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grilled: swordfish, lots of herbs; eggplant, basil

2015 July 3
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by james

swordfish_eggplant

 

Note to self and to readers:  There’s usually no accounting for why some outings with a familiar recipe are more successful than the others, but we both thought that each of the elements in this entrée exceeded all earlier versions, and the reason I’d already repeated their formulas so often is that they were already so delicious (and subject to variations suggested by the availability of ingredients).

 

Maybe it’s because I’m very much a child of the 50s (Xiphias gladius were big way back then, very big), but I’ve always loved swordfish.  I’d like to think I’ve grown up a bit since first experiencing the magnificent critter, and I was never much taken with its likeness repeated in porcelain or metal gimcracks often perched above bulky television consoles, but swordfish have always carried some serious weight within my epicurean pantheon, even before I left the Midwest. I think it was the only item on the menu in those days that could persuade an auto baron to order anything other than steak or prime rib in a serious restaurant, like Detroit’s Joe Muer’s, or The London Chop House.

The mercury scare which appeared at some time after I left the Great Lakes environment for deeper waters bummed me out, because now, when I could develop a more intimate relationship with this noble fish, it virtually disappeared from both menus and fish markets (probably a welcome development for the swordfish themselves).

And then the scare abated, but I still couldn’t find much to appreciate about it in my restaurant experiences.  As in the case of tuna, I just assumed its unsavoriness was the fault of the fish.  It was only in the last decade or so that I learned how not to cook it, meaning, to be sure, not to cook it in the way it was cooked in the 1950s, and, in many places, long after.

This meal employed one of the two recipes I have followed for years; the other one is actually even simpler, and also comfortable with variations.

  • one 15-ounce swordfish steak from Blue Moon Fish Company, halved, rubbed with a mixture of herbs (savory, lovage, chives, parsley, rosemary, and thyme), which had been chopped together with sea salt, then mixed with some freshly-ground pepper, minced garlic and the zest from an only-slightly-tart lemon from Trader Joe’s, moistened with a bit of olive oil, then pan-grilled and finished with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of more olive oil
  • three small-ish Japanese eggplant from Bodhitree Farm, split lengthwise, scored, brushed with a mixture of oil, finely-chopped organic garlic from Trader Joe’s, and finely-chopped basil from Keith’s Farm, seasoned with salt and pepper, and then pan-grilled, turning once
  • the wine was a Spanish white, Finca Os Cobatos Godello Monterrei 2013
  • the music was Francesco Cavalli, ‘La Didone’, performed by Europa Gallant, Fabio Biondi conducting

 

This is what Bodhitree’s box of eggplant looked like in the Greenmarket on Wednesday:

Japanese_eggplant

grilled tuna, fennel seed; squash and squash stems

2015 June 25
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by james

tuna_squash_stems

Last night I brought to the table two aspects from two different summer squash, purchased on two different days, from two separate farmers.  Oh yes, there were also pan-grilled tuna steaks.

Note:  The Sierra pepper was pretty mild, by nature, so I eventually added more of the colorful chopped morsels, but unfortunately only after snapping this picture.

  • two 7-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, further seasoned with salt, and pepper, then pan-grilled for only a minute or so on each side, finished with a good squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil
  • a large handful of organic squash leaves, buds, and stems picked up from Zaid at Norwich Meadows farm on Monday, sautéed in olive oil with slices of one small organic garlic clove from Trader Joe’s, then reserved and later added to a broad pan in which chunks of yellow summer squash collected from Gwen Rogowski at Rogowshi Farm that day had been sautéed with another organic garlic clove from Trader Joe’s, this time just split in two, and then, just as the squash was caramelizing, three thin scallions from John D. Madura Farm, sliced, and one sierra pepper from Whole Foods, chopped, added, the vegetable finished with chopped lovage from Keith’s Farm
  • the wine was a California rosé, David Akiyoshi Sangiovese Rosé Lodi California 2014
  • the music was the two Haydn cello concertos

zito corto rigato, with celtuce, garlic, pinoli, lovage

2015 June 24
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by james

celtuce_zito

I had never heard of celtuce before visiting Zaid and Haifa’s stand in the Greenmarket on Monday, but I will say it was a revelation, for me a wonderful new vegetable (and new vegetables must be encouraged).  It was terrific.  The flavor might be described as a slightly nutty take on celery and bok choy.  I don’t really need any analogies myself; I do know that from now on I will be looking for every opportunity to enjoy it again.

