Once again there were some beautiful large very fresh scallops at the Greenmarket, and, especially after a summer of much smaller specimens, it was going to seem a shame if I didn’t take advantage of their size – and the fresh bouquet of basil waiting on the counter – to repeat the same savory entrée I had prepared only 10 days before.
I made last night’s preparation at least a little distinctive from earlier versions by finishing the 10 pan-grilled médaillons with a garnish as special as the perfect scallops themselves.
- 10 thick sea scallops (12 ounces) from Seatuck Fish Company, rinsed, dried, slit horizontally with a very sharp knife almost all of the way, stuffed with a mixture of basil from Campo Rosso Farm, one medium-size clove of garlic from Willow Wisp Farm, salt, and pepper, chopped together very finely, removed to a small bowl where just enough olive oil was added to form a paste, the stuffed scallops then rolled around on a plate with a little more olive oil, drained, pan grilled about 2 or 3 minutes on each side, removed to plates, lemon juice and olive oil drizzled over the top, and garnished with some wonderful micro scallions from Two Guys From Woodbridge
- two garlic scapes from Berried Treasures, cut into quarter-inch segments, sautéed in olive oil until tender inside a heavy copper pan, adding much of one small red Calabrian chili pepper from Campo Rosso Farm, finely chopped, near the end, after which one medium green heirloom tomato from Stokes Farm cut into thin wedges, and 8 or so small orange and red cherry tomatoes from Berried Treasures, halved, were added and cooked for a minute or so before 2 small handfuls of halved yellow flat pole beans from Norwich Meadows Farm (par-boiled, drained, and dried earlier) added to the pan and stirred briefly, heating and combining the flavors of all the vegetables, seasoned with salt and pepper, mixed with a little chopped fronds attached to stems of some fennel flowers from Willow Wisp Farm, removed to the 2 plates, and scattered with the fennel flowers themselves (tasting much like the takeaway from an Indian restaurant), roughly chopped
There was cheese and fruit.
- small amounts of 2 Consider Bardwell cow cheeses, ‘Barden Blue’ and ‘Pawlet’, with toasts made from very thin slices of ‘whole wheat farm’ bread from Rock Hill Bakery, in Gansevoort, N.Y., served with one shared ripe, luscious satsuma plum from Phillips Farm
I was at the Pura Vida fish display cases. The mackerel were beautiful, so I hardly hesitated before choosing them for our entrée on Friday night. Then Paul told me that, just 2 stalls down, Joe Rizzo had some beautiful Boletus mushrooms. I’m not an expert, but even I knew that sounded pretty special.
I love mushrooms, but I’m far less familiar with these wonderful fungi than I have eventually become with fish. I was also nonplussed, because I knew mushrooms should be used on the day they’re brought home.
At least initially, to me the combination of mackerel and mushroom seemed like anything but a natural. I mentioned my doubts to Paul, but he would have none of it. I quickly checked Google on my phone, to see if anything showed up with a search under the words, words, ‘mackerel’ and ‘mushrooms’. I couldn’t find much, partly on account of the glare outside on the pavement, but I decided I’d give the combo a try, thinking I would be able to uncover something interesting on my laptop once I had returned home.
I found a modest site I had never come across before, with what seemed a perfect fit. The recipe asked only for ingredients I had on hand (there were very few ingredients, in fact), and it was extremely simple (so simple I originally had my doubts about its virtues). Then, as I thought about it more, it made perfect sense, especially since the acidity of a little lemon was involved, appropriate for this rich oily fish, and I was going to be able accompany the mackerel and the mushrooms with some refreshingly juicy sautéed cucumbers.
It turned out wonderful, and it has freed my mackerel from its long bondage with tomato salsa, not however as a substitute for that excellent classic formula, but as perhaps only the first of a number of new alternatives to it.
- 4 Boston mackerel fillets (a total of 14 oz) from Pura Vida Fisheries, seasoned on both sides with salt and pepper, sautéed fairly gently with butter and a little olive oil inside a large, thick oval copper pan, flesh side first, turned after about 3 minutes and the other side cooked for about the same length of time, removed to 2 plates when done, covered to keep warm, a tablespoon or more butter added to the pan, and 4 ounces of mushrooms (‘Boletus Separans’) from Blue Oyster Cultivation, cut into large-ish sections, sautéed, stirring, until lightly cooked, seasoned with salt, pepper, a couple tablespoons of chopped lovage and chopped parsley, both from Keith’s Farm, and about a tablespoon of lemon juice, the mushrooms stirred some more and they and the juices spooned on top of the mackerel, which was finished with a little fresh chopped lovage and parsley
- two luscious Barese cucumbers, from Berried Treasures, ‘hairs’ wiped off, unpeeled, cut into bite-sized segments, sautéed over a medium-hot flame in butter and a little olive oil inside a large cast iron pan until lightly browned, seasoned with salt and pepper, tossed with chopped tarragon from Stokes Farm, arranged on 2 plates and sprinkled with micro scallions from Two Guys from Woodbridge
- the wine was a California (Central Coast) rosé, Keith Hock Central Coast Rose 2015
- the music was Q2 Music, streaming
Barry is always the capocuoco when it comes to stirring and timing the pasta, and he always brings it in al dente, as he did last night. Even if it was really no big thing in the end, on my side I let us down a bit: The garlic scapes did not end up al dente. They still tasted very good, but let’s say they were a little chewy (“fibrous”, I heard Barry say under his breath). I blame it, justifiably or not, on the fact that they were very late in their season, and that might also explain why they had a stronger flavor than usual.
But everything else was super, making it easier to ignore the chewy bits.
And the fennel flowers were brilliant.
