Month: April 2017

‘Spanish’ shrimp, tomatoes; spicy Tautog, potatoes, ramps

When I arrived at the fish stand in the Greenmarket on Saturday there was only one remaining fillet of Blackfish (Eastern Long Island- and Rhode Island-speak: ‘Tautog’). It’s one of my favorite fishes, but this piece was a little smaller than I would normally prefer for the two of us.

Still, noticing that I had recently cooked all of the other local seafood selections available, I decided to ask for it anyway. I thought of serving an appetizer using a few local Hudson Valley shrimp from Jean Claude Frajmund’s Eco Shrimp Garden market stall, just steps away, if his stock had not yet been exhausted.

Two fish courses would complicate the dinner preparations, but I had been feeling pretty confident about my modest skills lately.

I got the shrimp.

It all turned out even better than I might have expected. The only problem was the lateness of the hour when it was finally served (I still have to work on that).

  • one teaspoon of chopped garlic from Lucky Dog Organic Farm Farm heated inside a medium cast iron pan over a very low flame until the garlic had colored nicely, then part of one dried dark no-heat Habanada pepper added and pushed around with the garlic, followed by a pinch of Spanish saffron (DO La Mancha from Antonio Sotos), one small whole dried local chipotle pepper from Northshire Farms in the Union Square Greenmarket (not punctured, and left whole) and less than half of  teaspoon of freshly-ground cumin seed added, all stirred for a minute or two, after which 6 large, very fresh local whole farmed shrimp from our local Hudson River Valley (Newburgh) supplier of small crustaceans, Eco Shrimp Garden, were added (I had cut them all along their backs, from head to tail, ahead of time, to ease their shelling once they were served), seasoned with salt and pepper, the heat brought up a bit and the shrimp cooked until firm while turned twice, served on 2 plates with a generous squeeze of local lemon from Fantastic Gardens of Long Island, finished micro fennel from Windfall Farms [both the dried Habanada and the micro fennel are my own additions to Mark Bittman’s simple, delicious recipe]
  • four Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods, warmed in a little olive oil along with stems of wild garlic from Lani’s Farm, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, mixed with a generous amount of chopped thyme from Eataly

I was able to prepare all the ingredients for the main course before beginning to cook the first, so there was relatively short intermission between the them.

  • one beautiful, very fresh 11-ounce fillet of Blackfish/Tautog from Seatuck Fish Company, halved, then prepared mostly as described in this recipe by Melissa Clark, but necessarily substituting a mix of Nigerian cayenne pepper and Spanish paprika (picante) for the Aleppo Syrian red pepper it specified, and spooning a small amount of a savory tomato mix from a previous meal at the very end; the fresh sage was from S. & S.O. Produce Farm; the olives were from Whole Foods Market; and the lemon juice from a sweet local fruit from Fantastic Gardens of Long Island
  • a mix of 3 varieties of potatoes, because I wanted to keep enough of each of them for another time, all from Greenmarket farmers (Carolas from Lucky Dog Organic Farm, small Red Norlands from Berried treasure, and ‘blue potatoes’ from Norwich Meadows Farm) boiled in a vintage medium-size clear pyrex pan, drained, dried in the same pan, cut into smaller pieces, seasoned with Maldon salt and freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, then rolled, still in the pan, with a bit of olive oil and both the bulbs and greens of a few ramps from Violet Hill Farm


There was actually a dessert this time.

  • scoops of a hand-packed vanilla gelato, from Eataly, made in-house, sprinkled with chopped candied ginger from Whole Foods Market


bacon and eggs, with vegetables, herbs, spices, breads

It’s good to be Sunday.

And its good to be well-stocked.

  • a very late breakfast (even late as a lunch), of gently-cooked (chewy, not crispy anywhere) thick bacon from Millport Dairy Farm; fried very fresh free-range chicken eggs, also from Millport, enhanced with Maldon salt, freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, a bit of a mix of Nigerian cayenne pepper and Spanish paprika that remained from dinner the night before, sautéed chopped ramp stems from Violet Hill Farm, and chopped dill from Phillips Farm; pea shoots from Lani’s Farm, sprinkled with salt and pepper, served alongside 3 sliced Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods Market which had first been warmed in a little olive oil, seasoned, and mixed with a generous amount of chopped thyme from Eataly; slices of ‘8 grain 3 seed’ bread from Rock Hill Bakehouse in Gansevoort, NY (their Saturday stand in the Union Square Greenmarket, not toasted, and toast from slices of 2 other breads, ‘pane Mediterraneo’ from Eataly (whole wheat, rye flour; pumpkin, sesame, poppy, sunflower, flax seeds; millet, farro), and a Balthazar rye boule from Schaller & Weber; and finally, a very small amount of Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter from Whole Foods
  • the music was Luigi Rossi’s 17th-century oratorio’, ‘Oratorio per la settimana santa‘,  William Christie directing  Les Arts Florissants (it’s the first Sunday of Easter, so we weren’t too far out of sync)

the ‘magic meal’, 25 years on: Conchiglie al Forno

Conchiglie al forno, with mushrooms, 4 cheeses, cream, radicchio, and fresh sage.

