if I were asked to describe a savory fish dish, this would be it
I’ve worked with this recipe many times, and it never misses the mark. That mark includes simple, virtually foolproof preparation, ingredients likely to be on hand, ability to remain warm, singularity, and, of course, tastiness.
I think we’ve enjoyed it in warmer months, but it really comes into its own during the colder. In fact, when I texted Barry from the Greenmarket on Saturday, including a shot of the fishmonger’s menu, and asked him to pick from it, he came back almost immediately, “Monkfish, since it’s cold?”. He was describing another of its virtues: Forty or forty-five minutes in a warm oven means a cozy breakfast room with a window open a crack for fresh air.
The recipe came to me years ago, via the New York Times, from Mark Bittman, who suggests it also works with “almost any firm fish fillet”. He mentions red snapper, sea bass, pollock, among others, but I would also include hake, haddock, and cod, remembering to be careful about removing the fillets from the pan when done.
- one 18-ounce monkfish tail from American Seafood Company, roasted with three quarters of a cup of Moroccan and Kalamata olives from Whole Foods, pits removed, on top of a bed of scrubbed, unpeeled, thinly-sliced and seasoned Russet potatoes from Keith’s Farm which had just been roasted (in a very generous amount of olive oil), with 10 or 12 (!) fresh bay leaves from West Side Market, then finished with a sprinkling of ‘Hong Vit‘ Asian radish micro greens from Windfall Farms
- a side dish of hydroponic watercress (sold looking like a bouquet of flowers, as they are sheathed in plastic, to protect the leaves and their roots) from Two Guys from Woodbridge, and a handful of quartered Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods, dressed simply with a good olive oil and a squeeze of juice from one half of a tiny lime-like lemon (lemon-like lime?) from Fantastic Gardens of Long Island
- the wine was a Spanish (Rueda) white, Naia D.O. Rueda 2014, from Verdejo old vines
- the music was Handel’s ‘Giulio Cesare’, Alan Curtis conducting Il Complesso Barocco, with Gianluca Buratto, Milena Storti, Karina Gauvin, Filippo Mineccia, Johannes Weisser, Romina Basso, Emöke Barath, and Marie-Nicole Lemieux
somethings old and somethings new
The old was the breaded swordfish, new was the stonecrop; old was the cherry tomatoes, new was the addition of leeks; old was the rapini, new was having it in February.
- one swordfish steak (off of Scott Rucky’s fishing vessel, ‘Dakota’, out of East Islip, Long Island, from American Seafood Company in the Union Square Greenmarket), cut into two pieces, marinated briefly in a mixture of olive oil and fresh oregano from Stokes Farm, then drained well and covered with a coating of dried homemade bread crumbs, pan-grilled for about 4-5 minutes on each side, removed, salted, sprinkled with a little lemon juice, some beautiful stone crop (a succulent, aka orpine, aka sedum, and apparently it’s also good for creating green roofs) from Lani’s Farm scattered on and to the side, fish and herb both drizzled with olive oil before serving
- one medium leek from S.S. & O. Farm, washed, halved lengthwise, sliced into 1-inch segments, sautéed in olive oil until wilted, 8 Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Food stirred into the pan and cooked until they had just begun to wrinkle and soften, when about a teaspooon of chopped thyme was added, along with salt and a small amount of turbinado sugar (which had been infused over a long period with a vanilla bean buried in the bowl), then cooked for another two minutes, and left to be served warm or at room temperature [the recipe is from Ciao Italia]
- young, tender rapini from Lani’s Farm, wilted along with two garlic halves, from Keith’s Farm, which had previously sweated a bit in olive oil, the greens then seasoned with salt and pepper
- the wine a Spanish (Galicia) white, Finco Arantei Albariño Rías Baixas 2013
- the music was Händel’s ‘Imeneo’ in a performance with Rudolph Palmer conducting the Brewer Baroque Chamber Orchestra, John Ostendorf, Julianne Baird, D’Anna Fortunato, Beverly Hoch, and the Rudolph Palmer Singers
stone crop, as offered by Lani’s farm, at the Union Square Greenmarket
This meal was extremely winter-sympathetic, and the weather totally cooperated on this blustery, wet, late-February evening.
I also think this was my most successful braised lamb shank yet, maybe because I had plenty of time, and because I used all of it.
