I don’t normally do stews. I don’t have anything particular against them. Maybe I usually like to work fast, or maybe I prefer the neatness of a more aggressive relationship between food and heat than that associated with dishes called stews.
But the luscious product of this quite simple recipe could change my mind, especially since I cam imagine how well it might be suited for serving to guests as a casual entrée. I found it while looking for something this past Sunday night to match both my food stores (a single monkfish tail, lots of heirloom tomatoes, handfuls of small okra) and the time I had available to make dinner. It was fairly quick to prepare, and the process itself pretty straightforward.
The reward was the happy melding of ingredients, and a wonderful savory creamy sauce that had absolutely nothing to do with cows.
- two cups of chopped heirloom tomatoes from Berried Treasures Farm, and one cup of chopped yellow onions from Neversink Organic Farm, sautéed in 3 tablespoons of olive oil inside a large, heavy tin-lined high-sided copper pot over a medium-high flame for about 8 minutes, or until the onions had softened and the tomatoes had virtually become a sauce (turning the heat up still higher near the end to reduce the amount of liquid, since they were heirlooms, and not a sturdier breed), seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, then ½ cup loosely packed chopped mint from mint from Alex’s Tomato Farm and ¼ cup loosely packed chopped lovage from Keith’s Farm (tarragon would actually be the first choice, but I didn’t have any), ¼ cup white wine and 2 to 3 tablespoons of a good white wine vinegar, here Aceto Cesare Bianco white wine vinegar from Buon Italia, were all added and the contents of the pot allowed to continue to cook for about 2 minutes, or until the smells of the wine and vinegar had dissipated, a one pound monkfish tail, from American Seafood Company in Chelsea’s Down to Earth Farmers Market on 23rd Street, sliced into pieces 1 ½ inch thick, added to the tomato mixture, the pot now covered, and cooked for 5 minutes, or until the flesh was opaque, then uncovered, the fish turned over and cooked for another 2 minutes, served sprinkled some of the fresh herbs
- handfuls of small okra from Kernan Farms, their stems trimmed, washed, dried thoroughly, sautéed over a high flame in a large cast iron pan with a little olive oil and 2 crushed dried peperoncino Calabresi secchi from Buon Italia, seasoned with sea salt, served in broad low bowls to the side of the the monkfish stew
- the wine was a wonderful Greek (Thessaly) white, Zafeirakis, Malagousia, 2016, from Flatiron Wines; it turned out to be a perfect pairing
- the music was Mozart’s ‘La Finta Giardiniera’, Nicolas Harnoncourt conducting Concentus Musicus Wien
It wasn’t Sunday breakfast, and we can’t even pretend it was brunch; we had our first meal of the day somewhere between the hours when decent folks have their lunches and dinners.
Maybe that’s why I ended up putting so much into it. While the meal looks fairly straightforward in the picture, at least by my bacon-&-eggs custom, there were definitely even more herbs and spices than usual.
NOTE; Not quite visible in the photo was my pleasure in having finally kept 6 yokes intact on their voyage from shell to table; I’m rarely able to manage that.
- the elements that arrived on the plates were: thick slices of bacon and large very fresh pullet eggs from Millport Dairy Farm; lightly-toasted slices of 2 breads, a ciabatta from Bread Alone (local unbleached wheat flours), and a Bien Cuit ‘Campagne’ traditional sour dough from Foragers Market; a bit of sliced green stem from a Scarlet scallion and one finely-slice fresh habanada pepper (the first of the season!) both from Norwich Meadows Farm; a pinch of L’ekama in dry spice form from NYShuk Pantry; chopped lovage from Keith’s Farm; a pinch of dried fenugreek from Nirmala Gupta’s ‘Bombay Emerald Chutney Company‘ at Chelsea’s Down to Earth Farmers Market on 23rd Street; a bit of fresh fennel seed from Berried Treasures; rich Organic Valley ‘Cultured Pasture Butter’; Maldon salt, freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper; and some strands of fresh (micro) fennel from Windfall Farm
- the meal was late, but the music choice, a set of evening songs set by Monteverdi, didn’t quite reflect the hour: was Monteverdi’s incredibly-beautiful 1610 ‘Vespers of the Blessed Virgin’, performed by the English Baroque Soloists and John Eliot Gardiner
The best sole I’ve ever prepared. Did it start with the size of the fillet? It was thicker than any I remember ever having cooked, and I mostly followed a recipe I hadn’t worked with before.
