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pasta e ceci (Campagna Vesuvio, chickpeas, tomato)

2015 March 1
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by james

pasta_e_ceci

This luscious dish is very Italian, and very simple to prepare, although it’s also rather counterintuitive for those of us who have always thought that pasta had to be cooked in plenty of water.  It happens to produce a delicious primi, or a bowl which could serve as a main course, if one dares to offend Italian convention.

Americans generally don’t suffer from a lack of protein, but I’ll mention anyway that the extremely ancient chickpea is a rich source of that essential dietary component.

  • the appetizer was our enjoyment earlier in the evening of the second concert of the 2015 Avant Music Festival, five choral works performed by the Ekmeles Vocal Ensemble
  • the recipe for the pasta comes from food52.com, so I needn’t transcribe it here, although I have four advisories (I should probably have just included my own edited version): 1. the instruction seems to have left out mentioning that half of the three tablespoons of olive oil at the end of the list of ingredients should be used to sauté the garlic, anchovies, and rosemary sprigs;  2. be careful not to add more liquid at the very beginning than needed to cook the pasta, as you can add more along the way;  3.  Stir the contents of the pot while they cook, adjusting the heat if necessary;  4. and finally, disregard the instruction, “cook till one minute less than the package recommends”, as you will find that it will almost certainly take longer than that, especially if the pasta is artisanal (which means there will be no instruction on the package anyway), so just cook the mixture until the pasta is al dente; the list of ingredients I used began with the voluptuous curves of Afeltra Pasta di Gragnolo ‘Vesuvio’ from Eataly;  there were also salted anchovies from Buon Italia, canned San Marzano tomatoes, also from Buon Italia, fresh rosemary from John D, Maderna Farm, and 24-month-old Parmesan cheese from Buon Italia
  • the wine was an Argentinian red, Zolo Signature Red 2012 (with only a very small percentage of Malbec grapes)
  • the music was John Cage’s 44 Harmonies and 14 Tunes from ‘Apartment House 1776

roasted squid with oregano, chiles; baked ‘frites’

2015 February 28
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by james

roast_squid_frites

I really rushed through the preparation of this meal tonight, but it turned out very well.  I had originally thought I wouldn’t have time to cook after getting home from a performance which was a part of the Sixth Annual Avant Music Festival (a terrific evening of music by Paula Matthusen) but when I learned that the length of the program was to be only about 70 minutes, I went out and bought seafood at the Greenmarket today.  As it turned out, the music began late (it had been sold out early, but there was some late seating, and I think everyone who showed up may have made it in), and even though one of Matthusen’s pieces had to be pulled because of a musician’s illness, we didn’t get out until pretty close to 10 o’clock.   Also, on the way home, we had some sorta-bad subway karma.  This meant there would be no time for any fanciness in the kitchen, or much thinking about choice of ingredients or cooking details.

What I ended up putting on the table was a simple meal, its elements very familiar to us, of spicy roasted baby squid, and a reasonable approximation of frites, which were in this case baked and finished with two different forms of allium.  The squid recipe is the absolutely wonderful creation of Rose Gray and the late Ruth Rogers, from their, “Italian Easy:  Recipes from the London River Cafe“.  I highly recommend the recipe and the book, as well as their “The River Cafe Cook Book” and “Italian Two Easy, Simple Recipes from the London River Café”.  Each of them is a jewel, and together they could serve very well as a complete kitchen library.

The cephalopods would have taken only 10 minutes from start to finish, but, after I had rinsed them I set them out to come to room temperature, they had to wait for the potatoes, which probably took all of 45 minutes.