After talking to Zaid about the stalks he had arrayed on a table, I went home with three of them, which turned out to be the exact number I needed for the treatment I ultimately settled upon, a dressing for a good artisanal short pasta.  After only a bit of research on line, in order to learn something more about what I had brought home, I decided I could risk going forward.  The recipe I used was entirely my own.

It was delicious, possibly the most delicious mix of greenery and pasta I had ever put together, and I think I’m something of a veteran in that kind of campaign.  The colors and the textures were a bonus.

Note: I don’t know of any reason why olive oil couldn’t be used to brown the celtuce ‘coins’, making this dish entirely vegetarian, and I don’t even know why I didn’t use it myself yesterday.

  • the top greens of three stems of celtuce from Norwich Meadows Farm, wilted in a pot along with a little olive oil in which one clove of sliced organic garlic from Trader Joe’s had been sweated, the greens then reserved while the stems themselves were prepared by being shaved from a vegetable peeler, cut into beautiful green ‘coins’ (they’ll look a bit like sliced kiwi fruit) and parboiled for about 7 or 8 minutes, after which they were drained, sautéed in a large enameled pot in a little butter, seasoned with salt and pepper, tossed with a generous handful of pine nuts which had previously been pan-roasted in a cast iron pan on the top of the range, the boiled pasta (Afeltra Ziti Corti Rigati 100% Grano Italiano) introduced into the pot at this point and stirred with the greens – and their delicious liquor – which had been reserved earlier, along with a little chopped lovage from Keith’s Farm, served in shallow bowls with more chopped lovage and a fresh drizzle of olive oil
  • the wine was an Italian white, La Cala Vermentino di Sardegna 2013
  • the music was that of Gerald Busby, our neighbor across the road in the Chelsea Hotel

 

celtuce_Norwich_Meadows_2

The image above is of the display of celtuce at the Norwich Meadows Farm stand on Monday.

squid ink pasta with fennel, tomato, spring onion

2015 June 23
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by james

squid_ink_pasta_2

It was not a Greenmarket day, so there was no fish in the house, and I didn’t feel like preparing meat on the first day of summer.  I always have both dry and fresh (frozen) pasta, and I did have a small baby fennel bulb, an enormous amount of fennel fronds, some cherry tomatoes, and some spring red onions, and I was fain to use these seasonal gifts before they turned [there, I did it; I used ‘fain’ in an conventional context; it’s something I always wanted to do, although I knew I’d never have the nerve to use it in speech].

As it turned out, what I didn’t have, was a simple package of penne or any other stubby pasta.  I didn’t want to use long pasta, so I reached for the squid ink penne I’d been saving for something particularly appropriate to its strengths.

it wasn’t a completely successful improvisation, but, because it looked so exotic in the picture, I decided to post it anyway

  • a few Maine cherry ‘cocktail’ tomatoes from Whole Foods, partially cooked down in olive oil, one red spring onion from Tamarak Hollow Farm, split and pan-grilled, one young fennel bulb from Bodhitree Farm, sliced, along with its root, then also pan-grilled, and some dried red pepper flakes, all tossed with boiled Penne Rigate al Nero di sepia from Rustichella d’Abruzzo SpA, and finished with a drizzle of olive oil and some chopped fennel fronds
  • the wine was an Italian white, Villa Antinori Toscana 2012

grilled striped bass; peas, spring onion; squash buds

2015 June 23
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by james

striped_bass_peas_2

Once again last night I had the chance to appreciate why striped bass are so popular, and part of the reason why they command a somewhat premium price in the local markets.  The daily limit is still strictly controlled, on Monday my fishmonger told me it had been slightly relaxed for the size of their operation, so we may be able to enjoy a little more this year (meaning I won’t have to show up at the Greenmarket at dawn to bring home part of their catch (not that I ever have).

As for the recipe I used this time, because I had no interest in turning on the oven on a hot and humid evening, I consulted my files for a formula which could be implemented on top of the stove.  I did not however take advantage of Martha Stewart’s suggestion that the dish I ended up producing with her simple recipe could have been served at room temperature, mostly because I wanted it to relate to the temperature of the tiny fresh peas I had also picked up that day.

