Month: February 2018

haddock, mushroom agrodolce; potatoes, sorrel; collards

This meal was something of a surprise to me, even after I had begun cooking it. Sweet and sour haddock?

After picking out a fillet at the fishers’ stand in the Union Square Greenmarket, I had been looking for something to do with it that would not seem a repeat of what I had served the last few times we had this fish. Even while I mentally noted and was even assembling, the ingredients that went into the new treatment, I really wasn’t registering the significance of the appellation, ‘agrodolce‘. I was in something of a rush last night, and I also had some distractions, including the discovery that I didn’t have all the ingredients specified. I don’t think I had ever before put together anything with that Italian sweet and sour sauce, and I didn’t check out the translation of the word itself until later.

Because of ingredients I did, and did not, have at home, I made some substitutions and some changes in the basic recipe but it came out as strong as the original might have [at least as strong!]. I had assembled a wonderful and very rich sauce for a fish I would not have thought could survive its authority. The haddock did however, and the dish became a perfect treat for a late winter evening, suggesting a sturdy meat and potatoes entrée (with the sauce as the meat, the fish the potatoes) more than an Italian one of fish with some seasonal vegetables.

I had chosen the haddock because we had recently enjoyed everything else that was still available there by the time I arrived at the Union Square Greenmarket fish stand on Monday.

Fortunately, and somewhat accidentally, everything else I put onto the plates worked really well with the sauce I had prepared to accompany the beautiful melanogrammus aeglefinus fillet, all of which had also come from the Greenmarket in the last few days.

  • six or 8 shallots from Norwich Meadows Farm, peeled and sliced in half, sautéed inside an oval tin-lined copper gratin pan (alternatively, an enameled cast iron pan) in 3 tablespoons of olive oil over a medium-high flame, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, joined by 5 ounces or so of whole shiitake mushrooms from John D. Madura Farm, a good pinch of sea salt and freshly-ground pepper,  continuing to sauté both, and continuing to stir occasionally, until all were nicely browned (about 7 or 8 minutes), one third of a cup of good Spanish Rioja wine vinegar added cooked for 1 minute, scraping up any browned bits stuck on the bottom, the contents of the pan removed and set aside, the pan wiped clean with paper towels and returned to a flame, now turned high, and 4 pieces (2 large, 2 smaller) of one 12-ounce fillet of haddock, skin on, from P.E. & D.D. Seafood, already rubbed with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, added to the pan when it was very hot, skin side up, seared for a couple minutes, the fillet sections turned over, the reserved shallot and mushroom mix and their juices arranged around the fish and the entire contents scattered with some 6 sprigs of fresh thyme branches, also from John D. Madura Farm, the pan then placed inside a 400º oven and roasted for about 5 minutes or so
  • eight ‘Pinto’ potatoes from Norwich Meadows Farm, scrubbed, boiled unpeeled in generously-salted water until barely cooked through, drained, halved, dried in the still-warm vintage Corning Pyrex Flameware blue-glass pot in which they had cooked, 3 tablespoons of Organic Valley ‘Cultured Pasture Butter’ [12 grams of fat per 14 grams, or each tablespoon, of butter; American butter almost always has only 11grams, which makes a surprising difference in taste and texture], seasoned with sea salt and freshly-gorund black pepper, after which the potatoes were arranged on the plates, sprinkled with red-veined sorrel from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • one bunch/spray of very sweet and tender collard greens from Lani’s Farm, washed 3 times, drained, some of the water retained and held aside, to be added as the greens cooked if necessary, the leaves and tender stems cut roughly, braised until gently wilted inside a medium heavy vintage, high-sided, tin-lined copper pot in which 2 halved Rocambole garlic cloves from Keith’s Farm had been allowed to sweat over a low flame with some olive oil, finished with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and a small drizzle of olive oil
  • the wine was a California (Sonoma) white, Scott Peterson Rumpus California Sauvignon Blanc 2016, from Naked Wines
  • the music was Johann Christoph Vogel‘s 1786 opera, ‘La Toison d’or’ [The Golden Fleece], Hervé Niquet conducting the Concert Spirituel Orchestra

Schweinebauch knusprig; Kartoffelklöße; Russischer Kohl

I don’t know where the idea for this dinner actually started in my head, but somewhere near the beginning I spotted a very neat package of a small cut of pork belly in the Flying Pigs stall at the Greenmarket. Roughly a week later I picked out a similar one to take home.

