Month: August 2018

bacon, egg, aleppo pepper, scallion, aji, herb, tomato, toast

Can’t put my finger on who it makes me think of, but the lower part of that image reminds me of the work of a certain contemporary visual artist, or maybe just flotsam and seaweed on a white beach.

My idea when I’m painting a plate is primarily to use flavor and texture. I admit that appearances are always a consideration, but things are almost never deliberately conceived, and I only have seconds to arrange them, and just as little time to snap a picture.

  • breakfast on this Sunday included thick bacon and fresh eggs from the free-range hens of a Pennsylvania Amish family’s Millport Dairy Farm, purchased at their Union Square Greenmarket stall; heirloom tomatoes and small aji dulce spicy-fragrant but very sweet peppers, both from Eckerton Hill Farm; scallions from Lani’s Farm; Morton & Bassett dried Aleppo pepper from Westside Market; Malden salt and freshly-ground black pepper; dill flowers from Willow Wisp Farm; chopped thyme from Lani’s Farm and summer savory from Stokes Farm; toasted slices from both an organic multigrain baguette from Bread Alone and a She Wolf Bakery miche  (the 12th century was exciting!)
  • the music was the reissued Hilliard Ensemble album, ‘Perotin’  (because the 12th century was exciting!)

gilded hake, sage, parsley; fennel/onion/pepper/tomato mix

I thought this would be pretty much a pro forma meal when I started cooking, but sometimes familiar ingredients and a familiar recipe end up as something uncommonly good, and even spectacularly good.

  • one nearly 20 ounce hake fillet from from American Seafood Company in the Saturday 23rd Street market, cut into 4 pieces to make an even division for two servings, dredged in local North Country Farms Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour that had been seasoned with plenty of sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, dipped into a shallow bowl in which one egg from Millport Dairy Farm had been beaten with a fork, sautéed (“over a brisk flame’, as Kyle Phillips‘ original recipe, for cod, ‘Merluzzo Dorato’, indicates), in more than 2 tablespoons of Organic Valley ‘Cultured Pasture Butter’ that had been scattered with almost a handful of small sage leaves (once fresh, and now almost completely dried) from Keith’s Farm, inside a heavy vintage oval copper skillet for about 7 minutes, turning the pieces half of the way through, then sprinkled with a little over 2 tablespoons of organic lemon juice from Whole Foods Market and any pan juices that remained, arranged on 2 plates, topped with segments of a tiny ear of corn I had found on the counter of Alex’s Tomato Farm in the 23rd Street greenmarket (it had become detached from a larger ear, and was all that remained of the farmers supply of corn when I spotted it) garnished with chopped parsley, also from Keith’s Farm, and served with lemon wedges

The only accompaniment to the hake was an improvisation, assembled from 4 vegetables I had on hand: 2 small fennel bulbs, 5 red scallions, 1 aji dulce pepper, and 4 very ripe heirloom tomatoes, and nothing else, really.

  • two small fennel bulbs from Neversink Organic Farm, stems and fronds removed (the stems and most of the fronds kept for another use, some of the fronds set aside for a garnish), cut into wedges, and, with 3 roughly-chopped fresh spring shallots from Alewife Farm, sautéed inside a heavy high-sided tin-lined medium copper pot over medium high heat until the fennel had just begun to color, at which time one finely-chopped section of an aji dulce pepper from Eckerton Hill Farm was a stirred in and heated briefly to soften it, the heat lowered, the pan covered, the vegetables cooked for another 4 or 5 minutes, the cover removed, and 4 very different sizes and colors of heirloom tomatoes from Alewife farm, roughly chopped, added, the heat turned off and the mix stirred to soften them a bit, everything arranged on the plates and garnished with the chopped fronds of the fennel
  • the wine was a Greek (Thessaly/Tyrnavos) white, Domaine Zafeirakis Paleomilos Malagousia 2016, from Flatiron Wines
  • the music was the album, Ingram Marshall: Dark Waters, and then, while we lingered long at the table, a significant portion of a long (6-hours) piano piece, ‘Alvin Curran: Inner Cities’, performed by Daan Vandewalle


grilled eggplant; hammerhead shark; tiny corn; wild tomato

it’s a bucket of hammerhead shark steaks (I’d already picked out mine)


I’ve never seen a hammerhead shark steak in the Greenmarket.

In Friday I saw a hammerhead shark steak in the Greenmarket.

That night I cooked the hammerhead shark steak I saw in the Greenmarket.

It was a special occasion, since we were entertaining a friend visiting from Berlin, and I’m pretty sure there are no hammerhead shark steaks in Berlin. I was really intrigued, they looked beautiful, and I couldn’t resist buying some. It didn’t occur to me that I was taking a chance, especially sharing it with company, since I had never cooked hammerhead before, and neither of us had ever even tasted it.

