dolphin, scape, habanada, pericón; potatoes, epazote; kale

The single dolphin fillet was a little smaller than that I’d usually prefer to get for the two of us, but while I was at the fisher’s stand I couldn’t figure out how to bring home more without messing up the aesthetic of the plate. Fortunately I had some wonderful vegetables to help fill in.

I also now realized I had two Mexican herbs, epazote (‘Mexican tea)’ and pericón (‘Mexican tarragon’), to help pull together a meal I ended up feeling had something of a subtle Mexican theme, even more so after the fact: These 2 herbs, plus the dolphin (‘dorado‘), an important fish in Mexico, and the inclusion of a Mexican lemon and some fresh habanada pepper (which was bred from the habañero, native to the Yucatan as well as elsewhere in Central America) didn’t make it a Mexican meal, but it was fun enjoying what they did make of familiar ingredients, and they sure helped make it a good meal.

The herbs appear below as they did in the Union Square Greenmarket, the pericón first, then the epazote (in the center).

  • one 10.5-ounce-ounce dolphin fillet, without skin, from Pura Vida Seafood Company, dry-marinated for 45 minutes or so covered with more than half a tablespoon of zest from an organic Mexican lemon from Chelsea Whole Foods Market, half a tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley from Phillips Farms, plus some local Long Island sea salt from P.E. & D.D. Seafood and freshly-ground black pepper, seared in a little Whole Foods Portuguese house olive oil inside a heavy copper skillet for about 3 minutes, then turned over and the other side seared for 3 more, the heat lowered and the pan loosely covered with a universal copper lid for a minute or two, and when that was removed, the fish joined by some very thinly sliced garlic scapes from Phillips Farms, only a portion from one pepper of chopped fresh habanada, (a little goes a long way, as with most seasoning peppers) and some chopped leaves of pericón (‘Mexican tarragon’) from Norwich Meadows Farm, which were together very briefly sautéed along with the fish before it was removed from the pan, followed by the scapes, the habanada, and the herb, and arranged on the plates, with the little bit of rich, savory pan juices poured over the top of the fish from the pan

  • roughly 11 ounces of small ‘red potatoes’ from Lani’s Farm, harvested – and purchased – late in July, scrubbed, boiled unpeeled in heavily-salted water until barely cooked through, drained, dried in the still-warm large vintage Corning Pyrex Flameware blue-glass pot in which they had cooked, halved, then rolled in a little olive oil, salt, black pepper, and some chopped fresh epazote from TransGenerational Farm, more of the herb sprinkled on top once the potatoes were arranged on the plates

whole wheat pasta with anchovy, garlic, chili, capers, kale

I’d been waiting for an opportunity to revisit one of my favorite darker artisanal pastas, but the weather hadn’t been cooperating. I had bought the package in the spring, when the weather was much cooler. I think of wholewheat pasta, and the kind of accoutrements it suggests, as just a little too earthy for a hot summer meal, even though that notion is almost certainly just inside my head.

Last night, while our air conditioning was separating us from the August heat and humidity, I thought of it again when I realized I had a small bunch of light kale I had bought for the meal the evening before, but ended up not using. I thought it would be an excellent match for its special appeal, and it certainly was. Still, I did leave off the shaved cheese topping suggested as an option by Melissa Clark, the author of the recipe. After all, it was still summer.

[note to the file – and to Clark’s editors: I’m pretty certain there’s a mistake in the published recipe where it says: “Add chiles and a pinch of salt and toast until golden, 1 to 2 minutes.”, since the chiles are very red, very dry, in any event wouldn’t normally require toasting, and definitely not for 1 to 2 minutes; she may have meant that the garlic should be added at that pont, ahead of the capers and anchovies, but that seems unlikely]

