Month: October 2015

grilled fresh shrimp; roasted fennel; bell peppers


Our prawns may not have come dressed in elegant long claws, but they had excellent taste.

I expected the shrimp would taste very fresh, and they definitely did.  On the other hand, I expected that, because of the circumstances of their origin, they might lack the complicated flavors of shrimp harvested in the wild.  I was wrong; these jumbo Hudson Valley shrimp from Eco Shrimp Garden in the Union Square Greenmarket were intense, and absolutely delicious.  The recipe itself was a major player, in spite of, or because of its very elegant simplicity.

For almost 20 years, or ever since I first opened my first, and the original River Cafe cookbook, ‘Rogers Gray Italian Country Cookbook’, I had only been able to dream of assembling one particular recipe I had found there, ‘Mazzancole ai Ferri‘, or, ‘Grilled Langoustine with Fennel and Chile Sauce’ (I was even dazzled by the photograph on the facing page, although it was a black and white image). At first the obstacle was that I had no idea where I was going to find Langoustine in New York City, and even when they began to appear in upscale fish shops years later, I couldn’t bring myself to pay the price, which was always something like $35 a pound.

Enter Hudson Valley shrimp, or rather, Eco Shrimp Garden.  Two weeks ago I began to realize that with a little tweaking of the recipe, I might be able to reproduce the Rogers and Gray dish without destroying our food budget. At the Greenmarket on Friday I picked up ten rather large, translucent, and very beautiful, whole ‘Pacific White’ jumbo shrimp.  They had spent their entire lives in an indoor saltwater facility near the Hudson River, in Newburgh, New York.   On the previous Friday I had learned about the process which had brought them there, had wondered at the ingenuity and the industry of its authors, and was impressed with the clean minimalism of their presentation in the market.



The shrimp almost looked as if they were still alive and possibly only in shock at the change in their environment. They had been taken out of their tank early that morning, and of course, they had not been frozen.  Only later at home, while weighing the cooking possibilities, and after I had opened the blue-dust-jacketed book to page 204 and the simple recipe which had eluded me for so long did I notice that the major ingredient was described as, “5 to 6 medium langoustines or large shrimp [my  italics] per person”.

Mazzancolle ai Feri at home?  I was on it.

  • ten large, fresh, whole Pacific White jumbo shrimp from ECO Shrimp Garden in Newburgh, New York, purchased in the Greenmarket, grilled for two or three minutes on each side in a pan over a very hot flame, and served with a superb – and superbly simple – sauce composed of chopped fennel stems and fennel fronds, from Norwich Meadows Farm; parts of one tiny red and and one tiny yellow hot pepper from Roots to River Farm (found at the Saturday Chelsea’s Down to Earth Farmers Market on 23rd St.), chopped, after the seeds and membranes were removed; and some lemon juice, all of these ingredients mixed, left alone for 10 minutes or so before adding enough olive oil to make the mix spreadable, then salt and pepper, the grilled shrimp then drizzled with a little lemon juice and arranged with the sauce on two plates, lemon quarters on the side
  • one medium fennel bulb from Norwich Meadows Farm, the core removed, cut into 8 wedges, tossed in a bowl with olive oil; three crushed garlic cloves from Norwich Meadows Farm; a handful of thyme sprigs from Phillips Farm; part of one dried peperoncino, crushed; salt; and pepper, then spread onto a ceramic oven pan, roasted at 425º, turning once, at which time a handful of pitted and halved Gaeta olives were tossed onto the pan
  • multi-colored small bell peppers from Berried Treasures Farm, halved or quartered, seeds and membranes removed, sautéed over a high flame until slightly carmelized, finished in the pan with the addition of oregano leaves from Rise & Root Farm in the Union Square Greenmarket (Saturday was their last day there until spring) and balsamic vinegar
  • the wine was an Italian (Sicily) white, Colle del Mandorlo bianco Terre Siciliane 2013 from Feudo Montini, purchased from Appellation Wine and Spirits 
  • the music was ‘Music at the Habsburg Court‘, works of Johann Heinrich Schmelzer and Johann Joseph Fux, Nikolaus Harnoncourt & Concentus musicus Wien

anguilla alla luciana/eel, bay leaves; roots; cabbage


No one should have to wait to enjoy eel until christmas, especially if she or he isn’t really Italian, and doesn’t believe in christmas.  I was almost beside myself when I spotted eel at the Pura Vida Fisheries stand in the Union Square Greenmarket today.  It had been so long since I had last prepared it at home that, as I learned later, that it didn’t show up in this, my more-than six-year-old food blog. I had already picked up a bag of very fresh shrimp from Eco Shrimp Garden, some one hundred feet north of the shallow bucket of eel, but I was quickly reassured by all parties involved in my [gentleman’s] fishing expedition in the Greenmarket that the shrimp, perhaps more so than the eel, could wait another day.

