It was a simple assignment: put together an uncomplicated meal with the first red peppers from the Greenmarket and some of the very fresh 16 eggs I had in the refrigerator at that moment.
To make it more interesting, something more than that to which a frittata might otherwise aspire, I also had on hand some other fine ingredients, familiar and exotic, fresh and dry.
- a frittata which began with sautéing in olive oil in a 12″ enameled cast iron frying pan half a dozen or so sliced sweet red bell peppers from 9J Organic (in the Union Square Greenmarket), until they had begun to carmelize, followed by some chopped organic garlic and a little bit of cherry bomb (or red bomb) peppers from Norwich Meadows Farm, slivered, sautéed until pungent or softened, and finally some sliced red scallions from Paffenroth Gardens, again, stirred until softened, after which 8 medium eggs from Millport Dairy which had been whipped with a tablespoon or so of milk, salt and pepper, and a handful of mixed herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, tarragon, and savory, all from Greenmarket farmers) were poured into the pan, the surface dusted with a pinch or so of homemade French Basque piment d’Espellate (which we had purchased in a small town north of Baie-Comeau, Quebec last year from the producer’s daughter), cooked over a low-to-moderate flame until the edges were fixed, then placed in a pre-heated broiler for a minute or so, or until the entire surface was set, finished with a sprinkling of micro bronze fennel from Two Guys from Woodbridge, removed, allowed to cool for a bit, quartered, and one piece arranged on each of 2 plates, perched on the edge some torn radicchio from Tamarack Hollow Farm, which was dressed lightly withgood Campania olive oil, D.O.P. Penisola Sorrentina “Syrenum”, maldon salt, and freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper
A few simple sweet local dark cherries from Samascott Orchards, in Kinderhook, which are now probably at the very end of their season, were a perfect dessert.
The sea robin was delicious, but I think I overdid the garnish this time. It really didn’t need the bed of arugula, especially since I was sprinkling the fish itself with some torn fresh basil.
I was trying to hard to use the arugula I had in the refrigerator door while it was still sprightly, but also I was distracted by both an unusually smokey kitchen (the oil-tossed squash grilling over a high flame), and my multitasking 2 other very different programs (preparing the fish and vegetables at the same time I was rendering a supply of fresh veal fat in a large pot), all inside a warm kitchen.
[the veal fat, from Consider Bardwell Farm in the Union Square Greenmarket, originated with a calf of their cow milk partner, Lisa Kaiman’s Jersey Girls Dairy (her cow’s are Jerseys, and Lisa is from New Jersey, hence..) in Chester Vermont]
But the air cleared, the breakfast room eventually cooled down, and we enjoyed the meal – and great conversation – including some excellent cheese, great bread, and one of our favorite table wines.
- nine quite small sea robin fillets, or ‘tails’, from Pura Vida Fisheries, rinsed, pat dry, seasoned with salt and pepper, then placed in an oval heavy copper pan of sizzling olive oil, sautéed over medium-high heat for barely 2 minutes on each side, transferred to 2 plates where they were perched on some rocket/arugula (‘wild arugula’) from Migliorelli Farm, a little organic lemon squeezed on top, and small spoonfuls of a olive tapenade sauce made minutes earlier (Gaeta olives, brined wild capers, a salted anchovy, and some chopped fresh thyme) spread over or between the fillets, which were garnished with torn fresh basil leaves from Sycamore Farms
- four small patty pan squash from Alewife Farm, sliced horizontally, tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, chopped fresh garlic from Alewife Farm, part of a hot red Portugal pepper from Keith’s Farm, salt, and pepper, then pan grilled for about 6 minutes, sprinkled with lovage from Keith’s Farm
There was a small cheese course, which included a few sweet cherries from Samascott Orchards.
- three cheeses from Consider Bardwell Farm: ‘Dorset’, a rich, buttery washed-rind cow milk cheese, and their 2 new-ish blues, ‘Barden Blue’, a cow cheese, and a goat blue which I believe has not yet been named [might I humbly suggest ‘Wellen’, as in Bardwell’s ‘Barden’-‘Wellen’?]
- a terrific Hudson Bakery pumpernickel boule from Citarella
It’s one of my favorite pasta shapes: Setaro calls them ‘nodi marini’ (‘sailors’ knots’ in English). Last night I served them with a sauce which would be totally unlikely in Italy, but whose flavor I don’t think would seem weird to even the most parochial Italian.
At least in the dish’s conception, both my conception and that of its author, the ingredients began with maize [American: corn], and maize/corn remained the star throughout. I’m crazy about corn in any form, and I’ve always regretted how rarely it’s found in the Italian kitchen which became my go-to place many years ago. It’s why I found Melissa Clark‘s recipe, ‘Creamy Corn Pasta With Basil’, so exciting.
The surprise was that the finished dish tasted so darn Italian. Also, both fruitier and more earthy than I had expected. It was absolutely delicious.
The remaining fresh, local ingredients, deserve a lot of the credit for all of that.
The recipe appears here. It probably looks more complicated than it is; I had no problems with it on my first try. I will say however that I was surprised my 3 normal size ears of corn produced only about a third of a cup of kernels, not the 2 cups she suggests 2 large ears would produce. In the end I don’t really think it matters.
