Our dinner Thursday night turned out looking fairly wintry, given its many shades of brown, and the fact that each of its 3 parts included a different allium. In fact however most of the meal was determined by my wanting to include several ingredients that I’d been shifting around the kitchen for a while.
The steak however was new, purchased after we had returned from a trip up the Hudson on Monday, although it was from a steer that was 4 years old, meaning that it was wonderfully sturdy, and absolutely delicious.
- one 12-ounce water buffalo New York strip steak from Riverine Ranch in the Union Square Greenmarket , brought to room temperature, halved crosswise (the cut is unevenly shaped, but somehow I came out with two pieces weighing precisely 6 ounces each) seasoned on all sides with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, seared briefly on the top, thick fat-covered side inside an oval enameled heavy cast iron pan, and then the 2 long sides cooked for 3 or 4 minutes each, or until just under medium, and, at about the same time the steak was removed from the pan, the pieces of a thinly sliced section of stem from a flowering spring shallot from Keith’s Farm were tossed into it to be briefly heated and softened before they were scattered on top of the meat, which was then drizzled with juice from an organic Whole Foods Market lemon and some Whole Foods Market house Portuguese olive oil, and allowed to rest for a couple more minutes
- two kinds of potatoes, ‘Peter Wilcox’ cultivars (purple skin, golden flesh) from Tamarack Hollow Farm, and red fingerlings from Norwich Meadows Farm, scrubbed, boiled together, 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, tossed there with a bit of Whole Foods Market house Portuguese olive oil, seasoned with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and a bit of dried habanada pepper, arranged on the plates and garnished with micro scallion from Two Guys from Woodbridge
- one small head of radicchio from Tamarack Hollow Farm, sliced broadly, sautéed until barely wilted inside a large, high-sided tin-lined copper pot with a little olive oil in which 3 sliced spring red onions from Berried Treasures Farm had already been heated until they had softened, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, finished with a dash of balsamic vinegar, arranged on the plates, and drizzled with a little olive oil
- the wine was a Portuguese (Dão) red, Quinta da Pellada Dac Red Blend 2014, from Garnet Wines
- the music was Jordi Savall’s ‘Mare Nostrum’ (because it was time to hear it again, since it had been 2 years since we last played the recording), with music of the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish cultures which were in dialog across the Mediterranean from the middle ages into the early modern era
After a week away, yesterday was my first day back at the Greenmarket and last night my return to actually cooking from the ground up, but parts of this meal is actually composed of ingredients I had assembled sometime before our little long weekend.
The ‘tomato water‘ I used on the fish was processed from the tomatoes I wrote about in a post describing the meal the night before, and the garlic scapes had survived in the crisper for fully 3 weeks, in excellent shape, with nothing but some drying stringy tips to show for their wait.
The tomato water was an interesting diversion that began hours before I actually started cooking.
- two 8-ounce filets of tautog, or blackfish, from American Seafood Company [prepared following a recipe by Melissa Clark published in the New York Times 4 years ago, substituting a mix of excellent cayenne pepper and a dulce paprika for the Aleppo pepper she had indicated (Syrian trade being tragically interrupted these years), and adding a large pinch of dried habanada pepper to the tomatoes as they dripped through the cloth-lined antique tin colander], seasoned, seared, cooked with halved Gaeta olives from Buon Italia, and drizzled with ‘tomato water’ prepared earlier in the day, for which I used 2 very ripe tomatoes from Alex’s Tomato Farm, rosemary from Phillips Farm, and several pieces of habanada pepper that I had dried last fall from some of the brilliant fresh crop grown by Norwich Meadows Farm, the filets finished with a bit of torn Gotham Greens Rooftop local basil from Whole Foods, and peppermint from Stokes Farm
- garlic scapes from Keith’s Farm, trimmed at either end, tossed in olive oil, salt, and pepper, then pan grilled, finished with a dusting of zest from an organic Whole Foods Market lemon
Our first home-cooked meal since last Wednesday!
But it wasn’t really about cooking, only assembling, using the simple ingredients indicated in this recipe suggested on the pasta maker’s own site. I chose it because I happened to already have everything it asked for, even though we had been away 4 days.