  • as a starter, far away from the kitchen, we attended the opening concert of the 2015 Avant Music Festival, four pieces by Paula Matthusen
  • baby squid from Pura Vida in the Greenmarket, kept whole, rinsed, dried, and placed in an enameled cast iron pan whose cooking surface had brushed with olive oil and heated until very hot, followed by some super-pungent dried Italian oregano from Buon Italia and crushed dried pepperoncini, also from Buon Italia, with a good squeeze of lemon juice and some olive oil drizzled over the top, then roasted for five minutes
  • Yukon Gold potatoes from Norwich Meadows Farm, sliced as for pommes frites, unpeeled, tossed in a bowl with a bit of olive oil, salt and freshly-ground pepper, placed in one layer onto one of  my trusty, well-seasoned Pampered Chef unglazed ceramic oven pans (I’m very pampered, as I have four, in three sizes) for about 30-35 minutes, a few sliced baby leeks from Rogowski Farm added and shoveled around the pan with the ‘fries’ at the very end with a wooden spatula, then served with a sprinkling of scissored chives from Whole Foods
  • the wine was an Italian, white, Cantina del Taburno Falanghina del Sanno 2013
  • the music was Dvořák’s Symphony No. 6

tournedos au poivre, cress, tomatoes, carrots, kale

2015 February 27
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by james

tournedos_tomato_carrot_cress-kale

Note to self:  You have permission to reproduce this meal any time you want to.

I was once on fairly intimate terms with Julia child (I mean the books, not Julia herself, or even her TV show, because I lived in Providence and Newport, not Boston, and I didn’t watch much television of any kind, and I certainly wasn’t about to do so in the 70s).  I did prize her first two books however, and I still have them, the spine of the older one lovingly repaired with white duct tape.  Among my campaign medals I count the fact that I had managed to bring to the table each of her three variations on the French preparation of tournedos, some more than once.

Okay, I confess that like everyone else in the country almost half a century back, I actually did watch some of ‘The French Chef’.  The picture below is my favorite Julia image.

julia_and_staff

(I never get this kind of help)

 

Until this week I hadn’t really thought of tournedos since the 1970s, and I probably would not have found myself there tonight, except for the fact that I had almost tripped over a pair of five-ounce filets at the Millport Dairy stall earlier this week.  Everything I’ve purchased from John has been exceptionally good;  I expected nothing less of his beef, and the two vacuum packages looked like they might have been made for me/us.

I had no mushrooms, no artichoke hearts, and no foie gras or truffles on hand, so I went with a slight modification of Julia’s basic steak au poivre, which she allows as an alternative to the more elaborate preparations.   It was delicious.  The steaks were of the classic size, about 2 1/2 inches in diameter, and about an inch thick,.  They looked much more impressive once I had encircled their extraordinary leaness in pork fat, but that took some doing. Just as I was about to perform the operation I noticed for the first time that the Niman Ranch fat I had chosen to use was salt pork, which wouldn’t do at all.   I scurried about a bit and succeeded in boiling the pork strips, neutralizing most of the salt, but then I found the segments weren’t going to cooperate in encircling the filets.  I pulled out my jar of toothpicks and, with the help of good kitchen twine, finally succeeded in taming the now not-so-salty pork.  My tournedos now looked like mines, but they were going to keep their shape and retain their juices.

tournedos_in_process

  • two perfectly-sized filet steaks, or tournedos, wrapped in parboiled strips of Niman Ranch salt pork, dried, pressed with crushed peppercorns  and allowed to rest for about 45 minutes before sautéed in a mixture of butter and olive oil, for about 3-4 minutes each side, removed, seasoned with salt (with a very light hand, considering their jackets) and kept warm, the butter, oil and accumulated meat fat then removed from the pan, sliced fresh garlic and baby leeks from Rogowski Farm added, along with a little butter, and stirred for a minute, a little beef stock introduced and boiled down until thickened, while scraping up coagulated cooking juices, followed by a few tablespoons of cognac, boiled until its alcohol evaporated, and finally, off heat, two tablespoons of butter swirled into the sauce about half a tablespoon at a time before it was poured over the filets
  • Maine cherry ‘cocktail’ tomatoes from Whole Foods, slow-roasted with olive oil, dried Italian oregano, and quartered Rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm
  • Upland Cress from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • orange carrots from Keith’s Farm, rolled in olive oil, salt, and pepper, roasted at 400º for about half an hour, removed from the oven and sprinkled with chopped parsley from Whole Foods
  • kale from Rogowski Farm, wilted with olive oil in which thinly-sliced Rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm had been heated, then seasoned with salt and pepper, and drizzled with more olive oil
  • the wine was a French Bordeaux, Château Tour Caillet 2012 
  • the music was that of the handsome Ferdinand Ries, his Piano Concerto No. 3

