Month: March 2018

lemon sole, tomato butter, micro scallion; spinach, garlic

This meal would be impossible to put on the table on a late March day in Manhattan without the incredible exertions and creativity of our local farmers (the tomatoes are almost local since they come from Maine, near Skowhegan, so they’re at least fairly ‘green’) – and the modest heroics of our fishers too, working on wave- and windswept boats in the icy waters off eastern Long Island.

In fact, all winter long we’ve been enjoying fresh vegetables from the Union Square Greenmarket, and our neighbors in Maine.

  • *one 21-ounce lemon sole fillet from Pure Vida Seafood. which is a much larger piece than I usually bring home, but we deserved it last night, cut into 8 sections (for convenience in turning and to arrange 2 equal servings of an oddly-shaped flat fish fillet), cooked inside a heavy enameled rectangular cast iron oven pan over medium-to-high heat for a couple minutes, turned and cooked for another minute, or until done, arranged on warm-ish plates, and some ‘tomato butter’ ladled between the fillets
  • *the butter salsa had been assembled a few minutes earlier by melting 3 tablespoons of Organic Valley ‘Cultured Pasture Butter’, adding one small finely-diced shallot from Norwich Meadows Farm, finely diced, cooking the onion until softened and fragrant, removing the shallot butter from the heat and allowing it to cool for 2 or 3 minutes, then tossing it with half a dozen or so cut up Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods that had earlier been tossed with almost a teaspoon of torn Gotham Greens Rooftop packaged basil from Whole Foods), the tomatoes stirred gently in the pungent oil, the salsa seasoned with sea salt, a few drops of red wine (Chianti) vinegar stirred into the mix at the end, both fish and tomato butter garnished with micro scallions from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • *5 or 6 ounces of spinach from John D. Madura Farms, washed in several changes of water, drained, very gently wilted (that is, not reduced too far) inside a large, very heavy, antique, high-sided tin-lined copper pot in a little olive oil in which 2 quartered cloves of Rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm had first been allowed to sweat, the spinach seasoned with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, a little dried peperoncino Calabresi secchi from Buon Italia, finished on the plates drizzled with a little organic lemon and a bit more of the olive oil
  • *slices of an organic multigrain baguette from Bread Alonü
  • *the wine was a Spanish (Bierzo) white, Palacio de Canedo Godello 2012, from Garnet Wines
  • *the music was the awesome, revolutionary 1956-1959 Bohuslav Martinů opera,’Řecké pašije’ (The Greek Passion),  Libor Pešek conducting the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Prague Radio Chorus, and the Prague Radio Children’s Chorus

roasted poussin, cinnamon-cumin sweet potatoes, cress

For weeks I’d been saving a recipe I’d recently found, ‘Poussin with quince and myrtle’, only because I had become interested in the use of myrtle in Mediterranean food recipes. I had even managed to accumulate a decent stash of it. Poussin may be even more difficult to find than myrtle, even in cosmopolitan New York, so when I spotted some good local candidates at Eataly Flatiron recently, I jumped on them.

Having concentrated so much on the myrtle, I had forgotten that one of the other somewhat scarce ingredients in the formula was “1 quince”, a wonderful fruit, but one which can only be found in this area in the fall.

I had to start over. Apparently I don’t have enough French, or French-oriented cookbooks, because I couldn’t find any recipes for poussin in my bookshelves, even in Julia Child’s 2 fussy volumes. It was back to the internet, and there I found a recipe after my own heart: It was simple, virtually foolproof, required no attention once it was slipped into the oven, it asked for no ingredients other than those that I already had, and those it did specify were among of my favorites.

The recipe was from Nigella Lawson, and it became the basis for what I cooked last night. Oddly, I thought it was actually a little too simple, and, either intentionally or not, too abbreviated: one or more errors in its transfer to that web site may have been the source of my confounding.

In any event, my adjustments at home included seasoning the cavities of the birds and including thyme sprigs and a lemon wedge in each, and cutting the potatoes into slightly smaller sizes. I did rest the poussin on thick pieces of bread, as she wrote she had done in the past, and I roasted both birds and sweet potatoes in the same oven pan. I forgot about Lawson’s suggestion of serving the dish with English mustard (had I included it, I would have added grated fresh horseradish to a Dijon), but I think, in the end, the herb and the lemon was just the right amount of excitement.