  • one 15-ounce striped bass fillet from P.E. & D.D. Seafood, marinated for half an hour (half of that time in the refrigerator) in a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, thyme branches from Eckerton Hill Farm, squashed organic garlic cloves from Trader Joe’s, then removed from the marinade, and allowed it to drip dry (with the help of a paper towel) placed on an enameled grill pan on top of a medium-high flame, skin side down, seasoned with salt, grilled until skin was lightly browned and starting to crisp, before being turned and cooked through, or about 10 minutes, and garnished with chives from Lani’s Farm cut in 3/4-inch lengths (also one chive flower, prominent in the picture above) and lemon wedges.
  • thinly-sliced red spring onion bulbs from Tamarak Hollow Farm cooked in a little butter until softened, tiny shelled peas from Lani’s Farm added along with a little bit of water and simmered until tender, seasoned with salt and coarsely chopped pepper
  • a small number of flowers and buds of ‘organic green leaf squash’ (per Zaid Kurdieh’s sign at his stall) from Norwich Meadows Farm, sautéed in olive oil until softened, then seasoned with salt and pepper
  • the wine was a French white, Château la Rame, Bordeaux 2014
  • the music was Haydn’s last, and not-quite-completed, 1791 opera, ‘L’anima del filosofo, ossia Orfeo ed Euridice

duck, rosemary, lemon; broccoli greens, garlic

2015 June 22
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by james

duck_breast_broccoli_greens

We were enjoying a beautiful foggy evening on the Hudson last night until some time after ten, part of the GORUCO (Gotham Ruby Conference) ‘Yacht Party’.  We didn’t arrive back home until 10:30, but I had promised us ahead that we would still have a good dinner at home (it wasn’t a ‘school night’, so the prospect of a late dinner was reasonable).

Duck can be pretty quick work, as can wilting some fresh greens, and that was my plan.  I had anticipated the meal when I bought a small (11-ounce) breast the day before; I was also anxious to taste an unusual find at the Greenmarket broccoli greens!  The amounts of both were modest, so we were able to enjoy a cheese course, and some more of the crusty sourdough bread from the day before.

By the way, the little ‘finger’ of duck below the larger piece is one half of the tenderloin; it had been seasoned as well, and was added to the pan only for a minute at the end of the cooking.

  • one small duck breast from Pat LaFrieda at Eataly, the fatty side scored, covered with salt, pepper and a bit of turbinato sugar (which had been infused over time with a vanilla bean), then left standing for about half an hour before it was pan-fried, finished with a squeeze of lemon, chopped rosemary from Phillips Farm, and a bit of olive oil
  • broccoli greens from Tamarack Hollow Farm, wilted in a covered pan in which organic garlic from trader Joe’s had been slowly warmed in olive oil, then seasoned and drizzled with some more oil
  • thick slices of Trucio from Sullivan Street Bakery ensured that the juices wouldn’t languish on the plates

The cheese course included the same good bread, and three artisanal cheeses, in ascending order of strength:

  • Ardith Mae’s ‘Bigelow’ goat cheese; Consider Bardwell’s ‘Danby'; and also their ‘Slyboro’

mussels with wine, heirloom tomatoes, lovage

2015 June 22
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by james

mussels_big_mussels

Big mussels.

Friday was  a very hot day, and I lost a few of mussels on my way back home from the Greenmarket. I ended up able to steam only about a pound and a quarter rather than the two pounds I had wanted to serve, probably because someone forgot to ask the fish seller for ice to go.  I had already diced enough heirloom tomatoes for the full recipe, but I reduced the amounts of everything else – perhaps with the exception of the wonderful bread with which we accompanied it.  We still had a an excellent entrée, one we seem to never tire of, and we didn’t even feel we had to go on to another course.

Did I say these mussels were big?  I think they were probably the largest black bivalves I’d ever put into a bowl.

  • almost enough large mussels, purchased from Pura Vida Fisheries in the Union Square Greenmarket, scrubbed and de-bearded, then combined in a large heavy enameled pot with two cups of a variety of halved heirloom tomatoes from S & S.O. Produce and Toigo Orchards, half a cup of good white wine, a few tablespoons of chopped shallot from John D. Madura Farm, three tablespoons of butter, a generous amount of freshly-ground black pepper, and some coarsely-chopped lovage, also from Berried Treasures, everything steamed over high heat for a few minutes, and served with thick slices of Trucio from Sullivan Street Bakery (a superb rustic sourdough country bread with a dark crust)
  • the wine was a Spanish white, Finca Os Cobatos Godello Monterrei 2013, from Galicia

sunday brunch: egg/pancetta/tomato/parmesan

2015 June 21
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by james

eggs_pancetta_tomato

Once again it was a Sunday morning, or rather a Sunday afternoon, and we knew, because of other commitments, we would not be able to enjoy a lunch, however late, because of other commitments.  Also once again, the solution looked pretty much like ‘brunch’, very much like the one I had come up with four months ago.  I had some of the same parameters then, including a discovery in the refrigerator of an opened package of some cured meat, but this time I also had a little bit of ‘salad’ on hand.

