Every once in a while I have to be reminded of just how good a piece of sole can be, or any other mild flat fish for that matter. On Friday it was Pura Vida Seafood Paul Mendelsohn’s turn: I often ask a fish seller what I should buy that day, mostly because I’ve almost always cooked every kind of seafood in the selection I’m looking at, and it’s good to be pointed to something that someone who knows her or his catch might feel especially good about.
This time it was lemon sole, and it turned out to be fantastic!
- two small lemon sole fillets (a total of 15 ounces) from Pura Vida Seafood, dried thoroughly, salted on both sides (I also sprinkled a little freshly-ground black pepper on them this time) and brushed with a little good Italian white wine vinegar (Aceto Cesare Bianco white wine vinegar from Buon Italia), coated with a thin layer of a local whole wheat flour from the Blew family of Oak Grove Mills in the Union Square Greenmarket, and sautéed over a medium-high flame inside a very heavy vintage oval tin-lined copper pan in 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil, for a couple minutes, turned and cooked for another minute or so (the exact time, or even an approximate time will always depend on the thickness of the fish and the heat of the pan), the fillets removed and the pan wiped with a paper towel, 2 tablespoons of rich Organic Valley ‘Cultured Pasture Butter’, 3 tablespoons of juice from an organic Whole Foods Market lemon, and a loose handful of hydroponic upland cress (sold live, with roots in water) from Two Guys from Woodbridge, everything warmed for a minute or so, either over a low flame or none at all, the sauce then drizzled onto the sole
- 5 medium size Kennebec potatoes (15 ounces) from Windfall Farms, scrubbed, boiled unpeeled in heavily-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 with a little more than a tablespoon of butter, sprinkled with salt and pepper, garnished with crumbled dried red shishito peppers (not hot, but tasty and very colorful for the plate) from Lani’s Farm
The pasta incorporated water buffalo milk, and the wine that accompanied it was from the part of Italy associated most closely with bufala, the Maremma region of Tuscany.
Okay, maybe that’s not really relevant or important, but we like to think about these things, and both pasta and wine were delcious.
The recipe I used was inspired by the one on this site, but I shifted things around a bit.
- one ‘yellow shallot’ from Norwich Meadows Farm and one section of a scallion from Phillips Farms, both sliced, heated inside a large antique high-sided copper pot until softened, a pinch of a crumbled lighter-orange-colored dried habanada pepper purchased fresh from Norwich Meadows Farm added, the heat turned up high and 3 ounces of chopped oyster mushrooms from the Bulich Mushroom Company stall in the Union Square Greenmarket tossed in and stirred for 3 to 5 minutes or so, or until their moisture had evaporated or been added to the pan (this time I had to add a little butter to keep the alliums from burning, half of a one-pound package of New York pasta, Sfoglini‘s spaccatelli (local organic durum semolina and organic hard red wheat flour, Riverine Ranch water buffalo milk, local water), from the buffalo farmers’ stall in the Union Square Greenmarket, cooked until barely al dente (6 minutes on this night), added to the pot along with most of a cup reserved pasta water and at least a third of a cup of grated 24-month-old Parmigiano Reggiano from the Chelsea Whole Foods Market, the mix stirred for a couple of minutes over a medium-high flame until the liquid had thickened into a saucy glaze that coated the pasta, a small handful of Gaeta olives form Buon Italia and 8 or so fresh sage leaves from whole Foods added near the end, the pasta arranged in shallow bowls, some good Trader Joe’s Italian Reserve extra virgin olive oil drizzled around the edges, the pasta garnished with some micro purple radish from Windfall Farms
- the wine was an Italian (Tuscany) red, Sangiovese Maremma Toscana D.O.C., from our local wine store, Philippe Wines
- the music was a real treat: a recording of Dominick Argento’s delightful one-act opera, ‘Postcard From Morocco’, Philip Brunelle conducting the Minnesota Opera Orchestra and soloists Barbara Brandt, Vern Sutton, Barry Busse, Michael Forman, Janis Hardy, Yale Marshall, and Serita Roche Argento (Argento died this past Wednesday at 91)
I have no idea how it came together so perfectly tonight, but this was one of the best sea bass entrées I’ve ever brought to the table.
I’ve just realized, as I write this, how few ingredients went into this entrée. The bass included only olive oil and butter, the mushrooms the remaining fish juices, a little more butter, lemon, and parsley. The cress had a tiny bit of olive oil, and the micro radish of course went bare.