Once home, I couldn’t find anything on line that seemed useful as a cooking suggestion, but something told me I could do worse than just treating it like swordfish, since I had done exactly that 2 years ago with a very different member of the shark family.

Fortunately I hadn’t really looked deeply into what was there on the internet until the next day, when I went back on line to learn more about what we had eaten the night before. It seemed that almost no one had anything good to say about the taste of hammerhead shark, and in fact much of the conversation was pretty frightening, especially when it got into the uric acid thing. One of the more positive comments read, “They are edible if you are starving.”

Well, we weren’t starving, and they were far more than merely edible. Maybe ours was a young one, and maybe the fisherman knew what he was doing. I would say that if there were any shortcomings, it was in its texture, or its dryness, both of which may have been my doing, although hammerhead flesh is described everywhere as meaty and firm. Still, I may have used too high a flame, and/or kept it on the heat a bit too long.

I’m willing to prepare it again, if I ever come across another, but most sharks of any kind appear in markets as a byproduct in a search for other fish, so it may be a while before I get a chance.

The vegetables were stars throughout the meal, and almost as exotic as the hammerhead.

Before we got started that night there was an aperitif.

And also an appetizer.

  • ten or 12 Japanese eggplant (or possibly ‘orient charm’ Chinese eggplant?) from Alewife Farm, each halved horizontally, brushed on all sides with a mixture of a little olive oil, 2 or more finely-chopped rocambole garlic cloves from Keith’s Farm, sea salt, and freshly-ground black pepper, pan-grilled on a seasoned, large double burner-size cast iron ribbed pan over a brisk flame, turning once or twice, sprinkled with chopped spearmint from Keith’s Farm, drizzled with a bit of olive oil, arranged on a serving platter with some pitted kalamata olives from Whole Foods Market, and garnished with more torn mint
  • slices of an organic multigrain baguette from Bread Alone
  • the wine was a Spanish (Catalonia/Terra Alta) white, áureo by Joseph Puig (100% Macabeo/Viura/Macabeu), the gift of our guest

The shark was just about the easiest part of the meal to prepare, once I had decided to treat it more or less like swordfish steak, using the same recipe I had sought out when I had cooked mako shark 2 years ago.

For the curious, or the ambitious, this is a pretty good video demonstrating how to fillet, maybe a 5-foot long hammerhead shark (it’s probably best to have a garage if you’re going to try it yourself).

  • three 7-ounce thick (1 3/4″) hammerhead shark steaks from Pura Vida Seafood, rubbed with a mixture of fresh herbs (parsley, lovage, spearmint, and sage from Keith’s Farm; dill buds from Willow Wisp Farm; tender rosemary from Lani’s Farm; summer savory, from Stokes Farm), all chopped together with sea salt, some freshly-crushed black pepper and a large rocambole garlic clove from Keith’s Farm, some zest from an organic Whole Foods Market lemon, with a bit of olive oil to moisten the mix, most of it spread onto the surface of the fish before it was pan-grilled, basted throughout the cooking process with some of the reserved mixture, removed, ideally, while barely fully cooked in the center [I had gone a little further in this case; I blame it on my huge social distractions], arranged on the plates, finished with a squeeze of the lemon used for the zest and a drizzle of olive oil, garnished with bronze micro fennel from Two Guys from Woodbridge, served with lemon quarters
  • twelve ears of shucked baby bicolor corn from Alewife Farm, sautéed inside a large heavy vintage oval copper skillet in which a little butter and a little less olive oil had been heated until quite hot, sprinkled with Maldon salt, black pepper, and a little chopped aji dulce pepper from Eckerton Hill Farm, finished with fresh chives from S. & S.O. Farm
  • some tiny ‘wild’ tomatoes (‘Matt’s Wild Cherry’?) from Windfall Farms, warmed in a little olive oil inside a small vintage Pyrex skillet, seasoned with salt and pepper, sprinkled with dill blossoms from Willow Wisp Farms, arranged on the plates on top of some local Bowery Farm arugula from Foragers Market dressed with olive oil , lemon, salt, and pepper
  • the wine was a  wonderful Spanish (Galicia) white, Valdesil, Godello Sobre Lias, 2015, from Flatiron Wines

There was a dessert, basically the classic American ‘cake and ice cream’.

