Month: February 2019

oregano/habanada/lemon-roasted squid; potatoes; sprouts

It had to be assembled fairly fast, because we were going to be at The Kitchen earlier that night, and we expected to arrive home late, after our second experience of Varispeed’s magnificent performance of Robert Ashley’s opera, ‘Improvement (Don Leaves Linda)’.

My first choice at the Greenmarket fish stall (it was Wednesday, meaning the American Seafood Company would be there) had been tuna, because it really can make for a quick meal, but, learning that it wasn’t the season, I turned to the baby squid, which can be prepared just about as fast.

  • one pound of rinsed and carefully dried baby squid from American Seafood Company, quickly arranged inside a large rectangular enameled cast iron pan that had been heated on top of the stove until hot and its the cooking surface brushed with olive oil, then, once the oil was also quite hot, immediately sprinkled with a heaping teaspoon of super-pungent dried Sicilian oregano from Buon Italia, a good section of a peperoncino Calabresi secchia from Buon Italia, and a section of light-colored home-dried habanada pepper (purchased fresh from Norwich Meadows Farm), sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, followed by a douse of 3 tablespoons of juice from an organic Whole Foods lemon, and a splash of olive oil, the pan placed inside a pre-heated 400º oven and the squid roasted for only about 5 minutes, by which time their little bodies had ballooned, removed, the squid distributed onto 2 plates and ladled with the cooking juices, once they’d been transferred to a footed glass sauce boat
  • almost a pound of pinto potatoes from Norwich Meadows Farm, scrubbed, boiled unpeeled in generously-salted water until barely cooked through, drained, halved, dried in the still-warm large vintage Corning Pyrex Flameware blue-glass pot in which they had cooked, tossed with a little Trader Joe’s Italian Reserve extra virgin olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, tossed with some chopped lovage from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • sunflower sprouts, from Windfall Farms, naked
  • the wine was a Portuguese (Beira) white, Vinhas Velhas Branco, Luis Pato 2016, from Astor Wines
  • the music was Martin Bresnick’s ‘Opere della musica povera’, including several ensembles and soloists (we listened to both superb CDs)

prosciutto; sunchoke/kale fusilli, alliums, chrysanthemum

It was a fairly light dinner.

Beginning with a modest antipasto..

  • two ounces of La Quercia Ridgetop Picante (fennel and red chili -rubbed) prosciutto from Chelsea Whole Foods Market, drizzled with a little bit of Trader Joe’s excellent Italian Reserve extra virgin olive oil (unfiltered, unrefined, and cold pressed)
  • arugula from Lani’s Farm, also drizzled with the oil, plus Maldon salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • oil-cured Moroccan-type (there was no identification in the store) black olives already mixed with small chili peppers, also from Whole Foods
  • slices of a Balthazar baguette, purchased at Schaller & Weber’s market.

..and continuing through a pasta that was almost as simple as I could make it, in order to let the subtleties of the sunchokes and kale (grown by the farmers from whom I had purchased it) to shine through.

  • eight ounces of Jerusalem artichoke (aka sunchoke) & kale fusilli from Norwich Meadows Farm, cooked al dente while preparing a sauce which was just some chopped ‘yellow shallots’ from Norwich Meadows Farm and thinly-sliced ‘music’ garlic, aka ‘strong neck’ garlic from Windfall Farms heated with a little olive oil inside a large vintage high-sided copper pot until both softened, a crushed section of some lighter-colored dried habanada pepper added, the cooked pasta tossed into the pan and stirred over a low-medium flame, along with some reserved pasta water, to emulsify it, the mix seasoned with salt and pepper, a handful of baby chrysanthemum greens from Windfall Farms tossed in, the pasta divided into 2 shallow bowls and drizzled with olive oil

 

radish; skate with shallot, garlic, sorrel; tomatoes; bok choy

The beautiful radish we sampled before sitting down was the most novel part of this meal, but the entrée was no less delicious, for all its familiarity.