Also, with this meal I can confirm that tomatoes actually can be stored in the refrigerator, although only under certain circumstances, and with certain important provisos: A few days before we were to leave on a long weekend trip, one of the farmers I regularly visit in town slipped 4 beautiful New Jersey tomatoes into my canvas market bag without my knowing it. I tried really hard to include them in meals before we left, but without any success, so the night before we left I looked on line to see what I might do to give them a chance of surviving until we came back. I quickly pulled up on the screen, the advice, ‘How to Keep Tomatoes Fresh for Longer”, on the Food52 site. I followed it, and, after waiting a day for the fruit to recover from the refrigerator, as it warned, I found it worked like a charm.
Actually, it turns out that the question of how or where to store tomatoes may be still more complicated, as suggested by this Serious Eats article.
Still, the refrigerator worked for me this time, and in fact on the next day as well, when I cooked with the remaining 2 tomates.
- one 10-ounce package of Rana ‘Cheese Lovers Ravioli (stuffed with ricotta, mascarpone, parmigiano reggiano, mozzarella, and pecorino romano) with a sauce composed of a little more than one seeded and de-veined jalapeño pepper from Oak Grove Plantation, roughly-sliced, and a sliced section of a red spring onion from Berried Treasures Farm, sautéed for a few minutes in a tablespoon of olive oil inside an large antique copper pot over medium heat, a cup of chopped tomatoes from Alex’s Tomato Farm in the Chelsea 23rd Street sidewalk market that had first been tossed with a bit of turbinado sugar (because I suspected they might need a little sweetening) tossed in, then the cooked pasta added and the contents of the pot stirred for a minute or two over medium heat to reduce the liquid before being arranged in shallow bowls, sprinkled with dill flowers from Todd and Crystal’s kitchen herb garden at their Wild Arc farm in Pine Bush, New York, and drizzled with olive oil
- the wine was an Italian (Umbria) white, Barberani Orvieto Classico ‘Castagnolo’ 2016, from Flatiron Wines
- the music was Lawrence Dillon’s 2010 album, ‘Insects and Paper Airplanes’
It looks right, and it tasted very right.
I finally managed to prepare a bass filet, a very fresh bass filet (actually 2) in a way that it would show and be enjoyed in its purest form, elegantly minimal, seasoned with salt alone, and with a crispy skin, but I just couldn’t help slipping a little micro green underneath, and tossing some micro flower on top.
There wasn’t any lemon in sight, but sorrel has something of a lemon-ish thing going for it.
The technique is from a page I found on line, ‘Perfect Seared Fish‘, written by Hank Shaw, who describes himself as a former line cook, but who, it becomes obvious, is much more than that. I was afraid of what seemed some very precise cautions in his instructions, but last night I made it all the way through his prescriptions, and the result fulfilled all my expectations.
Oh, and because Barry knew he’d need many glasses of water during dinner, because of the heat, he let me have the rest of his bottle of Gerolsteiner, which is naturally carbonated. It’s probably my favorite for-profit water, although the fact that it has to be shipped all of the way from my family’s Heimat is problematic, and also makes it only a special occasion indulgence.
- two 8-ounce striped bass filets from American Seafood Company removed from refrigeration, salted a little, allowed to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes, and while a seasoned steel pan was heating up above a high flame, the skin side scraped with a butter knife to remove excess moisture, both sides patted dry with a paper towel, a tablespoon, or a little more, of Mac Nut macademia nut oil from Whole Foods Market poured into the pan and swirled to cover the bottom and heat the oil, the filets placed skin side down inside it, immediately jiggled to ensure that the fish doesn’t stick, the flesh side of the filets salted and the heat turned down to medium-high, the filets pressed down lightly with a spatula for 30 to 60 seconds, to ensure that the skin browns evenly, cooked without moving them for 3 or 4 minutes, then, the pan shaken to see that the filets moved easily, the bass turned over with the spatula while stabilizing them with the help of a free hand, and cooked for another minute, maybe a bit more, and the heat turned off, roughly half of the way through, a tablespoon and a half of rich 12% fat butter added to the pan, swirled so it melted swiftly, and a generous bit of micro sorrel from Windfall Farms tossed into the butter and mixed with it, the pan tilted and the sauce poured onto the plates, the filets placed on top of the sauce, sprinkled with some scissored spring shallot blossoms from Keith’s Farm
