baked cod with potatoes, micro radish greens; kale, garlic

cod_potatoes_kale

Mark Bittman called this recipe, ‘Ligurian fish and potatoes‘; it was the basis for the one I’ve been using for years.  It’s a classic, or at least I think so, for its ability to showcase, mostly unadorned, the taste of a superb wild fish, as well as for the ease with which it can be prepared.

This time I added some rather flashy micro greens in lieu of the parsley specified in Bittman’s original recipe.

  • one 13- or 14-ounce cod fillet from American Seafood Company at the Union Square Greenmarket, prepared along the lines of a recipe from Mark Bittman which I came across almost 12 years ago: I cut the fillet into two pieces and laid them both on a bed of coarse sea salt and completely covered them with more salt, before setting them aside while I sliced, to a thickness of less than 1/4 inch about 12 ounces of small German Butterball potatoes from Tamarack Hollow Farm, scattered them in a baking pan with a scant tablespoon of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and cooked them for 30 minutes or so in a 400º oven, or until tender, meanwhile thoroughly immersing the cod in several changes of water and drying the two pieces before placing them in the pan on top of the potatoes with a little oil drizzled on top and some freshly-ground pepper scattered over them as well, the pan returned to the oven for 8 to 12 minutes (depending on the thickness of the cod), garnished with ‘Hong Vit‘ micro Asian radish greens from Windfall Farms
  • a handful of the very last of the curly winter kale from Tamarack Hollow farm, sautéed in olive oil in which one medium clove of garlic from Keith’s Farm, split, had first been allowed to sweat for a few minutes
  • the wine was a French (Languedoc) white, Moulin de Gassac Aniane Guihem Blanc Pays d’Herault 2014
  • the music was David Matthews’ Piano Concerto Opus 111

pasta e ceci (garlic, anchovy, tomato, rosemary, chickpea)

pasta_e_ceci_second

I’ve assembled this dish once before. That will happen sometimes, even consciously.  I remembered liking it a lot. It was as good last night as it was the first time; maybe even better, since there were no leftovers this time. We skipped a cheese course, to savor the pasta more.

It’s a rich-tasting primi or secondo, very Italian, and very simple to prepare.  As I wrote the last time, the concept of cooking a dry pasta without a pot of water seems somewhat counterintuitive (I forgot the process myself this time, and had started boiling a large pot of water before I realized my mistake), but once you’ve gone through the process, it makes perfect sense.

  • inside a large non-reactive pot, briefly sautéed in 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 medium cloves of chopped garlic from Keith’s Farm, 2 generously-sized rosemary sprigs from Stokes Farm, and 4 rinsed and filleted salted anchovies from Buon Italia, until the anchovies had broken up, then a 16-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes (already-chopped or whole, and ideally without basil), with the juices, added and cooked for 10 or 15 minutes, crushing with a wooden spoon if the tomatoes are whole, salt added to taste, the heat increased and a can of good chick peas, with the liquid, poured in, along with about 2 cups of good chicken broth or water, and a third sprig of rosemary, everything brought to a soft boil before half a pound of dry Afeltra Pasta di Gragnolo ‘Vesuvio’ was added (alternatively, use some other small pasta, like farfalle or a small penne or rigatoni), the heat now reduced to a healthy simmer until the pasta was cooked al dente and the broth thick, stirring frequently (this may take half an hour), adding more liquid if necessary, spooning it into bowls, drizzled with a little olive oil, and sprinkled with good grated Parmesan cheese from Buon Italia [the basic recipe for the pasta comes from food52.com, but I have annotated it here, mostly to reflect my own experience]
  • the wine was a very interesting Italian (Piedmont) red, La Casaccia Monfiorenza Freisa 2012 [NOTE: appellation now only shows the 2014 on its site], which was entirely new to us
  • the music was by David Matthews, “September Music” and “Symphony No.4”, from this 1991 album, streaming on Spotify; later, lingering at the table, we listened to an absolutely beautiful new (2016) piece, ‘Let Me Tell You’, by Hans Abrahamsen, sung with incredible intensity and brilliance by the amazing soprano Barbara Hannigan (here, talking about the piece with the composer and Paul Griffiths, the author of the text)

spaghetti alle vongole in bianco (spaghetti with clams)

spaghetti_clams_garlic_chilis_parsley

(it looks a bit askew, but I wanted to save the piece of parsley)

 

I really love this dish, and please don’t tell the Italians, but nothing else works as well as a sort of mental ‘palate cleanser’ following a day or a sequence of days which had featured fairly rich meals.

  • Italian-grain Afeltra spaghettetone from Eataly, cooked al dente, then tossed in a large, enameled cast iron pot in which two garlic cloves from Keith’s Farm, minced, and one crushed peperoncino had been heated in some olive oil before they were joined by cooked little neck clams from P.E. & D.D. Seafood, along with their cooking juices (the clams had been steamed open with a little water in a separate pot), the entire mix sprinkled with a bunch of parsley from Eataly, chopped, then served in shallow bowls
  • slices of excellent sourdough bread from Rock Hill Bakehouse, in Gansevoort, NY, which is sold on Saturdays at the Union Square Greenmarket
  • the wine was an Italian (Sicily) white, Corvo Insolia 2014
  • the music was a number of classical-era symphonies by contemporaries of Haydn and Mozart; all of these works area seriously underappreciated today, Gossec, Vanhal, Manhaut, and Kraus, performed by Capella Coloniensis

lamb kidneys, wine, sorrel; potato; tomato; radish greens

lamb_kidney_greens_potato_tomato

maybe my best Rognons de Mouton outing; thinking it was the sorrel

 

Every so often I think about offal, and then I have to do something about it.

