I’ve decided to post a description of this simple meal because it, and an infinite number of variations of it, works so well as a refreshing break from dinners, or a series of dinners, centered on protein.
- one small spring fennel bulb from Alewife Farm, the stems removed, cut lengthwise into wedges, each piece retaining a portion of the root end, sautéed, along with the stems, trimmed of their fronds, in a little olive oil inside a large antique high-sided copper pan until softened and beginning to color, cut sections of a section of a stem of spring garlic from Berried Treasures Farm added near the end, along with a crumbled piece of a dried golden/orange habanada pepper (that one’s a little complicated), then 8 ounces of cooked and drained Afeltra spaghettoni, from Eataly Flatiron, added and stirred over medium-high heat with some of the reserved pasta cooking water, and more than a handful of lengthwise-halved golden pear-shaped tomatoes from Alex’s Tomato Farm, that had been sourced at the Saturday 23rd St Greenmarket, added and stirred into the pasta, the mix seasoned with a little freshly-ground black pepper, a generous amount of the fennel fronds, rinsed and chopped, tossed in before the spaghettoni was arranged in 2 shallow bowls, drizzled around the edges with a little olive oil
- the wine was an Italian (Tuscany/Maremma) white, Sassoregale Maremma Toscana Vermentino 2017, from Philippe Wines
- the music was Jordi Savall’s album, ‘Orient-Occident Vol 2 – Hommage a la Syrie‘
It’s June 25, and this is my first sighting of garlic in a shape that looks pretty much like what most people would recognize as belonging to this extraordinary allium. I’ll call it ‘transitional garlic’. It fits somewhere between ‘spring garlic’ (which first appears as a spear looking almost exactly like a scallion, then developing more and more into a bulbous clove enclosure, or ‘garlic round’), and the mature garlic head with its separate cloves and papery, protective layers of skin.
The photograph is of a bucket of young garlic heads at the Phillips Farms stand in the Union Square Greenmarket. Just after taking the picture, I reached into the container to pick out one of them and, even more touching them, I caught their beautiful, innocent scent (think garlic as fruit), a delicate tease of a more mature form that we will be enjoying later in the summer.
I know the asparagus should be turned the other way, but I was in a hurry
It looks like a bit like veal, but it’s actually a section of a thick striped bass fillet, and it tasted even more serious than veal.
The asparagus was an experiment. I don’t think I’ve cooked very thin asparagus since I started this blog almost 10 years ago, and after this experience (I still find the texture of the small spears less satisfying than that of the grownups) I’m not likely to go back unless I intend to use this glorious vegetable in a pasta or egg dish. I have to admit however that they’re a more convenient than the larger ones that have to be peeled.
- one 16-ounce striped bass fillet from American Seafood Company, halved crosswise, dredged in a seasoned Union Square Greenmarket-purchased local coarse-ground whole wheat flour from the Blew family of Oak Grove Mills Mills, then dipped into a shallow bowl with a mixture of one Americauna chicken egg from Millport Dairy Farm whipped with a few tablespoons of chopped parsley from Stokes Farm and a few drops of milk, sautéed for a few minutes over a medium flame in a mixture of butter and olive oil, skin side down, covered loosely with a tent of aluminum foil (because the fish was quite thick) inside a heavy copper skillet, then turned over, the tent replaced, and sautéed for a few more minutes, or until the fish was cooked through (the time will vary each time with the size of the fillets and the height of the flame), removed from the pan and arranged on two plates, the heat under the pan now turned off and a couple inches from a stem of Berried Treasures Farm spring garlic, sliced, scattered inside and stirred a bit, (adding oil if necessary), those juices then drizzled over the bass, followed by a squeeze of an organic lemon from Whole Foods, and a garnish of micro bronze fennel from Two Guys from Woodbridge
- two medium plum tomatoes from Stokes Farm, halved, the cut sides generously seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, pan-grilled above a medium-high flame, face down, for a couple minutes, turned and grilled briefly on the other side, finished with a dab of olive oil, a bit of balsamic vinegar, and some chopped lovage from Two Guys from Woodbridge
- one pound of pencil-thin asparagus from Lucky Dog Organic Farm, the bottoms trimmed, rolled with a little more than a tablespoon of olive oil, a little sea salt, and a bit of freshly-ground black pepper inside a large Pampered Chef unglazed ceramic pan, roasted at 400º for about 7 to 10 minutes, removed to the plates and sprinkled with zest from a Whole Foods Market organic lemon, sprinkled with chopped spearmint from Keith’s Farm
- the wine was an Argentinian (Salta) white, Terrazas de los Andes Reserva Torrontés 2016, from Philippe Wines
- the music was the album, ‘Haydn 2032, Vol. 4: Il distratto‘
This rather simple meal was one of the best I’ve ever put onto a table.
