘, a choice inspired by our visit to the first rooms of the Museum of Modern Art’s Rauschenberg retrospective that day (we will be returning, probably more than once, to the exhibition)