Pretty in pink.
How did Americans get saddled with the celery equivalent of supermarket tomatoes or apples? It seems it’s for pretty much the same reasons, as I learned this week:
In the 1930s growers shifted to varieties derived from Giant Pascal, such as Tall Utah, that were more resistant, productive and kept well. This “Pascal celery” was also cheaper to grow because it produced high-quality green stalks without blanching, similar to what we eat today,…
[today] Just a few California farms produce heirloom or unusual celery. Martin’s Farm in Salinas grows Giant Red, an heirloom that looks like rhubarb, and Dorato Gigante, a yellowish-green variety from Italy. “They have profound, intense flavor only hinted at with the current kind of celery,” said farmer-owner Martin Bournhonesque. – from a recent article in the Los Angeles Times
Last night we learned a little about one alternative, thanks to Chris Field & Jessi Okamoto of Campo Rosso Farm.
I think it’s a pretty spectacular illustration of what cannot be found in an the American supermarket:
And then the fun began.
(continuing while waiting for the spring garlic to soften)
- one medium size minced shallot from Alex’s Tomato Farm in the Saturday Chelsea’s Down to Earth Farmers Market on West 23rd Street, heated, stirring, over a moderate flame in a couple tablespoons of olive oil inside a large antique copper pot until softened and fragrant, then one bundle of small Chinese pink celery from Campo Rosso Farm, trimmed, the stems cut into pieces on average an inch long, some of the more tender leaves chopped and set aside to be added near the end, stirred in and cooked until softened to the table’s preference and a pinch or so of some of the (now powdered) remains of some light-colored home-dried habanada pepper that had been purchased fresh from Norwich Meadows Farm in 2017, followed by the addition of 10 ounces of Afeltra Spaghettone (a long Neapolitan pasta slightly fatter than spaghetti), cooked only until al dente, along with most of a cup of its cooking water, stirred over high heat until the liquid had emulsified, the pan removed from the heat, some zest and a little juice from an organic Whole Foods Market lemon gently introduced, seasoned with some local Long Island sea salt (from P.E. & D.D. Seafood), and freshly ground black pepper, tossed with a dozen or so pitted Niçoise-style coquillo olives (Spain/Murcia, sweet, slightly smoky!) from Whole Foods and some of the reserved celery leaves, transferred to shallow bowls, some toasted pine nuts from Flatiron Eataly scattered on top, and sprinkled with more celery leaves, the edges drizzled with olive oil
- the wine was an Oregon (Willamette Valley) rosé, 2018 Oregon Rosé of Pinot Noir, ordered from Erath
- the music was the album, ‘Dream of the Orient’, with performances by Concerto Köln and Saraband
When I’m shopping at any of the fish stalls at the Union Square GreenmarketI’ll I usually zero in on whatever I consider the most unusual catch of the day, so of course I brought home some of the shark steak on display on Friday afternoon.
- two thick 9 or 10-ounce thresher shark [alopias vulpinus] steaks from Pura Vida Seafood, halved, rubbed on both sides with most of a mixture of fresh herbs (parsley from from Phillips Farms, tarragon from Lani’s Farm, and spearmint from Keith’s Farm), chopped together, using a chef’s knife, with sea salt, some partially smashed whole black pepper, some fresh spring garlic from from Michisk’s Farm in Flemington, NJ, a bit of zest from an organic Whole Foods Market lemon, a bit of olive oil added to moisten the mix, reserving a little of the herb mixture for basting, the shark pan-grilled, basted throughout the cooking process with some of the reserved mixture and removed, ideally, while barely fully cooked in the center (exactly as I managed it this time), arranged on the plates, finished with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil, garnished with chopped bronze fennel from from Space on Ryder Farm (of Betsy Ryder’s family farm)
- fourteen small ‘red fingerling’ potatoes from Tamarack Hollow Farm, scrubbed, boiled unpeeled in some generously-salted water until barely cooked through, drained, halved, dried in the still-warm medium vintage Corning Pyrex Flameware blue-glass pot in which they had cooked, tossed with olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, tossed with chopped fresh oregano from Phillips Farms
It’s beautiful, and the recipe I used this time let me keep the skin on, but then the steak had to end up on the plates skin side down, so there was that.
- one beautiful section of salmon fillet, a piece of a wild, almost rainbow trout-like flanked, bright red fleshed, 16-ounce Copper River sockeye, fresh, never frozen, MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certified (the story is complicated), a delight from Chelsea Whole Foods Market, placed unseasoned, skin side up, inside a heavy enameled cast iron pan in which a little more than 2 tablespoons of a rich butter (Organic Valley ‘Cultured Pasture Butter’, now almost the only one I ever use) had been allowed to heat until the foam began to recede, the fish then placed inside a 425º oven until barely cooked, or about 8 minutes, flipped over after 5, removed, arranged on the plates, sprinkled with some local Long Island sea salt (P.E. & D.D. Seafood/Phil Karlin’s own), freshly-ground black pepper, chopped fresh dill from Stokes Farm, and the tiny flower buds of a blossoming onion from Norwich Meadows Farm, allowed to rest for a couple minutes before serving
- two small red spring onions from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm, sliced, heated in olive oil inside a heavy large antique high-sided tin-lined copper pot until softened, several small Korean cucumbers from Campo Rosso Farm, chopped into one-inch sections, added and sautéed until beginning to brown on each side, seasoned with salt and pepper and garnished with lovage from Keith’s Farm
- two handfuls of beautiful red-vein tender spring spinach from Norwich Meadows Farm, washed in several changes of water, drained, very gently wilted (not reduced too far) inside a heavy small antique copper pot in a little olive oil in which one large clove of spring garlic from Michisk’s Farm in Flemington, NJ, quartered, had first been allowed to sweat, seasoned with salt, black pepper, drizzled with a little organic lemon from Whole Foods Market, and a bit more of the olive oil
- the wine was a German (Mosel/Trier-Saarburg/Longuich) red, Thomas Schmitt 2015 Private Collection Estate Bottled Qualitätswein Pinot Noir, from Copake Wine Works
- the music was Eötvös’ extraordinarily rich 2013 opera, ‘Paradise Reloaded (Lilith)’, discussed here on Opera News
The squid was delicious, as it always is with this very familiar recipe (and with virtually any other), as was the kale, a particularly tasty redbor (brassica oleraceae ‘redbor’), whose appearance could more accurately be described as ‘frilly purple and green kale’.