- two 8-ounce Black sea bass fillets from American Seafood Company, washed, dried, seasoned on both sides with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, sautéed for 2 to 3 minutes over a fairly brisk flame with butter and a little olive oil inside a large, vintage thick-copper oval long-handled pan, skin side down, then turned over and the other side cooked for about the same length of time, removed when done and arranged on 2 warm plates (I had them inside the oven, set to its lowest temperature), otherwise covered at least a little to retain their warmth, then 2 tablespoons of butter added to the pan, plus 6 ounces of oyster mushrooms [pleurotus ostreatus] from the Bulich Mushroom Company‘s stall in the Union Square Greenmarket, as is virtually everything else involved in this or most of these meals, cut into large-ish pieces (in this case, mostly just detaching the lobes from the centers), sautéed, stirring, until lightly cooked, the mushrooms seasoned with salt, pepper, adding both a couple tablespoons of some very well packaged parsley from Eataly, chopped, and a tablespoon and a half of the juice of an organic Whole Foods Market lemon, the mushrooms stirred some more before both everything in the pan was spooned onto or at the side of the fish (I think the skin of the bass is too beautiful to entirely disguise), the edge of the plate garnished with micro purple radish from Windfall Farms
- a delicious, chewy ‘original multigrain baguette’ from Bread Alone, not really sliced, but broken up at the table
- some leaves cut from a living upland cress plant brought home in the snow that afternoon from Two Guys from Woodbridge, drizzled with a very little bit of very good Trader Joe’s Italian Reserve extra virgin olive oil
- the wine was a great Portuguese (Vinho Verde) white, Vinho Verde Loureiro, Aphros 2016, from Astor Wines
- the music was the 14-year-old Mozart”s 1770 opera seria, ‘Mitridate, rè di Ponto’, with Christophe Rousset conducting Les Talens Lyriques
I love this pasta.
It’s a very serious color, whether behind the cellophane window of the box as a very sophisticated dark grey, on the counter, where it lightens somewhat, or in the pasta bowl, where it looks more olive. But that’s only the start. The flavor is seductive, subtle yet pretty intense; if I had to describe it, I’d say nutty, grassy, and with a bit of the taste of green olive, although the last may be a function of what I see in the color. So how can I love the color of green olives, or even artichokes, but prefer to it when I’m working with sorrel?
- eight ounces from a box of Sfoglini hemp reginetti, boiled until just before it would have reached the point when it was al dente (that was about 10 minutes last night), drained and tossed into a large antique high-sided copper pot in which one sliced ‘yellow shallot’ from Norwich Meadows Farm and one sliced section of a scallion from Phillips Farms had first been allowed to soften in a little olive, the pasta stirred, with the addition of cut up pieces of larger sections of several celery stalks from Phillips Farms that had been rolled in olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a pinch of a lighter orange-colored dried habanada pepper before they were pan grilled long enough to acquire grill marks and soften, the pasta mix stirred, along with almost a cup of reserved pasta water, over a pretty high flame until the liquid had emulsified, a handful or oil-cured Moroccan-type (there was no identification in the store) black olives that came already mixed with small red chili peppers, also from Whole Foods tossed in, the reginetti and its sauce served in shallow bowls, a handful of pine nuts from Buon Italia, toasted, and some chopped leaves and smaller stems from the celery stalks tossed on top, a bit of olive oil drizzled around the edges
- the wine was an Italian (Campania) red, Mastroberardino Aglianico Campania Mastro 2015 from our neighborhood shop, Philippe Wines
- the music was the album, ‘En Hollande’, by the contemporary Dutch composer Leo Samama
[the images of the dried pasta are from the Sfoglini site itself]
I wasn’t able to get to the Union Square Greenmarket yesterday, so I defrosted a package of the fishmonger’s excellent crab cakes I keep for just such occasions, and I happened to have one fresh green[mosty] vegetable on hand as well.
- two crab cakes from P.E. & D.D. Seafood (crab, egg, flour, red & green peppers, garlic, salt, pepper, breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, milk, celery, and parsley), in Riverhead made by Dolores Karlin, the wife of Carl Karlin, the fisherman himself, defrosted the night before, brought to room temperature and heated up on a small drizzle of olive oil inside a small, heavy vintage, well-seasoned cast iron pan, 3 to 4 minutes to each side, served on a salsa composed of 5 Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Chelsea Whole Foods that had been quartered then combined with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, a bit of dried dried red espelette pepper (not too hot, but that’s a arguable description when comes to peppers) from Alewife Farm, much of one small celery stalk and most of one thick scallion, both from from Phillips Farms
- baby red watercress from Two Guys from Woodbridge
- four leeks of various sizes from Phillips Farms, trimmed of their darkest green tops, the larger ones cut in half lengthwise, the smaller kept whole but cut half way down from the top in order to be washed vigorously in cold water, removing any earth (carefully holding the white ends together to keep them from falling apart), dried, rolled in a little olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a tiny bit of light-colored dried golden habanada pepper, pan-grilled over a medium-hot flame for a few minutes (10 or 12?), turning until all sides had been scored with grill marks and the leeks softened all the way through, arranged on the plates and sprinkled with chopped parsley from Trader Joe’s
- the wine was a Spanish (Valencia) white, Celler del Roure ‘Cullerot’ Blanco 2017, from Astor Wines
- the music was a Pentatone recording of Wagner’s ‘Der Fliegender Holländer’, Marek Janowski conducting the Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin and the Rundfunkchor Berlin, with Matti Salminen, Ricarda Merbeth, Robert Dean Smith, Silvia Hablowetz, Steve Davislim, and Albert Dohmen