In the past when I had cooked eel, I had stressed out over how I would prepare this exceptional fish, but I decided this time early on that I would go for the simplest preparation possible.  That meant Antonio and Priscilla Carluccio’s version of  ‘Anguilla alla Luciana, a recipe from Naples (thus explaining the meal’s wine pairing) which appears in what I consider the absolutely indispensable, ‘Carluccio’s Complete Italian Food‘.  Of course my decision was not in the least prejudiced by my fulsome affection for bay leaves in virtually any application.

Although I might have liked to finally use the ancient Rhode Island eel fork leaning in the corner by our table to catch it, modern urban civilization [New York City] meant that it wasn’t necessary.  My fish dealer had also skinned and cleaned the Anguilliform, an immensely valuable service, from what I understand.




The fish was incredibly delicious (and, for those who might still be wondering, there was absolutely no yuck or yecch quotient).

  • a one-pound skinned and cleaned eel From Pura Vida Fisheries,, cut into three-inch segments and placed, or layered, inside a ceramic baking dish, accompanied by a large number of [ideally fresh] bay leaves and sprinklings of sea salt, placed in a hot, 400º oven for about 30 to 40 minutes, then removed and drizzled with a very little bit of fresh lemon juice and a bit more olive oil
  • a few small red new potatoes from Norwich Meadows Farm and a handful of very red radishes, also from Norwich Meadows Farm, each one halved, tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper, and sprigs of thyme from Phillips Farm, roasted on a ceramic pan for about 30 minutes, removed and sprinkled with more (now chopped) thyme leaves
  • one very small San Michele cabbage (an Italian Savoy) from Tamarack Hollow Farm, sliced fairly thinly, sautéed in olive oil along with segments of one very small leek from Ryder Farm, removed from the heat, seasoned with salt and pepper and tossed with fresh fennel seeds from Lani’s Farm
  • the wine was an Italian (Campania) white, Falanghina Feudi di San Gregorio 2014
  • the music was from the Harmonia Mundi album, ‘Venezia 1625



There was also a cheese and fruit course, with its own twist.  It was not the cheese that was out of the ordinary, at least for me, but the fruit, which I was told by Richard Giles, the Delaware County farmer, was a wild New York grape, one which had not yet learned to be sweet, but they were sure pretty. For anyone interested in such things, each grape contained a single (normal-size seed);  it wasn’t a problem for me, because I alway eat the seeds, even though, until today, I did not know that they were very good for you.

  • ‘Rupert’ cow cheese from Consider Bardwell Farm
  • ‘Brebis Blanc’ soft (but now hardening) sheep cheese from 3-Corner Field Farm, sprinkled with some chopped thyme from Phillips Farm, the herb remaining from the roasted vegetables
  • tiny wild black grapes form Lucky Dog Organic Farm

duck, tarragon; turnips, leek; cabbage, balsamic


It looks like winter.

I had no misgivings tonight about lighting the oven to roast the turnips, in spite of the fact that earlier, while we were walking around the far west side near the Hudson, I had complained about mugginess.

Cool evenings: They’re one of the perks of the season.

This meal almost duplicated one I noticed I had put together this past March, but then I guess that sort of thing is inevitable after doing this blog for more than five and a half years.

But I think this time it tasted even better.

  • one small duck breast from Pat LaFrieda at Eataly, the fatty side scored with cross-hatching, covered with a mixture of salt, pepper and a bit of turbinato sugar which had been infused over time with a vanilla bean, the breast left standing for about half an hour before it was pan-fried, and finished with lemon, sprinkled with chopped tarragon from Stokes Farm, and drizzled with a bit of olive oil
  • Hakurei turnips from Norwich Meadows Farm, cut into half-inch-thick slices, tossed with oil, salt, and pepper, then roasted in an unglazed ceramic pan for 30 minutes at 425º, a small leek from Ryder Farm, sliced in half-inch segments, added half-way through
  • several leaves of a small San Michele cabbage (an Italian Savoy) from Tamarack Hollow Farm, layered together on a board and sliced very thinly, then tossed with salt, pepper, and three flattened juniper berries, sautéed in a little butter over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until the leaves were tender and had begun to brown and (hopefully) crisp slightly at the edges, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar added and the cabbage heated briefly, finished with chopped parsley from Stokes Farm
  • the wine was a California (Amador) red, S & A Portuguese-style red wine Amador County 2013, made with Touriga Nacional and Tinto Roriz (aka Tempranillo) grapes
  • the music was two clarinet quartets by Franz Anton Hofmeister, No. 1, in A major, and No. 2, in B flat major

oysters, pea crab; swordfish, tomato, radish greens


Because I already had enough vegetables on hand already, almost my only purpose in heading for the Union Square Greenmarket that day was to secure a seafood entrée for dinner.  It had only occurred to me to also pick up oysters because, while still abed, I had seen the Blue Moon Fish Company retweet of a tweet about their wild oysters. It included a link to an article in the Village Voice featuring both wild oysters and Blue Moon family anchor, Stephanie Villani, and I thought, what the heck…