  • an scoop of delicious Old Mother Hubbert Dairy lemon basil gelato (ingredients: non fat dry milk, lemon juice, orange juice, fresh basil, lemon zest), produced at the Back to the Future Farm, near Middletown, NY, that I had picked up at Rose Hubbert‘s stand at the Union Square Greenmarket, resting on top of a slice of sour cream cheesecake from Bread Alone, also purchased in the Greenmarket

penne rigatoni with celery, aji, heirloom tomato, chives

It’s a beautiful simple dish, and like most pasta marriages, the flavors slowly mature and improve as it’s consumed.

  • more than a handful of thinly-sliced celery stalks from Neversink Organic Farm sautéed in a little olive oil inside a large antique high-sided copper pot over a medium flame until they had softened, one finely-chopped aji dulce pepper from Eckerton Hill Farm added near the end, then one large, orange roughly-chopped heirloom tomato, also from Eckerton Hill Farm, slipped in, everything seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, a decent amount of chopped celery leaves introduced and the pot stirred a bit before 10 ounces of al dente-cooked Setaro Torre Annunziata penne rigatoni were mixed in, along with nearly a cup of reserved pasta water, all stirred again until the liquid had emulsified, the pasta now arranged in 2 shallow bowls and sprinkled with more celery leaves and a generous amount of chopped chives from S. & S.O. Farms, a bit of olive oil drizzled around the edges
  • the wine was an Italian (Tuscany) rosé, Castell’ in Villa, Toscana Rosato, 2017, from Flatiron Wines
  • the music was the Brooklyn Rider album, ‘Seven Steps’

pig’s face roulade; picanha, rosemary; peppers; tomato

There were going to be three of us for dinner, as we were entertaining a favorite relative. I wanted the meal to be special, but it wasn’t a market day, so there wouldn’t be fish. I also wanted to be able to visit without any major cooking distractions, so I thought of steak. One of my favorite away-from-the-Union Square Greenmarket butcher shops is Dickson’s Farm Stand Meats, in Chelsea Market, only some 8 blocks away.

That’s were I headed Tuesday afternoon and that’s where I picked up 3 small perfect culotte steaks.

It’s also where I found our first course for that evening, conveniently already fully prepared, a luscious charcuterie I had never had before, pig’s face roulade (It. coppa di testa). It almost immediately became my favorite, at least until another comes along. This site isn’t that of the charcuterie folks from whom I purchased ours, but there are directions for anyone interested in learning more about pigs head, including how to prepare your own.

We began with bread sticks and a sparkling wine.

The goodness of the first course surprised even me, and I had enjoyed a taste while still in the butcher shop.

The vegetables of the main course could be prepared, mostly, ahead of time, and that’s what I did. The steaks of course took only a few minutes, and fortunately for the company they kept any ideas they might have had about smoking up the kitchen entirely to themselves.

  • three very trim 7-ounce culotte/picanha steaks, also from Dickson’s Farm Stand Meats, brought to room temperature, seasoned on all sides with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, seared briefly on the thick, fat-covered top side inside an oval enameled heavy cast iron pan, the 2 long sides cooked for 3 or 4 minutes each, removed from the pan, at the moment they had become perfectly medium-rare, drizzled with some heirloom tomato waters that remained from 2 recent meals, scattered with a bit of thinly-sliced red scallion from Berried Treasures Farm, sprinkled with a bit of chopped young, very fresh and fragrant rosemary from Lani’s Farm, finished with a drizzle of Whole Foods Market house Portuguese olive oil, and allowed to rest for about 4 minutes
  • enough olive oil to cover its bottom poured into a large sturdy seasoned steel skillet above a high flame, adding, just before the oil was ready to smoke, skin side down and not crowding, 13 ounces of very sweet ‘Love Apple’ red peppers from Alewife Farm, halved, the few seeds and membranes removed, sprinkled with salt, a heavy weight (a foil-covered cast iron skillet slightly-smaller than the pan with the peppers) placed on top of them for 30 seconds or so, removed, the peppers moved around with tongs to blister them evenly, and once well blistered, flipped or arranged skin side up, the weighted pan added again for another 30 seconds or more, until the peppers were just about cooked, but not too limp, then stirring in all of the basil leaves I had left from a Massachusetts Full Bloom Market Garden live plant (a Whole Foods Market purchase), and less than a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • six small green heirloom plum tomatoes from Campo Rosso Farm, halved, their surfaces dried, the cut sides placed on top of a mix of sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper spread across a plate, pan-grilled inside an enameled cast iron pan for a few minutes, turned and grilled for a slightly shorter time, removed, drizzled with a little olive oil and sprinkled with chopped lovage from Keith’s Farm
  • the wine was a Spanish (Rioja) red, La Rioja Alta, Rioja Reserva ‘Vigna Alberdi’, 2012, also from Flatiron Wines