- a few stems of spring flowering shallots from Keith’s Farm, chopped, sautéed lightly inside an antique medium copper pan in a little olive oil,followed by two handfuls of very ripe red and golden grape tomatoes from Alex’s New Jersey Tomato Farm, at Chelsea’s Down to Earth Farmers Market on 23rd Street, washed, halved, heated, sprinkled with sea salt and freshy-ground black pepper, tossed with some beautiful summer savory from Alewife Farm, chopped
- some second-growth asparagus from Berried Treasures Farm, in many lengths and thicknesses, trimmed, the stems of the few larger ones peeled, tossed gradually, the thickest spears first, in a tablespoon of butter and less than a tablespoon of olive oil heated inside a large enameled rectangular cast iron pan, then sautéed over medium high heat while frequently rolling or turning them until they were beginning to brown (about 15 minutes), finished with a sprinkling of Maldon salt and freshly-ground black pepper, sprigs of lovage from Two Guys from Woodbridge tossed in with the asparagus part of the way through their cooking
- the wine was an American (Long Island) rosé (from grapes and a winery near the home port of the boat that brought in the bass, Wolffer Estate, Long Island Rose, 2017, from Flatiron Wines
- the music was Counterstream Radio, streaming
I went to our neighborhood Lobster Place on Monday because I had learned, from the Union Square Greenmarket app, that our neighborhood fish monger usual to that day would not be there this week. Their booking out gave me an excuse, if one were needed, to pick up a few baby octopuses that had flown into New York all the way from Spain (or, more likely, from the waters of the Spanish Protectorate in Morocco, if not those of Morocco itself). Our huge distance from their place of origin should be a caution, if not actually a prohibition of their purchase, but I will occasionally overcome my scruples and briefly broaden my carbon footprint in order to enjoy the delicacy: we really, really love octopoda, and it’s not like there are any swimming within thousands of miles of New York.
The meal was delicious.
All of this brings me to the subject, or rather one of the subjects, of this delicious dinner, which we enjoyed the following day.
While I was at the Lobster Place on Monday I thought also of picking up a container of some kind of seafood I might use as a part of a special salad supper the next day (bonus: no hot stove). Crab meat had first come to mind, but once I was at the shop I saw that my choices were broader than I’d imagined.
Crawfish! I decided it would be Louisiana crawfish, and I’d probably prepare it in some kind of simple remoulade.
Eventually I assembled 2 other salads as well.
Everything was a little red.
- seven ounces of cooked and cleaned Louisiana crawfish from The Lobster Place, in the Chelsea Market, served as a remoulade, using this very easy and delicious recipe that I found on line when I was rushed that evening, and fortunately I already had everything I needed, except for the scallions, for which I just substituted chopped small spring leeks from Neversink Organic Farm, arranged on a bed of some well-washed leaves of a small head of spring purple romaine lettuce from from Echo Creek Farm of Salem, NY, in the Saturday Chelsea Farmers Market (on the north sidewalk of 23rd Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues), lettuce dressed with a little olive oil, Maldon salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and a squeeze of lemon, the salad garnished with micro sorrel from Two Guys from Woodbridge [Note: there was no capsicum to be found anywhere in the meal: the remoulade was delicious, but it could have used at least a little hotness, if only to salute the crawdaddies’ origins; a little chili pepper would not have been out of place in any of the other parts of the meal, particularly since it was a hot summer day, and evening]
- one awesome sweet ‘Badger Flame’, beet from Norwich Meadows Farm, washed, scrubbed, dried, and sliced as thinly as I could, layered inside a low bowl with a little Whole Foods Market house Portuguese olive oil, Maldon salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and chopped summer savory from Alewife Farm, stirred gently and arranged on the plates where they were garnished with spring shallot blossoms from Keith’s Farm
- two dozen very ripe, very sweet grape tomatoes from Alex’s Tomato Farm, halved, mixed inside a small bowl along with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, 3 chopped spring red onions, a few drops of white balsamic vinegar, garnished with chopped fennel fronds from Alewife Farm
- slices of a wonderful Balthazar sourdough rye, purchased that afternoon from Schaller & Weber
- the wine was a California (Santa Lucia Highlands/Monterey County) rosé, 99 Barrels Derek Rohlffs Santa Lucia Highlands Rosé, from Naked Wines
- the music was Michael Haydn’s only opera, ‘Andromeda e Perseo’ (1787), Reinhard Goebel conducting the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Cologne Vocal Ensemble