- 8 ounces from a package of Setaro spaghetti chitarra from Buon Italia, served with a simple fresh sauce which began with 3 minced cloves of garlic from Norwich Meadows Farm and 2 cups of garlic scapes from Berried Treasures Farm, cut into 2-inch lengths, sautéed in olive oil for 3-4 minutes (which turned out not to be long enough this time; see above), accompanied halfway through by parts of one ‘cherry bomb’ (or ‘red bomb’) pepper from Norwich Meadows Farm, after which a little butter, most of the juice of one lemon, and most of its zest, added to the pan, the drained pasta mixed in once the butter had melted, and all stirred over low heat, during which time some reserved cooking water was added to help emulsify it, seasoned with salt and pepper, and sprinkled with very fresh chopped fennel flowers, and some of the fronds, from Willow Wisp Farm
- the wine was an Italian (Sicily) white, Corvo Insolia 2013, from Philippe Wine in Chelsea
- the music was the Symphonies Nos. 3 and 5 of Ferdinand Ries, Howard Griffiths conducting the Zurich Chamber Orchestra
This fish doesn’t get much respect. This has been true even after some people decided it would go over better if it were called ‘mahi -mahi,’ rather than the traditional, ‘dolphin’, or ‘dolphinfish’, important in both western cuisine and art for 4 millennia (long before Hawaii turned up). I came close to exhausting the topic, once before, at least as it relates to home food preparation. I posited what appears to be one of the reasons for its lack of popularity. I’m not willing to go into that again now, other than to point out that I’m talking about the water-breathing fish, and not the air-breathing mammal.
My own experience with it in the kitchen is that I liked it the very first time I had it, and I’ve liked it even more each time I’ve been able to bring it home.
The dolphin we had Wednesday evening was the best yet.
Some very special fresh onions played supporting roles in the preparation of both the fish
..and the vegetable.
- one dolphin fillet, about 13 ounces, from Blue Moon Seafood, halved lengthwise, dry-marinated with more than half a tablespoon of organic lemon zest, an equal amount of chopped thyme leaves from Stokes Farm, salt, and pepper, set aside for 30 minutes or so, divided lengthwise into 2 pieces, and seared inside a hot heavy, oval copper fish pan for about 3 minutes, former skin side up, turned over, and that side seared for the same length of time, the heat lowered and the pan loosely covered for a very few minutes with aluminum foil just before some thin-ish slices of very small French Leeks from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm and one small red pearl onion from Paffenroth Farms, sliced, were introduced and briefly sautéed along with the fish before the 2 pieces were removed and put onto plates, after which a bit of leftover black olive tapenade (Gaeta olives, brined wild capers, one salted anchovy, all from Buon Italia, some chopped fresh thyme from Stokes Farm) after it had first been mixed with a tiny amount of Rioja wine vinegar, was added to the pan and stirred, the now richly-savory pan juices poured over the top of the fish
- four small green and yellow summer squash from Berried Treasures Farm, sliced into thick disks and sautéed with 2 garlic cloves from Norwich Meadows farm, halved, until they had begun to caramelize, while halfway through their cooking 2 fresh ‘green onions’ from Berried Treasures, sliced fairly thinly, were added, and a little later, parts of one ‘cherry bomb’ (or ‘red bomb’) pepper from Norwich Meadows Farm, and everything continued to cook until both squash and onions had begun to caramelize, the pan removed from the flame and fresh chopped fennel fronds from Willow Wisp Farm were mixed into the vegetables (I had intended to sprinkle the beautiful fennel flowers themselves on the top once the vegetables had been served, but became distracted by the process with the dolphin and totally forgot to do so)
- one yellow-orange heirloom tomato from Down Home Acres and 4 of ‘the best cherry tomatoes’ from Stokes Farm, sliced, tossed together, dressed with a good Campania olive oil, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, some chopped lovage from Keith’s Farm, and served in low bowls on the side
- the wine was an Italian (Campania) white, Falanghina Feudi di San Gregorio 2014
- the music was Mozart’s Symphonies Nos. 32, 35, and 36, performed by John Eliot Gardiner and the English Baroque Soloists
Neither of us ever tires of eating peppers, sweet or hot, so I find it hard to avoid a display of either in the Union Square Greenmarket (or any farmers’ market). I was surprised that the particular beauties I sautéed last night, seen in the picture above, had been waiting in the refrigerator for days.
- two garlic cloves from Norwich Meadows Farm, roughly-sliced, sautéed in olive oil inside a deep enameled cast iron pot large enough to hold the pasta once it was cooked [note: normally I would have immediately followed that with a tablespoon or so of dry fennel seed and heated it until pungent, but I this time I just forgot], followed by small multi-colored bell peppers from Stokes Fram, seeds and pith removed, roughly sliced, plus a little bit of ‘cherry bomb’ [or ‘red bomb’] peppers from Norwich Meadows Farm, also seeded and deveined, cut into slivers, the slivers cut in half (to be able to spot and remove some of them, should they turn out to be too spicy-hot), all the peppers sautéed until tender, and, near the end, joined for a minute or two by 5 very small French leeks from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm, sliced into quarter-inch segments, the completed mix then seasoned with salt and freshly-ground black pepper and combined in the sauce pot with pasta which had been cooked al dente and drained (about 8 ounces from a package of Setaro spaghetti chitarra from Buon Italia), some reserved pasta water added and used to emulsify the sauce by stirring over low heat, the whole garnished in the individual shallow pasta bowls with micro purple basil from Two Guys from Woodbridge
- the wine was an Italian (Tuscany) white, Val di Toro Auramaris 2014 (with Vermentino and Grechetto grapes)
- the music was Symphony No. 1 and 2, by the early nineteenth-century composer Ferdinand Ries (both pupil of and assistant to Beethoven), performed by Howard Griffiths directing the Zurich Chamber Orchestra