I prepared this meal for the very first time exactly 25 years to the day before I served it this past Wednesday, and there have been many occasions between.

We call it ‘the magic meal’, always have.

The night of April 19, 1992 was the first time I made dinner for Barry. He had very recently been transferred from his employer’s New York office to the one in Seattle, at his request. I was devastated when he told me about it:  We had only begun to get acquainted, through a few chaste dates. He had always had to go back to the office after each of them, which explains one of the reasons he wanted to move out of New York.

He must have noticed I was upset, so he assured me he’d have to visit the New York office occasionally, probably beginning soon after he had settled in on the West Coast. I promised to make him dinner when he did. It was the first time I did; it wasn’t to be the last.

He didn’t return to his hotel that night.

The date (both senses) is now one of our 6 anniversaries. Note: When you don’t believe in marriage, you get to have as many anniversaries as you can get excited about – and remember.

I picked this particular dish because I could prepare it entirely ahead of time (it tastes at least as good reheated on another day), meaning there’s nothing to distract the cook from visiting with a guest (or guests); all it needs otherwise is a simple uncooked appetizer and either some fruit or a gelato, and the arrangements for neither course will keep the company alone.

The recipe for the dish is on this site. I still have the wrinkled clipping from a copy of the September 16, 1990 ‘New York Times Magazine’, where I first saw it.

It also appears in a book, ‘Cucina Simpatica’, given to me 2 years later by a dear friend with whom I used to share many wonderful meals in Providence and New York. The book was published in 1991 by Johanne Killeen and George Germon, who were, as far as I know, also the creators of this Lucullan dish. Jacqueline knew I loved the authors’ wonderful Providence restaurant, as she did, but did not know at the time how they had brought Barry and I together.

Here is the pasta inside the baking dish, just as it came out of the oven:

  • the ingredients in my own preparation included shiitake mushrooms from John D. Madera Farm, Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter from Whole Foods Market, Neapolitan il Pastaio di Gragnano conchiglioni from Eataly, Ronnybrook Farms heavy (‘double’) cream from the local dairy’s stand in the Union Square Greenmarket, radicchio from Eataly, Parmigiano & Reggiano Bonat 5 anni from Buon Italia, Guffanti Fontina Oro Affinata from Eataly (substituting for ‘Bel Paese’ in the recipe), Lombardia 300-day Gorgonzola from Eataly, ricotta from Eataly, and fresh sage leaves from S. & S.O. Produce Farm
  • the wine was an Italian (Sicily, Etna) red, Biondi, Ciro 2014 Etna Rosso Outis Nessuno, from Chambers Street Wines

There had also been an antipasto.


ein deutsches Picknick, zu Hause, im Hause

It was ‘Magische MahlzeitVorabend (more on that holiday tomorrow).

For a little while I had been assembling a number of foods, prepared and fresh, that would lend themselves to being part of a picnic, and in particular, mostly a German picnic.

Last night, after a visit to Schaller & Weber in the afternoon, I was ready to assemble one.

As usual, the plates were anchored with a tasty dressed green, in this case various baby mustards from the Union Square Greenmarket, to which I added some grown-up arugula, also from the Greenmarket.

sage-lemon grilled portobello; thyme-roasted asparagus

It may not look like it, but that entrée is vegan. That wasn’t actually my objective.  I had merely turned to a farmer who was offering mushrooms after learning that my Monday fish mongers had sold out their entire catch before I arrived at the Greenmarket. The rest of the story was, luscious..

..not least because a few minutes later I picked out our very first asparagus of the season.

That evening the mushrooms were grilled..

..and the asparagus roasted (here on their way into the oven).

  • four large portobello mushrooms (mature white mushrooms) from John D, Madera Farm (weighing something less than a pound when first brought home), stems removed, the caps wiped free of soil, and their ‘gills’ scraped off, allowed to rest for half an hour in a glazed ceramic pan just large enough to hold them, in a marinade composed of a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, almost as much juice of a sweet local lemon [this time orange in color!] from Fantastic Gardens of Long Island, and half a dozen sprigs of sage from S. & S.O. Produce Farm, the mushrooms turned once while in the pan, and occasionally brushed with the marinade, then removed, pan grilled for about 4 minutes on each side, arranged on 2 plates, squeezed with more lemon juice, scattered with more sage, this time chopped, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with micro red amaranth from Windfall Farm
  • eighteen or so asparagus spears from Phillips Farm, trimmed, the stems of the larger stalks peeled, the asparagus rolled, along with a handful of thyme branches in a little more than a tablespoon of olive oil and a little sea salt, roasted inside a large Pampered Chef unglazed ceramic pan at 425-450º for about 15 to 20 minutes, removed to 2 plates, some of the juice of a sweet local lemon from Fantastic Gardens of Long Island

Then someone brought out a cheese course, and the meal was no longer vegan.

  • three cheeses from Consider Bardwell Farm, left to right, ‘Manchester’ goat milk cheese, ‘Barden Blue’ cow cheese, and a blue goat milk cheese, all served with a bit of micro red amaranth from Windfall Farms
  • lightly-toasted slices of ‘Pane Mediterraneo’ from Eataly