Then I waited for a cold weekend day when we would both enjoy the aroma of something roasting for hours in our old oven. Years ago, inside my ancient Rhode Island house, I would have been able to offer the full winter treatment: I’d have a wood fire (or two) burning while the oven did its work. Also, this particular piece, for only 2, was small, so it could give us barely an hour and a half of its perfume, but they were good moments while they lasted.

There are a surprising number of suggestions for cooking the perfect Schweinebauch, or pork belly, on line, but none in the 4 or 5 English-language German cooking books I own, which probably says more about pork belly being a vogue than its fundamental importance in German cookery.

In the end I found inspiration in a pretty simple recipe on an Australian site. I made some changes, and I had to guess about the cooking time, since I had not seen a discussion, there or anywhere else, of a belly weighing as little as 14 and a half ounces, but Barry and I were very, very happy with the results.

There were also potato dumplings, and a bit of red kale, or what I’ll translate as ‚Russischer Roter‘ Kohl.

  • *the Australian site’s recipe was mostly followed as published: I used just under a pound of a piece of boneless pork belly (skin on) from Flying Pigs Farm, its skin and fat layer scored without cutting into the meat, in a checkered pattern of 1/4″ squares, rubbed all over with a marinade consisting of a paste created inside a mortar and pestle of one large crushed clove of Rocambole garlic from  Keith’s Farm, ground dry whole cloves and caraway seeds, dried pepperoncino Calabresi secchi from Buon Italia, fresh thyme leaves from from Westside Market, fresh winter savory from Stokes Farm (that stuff lasts forever), some sea salt, a Whole Foods Portuguese olive oil and some Whole Foods organic lemon juice, the pork allowed to rest on the counter for 30 minutes or so, then placed inside a small oval enameled heavy cast iron pan on a bed of sliced ‘Expression Sweet’ onions from Norwich Meadows Farm and placed in a 425º oven for about 30 minutes, the temperature then reduced to about 340º and the pork roasted another hour, or until tender, cooked through, and the skin quite crisp, the oven turned off and, depending on the progress of the accompanying vegetables, left inside with the door ajar to some degree, or else removed altogether, allowed to rest for at least 15 minutes, but, ideally, longer, the little roast then sliced along the cross hatches on the top, arranged on the plates and garnished with chopped parsley from Whole Foods Market
  • four frozen Kartoffelklöße (potato dumplings) from Schaller & Weber, defrosted the day before, boiled for about 12 minutes in salted water, drained and arranged on the plates, ladled with a sauce made by degreasing the pan in which the pork had cooked, adding about a quarter cup of white wine and boiling it until it had greatly reduced, allowing it to cool a little, after which several tablespoons of cold butter were added and stirred around until melted (a little of the sauce, minus the onions, was drizzled on the pork)
  • red kale (‚Russischer Roter‘ Kohl) from Norwich Meadows Farm, sautéed in olive oil in which 2 bruised and halved Keith’s Farm Rocambole garlic cloves had first been allowed to sweat and barely begin to brown, the greens seasoned with salt, pepper, and a little more olive oil
  • *the wine was a great pairing for this meal, a German (Pfalz) white, Friedrich Becker Pinot Blanc 2013, remaining from a purchase some time ago at our very-much-missed former neighborhood wine shop, Appellation Wine & Spirits
  • *the music was a beautiful 1780-1781 opera by a Mozart contemporary, Joseph Martin Kraus (1756−1792), ‘Proserpin’, in a performance by The New Stockholm Chamber Orchestra (Stockholms Nya Kammarorkester) and choir, conducted by Mark Tatlow

breakfast without Scrapple

There was supposed to be fried scrapple.

I have absolutely no experience serving scrapple, so I enlisted a little help on line after I had found some in the Union Square Greenmarket for the first time ever. I’m sure I read somewhere yesterday that it would be much easier to get a firm, proper slice for frying if the whole block (the form in which it arrived) were still frozen when the knife was applied.

Nope.

It was frozen hard as a rock; I got nowhere with a knife, I couldn’t even get my meat saw to do the job, although in that case it was probably because in applying pressure with its teeth I only succeeded in melting the surface enough that they couldn’t ‘saw’.