Both the fish and the vegetable were extraordinarily fresh, which is a great start, and I’d already worked with both of the recipes fairly often.
Swordfish had been a favorite of mine since I was quite young (I can hardly believe we enjoyed it as often as we did, in 1940’s and 1950’s Detroit), and I’ve always been fond of peas, except when they arrive in metal.
When I was growing up there was only one kind of pea, pisum sativum, and it usually arrived in the kitchen as a frozen box, an innovation of Clarence Birdseye had introduced almost a hundred years ago. Years later, along with other Americans, I discovered snow peas [pisum sativum var. saccharatum], which I still associate with wok cookery, although they had been cultivated in Europe since the nineteenth century, and it seems like only yesterday that the sugar snap pea [pisum sativum var. macrocarpon] arrived on the scene, although apparently it was actually the late 70’s.
- one thick 13-ounce swordfish steak from Pura Vida Seafood Company in the Union Square Greenmarket, halved marinated for more than half an hour in a mixture of olive oil, a tablespoon of a mix of fresh spicy oregano from Windfall Farms, a small amount of crushed dried pepperoncino Calabresi secchi from Buon Italia, about the same amount of crushed dried golden/orange habanada pepper, and a thinly-sliced section of a spring red onion from Norwich Meadows Farm, after which it was drained, covered on both sides with a coating of homemade dried breadcrumbs, pan-grilled over medium-high heat for 4 minutes on each side, or until barely cooked all of the way through, removed, seasoned with a little Maldon salt, a bit of juice from a Whole Foods Market organic lemon squeezed on top, a bit more sliced spring red onion, drizzled with a little olive oil, garnished with micro bronze fennel from Two Guys from Woodbridge, lemon wedges on the side
- small sugar snap peas from Sycamore Farms in the Union Square Greenmarket, washed, their stems and strings trimmed, parboiled for just over a minute inside a large vintage Corning Pyrex Flameware blue-glass pot, drained, dried in the same pot, shaking it over a low flame, then set aside, and just before serving, warmed inside a heavy, broad, tin-lined copper pot in which a small sliced stalk of spring garlic from Berried Treasures Farm had first been softened with a little olive oil over a moderate flame, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, tossed with chopped spearmint from Keith’s Farm
- the wine was a Portuguese (Douro) white, Crasto White 2016, from Garnet Wines
- the music was the album, ‘Antonio Rosetti: Piano Concerto; 2 Symphonies‘
Steak and potatoes, and tomato too. Also the return of the ramp.
- two 7-ounce dry-aged grass-fed Angus beef sirloin tip filets from Greg and Mike at the Sun Fed Beef/Maple Avenue Farms stall in the Union Square Greenmarket, brought to room temperature, dried, sprinkled on both sides with a generous amount of freshly roughly-ground black pepper, placed on a very hot cast iron grill pan for just about 9 minutes, turning twice, salting each side after it had been been turned, removed and arranged on the plates, finished with dabs of mosty-thawed ramp butter that I had put into the freezer almost 2 months ago, using small, first-of-the-season woodland ramps from Lucky Dog Organic, part of an organic lemon from Whole Foods Market, and some Organic Valley ‘Cultured Pasture Butter’
- fourteen ounces of Red Gold new potatoes from Berried Treasures Farm, washed, scrubbing lightly, boiled in well-salted water, drained, dried in the still-warm vintage glass pot, rolled in a little olive oil, seasoned with Maldon salt and freshly-ground black pepper, garnished with micro red basil from Two Guys from Woodbridge
- two medium plum tomatoes from Stokes Farm, halved, the cut sides generously seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, pan-grilled above a medium-high flame, face down, for a couple minutes, turned and grilled briefly on the other side, finished with a dab of olive oil and a bit of balsamic vinegar
- the wine was a Portuguese (Dão) red, Quinta da Pellada Dac Red Blend 2014, from Garnet Wines
- the music was Bruce Brubaker’s January, 2018 album, ‘Codex’