The big deal for us however was the farm where the vegetable was grown, especially since we’re now in the month of June, and this one happens to be the 50th June since Stonewall. The the farm is TransGenerational Farm, and farmer’s name is Jayne. Here’s a bit about the farm and the farmer, from Grow New York, the group responsible for New York’s Greenmarket Farmers Markets, and many other initiatives.
- after the oven had been heated to 400º (it was a warm humid night, but not to worry, they only had to be in there for 5 minutes, and our new AC system is up to the challenge), just over a pound of very fresh squid, bodies and tentacles, from American Seafood Company, rinsed and very carefully dried, were 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 once the oil itself had become quite hot, then 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 pinch of the now powdered remains of some light-colored home-dried habanada pepper (purchased fresh from Norwich Meadows Farm back in 2017, and still awesome), sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, followed by 3 full tablespoons of juice from an organic Chelsea Whole Foods Market lemon and a splash of olive oil, the pan placed inside the hot oven and the squid roasted for just 5 minutes, by which time their bodies had ballooned somewhat, then removed and the bodies and tentacles arranged on 2 plates and ladled with the cooking juices that had been transferred to a footed glass sauce boat
- one bunch of redbor kale, finely-curled and a striking dark purple-red in color, from TransGenerational Farm, wilted with olive oil in which one thinly-sliced fresh garlic clove from Michisk’s Farm in Flemington, NJ had been allowed to heat until pungent, seasoned with salt, black pepper, and a drizzle of fresh olive oil
- thin slices(one falling off the plate in the picture at the top) from a quarter section of a miche from Bread Alone, purchased in the Union Square Greenmarket
- the wine was an Italian (Sicily) white, Corvo Bianco 2017, from Philippe Wines
- the music was an album of 2 septets by Johann Nepomuk Hummel, performed by Consortium Classicum, with soloists Dieter Klöcker, clarinet, and Florian Uhlig, keyboard
[the image of Jayne is from the GrowNYC Blog]
I mean that I had a choice of pasta, and more than one interesting ingredient to make it shine, and I decided the day before not to look further. When I found that even with the special element I had picked it would not really be much food, and realizing that we would have the time to enjoy two courses, I turned to a package of a salumi we had also been living with for a while.
The interesting ingredient I chose was agretti, because it was there, and because I imagined it would be very interesting, even unadorned, mated with a very good pasta.
Looking on line, I came across a discussion of the plant, one which also included a very simple recipe, ‘Spaghetti with monk’s beard’. I added some toasted breadcrumbs at the end, partly because I didn’t have near as much agretti as the recipe specified. It was delicious, and I don’t think we missed the agretti that wasn’t there. Still, it should be even more interesting the next time, when I hope to have more ‘monk’s beard’ to toss with the pasta.
It was because the dish would be a pretty slight meal by itself in any event that I added an antipasto.
- two ounces of La Quercia’s Ridgetop Piccante Prosciutto (rubbed with fennel seed and red chili) from pastured pigs in the Missouri Ozarks
- the last of the small head of variegata radicchio di lusia from Eckerton Hill Farm that we now had enjoyed across 4 meals, and the leaves of a small head of lettuce from Campo Rosso Farm, which very much resembled the chicory, both ‘greens’ dressed with olive oil, local sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and cut spruce tips from Violet Hill Farm
- slices of Pain D’Avignon ‘seven grains bread’ from Foragers Market
The spaghetti could hardly have been easier, or more fun, to assemble.
- about 2, maybe 3 ounces of agretti from Campo Rosso Farm, cleaned by “..pulling off any tired looking strands and chopping off the pink roots.”, as the recipe advises, washed a couple times in a large bowl of water and drained, tossed, along with some crushed dried Calabresi peperoncino secchia from Buon Italia, into an antique high-sided copper pot, over low-medium heat, in which 2 fresh garlic cloves from Michisk’s Farm in Flemington, N.J. had been gently cooking in 3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil until they had softened and become fragrant, a pinch of salt added along with half a cup or so of water, the mix stirred for about 5 minutes or until the thickest part of the agretti stems had been cooked through, then half a pound of Setaro spaghetti from Buon Italia, cooked al dente, was added to the pot, with at least half of a cup of pasta cooking water, and everything stirred over high flame until the liquid had emulsified, when it was served in shallow bowls, a squeeze of juice from a Chelsea Whole Foods Market organic lemon added, olive oil drizzled around the edges, and toasted homemade breadcrumbs sprinkled on top
- the wine throughout was a very unusual, and I think stunning, Italian (Emilia Romagna) white, Caviro Sono Famoso 2017, from Foragers Market Wine [until fairly recently, the grape, famoso di Cesena, was thought to be extinct]
- and the music throughout was Salieri’s 1787 opera, ‘Tarare’, with a libretto by Beaumarchais, in a recording by Les Talens Lyriques directed by Christophe Rousset, which has not yet been released (we heard it via Spotify)