But it was also very fresh.
Was the entrée Italian or French?
I originally thought I would accompany it by pan-roasting some small okra, mostly because I had some inside the refrigerator, but Barry pushed for buttered boiled potatoes, as more sympathetic to this recipe, and I knew I had on hand some of the very best, sitting inside a covered basket waiting to be summoned.
There was another vegetable, a newly-bred sweet pepper, and its introduction to the mix meant that the meal’s cultural roots couldn’t be described as anything other than ‘New York City in the teens’.
- a portion of a thick lemon sole from Pure Vida Seafood (13 ounces), divided into 2 pieces, salted, coated with North Country Farms Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour and set aside while 6 thin slices of an organic lemon from Trader Joe’s Market were placed in more than a tablespoon of melted butter inside a large heavy tin-lined oval copper pan over medium heat and cooked until the lemon had slightly browned, or about 2 minutes (it may be necessary to add more butter, or a bit of olive oil), when they were pushed to the side of the pan the 2 pieces of sole added, turned once, and cooked until done, or until the flesh was no longer translucent (a little more than 2 minutes per side), 2 more tablespoons of butter and more than a teaspoon of salted Sicilian capers, ,thoroughly rinsed, added to the skillet, which was then removed from the heat and tilted to swirl the butter until it melted, the sole and lemon arranged on individual plates, the capers, butter, and juices spooned over the top, micro sorrel from Two Guys from Woodbridge arranged as a garnish
- German Butterball potatoes from Berried Treasures, Farm, scrubbed, boiled unpeeled in salted water until barely cooked through, drained, dried in the large still-warm vintage Corning Pyrex Flameware blue-glass pot in which they had cooked, a couple tablespoons of rich Organic Valley ‘Cultured Pasture Butter’ [with 12 grams of fat per 14 grams, for each tablespoon of butter; American butter almost always has only 11grams, which makes a surprising difference in taste and texture], the potatoes seasoned with sea salt and black pepper and arranged on the plates, where they were sprinkled with micro fennel from Windfall Farms
- two small ‘mad hatter’ peppers from Homesweet Homegrown in the Union Square Greenmarket, deconstructed by being sliced thinly, producing star-like shapes, sautéed until softened in a little olive oil inside a small tin-lined copper pan, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper, garnished on the plates with a little chopped fennel frond from a fennel bulb from Hawthorne Valley Farm
There was a cheese course, not pictured, which included a terrific bread.
- three different cow cheeses, all from Consider Bardwell Farm: ‘Pawlet’, ‘Rupert’, and ‘Bardem Blue – Reconsidered’
- slices of a ciabatta (with local unbleached wheat flours) from Bread Alone
I’ve done it before, in fact more than once: This shrimp recipe is an awesome treat each time.
The vegetable accompaniment has always been a tomato something. The flavors are a brilliant match, and the colors are as well (which is not always a good thing, but there are a lot of flavors moving around inside these 2 dishes).
That’s where I went again tonight.