  • a section from a ‘Purple Triton’ radish (see the picture on their site) from Windfall Farms, thinly-sliced, or shaved, on the spot, and served with a small bowl of Maldon salt
  • a few Firehook Mediterranean Baked Rosemary Sea Salt Crackers from Chelsea Whole Foods Market

We love skate.

The main course was pretty colorful in its own right, more colorful than a plate can be expected to appear in the middle of a New York February.

  • four small skate wings (12 ounces total) from P.E. & D.D. Seafood, coated all over with a local coarse polenta (‘Stone-Ground Polenta’ from Wild Hive Farm Community Grain Project) that had been seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, sautéed in olive oil and a bit of butter for a couple of minutes or so on each side, inside a heavy enameled cast iron oven pan, then removed to 2 plates and kept warm while a tablespoon and a half of butter was added to the pan, along with one chopped ‘yellow shallot’ from Norwich Meadows Farm and 2 cloves of ‘music’/aka ‘strong neck’ garlic from Windfall Farms, the alliums stirred over a now-lowered flame and allowed to only sweat a bit before the heat was turned off altogether, when another 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter was added, along with the juice from half of a Whole Foods Market organic lemon and a small handful of baby sorrel from Two Guys from Woodbridge, very briefly stirred to blend together and make a proper sauce to be poured over the skate (the sorrel retained its color and didn’t turn olive green, because it was really never fully heated)
  • three Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods Market, halved, their cut sides sprinkled with salt and pepper, pan grilled, turning once, arranged on the plates, sprinkled with thyme leaves from Phillips Farms, and drizzled with a bit of olive oil

[the second image, ‘Undulations of the fins of a skate viewed from the side’ (1894), by Étienne-Jules Marey, from the Tumblr, ‘Lushlight‘, was found on Rabih Alameddine’s Twitter]

buffalo filet steak au poivre; parsnips, tomatoes, wild cress

I’ve prepared filet steaks several times over the last 50 or more years (although only this once since starting this blog ten years ago), but this was the first meal in which I had water buffalo to work with.

First, what’s a filet steak?

Because of the difference in the animals’ sizes, it might be hard, using only their appearance and weight, to translate water buffalo cuts into the names used with taurine cattle, which is the umbrella category for most modern cattle breeds (I hope I have this right), but I’m going to call what we enjoyed last night, ‘filet steaks’, even if I prepared them like tournedoes, which are still smaller than filet cuts.

In any event, they were delicious. The steaks were quite small, as they should be, coming from the end of the whole beef filet (and buffalo are smaller than American cattle), but since they were so intense in flavor and texture, a scant 4 ounces felt like enough, especially since we enjoyed the juicy pork wrapping as well.

Only incidentally, they tasted more like good venison steaks than any beef we’d ever had, which is no bad thing.

Finding the filet steaks was easy, and almost pure serendipity; preparing them took weeks (I found that it’s not easy to find a source of fresh pork fat in the 21st century, even checking with real butchers), but last night I was able to assemble the tournedos within a few minutes, then I set them aside for an hour or more, to concentrate on what I was going to do with the vegetables.

  • two frozen water buffalo filet steaks (4 ounces each) from Riverine Ranch in the Union Square Greenmarket, defrosted, wrapped with strips of fresh pork belly obtained from Joseph Ottomanelli, one of the brothers who run their family’s iconic shop on Bleecker Street (I separated the outer, skin layer from the one inch-wide sections on the kitchen counter, and secured them with both toothpicks and butcher’s string), dried with paper towels, pressed with one and a half teaspoons of crushed black peppercorns, sandwiched in wax paper and allowed to rest for over an hour before they were sautéed in a mixture of butter and olive oil inside an oval enameled cast iron pan for about 3-4 minutes each side, removed, seasoned at this point with sea salt and kept warm, the butter, oil and accumulated meat fats removed from the pan, 2 teaspoons of sliced ‘yellow shallots’ from Norwich Meadows Farm added along with a little butter and stirred for just a minute, 2 or 3 tablespoons of good beef stock poured in and boiled down until thickened, while scraping up the coagulated cooking juices, followed by 2 tablespoons of Courvoisier V.S. cognac, which was boiled until its alcohol evaporated [that process quickened this time by an unexpected explosion of fire in the pan as I poured the brandy in, which I was able to quickly blow out], and then, off heat, one or two tablespoons of butter swirled into the sauce about half a tablespoon at a time, while stirring, the sauce then poured over the filets

