It’s not the best image I’ve captured of this terrific dish, which has appeared on this blog often, but it was nearly midnight when I finally set the plate on the table, and we had been enjoying a certain amount of sparkling wine with some great friends over the previous few hours.
I wasn’t even going to bother publishing the meal this time, but the canned San Marzano tomatoes I used turned out to be the best I’ve ever come across, and I wanted to document them.
- two 8-ounce monkfish tails from Pura Vida Seafood, prepared using a David Pasternak recipe, but reducing the proportions, using two thirds of a cup of Tunisian M’hamsa Couscous and 2 tablspoons of Portuguese olive oil, both from Whole Foods in Chelsea, 2 sliced cloves of maturing Rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm, one and a half 400-gram cans of fantastically-rich and-tasty Italian Gustarosso canned pomodoro San Marzano delle Agro Sarnese-Nocerino from Eataly Flatiron (by the way, for some dishes, there is nothing like very good canned tomatoes, at any time of the year), some cracked green olives, from the Chelsea Whole Foods Market, and 2 small whole dried peperoncino Calabresi secchi from Buon Italia
- two medium spring fennel bulbs from Alewife Farm, washed, the stems removed, trimmed of their fronds (the finest of which were set aside), cut into wedges, sautéed for a few minutes in a little olive oil inside a very wide seasoned cast iron pan over medium high heat, adding, after the vegetable had begun to color, a little more of the ‘maturing garlic’, roughly-chopped, and a bit of dried golden habanada pepper, the heat lowered and the pan covered, cooked for another 10 minutes or so, the fronds, now chopped, tossed in and mixed with the fennel, arranged on the plates and garnished with micro scallion from Two Guys from Woodbridge
- the wine was an Italian (Marche) white, Le Salse, Verdicchio di Matelica, 2016, from Flatiron Wines
I could have put this meal together even more quickly (30 minutes start to finish) than I did, if only I’d remembered ahead of time that I was supposed to pit the olives before I tossed them into the mix of garlic, chilis, and tomatoes.
Incidentally, it’s a fantastic recipe, but for years I’ve been baffled by the fact that I could find no mention of it on line, anything even similar to it. In fact, if you do a Google image search for ‘inguazato’, 99.9% of the pictures that pop up are from my own food blog, and most aren’t even related to this dish. Tonight however, I tried searching under ‘coda di rospo couscous‘ (monkfish couscous), and I immediately came up with several sites, including this one. Now I can relax, but I also have to investigate further.
- two 9-ounce monkfish tails from Pura Vida Seafood, prepared using a David Pasternak recipe, but reducing the proportions, using two thirds of a cup of Tunisian M’hamsa Couscous and Portuguese olive oil, both from Whole Foods in Chelsea, sliced Rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm, one and a half 400-gram cans of really good Afeltra canned pomodorini from Eataly Flatiron and several kinds of cracked green olives, from Buon Italia, Eataly Flatiron, and the Chelsea Whole Foods Market, all of which I happened to have on hand (ideally, they would be large green Sicilian olives), and 2 small whole dried peperoncino Calabresi secchi from Buon Italia
- two cavolo nero rooted hydroponic plants from Stokes Farm, wilted briefly inside a medium vintage tin-lined copper pot in a tablespoon or so of olive oil in which one Keith’s Farm Rocambole garlic clove had first been heated, the greens seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, drizzled with a little more oil
- the wine was a California (Carneros) white, La Tapatia Chardonnay Carneros 2016, from Naked Wines
- the music was from the remaining scenes or ‘Der Rosenkavalier‘, the opera which we had begun to listen to during dinner the night before
This is an extraordinarily good dish, and I’ve prepared it many times. I discovered the recipe long ago, in David Pasternack’s book, ‘The Young Man & the Sea‘, but I find it odd that to this day I’ve never been able to locate any mention of ‘inguazato‘ anywhere else on line (my own food posts discussing the dinners I’ve prepared using the recipe totally dominate the field).
Couscous is a pasta form that, if it didn’t actually originate in the Maghreb, until recently was a tradition almost nowhere else, except, in a small way, in Sicily (which makes perfect sense, considering that island’s history), and Egypt. In the last half century however it has become popular all around the Mediterranean, from Portugal and Spain, through France, Italy, Greece, Israel, and well beyond. Pasternack’s experience with it in Rome, which he alludes to in discussing his recipe, ‘Inguazato‘ in his book, may represent a modern novelty rather than a traditional dish, but I’d like to know more about it.
There was a vegetable accompaniment as well. Alternatively, I could have begun with an antipasto, letting the fish and the couscous stand alone in a second course, but each time I’ve prepared this dish I’ve always wanted to include a fresh and green element on the plate with the inguazato. For a while yesterday I was at a loss to come up with something I had that might work, but then I remembered the leeks I’d bought a while back that I had carefully stored in the crisper inside a plastic bag, with a damp paper towel around their roots.