- The ingredients I used for the pasta, some of which are pictured above, were: 9 ounces from a package of Setaro Nodi Marini from Buon Italia; 6 red scallions from Hawthorne Valley Farm, sliced; 3 ears of medium-size corn from Locust Grove Fruit Farm, shucked, their kernels removed; Parmigiano Reggiano Vacche Rosse from Buon Italia, grated; basil from Sycamore Farms, torn; much of one hot red Portugal pepper from Keith’s Farm, finely-chopped and softened in olive oil over a low flame; and the juice of a small Limoneira lemon from Trader Joe’s
- the wine was an Italian (Sicily) rosé, the sturdy Calabretta Terre Siciliane IGT Rosato 2014, from Astor Wines & Spirits
- the music was the album, ‘A, Scarlatti: Il Giardino Di Rose, Sinfonie, Etc‘, which includes “..sinfonias from six of Alessandro Scarlatti’s oratorios interspersed with six short harpsichord concertos”, Ottavio Dantone directing the Accademia Bizantina
Mackerel are not endangered, not expensive, very good for you, and very delicious.
After so many previous outings, how much more can I say about this great mackerel preparation? It’s Michael White’s very simple Sicilian-inspired recipe. I can usually vary the tomatoes, depending on what may be available, and sometimes at the very end I sprinkle something on the top (last night, for the first time, a micro bronze fennel), but even more important is the freshness of the fish and my luck in getting the correct flame and timing the cooking right.
Tomatoes and eggplant too: not endangered, not expensive, very good for you, and very delicious.
I love grilling somewhat larger eggplant, but I always smile when I spot ‘fairy tale’ eggplant (a name I’ve usually shortened to ‘fairy eggplant’) in the Greenmarket. They have the disadvantage of not lending themselves to being scored before grilling, but they have the advantage of not lending themselves to being scored before grilling (scoring takes a little more time, but only a little more time). Both larger and smaller eggplant can be combined with another vegetable, and tomato is a natural, but I kept it simple this time.
- four 3 to 4-ounce Spanish mackerel fillets from Blue Moon Fish, washed, dried, brushed with olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, pan grilled over high heat for 6 or 7 minutes, turning once (the skin side down first), removed and completed with a salsa consisting of 1/2-inch diced heirloom tomatoes from Norwich Meadows Farm tossed with olive oil, wild brined capers which had been rinsed and drained, juice from small Limoneira lemon from Trader Joe’s, salt, and pepper, and sprinkled with ‘micro bronze fennel’ from Two Guys from Woodbridge
- several handfuls of fairy tale eggplant from Stokes Farm, sliced in half, tossed with oil, chopped young (juicy) garlic from Alewife Farm, salt, pepper, fresh budding oregano from Stokes Farm, grilled on a large ribbed cast-iron pan and garnished with more of the oregano
- the wine was an Italian (Sicilian) red, Catarratto Bosco Falconieria 2013, produced by Bosco Falconeria, from Astor Wines
- the music was Antonio Vivaldi’s opera, ‘Tito Manlio’, performed by the Accademia Bizantina, directed by Ottavio Dantone
I wanted a sausage to accompany the beans I had cooked the night before, and the only sausage I had on hand was a package of frozen chorizo. I should probably have used it as part of a composed dish, since these links were far more spicy (really hot!) than I expected of a brand marketed as broadly as Niman Ranch is. In addition, the dried chilis I tossed into the salsa which accompanied it, while ostensibly the same as a supply I had just exhausted, were much hotter.
Fortunately, the beans at least had no spiciness (only a real herbiness). I also put some rich moist black bread on the table, and both were helpful in refreshing taste buds somewhat dazed by the other 2 elements of the dinner, enabling us to enjoy the good wine.
[Note: After the picture above was taken, the juices from each of the 3 elements began to run toward the center. It was more than picturesque, it was a perfect objective for the bread, which had now become even more useful.]
- Four links of Niman Ranch chorizo sausage, pan grilled for a few minutes over a medium flame until heated through
- a tomatillo and tomato salsa composed of 3 chopped tomatillos from Alewife Farm and 2 chopped heirloom tomatoes (one red, one yellow) from Norwich Meadows Farm, sliced red scallions (including some of the green stems) from Paffenroth Gardens, some dried Itria-Sirissi chili (peperoncino di Sardegna intero), chopped garlic from Alewife Farm, sea salt, a pinch of vanilla bean-infused turbinado sugar, some juice of a small Limoniera lemon from Trader Joe’s, and chopped parsley from Stokes Farm
- shelled Black Turtle beans from Norwich Meadows Farm (somewhere between fresh and dried, probably since they had been in the crisper for a while), washed, cleaned, added to a pot in which sliced red scallions from Paffenroth Gardens and sliced garlic from Alewife Farm had been sautéed in olive oil, water then added to cover, the mix slowly cooked for 3 or 4 hours the night before, water added as needed, until the beans were done, and some pungent dried Italian oregano from Buon Italia introduced during the cooking process, after which they were refrigerated, reheated the following evening, gradually adding some good vegetable broth, made from a concentrate manufactured by Better Than Bullion, to thin the condensed sauce, some chopped oregano buds from Stokes Farm stirred in while it was heating, and more, not chopped, used to garnish the beans
- the bread was an absolutely wonderful Hudson Bread pumpernickel boule from Citarella
- the wine was a California (Sonoma) red, The Cooper’s Art Timothy Olson Syrah 2015 [the link is to an earlier vintage]
- the music was Jean-Baptiste Lully’s ‘Armide’, Philippe Herreweghe directing La Chapelle Royale Paris, and the Collegium Vocale