  • close to a pound of some beautiful small parsnips from Windfall Farms, scrubbed, trimmed, and kept whole, tossed with olive oil, salt, freshly ground black pepper, a little crushed dried habanada pepper, and branches of rosemary from Phillips Farms, spread in a single layer onto an unglazed ceramic oven pan, roasted at 400º

  • wild cress from Lani’s Farm, drizzled with a small amount of a very good olive oil, Badia a Coltibuono, Monti del Chianti, from Chelsea Whole Foods Market

[the image of a diagram of a whole fillet of beef is from my much-worn copy of Julia Child’s  beautiful book, ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’]

radishes; scallops, greens; swordfish, lacinatto; cheeses

There were four courses, even though it was just an ordinary Saturday, but we rarely stand on ceremony.

We began with a couple of different nibbles.

There was also a genuine first course, because the size of the fish in the main was a little shy of what we would prefer, and because it was a Saturday!

  • eight sea scallops from P.E. & D.D. Seafood in the Union Square Greenmarket that day, washed, drained, and very thoroughly dried on paper towels (twice), generously seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, pan grilled for about 90 seconds on each side, arranged on warm plates, finished with a squeeze of an organic Chelsea Whole Foods Market lemon, a scattering of cut baby sorrel from Windfall Farms, and a drizzle of Whole Foods house Portuguese olive oil
  • some of the contents of a bag of delicious mixed baby greens from Lani’s Farm, drizzled with a little good olive oil, Badia a Coltibuono, Monti del Chianti, from Chelsea Whole Foods Market
  • thin slices of a delicious Runner & Stone Bakery whole wheat seeded crescent

The main feature of the main course, a beautiful thick, white swordfish steak, was where I started out when I was first thinking about this meal.

I didn’t realize how very similar the two courses would look until after I saw the pictures.

  • one beautiful 11.5 ounce swordfish steak from American Seafood Company, also selling in the Union Square Greenmarket on Saturday, halved, marinated inside a small rectangular ironstone serving dish for about 45 minutes, turning once, in a mixture of a few tablespoons of olive oil, much of a teaspoon of a pungent dried Sicilian oregano, sold still attached to the stems at Buon Italia, a pinch of hickory smoked Jamaican Scotch bonnet pepper from Eckerton Hill Farm, and the chopped white sections of one thick scallion from Phillips Farms, after which the swordfish was drained, both sides covered with a coating of homemade dried breadcrumbs, pan-grilled over medium-high heat for 3 or 4 minutes on each side, or until barely (or, actually, not quite) cooked to the center, removed from the pan and arranged on 2 plates, sprinkled with a little Maldon salt, some of the chopped green section of the scallion, drizzled with a bit of juice from a Whole Foods Market organic lemon and garnished with baby chrysanthemum greens from Windfall Farms

  • one modest bunch of high tunnel-raised cavolo nero (aka lacinato, Tuscan kale, or black kale, u.a.) from Eckerton Hill Farm, wilted briefly inside a heavy antique medium size tin-lined copper pot in a tablespoon or so of olive oil after one large halved clove of garlic from John D. Madura Farms had first been heated there until fragrant and softened, the greens seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper and drizzled with a little more oil

There was a small cheese course.

  • Danby goat cheese from Consider Bardwell Farm and a new cheese from Riverine Ranch: washed rind buffalo milk, something like a Munster or havarti, and still in development
  • slices of the same wonderful crescent loaf enjoyed with the scallops