- two 9-ounce monkfish tails from P.E. & D.D. Seafood, prepared using a reduced David Pasternack recipe using two thirds of a cup of M’hamsa Couscous from Tunisia (purchased at Whole Foods), olive oil, sliced Rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm, one and a half 400-gram cans of really good Afeltra canned pomodorini from Eataly Flatiron and several kinds of cracked green olives I had on hand (ideally, they would be large green Sicilian olives) and 2 whole dried peperoncino Calabresi secchi from Buon Italia (rather than the fresh pepper indicated in the recipe)
- four medium leeks from Hawthorne Valley Farm, trimmed of their darkest green ends, cut in half lengthwise, washed vigorously in cold water to remove any earth while carefully holding the white ends together to keep them from falling apart (after I had started, I realized this could have been done more easily had I cut only part of the way down through their length, making ting them much easier), dried, then tied in 2 places along their length with kitchen string, rolled in a little olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper, pan-grilled over a medium-hot flame for a few minutes, turning until all sides had been scored with grill marks and the leeks softened all the way through, arranged on the plates, the strings cut off with a kitchen shears, garnished with micro mint from Two Guys from Woodbridge
- the wine was an Italian (Tuscan) white, Fattoria Sardi Vermentino 2016, from Garnet Wines & Liquors
- the music was a magnificent performance of the 1774 Paris, French language, version of Gluck’s 1762 azione teatrale, ‘Orphée et Eurydice’, Jesús López-Cobos conducting the Coro y Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid, with Juan Diego Florez, Ainhoa Garmendia, and Alessandra Marianelli
Thursday’s meal started with some really luscious inguazato (basically a tomato couscous with capers, chilis, and green olives) left over from an earlier meal. We both thought that a grilled meat might give it a fresh take the second time around. Then I thought of a Roman dish that had always sounded intriguing, but had so far eluded me: lamb chops scottadito. The problem had always been finding chops thin enough for the authentic experience (about one centimeter, or less than a quarter of an inch thick), since so many prosperous Americans have long been accustomed to thick chops, lamb or otherwise, and that’s all that can be found today, even among the meats offered by local farmers in the Greenmarket.
That day I was headed that day for Ottomanelli’s anyway, to order a wild hare for Thanksgiving dinner, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to ask our local – and very traditional – master Italian butchers to cut some chops exactly for ‘costolette d’agnello a scottadito, last night con inguazato.
My inspiration was Lorenza de’ Medici‘s simple outline inside her beautiful book, ‘Italy the Beautiful Cookbook‘.
The tradition would be to use rib chops, as they would be juicier than loin chops, less likely to dry out while cooking on a hot grill (or grill pan in my case), and because they would be easier for the diners to pick up, although risking the ‘burned fingers’ of the dish’s title, but Frank left a good amount of fat on each, and we were expecting to eat with knives and forks anyway.
I resisted the temptation to add something, an herb or a spice, to the lamb, because I wanted the dish to be authentic, and the taste of some very good lamb to be fully appreciated. It all worked, and the dish was delicious, but I might not be so restrained the next time.
- six lamb loin chops, cut one quarter of an inch thick, with a good amount of fat retained and including the flank sections, tucked in and secured with toothpicks, placed in one layer inside the well of a large plate, the juice of almost half of an organic lemon from Whole Foods Market squeezed over the top, followed by a 3 tablespoons or so of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper, allowed to marinate for almost an hour, turning several times, removed from the plate and dried on paper towels, pan grilled on each side, on a 2 burner-size cast iron ribbed pan for about a total of 6 minutes, turning several times, arranged on the plates, seasoned with a bit more salt and pepper, and a little more lemon juice drizzled on top
- a handful of fresh mizuma from Alewife Farm scattered on the plate and dressed with olive oil , sea salt, and freshly-ground black pepper
- inguazato remaining from an earlier meal, reheated in a little olive oil, and also drizzled with a little water to loosen the couscous and its sauce (and the mix tasted at least as wonderful as it had 2 days earlier)
- the wine was an Australian (Barossa Valley) red, Glaetzer Wallace Shiraz/Grenache 2012, the gift of a visiting Australian artist friend
- the music was an extended broadcast of work by Elliott Carter, from Counterstream Radio, streaming
Say it fast: ‘coda di rospo inguazato con broccoli romanesco‘.
We had returned from a month in Berlin only 4 days earlier, where ‘monkfish’ is called Seeteufel [‘sea devil’], a response to its appearance when hauled from the sea. I’ve been enjoying using German names to describe food normally not specific to German cookery, but I wasn’t tempted this time, especially if I was also going to include the name of the vegetable that accompanied this wonderful dish.
And while both the German and the Italian names (the latter translates as ‘tail of a toad’) describe the fish itself better than the English, ‘monkfish’, none of them comes close to describing the taste of its flesh, its’ tail’, which is so much more pleasant than its scary mug.
- two 9-ounce monkfish tails from P.E. & D.D. Seafood, prepared using a David Pasternak recipe which includes M’hamsa Couscous from Tunisia (purchased at Whole Foods), olive oil, sliced garlic John D. Madura Farm, two 400-gram cans of really superb Mutti baby Roma tomatoes from Eataly (which are also available at Whole Foods), and cracked Sicilian green olives from Whole Foods, and 2 whole dried Sicilian pepperoncino from Buon Italia
- one small head of Romanesco broccoli from Alewife Farm, broken up into florets, tossed with a little olive oil (not too much, to ensure a slightly crispy, slightly carbonized finish), salt, pepper, and one crushed section of a dark dried habanada pepper, the mix spread onto a Pampered Chef unglazed ceramic pan and roasted at 400º for about 25 minutes, some slices of a fresh habanada pepper added to the pan a few minutes before the broccoli was removed from the oven, the mix stirred and arranged on the plate
- the wine was an Italian (Sardinia) white, La Cala Vermentino di Sardegna 2015
- the music was that of Carl Nielsen, including several chamber works the Symphony no 1 in G minor