Ferdinand_Ries_2

Ferdinand Ries (1784-1838)

 

[the Julia Child image is from Wine Curmudgeon; the very hot image of Ferdinand Ries is from Wikipedia – Die freie Enzyklopädie]

tilefish, fresh garlic, herbs; tomato, leek, spinach

2015 February 26
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by james

Tilefish_leek_and_tomato

Note to self:  Despite the circumstances of its genesis, this meal was very, very good.

Having been reminded yesterday that there probably wouldn’t be be time to put meals together on three of the next six nights (because of performances which would get us home pretty late), I made a list of the more perishable vegetables I had on hand, determined not to lose any of them to advancing age.  The list included upland cress; leeks, both regular and baby; spinach; spring, or green garlic; cherry tomatoes; kale, and most of my fresh herbs.

Last night, after a certain amount of on-line research and mental juggling, I managed to assemble a meal which put a good dent in those stores.  I had been concerned that my ‘expiration date’ priorities might compromise the best prescription for the beautiful 12-ounce tilefish fillet I had brought home from the Greenmarket earlier in the day, but, as it turned out, I needn’t have worried:  The entire entrée was a small triumph, thanks to the suppliers, the internet and two recipes which were totally new to me.

Together, Melissa Clark’s, ‘Pan-Seared Tilefish with Garlic, Herbs and Lemon‘, and Mary Ann Esposito’s, ‘Cherry Tomatoes with Leeks and Thyme [Pomodorini con Porri e Timo]’, seemed to have been created with both my situation and my particular tastes in mind.  Using them in combination, I was able to use at least some of the two forms of leek, most of the tomatoes, a good portion of the herbs, two of the three pieces of spring garlic, and all of the spinach I had painstakingly separated from those leaves which had not quite made it while waiting a few days to be used.  My only innovations were the addition of spinach to the leek-and-tomato dish, the very generous amount of herbs I lavished on the tilefish, and my decision to not remove its skin.

I had never heard of the tilefish (the species in our waters is Lopholatilus Chamaeleonticeps, aka Great Northern Tilefish, Golden Tilefish, etc.) until six or seven years ago, but I’ve been delighted with it both times I’ve cooked it.  I roasted it each time, first with a lot of butter and fresh breadcrumbs, later on a bed of leeks and bacon pieces.  Yesterday I sautéed it, and baby leaks and herbs were pretty front and center this time.

It’s a magnificent fish.

Looking forward, tonight we will enjoy two small filet mignon the Greenmarket’s from Millport Dairy, which will open up a number of possibilities for using the perishable vegetables and herbs which remain.  I’m hoping I’ll be able to squeeze in at least one root as well.

But this is what we enjoyed last night:

  • Pan-seared tilefish from American Seafood Company in the Greenmarket, prepared after this Melissa Clark recipe, using two stems of fresh, or spring garlic from Rogowski Farm and one of baby leek, also from Rogowski, thyme from Eataly, mint from Eataly, chives from Whole Foods, and tarragon from Whole Foods
  • Maine Backyard Farms cocktail tomatoes from Whole Foods and a large leek from S. & S.O. Produce Farms, prepared following this recipe, using thyme from Eataly and a bit of Malawi raw cane sugar (spooned out of my sugar bowl, where it is stored with one whole vanilla bean), and finished with a large handful of washed baby spinach from Rogowski Farm
  • Italian semolina bread from Baker’s Bounty
  • the wine was a Portuguese white, Quinta do Alqueve Fernão Peres 2010
  • the music was Ferdinand Ries‘s Piano Concerto No. 2

 

I had bought the very last Tilefish from Nadia of American Seafood at the Greenmarket, and when I said something about wishing I had photographed it before packing it in my insulated bag, she was kind enough to unwrap and lay it out on fresh ice for this picture:

Tilefish_fillet_on_ice

 

 

Kassler, Sauerkraut, Saltzkartoffeln; Riesling

2015 February 25
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by james

Kassler_sauerkraut_saltzkartoffeln

This was a very German meal which warmed the kitchen, the breakfast room, and a pair of interested diners on a cold February night.