Only later did we add an embellishment, in the form of a ‘theme’:  Barry had suggested that I bring home two dozen, which would make it something of special event, so we looked around for an occasion, or excuse, for a mid-week oyster feast, perhaps a birthday or anniversary, something at least a little splendid. He suggested we consider it in honor of the Guggenheim Museum first opening its doors on that day and month in 1959, ten years after the death of its patron, Solomon R. Guggenheim, and six months after the death of its architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, and I thought, why not?

It turned out that we had a tiny bonus inside the bag I brought home.  It was the first time in 50 years of consuming oysters (and often opening them myself), that I came across what turned out to be an additional, distantly-related shellfish species crouched up inside one of the bivalves.  It was only when I looked very closely at what I had removed from it while it lay on my large oval plate (you can actually see it inside the top center oyster in the picture), that I noticed it was moving; it looked like a very tiny, perfectly formed, translucent crab (see the image at the bottom).

Thanks to the internet gods I learned almost immediately that what I had in front of me was an ‘oyster crab’, also called a “pea crab’.  At almost the same moment I also learned that it was common (or uncommon) enough to be considered a delicacy by those who know and observe such things, for instance in Delmarva, and on the far end of Long Island.

So I slurped it down, but not without a tentative chew.  I figured that if I had the nerve to eat raw oysters, how was a tiny crab going to be a problem?




The swordfish was actually my fourth choice as an entrée to follow the oysters, the John Dory, Tautog (Blackfish), and Boston mackerel all having sold out by the time I arrived at the Blue Moon Greenmarket stall at about 11:45, which was earlier than usual, I have to say.  Because of both the time and effort I expected we might spend on the bivalves, and it being a ‘school night’, I wanted the preparation of the second course to be both fast and relatively uncomplicated.  The choice of the vegetables would follow suit.

The fish was absolutely delicious. How to account for its excellence when the only real difference between this outing with this recipe and previous ones was the combination of herbs?  Or their numbers?  What I choose is usually very much determined by what I have on hand, and therefor might never be repeated.  But then I’m almost obsessed with herbs, and there seems to me to be almost nothing that can be done wrong with them.

  • one swordfish steak from Blue Moon Seafood, cut into two six-and-a-half ounce pieces, rubbed with a mixture of fresh herbs (here lovage, tarragon, dill flowers, peppermint, parsley, thyme, and rosemary, all from various Greenmarket farmers) chopped together with sea salt, then mixed with some freshly-ground pepper, minced garlic and lemon zest, and a bit of olive oil to moisten the herb mix, spread onto the surface of the fish before it was pan-grilled and basted throughout the cooking process with some of the reserved rub mixture, finished with a squeeze of lemon, and a drizzle of olive oil, served with eighths of lemon
  • a mix of tomatoes (including three small heirlooms and two small San Marzano from Berried Treasures Farm), each sliced in half, placed face down on a plate which had been spread with salt and pepper, then dried somewhat with a paper towel and placed in a hot grill pan, turned once, removed, finished with a bit of olive oil, a few drops of white balsamic vinegar, and torn basil leaves from a basil plant (Full Bloom Marker Garden, in Whately, western Massachusetts) from Whole Foods
  • a very small bunch of radish greens from Norwich Meadows Farm, wilted in olive oil in which a small garlic clove, also from Norwich Meadows Farm, had been allowed to sweat for a bit, then seasoned with salt, pepper, and a bit more olive oil
  • the wine with the swordfish was a beautiful and quite unusual Spanish (Catalonia) white, Elvi/LV Wines In Vita Alella 2011, with Pansa Blanca (Xarel-lo) and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, carried home this week from Appellation Wines
  • the music with the entrée was Mitsuko Uchida and the Cleveland Orchestra performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 18 in B flat major, K456




one oyster crab, coming up (note that the inside width of the bowl is only 2 3/8 inches, or 6 centimeters)

only dessert: brebis blanc, barden blue, bosc, trucio


The entrée was simply a bowl of the dish of spaghetti, red onion, savoy cabbage, and sweet Italian sausage left over from two nights before, heated and sprinkled with some chopped parsley from Stokes Farm, so I’m only uploading an image of the dessert cheese course.