  • a bit of crushed dried Itria-Sirissi chili, pepperoncino di Sardegna intero from Buon Italia in the Chelsea Market added to roughly 3 tablespoons of olive oil inside a large antique copper pot and briefly heated over a medium flame, followed by 4 fat ‘Nootka rose’ garlic cloves from TransGenerational Farm that had been crushed and skinned, 2 tablespoons of thoroughly rinsed and drained Sicilian capers, “patted dry with a paper towel to encourage browning”, writes Clark, although I’ve never been able to do this with capers, and couldn’t this time, and 4 well-rinsed, drained, and filleted salted Sicilian anchovies, all cooked until everything was softened, the capers, ideally, looking crisp around the edges, and the anchovies dissolved into the oil, or for about 3 to 4 minutes, at which point one small bunch of young, trimmed, washed, drained, and chopped Redbor kale from TransGenerational Farm was stirred into the pot, and 9 ounces of Afeltra ‘Vesuvio’ whole wheat Italian Pastaio di Gragnano from Eataly Flatiron, cooked al dente, tossed in, followed by at least 3 quarters of a cup of reserved cooking water, and everything stirred with my ancient #1 wooden spoon over high heat until the liquid had emulsified, when plenty of freshly ground black pepper was added and a bit of organic Mexican lemon from Chelsea Whole Foods Market squeezed over the top, the pasta tossed one more time, then served in 2 shallow bowls
  • the wine was an Oregon (Willamette Valley) white, Chris Baker Willamette Pinot Gris 2018, from Naked Wines
  • and speaking of the seasons, the music was Haydn’s own interpretation, ‘Die Schöpfung’, Bernard Haitink conducting the Choir and Orchestra of the Bayerischen Rundfunks

herbed bass, tomato-olive-chili salsa, dill; fried red pepper

It was delicious, and I think the plate looks good, which makes me almost as happy. Nothing was planned even seconds ahead in the presentation; it just unfolded, the fillet first, then the peppers, finishing with the salsa. The tomato and olive mix was placed close to the fish and not the peppers, because it was definitely an attribute of the former. It was not arranged on or under it because it would have at least partially obscured the beauty of the skin and the herbs with which the bass had been cooked, and because, being room temperature, it would have compromised its remaining warmth.

One other note about last night, something I can rarely say: No allium of any sort was harmed in the making of this meal.

  • two 6-ounce black sea bass filets from American Seafood Company in the Union Square Greenmarket, whose preparation began, once they had been removed from the refrigerator, with a fresh salsa assembled inside a small bowl about 30 minutes in advance of their cooking, incorporating one cup of sliced green heirloom tomatoes from Norwich Meadows Farm, about half a cup of pitted Gaeta olives from Flatiron Eataly, a little crushed dried peperoncino Calabresi secchia from Buon Italia in the Chelsea Market, some local P.E. & D.D. Seafood Company sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, a pinch of crushed dried (now in powdered form) golden/orange habanada pepper, and a little olive oil, the mix tossed and then set aside while the fish was cooked: two 5 and a half-ounce black sea bass fillets, also from American Seafood Company, seasoned on both sides with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, sautéed over a fairly brisk flame in a little Mac Nut macademia nut oil from Whole Foods Market inside a large vintage oval tin-lined copper skillet, skin side down (because that will be the side seen on the plate later), turned over after about 3 minutes and the flesh side cooked for about the same length of time, or when the fish was done, when it was removed to 2 plates and kept warm while 2 tablespoons of butter were added to the pan and allowed to melt, a couple tablespoons of a mix of chopped spearmint from Stokes Farm and chopped parsley from Phillips Farms (an inspired choice, I think, but there are potentially so many others) tossed in, along with a tablespoon or more of Whole Foods Market organic Mexican lemon juice, all stirred into the butter for a few seconds before the sauce was spooned on top of the plated bass, and the salsa that had been set aside earlier arranged next to the fillets, both fish and salsa garnished with some wonderful pungent dill flowers from Quarton Farm scissored from their stems

swordfish belly, tomatoes, epazote; cucumber, onion, dill

It’s certainly one of the easiest seafoods to prepare, especially if you decide it isn’t necessary to remove the skin (although the next time I probably will, if only to make the searing more efficient).

Barry suggested swordfish belly when I had I asked him for his preference yesterday, texting him an image of the day’s menu board mounted behind the fish sellers in the Union Square Greenmarket (I don’t get to the market early, so several items had already sold out).