The meal was terrific, and the wine a perfect pairing.

  • two 20-ounce local poussin (Griggstown Quali Farm, Inc., Princeton, NJ) from Eataly, seasoned inside and out with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, with one bruised Keith’s Farm Rocambole garlic clove, a sprig of thyme, and an organic Whole Foods Market lemon wedge placed in the cavity of each, arranged on top of a thick piece of a French sourdough levain from Bread Alone inside a large rectangular enameled cast iron oven pan, roughly one tablespoon of olive oil poured over the 2 birds, which were then surrounded by just under a pound of Japanese sweet potatoes from Lani’s Farm, that had been scrubbed, left unpeeled, cut into pieces about one and a half inches in size, and tossed in a bowl with a little olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon each of hand-ground cumin and cinnamon, sea salt, and freshly-ground black pepper, the pan placed inside a 425º oven for 50 to 55 minutes or so, removed, the poussin sprinkled with a bit of Maldon salt and drizzled with a little lemon juice, potatoes and bird arranged on 2 plates with a tangle of wild watercress from Lani’s Farm
  • the wine was an Italian (Piedmont) red, Barbera d’Alba, Oddero 2014, from Astor Wines
  • the music was Handel’s ‘Ariodante’,  Alan Curtis conducting Il Complesso Barocco

octopus salad, arugula; lamb sausage, potatoes, cress

There are a few things I prepare at home for which I have make almost no apologies when I slip from the locavore thing. One of them is octopus, and if we could find this cephalopod on the east coast I’d be happy to stop raiding Spanish or Moroccan waters for one of my favorite sea creatures.

The picture below is of the bucket of cooked octopus at Eataly on Monday; we enjoyed a section of it in an appetizer in this meal.

  • four ounces of cooked octopus from Eataly Flatiron, sliced in small sections, tossed with a little Frankies 457 Sicilian olive oil, Maldon salt, freshly-ground black pepper, Safinter La Vera region smoked Spanish paprika, and cut chives from Phillips Farms
  • wild arugula from Lani’s Farm, dressed with more of Frankies oil, Maldon salt, and pepper
  •  slices of a a demi-baguette from Eataly
  • the wine was an Italian (Molise) white, L’Indovino Bianco, Salvatore 2015, from Astor Wines

The ingredients of the main course were pretty much determined by the sauce that remained from  our Sunday meal of braised lamb: A lamb sausage seemed a perfect, and a perfectly-simple choice for a reprise, although it took some looking before I actually found some.

This is Eataly’s house-made sausage lying on our kitchen counter before it was cooked.

  • an 11-ounce ring of a merguez-like ‘housemade lamb sausage’ from Eataly (the lamb came from Van Wells Family Farms, Watertown, SD, fried slowly, ring intact, inside a heavy tin-lined copper skillet
  • ten or so pinto potatoes from Norwich Meadows Farm, scrubbed, boiled, unpeeled, boiled 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, tossed there with a bit of Portuguese olive oil Whole Foods Market, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, arranged on the plates, sprinkled with chopped parsley from Eataly
  • a rich, red-onion-based sauce remaining from an earlier meal of Sicilian stew of lamb, saffron, and mint, heated and arranged over the sausage and the some of the potatoes
  • wild cress from Lani’s Farm, dressed with Frankies 457 Sicilian olive oil, Maldon salt, and freshly-ground black pepper
  • the wine was a French (Rhône) red, E. Guigal Côtes-du-Rhône Rouge 2014, from Landmark Wine & Spirits

 

roasted squid, oregano, chilis; tomatoes, thyme; collards

Roasted whole squid: It’s pretty awesome, every time, and the recipe asks for very little oil. It comes from ‘Italian Easy: Recipes from the London River Cafe‘, the most dog-eared of the 3 great cookbooks I own written by the owners of London’s River Cafe. For my own convenience, I call it ‘the silver book’; the others are ‘the blue book’ and ‘the white book’, the appellations corresponding to the colors of their dust jackets, but they are all terrific coaches.