So instead we had our usual fried eggs accompaniment, excellent, quite thick (precut) bacon from the same Amish farmers who had brought us their Pannhaas, straight from Lancaster County.  Although it was not a sacrifice, I’ll be trying again next Sunday, making some adjustments to my preparation plan.

freekeh pilaf with chorizo, rainbow micro greens; arugula

I love food that is not a part of the Western tradition, but if you know me, or have been hanging around this food blog, you probably know my cooking almost never strays far from the European canon, or some new interpretations of it, by myself or found. I always make the excuse that my small kitchen and larder doesn’t have room for the supplies and equipment of another tradition, one that’s seriously removed from the one I work with now.

But that doesn’t mean I’m happy with the situation.

Last night I put together a very modest meal whose inspiration definitely comes from a world beyond Europe, although I have to add, just barely beyond. I think I pulled it off pretty well, but I have to apologize to the entire Levantine and North African world:  I included two pork sausages in the freekeh.  It was because they were there, leftovers from 2 different, earlier meals, and this seemed like it might be the only opportunity I’d have to use them; it was probably the best opportunity, in any case. As someone who is not now, and never has been concerned with observing either Jewish dietary laws or Islamic dietary laws, the combination seemed, well, ..’meet‘. Does it help my cause if I add that the very spicey sausage, that I used, a local chorizo, used looked, smelled, and tasted very much like lamb, which would be something that was often a part of a serving of freekeh where the dish originated?

I used a recipe for Freekeh pilaf, from Yotam Ottolenghi’s beautiful site, Ottolenghi Limited. Of course there was no suggestion there that any kind of sausage might be included in the dish, so I took full responsibility for the transgression.

And yet!

I learned later that Ottolenghi himself has published recipes which include pork, even chorizo specifically; and then I really began to appreciate his attitude toward good food: “In 2006, Ottolenghi began writing a weekly column for The Guardian titled ‘The New Vegetarian,’ though he himself is not a vegetarian and has sometimes noted where a vegetable-centric recipe would pair well with a particular cut of meat.” – that from his Wikipedia entry.

I also arranged a spray of delicious local arugula on the plate, although it too was not a part of the original recipe, although it would not be out of order.

A final note: In the continuing dinner series, this meal was also completely ‘one-arm-in-a-sling-friendly’, after I had cut the arugula leaves on Barry’s plate into one or two-inch segments.

  • the source of the ingredients in the dish last night (with slight variations in kind from the basic recipe, plus the addition of the sausage and a micro green garnish) were: 3 alliums of 3 different kinds, an ‘Expression’ sweet onion, a red onion, and a red shallot, in descending size, and all from Norwich Meadows Farm;  Organic Valley ‘Cultured Pasture Butter’; Portuguese olive oil from Whole Foods Market; Freekeh Roasted Green Spelt, produced by Lakeview Organic Grain, Penn Yan, N.Y. (a part of the Greenmarket Regional Grains Project); ‘Simply Organic’ whole cinnamon and allspice from Whole Foods, freshly-ground by hand in the kitchen; Better Than Bullion seasoned low-sodium vegetable stock from Whole Foods Market; Millport Dairy Farm plain yoghurt; organic lemon juice from Whole Foods Market; Rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm; Italian parsley from Whole Foods Market ; mint from John D, Madura Farm; lovage from Two Guys from Woodbridge; pine nuts from Buon Italia; coarse ground Baleine sea salt from Whole Foods Market; freshly-ground whole black pepper from Whole Foods Market; chorizo sausage from Millport Dairy Farm added to the finished freekeh; and rainbow micro greens from Two Guys from Woodbridge as a garnish on top
  • arugula from Lani’s Farm, dressed with a little olive oil, Maldon salt, and freshly-ground black pepper
  • the wine was an Italian (Sardinia) red, Argiolas, Monica di Sardegna ‘Perdera’ 2015, from Flatiron Wines
  • the music was Mary Ellen Childs’ album, ‘Dream House’, described on ‘Innova‘, the American Composers Forum label’s site, as “HGTV meets Koyanisqaatsi”

bay scallops on garlic/rosemary/caper couscous; bok choy

The first of 2 carpal tunnel operations (not on the cook) tells us that for a while our meals must be of a kind that can be eaten with one hand, so it was a no-brainer when I looked over the selections of seafood I found in the Union Square Greenmarket yesterday: Peconic Bay scallops!