- one teaspoon of chopped Rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm, heated inside a heavy (13 1/2″) cast iron pan over a very low flame until the garlic had colored nicely, a pinch of Spanish saffron, one whole dried chipotle pepper from Northshire Farms in the Union Square Greenmarket (do not squish it), one crushed section of a dried orange-gold habanada pepper, and a teaspoon of freshly-ground dried cumin seed from Eataly added, all of it stirred for a minute or two, then 14 ounces (12 count) of Hudson Valley farmed jumbo shrimp from Eco Shrimp Garden (cut all along their backs, from head to tail, for ease of shelling later, but I’m not convinced that actually makes it any easier) added, seasoned with salt and pepper, the heat brought up a bit, and the shrimp cooked until firm while turned twice, then served with a generous squeeze of lemon, garnished on the plates with micro fennel from Windfall Farms [the micro greens are my addition to Mark Bittman’s terrific recipe, and may seem like overkill, but they really work with the other flavors, and they also look pretty good]
- a bit of one thick scallion from Alex’s Tomato Farm, sourced at the Saturday 23rd St Greenmarket, and one small pink onion (“I like to call them rosé onions”, says Tyler, the farmer/owner of Alewife Farm, in the Union Square Greenmarket), both moderately sliced, heated slowly inside a large, high-sided tin-lined copper pot until softened, then one large heirloom tomato, sliced, slipped into the pan and barely heated, still above a low flame, a generous amount of torn basil from Stokes Farm, sea salt, a pinch or two os sugar added and stirred in, a generous amount of torn basil from Stokes Farm, sea salt, a pinch or two of sugar added and also mixed in, the tomatoes served with pinches of fenugreek that I had purchased from Nirmala Gupta’s ‘Bombay Emerald Chutney Company‘ at Chelsea’s Down to Earth Farmers Market on 23rd Street, and garnished with some additional (uncooked and finely-sliced) parts of the scallion and the pink onion used earlier sprinkled on top, along with more of the basil [NOTE: the additional basil wasn’t added until after the photo above was taken]
- a She Wolf Bakery Baguette (60% organic roller-milled white flour, 40% farmer-ground half-white organic stone-milled high-extraction flour, natural leaven, kosher salt, yeast)
- the wine was an Italian (Langhe) white, Nino Costa – Roero Arneis 2016, from Manley’s Wine & Spirits, 35 8th Avenue
- the music was a great 1991 recording of Handel’s 1733 opera, ‘Orlando’, Christopher Hogwood conducting the Academy of Ancient Music, with David Thomas, Arleen Augér, Catherine Robbin, Emma Kirkby, and James Bowman
I had no plan for what I was going to make for dinner, other than that 2 ripe plum tomatoes would be a part of it. Then I remembered that Barry was going to be very near Schaller & Weber on the Upper East Side that afternoon, and I knew that one of their excellent ‘ancestral’ German wursts would do just fine. Or maybe something not so traditional, like their terrific smoked ‘hatch pepper‘ chili sausages. We had enjoyed them at their Stube and at home, but we thought they had only been a short-term summer special. Neither of us expected they would still have any, but they were there when Barry checked their Metzgerei selection.
I wasn’t sure what to serve with those two choices, tomato and spicy sausage (they didn’t seem to add up to a full meal on their own). I had just about decided on a few small boiled potatoes, with some fresh herb, when I remembered I had brought home some really small cucumbers earlier in the day. Now the meal would be neither German nor Italian; maybe it was just New York-ish.
(these cukes are only 2 to 2 1/2 inches long)
- four smoked hatch spicy chile sausages from Schaller & Weber, pan grilled until they looked a little blistery
- two ripe ‘striped Roman’ heirloom plum tomatoes from Berried Treasures Farm, halved, their surfaces dried, the cut sides placed on top of a mix of sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper spread across a plate, pan-grilled inside an enameled cast iron pan for a few minutes, turned, the grilling continued for about the same length of time, removed, arranged on the 2 plates, brushed with a bit of olive oil and a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar
- a couple handfuls of tiny cucumbers from Norwich Meadows Farm (they were labelled, ‘Excelsior’, but they seemed to me to be several different kinds), sliced lengthwise, sautéed in a little olive oil inside a large enameled cast iron pan until they had begun to caramelize, and, shortly before that moment, joined by thick slices of a ‘scarlet’, or ‘Japanese’ scallion from Norwich Meadows Farm and some finely-chopped pieces of a small Calabrian medium-hot cherry pepper from Alewife Farm, seasoned with se salt and freshly-ground black pepper, served on the plates sprinkled with a little micro sorrel from Two Guy from Woodbridge and drizzled with olive oil
- the wine was a California (Amador) red, Ana Diogo-Draper Amador Tempranillo 2015, from Naked Wines
- the music was Francesco Antonio Bonporti’s 10 Inventions, Op. 10