The description which follows largely repeats the one I published last February.

  • I started by lightly buttering a large-ish, cured steel pan and placing in it a layer of a few ounces of thinly-sliced Colameco’s pancetta from Whole Foods. I broke 6 eggs from (3 from Millport Dairy, and 3 from Tamarack Hollow Farm) on top of the meat, fried them slowly until the whites had not quite become solid, seasoned them and poured over them a bit of improvised tomato sauce (quartered cherry tomatoes from Norwich Meadows Farm, softened in a bit of olive oil where I had warmed some thinly-sliced organic garlic from Trader Joe’s, then seasoned and sprinkled with chopped rosemary from Phillips Farm).   The eggs were sprinkled with chopped herbs, lovage from Keith’s Farm, parsley from Tamarack Hollow Farm, and thyme from Eckerton Hill. I finished them with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese and served them on a plate with arugula from Eataly (dressed with good olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper), and toasted slices of whole wheat (‘Integrale’) bread from Eataly.
  • the music was various anonymous early Gregorian chants, sung by the canons regular of the Praemonstratensian order of St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California, whose cantor, talking about their latest album, describes them as  “the most Catholic things I could get my hands on.” (this old atheist has both a significant family connection to the Norbertines in De Pere, Wisconsin, and a personal tender-age performance history which included Gregorian chant)

spinach and ricotta ravioli, heirloom tomato, lovage

2015 June 19
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by james

spinach_pasta_heirlooms_lovage

This dinner represents one incredibly simple formula for preparing a good meal with a minimum of time and fuss, a good filled pasta combined with some appropriate fixings already on hand.

  • fresh Rana spinach-and-ricotta-filled ravioli from Eataly, stirred with sections of early yellow and maroon heirloom tomatoes from S. & S.O. Produce in a pan in which a sliced garlic clove had been heated with olive oil, then mixed with crushed chiles, black pepper, and a generous amount of chopped lovage from Keith’s Farm
  • the wine was a French rosé, Devois de Perret Languedoc 2014
  • the music was that of the somewhat underappreciated Ottorino Respighi, his charming orchestral suites, ‘Antiche arie e danze’ [Ancient Airs and Dances], 1-3

The even more simple desert, a course which incidentally appears pretty rarely in our home, was the happy marriage of some fantastic tiny early strawberries (half-wild) from Berried Treasures, a portion macerated in some Turbinato sugar, and a container of Ciao Bello gelato which had been waiting in the freezer for a while.

strawberries_gelato

 

sautéed sea bass, parsley; pea pods, lovage; tomato

2015 June 18
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by james

sea_bass_pea_pods_toms

We returned from Quebec on Sunday, where I had been frustrated, being without a kitchen, while confronted by the rich bounty of the farms and markets (I mean, as in wild asparagus!).  On my first day back at our own Greenmarket I brought home six 3-ounce sea bass fillets from Blue Moon Fish.  I was overwhelmed by the vegetable choices, but I zeroed in on the first pea pods I had seen this spring, and some red spring onions.  In the end, because of considerations of both time and the amount of food, I decided to save the onions for another meal and use a few of the tomatoes instead, partly for the color.

  • I rolled the bass fillets in a light coating of seasoned flower, and dipped them in an egg which had been beaten with a couple tablespoons of chopped parsley from Tamarack Hollow Farm.   After a quick sauté in a mixture of oil and butter, I removed them from the pan, sprinkled them with a bit of lemon, and finished them with pan juices I had mixed with some more parsley.
  • I placed three halved Maine cherry ‘cocktail’ tomatoes from Whole Foods in the pan, cut side down, shortly before the fish was finished
  • After parboiling the sugar snap peas (from Keith’s Farm) for a little over one minute, I drained them and rolled them in a little butter, added salt and pepper, and finished them with chopped lovage, also from Keith’s Farm
  • the wine was a California white, Jim Olsen Manton Valley Chardonnay 2014
  • the music was, at least later in the meal, Gesualdo