  • two extraordinarily juicy smoked pork chops from Millport Dairy, seared briefly in a hot pan on both sides, buried in a pot of Sauerkraut (that is, a jar of drained and well-rinsed Bubbies sauerkraut, chopped onion from Lucky Dog Organic, chopped carrot from Keith’s Farm, whole allspice berries and pepper corns, one large bay leaf, salt, and enough water to cover everything, brought to a boil and simmered for about an hour) and heated for about twenty minutes
  • two unpeeled ‘red potatoes’ (red skins, white inside) from Samascott Orchards, scrubbed, then boiled in heavily-salted water, drained, dried in the still-warm vintage Corning Pyrex Flameware blue-glass pot,  quartered, tossed with a little butter, and sprinkled with homemade breadcrumbs which had been browned in butter
  • the wine was an Australian Riesling, Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Dry Riesling 2013
  • the music was a number of delicate early-nineteenth-century chamber works by Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart

linguine, walnuts, anchovies, chiles; fruit/cheese

2015 February 24
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by james

linguine_with_walnuts_anchovies

I was thinking that it was Tuesday night that would bring single-digit temperatures, and then mid-evening tonight I suddenly learned that the temperature outside was 8º.  I thought that I wasn’t prepared for a dish fully appropriate to that kind of environmental challenge, but it turned out I was wrong.  This Mark Bittman recipe which I think I had torn out of the New York Times sixteen years ago was more than up to the challenge of a cold night, although, to tell the truth, the apartment remained warm, and there wasn’t even any chilling howl of wind to be heard.

By the way, Bittman’s linguine and walnut recipe remains my favorite version for that pairing, and there are certainly many of them.

Still on schedule:  Tomorrow will still be a Kasseler Ripchen-und-sauerkraut day, even if the evening temperature reading is supposed to be a balmy 20-something Fahrenheit.

Dessert was a plate of three cheeses (L-R in the picture below), Manchester goat cheese from Consider Bardwell, Frère Fumant sheep cheese from 3-Corner Field Farm, and Twig farm (Vermont) washed rind goat cheese from Eataly,),  with an Anjou pear from Locust Grove Orchards.

 

Anjou_pear_cheeses

smoked eel; steak with baby leek, oven fries

2015 February 23
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by james

smoked_eel_spread_cress_

This Sunday evening meal began with plain smoked eel and continued with a simple sirloin steak.

  • smoked eel, packaged by H. Forman, from Eataly, and a dollop of  softened cream cheese mixed with double cream, shallot, chives, capers, lemon, spring garlic, salt, and pepper, served with upland cress from Two Guys from Woodbridge, dressed with good olive oil, fresh lemon, salt, and pepper
  • thin slices of Rustic Classic bread from Eataly
  • the wine was a Sardinian white, Le Giare Vermentino di Sardegna 2013
  • the music, during both courses, was that of Ferdinand Ries, friend, pupil and secretary to Beethoven, beginning with his 1826 Piano Concerto No. 8, ‘Gruss an den Rhein’

 

steak_leek_oven_fries

  • sirloin steak from Millport Dairy, seared and cooked for a few minutes in a very hot iron pan, seasoned, removed, cut into two pieces, allowed to rest for five minutes while aprinkled with two small sliced baby leeks from Rogowski Farm, and drizzled with lemon and olive oil
  • ‘red potatoes’ (white inside) from Samascott Orchards, cut into wedges and roasted at 450º for about 35 minutes along with thyme leaves from Eataly and several unpeeled garlic cloves, also from Samascott Orchards, and finished with chopped parsley from Whole Foods
  • the wine was a California red, F. Stephen Millier Angel’s reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Lodi 2013
  • we continued with the charming music of Ferdinand Ries, here his Symphonies No. 1 and 2 (1809 and 1814, respectively)