Yeah. Well, this time I started by asking one of the sheep farmers I regularly see at the Union Square Greenmarket whether they had any lamb kidneys.  To anyone unfamiliar with this delicacy it might be a surprise to learn that I was actually surprised that the answer was yes. To explain, there appears to be a number of local offal fans who often sweep up any of these and the other types of innards which most people might not even be aware existed. This happens before I manage to get to Union Square; apparently innards people are early risers.

I learned today that there’s even a subgroup whose thing is consuming offal totally raw. Why am I not surprised?

Before I moved to New York in 1985 I traded with traditional butchers who still offered traditional, if not universally popular, fare in the form of kidneys, sweetbreads, tongue, tripe, brains, and of course liver, which is less exotic than most. Oddly, these shops were not located in communities where there were unusually large numbers of recent immigrants, but in middle class mostly-white communities.

I think that since then American middle class white communities may have lost interest in diversity, at least when it comes to animal protein.

I’ve always been interested in what is out of the mainstream, and living with the two volumes of Julia Child recipes for more than a few years, increased my curiosity and also gave me the means to satisfy it. I’ve cooked veal and lamb kidneys, sweetbreads, tripe, veal and lamb tongue, and both veal and lamb liver, but, so fat at least, I’ve skipped brains.

Last night I enjoyed the best lamb kidneys I’ve ever prepared.

The recipe I used was mostly my own invention, a conflation of the Julia Childs recipes which had introduced me to kidneys half a century ago, what I have learned about Italian cooking over the years since I had moved away from Julia, and my imagining how a Mediterranean tradition might prepare kidneys in an age which generally appreciates a simpler cooking style across the board.

Someone please correct me if I;m wrong, but I think I get the Italian right by calling it, ‘rognone di agnello trifolati’ finished with a sauce of garlic, white wine, butter, parsley, and sorrel.  Whatever it’s called, it’s delicious.

Note: Do not wash the kidneys before cooking, as they will absorb water, and be very careful not to overcook them or the dish will lose more than its magic.

  • four lamb kidneys (8 ounces total) from Catskill Merino Sheep Farm, sautéed in butter (in this case in a tin-lined copper au gratin pan) until brown all over on the outside but still very rare in the center, removed and kept warm while introducing into the pan one large sliced Rocambole garlic clove from from Keith’s Farm, cooking it for one minute, adding white wine and reducing the liquid by half over high heat, quickly slicing the kidneys in the meantime, removing the pan from the burner and slowly swirling into it 2 tablespoons of chilled butter, salt and pepper, returning the sliced kidneys and all of their juices to the pan and briefly warming them in the sauce, sprinkling sauce and kidneys with a combination of chopped parsley from Eataly and some micro sorrel greens from Windfall Farms, then carefully warming the sauce over very low heat for a minute or two
  • some quite small La Ratte potatoes from Berried Treasures Farm, halved lengthwise, tossed with oil, chopped rosemary from Stoke’s Farm and sage from Keith’s Farm, seasoned, and roasted on a ceramic pan in the oven
  • two Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods, cut horizontally into four slices, added to the pan with the potatoes a few minutes before they were removed from the onion, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • a handful of ‘French Breakfast’ radish greens from Eckerton Hill Farm, wilted in olive oil in which a small garlic clove from Berried Treasures had been allowed to sweat for a bit, then seasoned with salt, pepper and a bit more olive oil
  • the wine was a California (Napa Valley) red, Ken Deis Napa Valley Merlot 2014
  • the music was Marek Janowski‘s magnificent Dresden ‘Götterdämmerung‘ (so sorry there’s no sequel)

Pollock with lemon, sorrel, capers; kale; roasted tomatoes

pollock_sorrel_kale_tomato

Pollock is a favorite with both of us, and the micro sorrel which I found at the Greenmarket a few minutes after walking away with the fillet became a star when I combined the two.  My sighting the little greens was especially lucky because I did not have any chives at home, and it was that fine little allium which I had worked with in preparing this dish before.

  • one 15-ounce pollock fillet from P.E. & D.D. Seafood in the Union Square Greenmarket, split into two pieces, seasoned on both sides with salt and pepper, placed in a buttered copper au gratin pan, spread with a mixture of soft butter, zest from what may have been a Frost Lisbon Lemon, grown locally by Fantastic Gardens of Long Island, and some micro sorrel greens from Windfall Farms, baked 12 to 15 minutes at 350º, removed to 2 plates, spread with the cooking juices, sprinkled with a small number of salted capers which had been rinsed, drained, dried, and briefly heated in a little hot olive oil, the fillets finished with additional, fresh sorrel
  • purple winter kale from Tamarack Hollow Farm, wilted with olive oil in which one slightly-crushed Calabrian Rocambole garlic clove from Keith’s Farm had been allowed to heat until pung
  • half a dozen Maine cherry ‘cocktail’ tomatoes from Whole Foods, slow-roasted along with a generous amount of dried Italian oregano from Buon Italia, olive oil, and two more garlic cloves, halved, from Keith Farm
  • the wine was an Oregon (Willamette Valley) white, Ponzi Pinot Gris Willamette Valley 2014
  • the music was several of quartets by David Matthews