Also, I think I finally learned how to cook these sweet mollusks very minimally, even when I might not be serving them with some really wonderful couscous, as I did last night:

for about ten ounces (2/3 of a pound) of bay scallops: wash and pat them dry; sprinkle lightly with, or roll in, seasoned flour; heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a large skillet; briefly sauté a bit of sliced garlic in the pan; add the scallops; brown lightly on all sides, leaving them in the pan for about a minute and a half; serve

I think doing anything much beyond this would be like gilding lillies, although that may sometimes be a good thing, except for real lillies.

The result of my efforts this time was sublime, with the additional assistance of some aromatic couscous.

I found the basic recipe, created by Melissa Clark, from which I constructed my own, on this site. In the original, the scallops are cooked by simply adding them to the couscous as it finishes cooking, for “2 – 3 minutes”, a period which seemed to me a little excessive, and I wanted to enjoy them as an element separate from the semolina, with at least a bit of crunchiness, so I arranged my own version, in which they are cooked on the side, sautéed.

The vegetable I picked out shortly after leaving the fishers’ stall was an excellent compliment to the little mollusks and the pasta, and almost as special, particularly in New York in late February

I had briefly considered doing something extra to these greens, but then thought otherwise, since they were so fresh, and so perfect, and because, with the scallops and the couscous as featured actors, their minimalism would serve the meal best.

  • *two small rosemary branches from Stokes Farm that had first been bruised with the flat side of a heavy knife, were added to 2 tablespoons of Organic Valley ‘Cultured Pasture Butter’ that had been melted inside a vintage medium-size heavy tin-lined copper pot, followed by 2 finely-chopped Rocambole garlic cloves from Keith’s Farm, a pinch or more of dried pepperoncino Calabresi secchi from Buon Italia, cooked, stirring, for one minute, one third of a cup of white wine (an Italian white from the Marche, Le Salse, Verdicchio di Matelica, 2015, from Flatiron Wines) poured in and the heat increased to medium-high and simmered until the wine had reduced by half (2 minutes or so), then three quarters of a cup of hand-rolled, sun-dried M’hamsa Couscous from Tunisia, purchased at Whole Foods, boiled earlier for 3 minutes in a few quarts of salted water and drained, were stirred into the pot, along with 2 teaspoons of rinsed and drained salted Sicilian capers and a third of a teaspoon of sea salt, cooked for a minute or so, the rosemary branches removed, less than a teaspoon of organic lemon juice from Whole Foods Market added, the couscous spread onto 2 plates and sautéed bay scallops, prepared as described below, arranged on the top
  • *ten ounces (2/3 of a pound) of Peconic Bay scallops from Pura Vida Seafood: washed and patted dry, rolled in a local whole wheat flour from the Blew family of Oak Grove Mills in the Union Square Greenmarket that had been seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, added to a large tin-lined heavy copper skillet in which a tablespoon or so of sliced Rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm had been briefly sautéed until colored, the mollusks left in the pan for about a minute and a half while being tossed about maybe once or twice, until they had browned lightly, placed on top of the couscous divided between 2 plates, garnished with chopped lovage from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • *one bunch or bok choy from Lucky Dog Organic Farm, washed, sliced into one-inch sections, wilted inside a large vintage, heavy tin-lined copper pot in a tablespoon or so of olive oil after 2 halved Rocambole garlic cloves from Keith’s Farm had already been heated there until they had begun to brown, starting with the thickest sections of this brassica chinensis, those closest to the stem, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, removed from the flame while still a little crunchy, drizzled with a little more olive oil
  • *the wine was a California (grapes from the Sacramento River Delta with a small amount of Viognier from Lodi) white, Miriam Alexandra Chenin Blanc California 2016, from Naked Wines
  • *the music was Mozart’s 1787 opera, ‘Il dissoluto punito, ossia il Don Giovanni‘ (or, literally, ‘The Rake Punished, namely Don Giovanni or The Libertine Punished’), in a terrific recording, with Eirian James, Julian Clarkson, Ildebrando D’Arcangelo, Charlotte Margiono, Luba Orgonasova, Christoph Prégardien, Andrea Silvestrelli, and Rodney Gilfry, John Eliot Gardiner conducting the English Baroque Soloists and the Monteverdi Choir