- two 10-ounce lamb shanks from 3-Corner Field Farm, prepared, except for the accompaniments, exactly as described in this post, and this one, using red onions from Norwich Meadows Farm; the wine I cooked with was a Castello di Farnetella Chianti Colli Senesi 2012 (for reasons too complicated and uninteresting to explain, I had it in a slow-to-moderate oven for part of the time, and on the top of the stove, with the lowest flame I could manage, for the rest)
- a mix of root vegetables, including sliced celery root and sliced parsley root, both from John D. Madura Farm, parsnips from Norwich Meadows Farm, a sliced ‘Gilfeather’ turnip from Alewife Farm, several shallots from John D. Madura Farm, all tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and the very last sprigs of winter savory from Stokes Farm, the herb placed on the bottom of a ceramic oven pan and the roots spread on top, everything roasted slowly at 400º until tender and golden (about 45 minutes)
- the heart of a Savoy cabbage from Hoeffner Farms, sliced thinly, sautéed in butter along with sea salt, telicherry pepper, and 4 or 5 smashed juniper berries
- the wine was a California (Napa Valley) red, RouteStock [sic] Route 29 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2012
- the music was Vivaldi’s ‘Motezuma’, performed by the ensemble, Il Complesso Barocco, conducted by Alan Curtis, with Vito Priante, Marijana Mijanovic, Inga Kalna, Roberta Invernizzi, and others
I’ve not been able to find decent-size scallops at the Greenmarket this winter. On Monday however P.E. & D. D. Seafood had some that appeared larger than any I had seen since last fall, so I scooped up a few for this dinner.
Along with them we enjoyed the very last of the cultivated upland cress I had brought home from Alewife Farm a few days before; I was also very happy to have some local (well, at least local northeastern New England) tomatoes on the windowsill, and I was almost shocked to find that Lani’s Farm was back in the Greenmarket in full force on Monday, or at least in force sufficient to be able to offer what I have to believe was the first broccoli rabe of the season (even if I know it was managed with the help of a ‘high tunnel’).
Finally, sharp eyes will notice, from the evidence in the picture above, that [like my Mother] I don’t wear my ring while cooking.
- medium-size sea scallops from P.E. & D.D. Seafood, washed, rinsed and, ideally, very thoroughly dried (I may not have been so thorough this time, since the grill marks are faint), seasoned with salt and pepper, pan grilled for about 90 seconds on each side, finished with a squeeze of Lisbon lemon juice from Fantastic Gardens of Long Island, and a drizzle of olive oil, then scattered with the last of the cultivated upland cress from Alewife Farm we had already enjoyed in several meals [the basic recipe for this entrée, minus the cress, is included in Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers’, ‘Italian Easy: Recipes from the London River Cafe‘]
- half a dozen Maine cherry ‘cocktail’ tomatoes from Whole Foods, slow-roasted with a generous amount of dried Italian oregano from Buon Italia, olive oil, and two halved garlic cloves from Keith’s Farm
- young, tender, and mild rapini from Lani’s Farm, wilted with two garlic halves, from Keith’s Farm, which had previously sweated a bit in olive oil, the vegetable then seasoned with salt and pepper
- the wine was a California (Sonoma) white, Ferrari-Carano Fumé Blanc Sauvignon Blanc 2014
- the music was Hans Pfitzner’s Sextet Op 55, performed by the Ulf Hoelscher Ensemble, which was written in the summer of 1945, immediately after the war, by one account, “..while Pfitzner was homeless, in hospital for a broken arm and, like Richard Strauss also surveying the results of his loyalty to the Nazi regime, taking refuge in the Romanticism of the past.”; read the liner notes to the Ulf Hoelscher Ensemble recording, and also this very sad Wikipedia entry, and Paul Griffith’s 1997 piece in the Times
The potatoes were really sweet, mirabile dictu; the cress actually exciting, if you can also imagine that; and the salsa had a fairly complex zing [zip?], probably because it included both a Basque paprika thing and some pepperoncino.
- two crab cakes from PE & DD Seafood (ingredients: crab, egg, flour, red & green peppers, garlic, salt, pepper, breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, milk, celery, parsley), heated in a heavy cast iron pan, 3 to 4 minutes on each side, and served on a bed of 6 Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods, which had been chopped and combined with salt, black pepper, a bit of homemade French Basque piment d’Espellate purchased in a small town north of Baie-Comeau, Quebec last year from the producer’s daughter, some crushed dried pepperoncini, and some chopped fresh oregano leaves from Stokes Farm, the cakes finished with a drizzle of juices from the salsa
- a total of 6 red potatoes (white flesh) from Lucky Dog Organic Farm, boiled, drained, dried in the pan, rolled in olive oil, scattered with sliced scallions and chopped parsley, both from Eataly
- more of the very tasty and very beautiful cultivated upland cress from Alewife Farm (which we had also enjoyed the day before), washed, air-dried, and dressed only with some good olive oil
- the wine was an Oregon (Willamette) white, Kings Ridge Oregon Pinot Gris 2014
- the music was [the first half of] a wonderful recording of Handel’s ‘Alcina’, Alan Curtis conducting Il Complesso Barocco, with Kobie van Rensburg, Vito Priante, Joyce DiDonato, Sonia Prina, Karina Gauvin, Maité Beaumont, and Laura Cherici [make sure you read the synopsis, even if you aren’t interested in the music of queer baroque Saxon composers]