‘Heil sei dem Tag!’
It was the Fourth of July. We had a nonpareil steak, ripe tomatoes, the first okra of summer, and a sturdy and particularly American red wine. While the opera was German, the music sings of liberty and justice, and the plot is particularly apposite in jailhouse America. For what it’s worth, in Beethoven’s scenario the girl rescues the boy, and there’s a happy ending.
The meal was perfectly delicious and all else was perfect as well, except for the fact that we needed the air conditioner running, which meant that we didn’t even hear the fireworks on the East River.
Also, there were shallot blossoms! Spring really does belong to the alliums. ‘
- one 14-ounce grass-fed, grain finished culotte steak (called ‘culotte’ here, ‘coulotte’ in France, ‘picanha’ in Brazil) from Greg and Mike of Sun Fed Beef/Maple Avenue Farms in the Union Square Greenmarket, brought to room temperature, halved crosswise (the cut is unevenly shaped, but I came out with two pieces weighing precisely 7 ounces each!) seasoned on all sides with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, seared briefly on the top, or thick, fat-covered side inside an oval enameled heavy cast iron pan, the 2 long sides cooked for 3 or 4 minutes each, then the ends and the narrow bottom side seared, each very briefly, the steaks removed from the pan, perfectly medium-rare this time, thin slices from the stem of a flowering spring shallot from Keith’s Farm, along with most of its beautiful scissored blossoms, sprinkled on top, then drizzled with a Whole Foods Market house Portuguese olive oil and allowed to rest for about 4 minutes
- a large handful of ripe red grape tomatoes from Alex’s New Jersey Tomato Farm, found at Chelsea’s Down to Earth Farmers Market on 23rd Street (see the image above), and 4 equally ripe Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods Market, washed, halved, the larger tomatoes cut into fourths, heated inside a medium Pyrex glass pan in a little olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, garnished with dill blossoms from Windfall Farms
- a few handfuls of okra from Kernan Farms, sautéed over a high flame inside a very large seasoned cast iron pan in only a little olive oil and a good part of one crushed dried dark habanada pepper, seasoned with sea salt
- the wine was a zinfandel a Califronia (Lodi) red, Karen Birmingham Reserve Zinfandel Lodi 2015, from Naked Wines
- the music was Beethoven’s 1805-1814 opera, ‘Fidelio’, in a performance with Claudio Abbado leading the Mahler Chamber Orchestra/Lucerne Festival Orchestra and the Arnold Schoenberg Choir, with soloists Nina Stemme, Rachel Harnisch, Jonas Kaufmann, Christoph Strehl, Peter Mattei, Falk Struckmann, and Christof Fischesser