  • one large rectangular enameled cast iron pan heated on top of the stove until quite hot, its cooking surface then brushed with a thin coating of olive oil, and once the oil was also quite hot, one pound of rinsed and carefully dried squid bodies and tentacles from P.E. & D.D. Seafood in the Union Square Greenmarket, arranged inside the pans without touching, if possible, immediately sprinkled with some super-pungent dried Sicilian oregano from Buon Italia, one small crushed dried Pepperoncino Calabresi secchi from Buon Italia, and a section of a home-dried heatless, darker-orange/gold Habanada pepper (the peppers purchased fresh from Norwich Meadows Farm last fall), some sea salt and freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, followed by a drizzle of a few tablespoons of Whole Foods Market organic lemon, and some olive oil, the pan placed inside a pre-heated 400º oven and roasted for 5 minutes, removed, the squid distributed onto 2 plates, ladled with a bit of their cooking juices that now transferred to a sauce pitcher, garnished with micro chervil from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • slices of a French-style sourdough Levain from Bread Alone Bakery in the Union Square Greenmarket
  • eight Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods, halved, combined inside a small black La Chamba Colombian baking dish with a a bit of some very-thinly-sliced green leek ends from Phillips Farm, a little olive oil, half of a teaspoon of chopped thyme from Citarella, sea salt, and freshly-ground black pepper, placed almost half an hour ahead of the squid in the same 400º oven for about 20 minutes, removed and arranged on the plates, their own juices drizzled on top
  • a small bunch of collard greens from Norwich Meadows Farm, washed 3 times, drained, some of the water retained and held aside, to be added as the greens cooked, if necessary, the stems removed and the leaves cut roughly, then braised until gently wilted inside a heavy medium-size 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 Spanish (Bierzo) white, Cobertizo ‘El Blanco’ Bierzo 2014, from Astor Wines
  • the music was Bruckner’s Symphony No. 1, in C Minor, (1891 Vienna Version), Yannick Nezet-Seguin conducting the Orchestre Metropolitain de Montreal

Sicilian lamb spezzatino, saffron, mint, basil; potatoes; kale

Meat and potatoes…and kale.

I don’t often do long braises, mostly because I would have to plan ahead more than I am used to doing: I normally don’t know what – or how – I’m going to cook until shortly before I begin. There’s also the thing that most of our meals need serve only 2 people, so a roast would be somewhat out of scale.

But last night circumstances conspired to bring us this small braise. I had purchased 2 lamb shoulder chops a little while back, while post-operative Barry was still unable to cut his food. They were frozen when I got them, and I kept them frozen, waiting for the right moment.

The idea was that I would cut the meat into chunks and make a small stew and a rich sauce that could easily be handled with a fork, and maybe a bit of bread or other starch. He recovered so quickly however that I never had to implement my plan. Still, I kept thinking of the lamb, and this weekend it seemed the right time to make it into a rich Sunday meal, or ‘comfort food’, as Barry loves to say, and I didn’t even have to cut it up first.

I had been saving this David Tanis recipe for 5 years; I had nearly all of the ingredients it specified (I halved them yesterday), and it seemed the absolute right moment to try it out.

COOK’S NOTE: I missed my cue for stirring the chopped herb(s) into the sauce just before serving, so I sprinkled them on top, after the meat and the sauce had been arranged on the plates.

  • the ingredients I used were: two seven-and-a-half-ounce lamb shoulder chops from Shannon Brook Farm (the recipe specified they be 2-inches thick, but these were only one inch); red onions from Norwich Meadows Farm; Spanish saffron (DO La Mancha from Antonio Sotos); a San Marzano ‘Double Concentrated’ Italian tomato paste; a California chenin blanc, Miriam Alexandra Chenin Blanc California 2016, from Naked Wines; and, instead of mint alone, a mix of some mint from Windfall Farms but mostly basil from Gotham Greens Rooftop Basil, purchased at Whole Foods

  • eight medium-size German butterball potatoes from Norwich Meadows Farm, scrubbed and boiled, with their skins, along with a generous amount of salt, until barely cooked through, drained, halved, dried while still inside the large still-warm vintage Corning Pyrex Flameware blue-glass pot in which they had cooked, tossed with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, tossed with some of the herb mix distributed on top of the lamb