Sunday lunch: egg/capocollo/tomato/parmesan

2015 February 23
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by james

eggs_on_capocollo_tomato

It was Sunday morning, or rather Sunday afternoon.  Something eggs seemed to be in order, but perhaps nothing really special, considering the hour.  It had to be tasty, but also practical, that is, I was thinking it would be good if I could include mostly ingredients ready to leave the larder.

It was also going to be easy, if not quite instant.

I started by buttering a large-ish enameled iron pan and placing in it a layer of a few ounces of thinly sliced Colameco’s capocolla from Whole Foods which I had almost forgotten was still in the refrigerator. I broke 6 eggs from Millport Dairy on top of the salume, fried them until the whites had not quite become solid, seasoned them and poured over them a bit of tomato sauce.  The sauce was composed as they cooked, and included sliced spring garlic, heated in olive oil, before tomato juices from the canned tomatoes used the night before were added, the sauce then reduced until slightly thickened.  There were various chopped herbs involved somewhere along the way, leftover from two meals of the day before.  I finished the eggs with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese and served them with toast made from both a sourdough bâtard from She Wolf Bakery and a Rustic Classic loaf from Eataly.

John Dory with baby leek; fennel-tomato compote

2015 February 23
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by james

john_dory_leek_compote2

This rarely happens around here, even looking over a much longer stretch of time, but last night I served an almost exact duplicate of a meal of John Dory fillet I had put together little more than a month ago.  They differed only in my replacing the cut chives in the January version with sliced baby leeks from Rogowski Farm.  Also, the source of two of the ingredients was different (the fennel and the thyme were from Eataly this time).  The biggest difference visually is the shiny skin, since, the last time I had served the fillets with that side down.

10-minute meal: chick peas, chorizo, pimentón, …

2015 February 21
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by james

chick_peas_chorizo_pimenton_garlic

Years ago Mark Bittman gathered together a list of 101 meals that could be prepared in 10 minutes or less, later edited up to 111. Two of his suggestions in particular have made regular appearances on our table since then, because not only can they be assembled in that period of time, but they’re both delicious, and both depend on ingredients I can easily keep on hand without worrying much about a spoil date.

Last night we went to the opera, and we  knew we would be back home too late to do any regular meal preparation.  It was also a cold night, so the answer was obvious.  It wouldn’t be the unheated tuna with cannellini beans and chopped red onion, but the chick pea soup, with pimentón, chorizo, garlic, and sherry.  The basic formula,which appeared in the New York Times eight years ago, was pretty minimal:

40 Put a large can of chickpeas and their liquid in a medium saucepan. Add some sherry, along with olive oil, plenty of minced garlic, smoked pimentón and chopped Spanish chorizo. Heat through.  

To that simple recipe I added, this time at least, a little of the tomato juices I had left over after using a can of very good Italian plum tomatoes in another meal, and I finished the hearty mix  with some chopped fresh parsley from Manhattan Fruit Exchange;  the excellent chorizo came from an amazing Amish family farm in rural Pennsylvania, Millport Dairy, which sells its produce in New York greenmarkets, including the one I visit regularly, in Union Square

  • The wine was a Spanish red, Terra Única Tempranillo-Monastrell Valencia 2006
  • the music was Dvořák’s Piano Trio No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 90, B. 166, the ‘Dumky’ Trio

Like most of the 10-Minute meal suggestions, this one almost begs for creative additions;  We’ve enjoyed it with leftover wilted kale, collards, or other greens, but I can imagine any number of other cooked vegetables working as enhancements, giving them a chance to leave the refrigerator and shine a second time.