And I had two ripe Sikkim cucumbers, which, it seemed to me, would make an excellent match between south Asia and our New York table.

one 1½-inch-thick, 15-ounce belly steak from a local (Long Island) waters swordfish (note there is a significant shrinkage in the cooking process) from P.E. & D.D. Seafood, brought to kitchen/room temperature, cut into 2  segments and the skin not sliced off this time, briefly seared, 30 or so seconds on the first side, 15 or a little more on the second, inside a totally dry (no oil or butter whatsoever) enameled cast iron oval pan which had been pre-heated above a high flame until quite hot, the swordfish seasoned with local Long Island sea salt, also from P.E. & D.D., and freshly ground black pepper as it was turned, then removed and arranged on warm plates, the heat reduced to medium, a tablespoon or so of olive oil added, and slices (2cm) of one garlic scape from Phillips Farms placed inside and sautéed until softened, followed by 10 or so halved, very ripe golden cherry tomatoes from Quarton Farm, which were pushed around inside the pan briefly, the new contents of the pan then arranged on and around the swordfish, and both finished with a squeeze of a small organic Mexican lemon from Chelsea While Foods Market, garnished with some roughly chopped fresh epazote from Jayne’s TransGenerational Farm


two Sikkim cucumbers (20 ounces total) from Gopal Farm, which is very new and very welcome addition to the Union Square Greenmarket, unpeeled, sliced less than an inch thick (2 centimeters), placed inside a large heavy well-seasoned cast iron pan, sautéed over a medium-high flame, turning at least once, each side sprinkled with sea salt after it had begun to carbonize, and, well into that process, one sliced small red onion from Norwich Meadows Farm and a pinch of a now-powdered dried golden orange habanada pepper olive oil were added to the pan and the onions softened, the mix arranged on the plates when done, drizzled with a little olive oil and sprinkled with dill flowers from Quarton Farm

the wine was an Italian (Marche/Matelica) white, Verdicchio di Matelica D.O.C., from Philippe Wines

the music was the album, ‘Musici da camera: Music from Eighteenth-Century Prague’, Jana Semerádová conducting the Collegium Marianum, including the bassoonist Sergio Azzolin

duck breast, epazote; peppers, scapes, red onion; melon

It seemed like these peppers could have been grown just to accompany this duck, or perhaps the other way around.

Also, they were both assertive in both texture and flavor, so there wasn’t much else to add. I’m glad I forgot about the micro greens at the end; the plate was both complex enough and colorful enough without them.

one 13-ounce Macelleria duck breast from Flatiron Eataly, the fatty side scored in tight cross hatching with a very sharp knife, the entire breast then rubbed, top and bottom, with a mixture of local P.E. & D.D. Seafood Long Island sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and a little turbinado sugar, left standing in an oval plate for about 45 minutes, then pan-fried, fatty side down first, in a scant amount of olive oil inside a small oval enameled cast iron pan over medium heat, normally for a total of about 9 minutes, turning once and draining the oil after the first few minutes (the fat could be strained and used in cooking at another time, if desired), removed when medium rare, or maybe even a bit less, since it will continue cooking while sitting on the counter, cutting the breast crosswise into 2 portions and checking that the center for the right doneness, left to sit for several minutes before it was finished with a squeeze of an organic Mexican lemon from Whole Foods Market, sprinkled with a bit of very fresh and fragrant chopped epazote from Jayne’s TransGenerational Farm, and drizzled with a little Portuguese house olive oil from Whole Foods Market

ten ounces of ‘lunchbox peppers’ from Campo Rosso Farm, halved or quartered, depending on their size, the seeds and membranes removed (there were very few of either), sautéed over a high flame until slightly caramelized, one sliced small red onion from Norwich Meadows Farm added near the end, a little later still the white section of 2 small some chopped scallions from Alex’s Tomato Farm in the 23rd Street Saturday Greenmarket plus a pinch of the now powdered remains of some light-colored home-dried habanada pepper I had purchased fresh from Norwich Meadows Farm back in 2017, and local sea salt and chopped zaatar [actually, origanum syriacum] from TransGenerational Farm, the vegetables arranged on the plates, sprinkled with more of the ‘oregano’ and drizzled with a bit of balsamic vinegar

the wine was an Oregon (Willamette Valley/Dundee Hills) red, Erath Oregon pinot noir 2016, ordered directly from Erath

There was fruit for dessert. No fussy.

  • one perfectly ripe halved medium size Korean melon drizzled with lemon juice and sprinkled with a little salt

the music was a superb performance of Haydn’s Die Jahreszeiten’, with Bruno Weil conducting theCapella Coloniensis and the Tölz Boys Choir