Jumbo shrimp: It’s an archetypal oxymoron, but no less delicious for being a classic. There were also a lot of them this time, a bounty which would have been unlikely on our table had Jean Claude Frajmund not been offering them at a very good price on Saturday (he was in a hurry to close his stall in the Union Square Greenmarket that afternoon).
Did I mention that they were also local? Eco Shrimp Garden has been bringing its harvests to the New York area since 2015. Their produce is extremely fresh excellent whole shrimp which begin as Pacific White Shrimp postlarvae which Frajmund sources from Texas and Hawaii. They’re then raised in Newburgh, New York, on the side (in fact, inside) of the Hudson River, in chemical-free saltwater tanks using sustainable practices.
[note: I had difficulty manipulating 2 huge pans on the limited area of the range top, so the okra ended up less charred, and therefore more al dente, than I would have preferred; I will have to remember to pick a more appropriate vegetable side the next time I have to use a 13.5″ pan for the star of the entrée]
- one teaspoon of chopped rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm heated inside a (13 1/2″) seasoned cast iron pan over a very low flame until the garlic had colored nicely, then one finely-chopped no-heat Habanada pepper from Norwich Meadows Farms added and pushed around with the garlic, followed by a pinch of Spanish saffron (DO La Mancha from Antonio Sotos), one dried chipotle pepper from Northshire Farms in the Union Square Greenmarket (unpunctured and left whole), and almost a heaping teaspoon of freshly-ground cumin seed added, all stirred for a minute or two, after which 19 ounces (13 by count) of Hudson Valley farmed shrimp from Eco Shrimp Garden were added (their shells all cut with a kitchen shears along their backs from head to tail, to ease shelling once they were served), seasoned with salt and pepper, the heat brought up a bit and the shrimp cooked until firm, turning twice, served on 2 plates with a generous squeeze of lemon, finished with a generous number of chopped stems of fennel blossoms from Lani’s Farm
- twelve ounces or so of small green okra, including a very few purple that were purple (but not the yellow string bean that strayed into the picture above), from Lani’s Farm, sautéed over a high flame inside a very large enameled cast iron pan in a little bit of olive oil and 2 dried peperoncino Calabresi secchi from Buon Italia, seasoned with sea salt
- the wine was a California (Lodi) white, F. Stephen Millier Angels Reserve Pinot Grigio Lodi 2017, from Naked Wines
- the music was the album, ‘Works For Violin by George Antheil, Johanna M. Beyer, Henry Cowell, Charles Dodge, Ruth Crawford, David Mahler, Larry Polansky, Stefan Wolpe’, performed by Miwako Abe, violin, and Michael Kieran Harvey, piano
‘Heil sei dem Tag!’
It was the Fourth of July. We had a nonpareil steak, ripe tomatoes, the first okra of summer, and a sturdy and particularly American red wine. While the opera was German, the music sings of liberty and justice, and the plot is particularly apposite in jailhouse America. For what it’s worth, in Beethoven’s scenario the girl rescues the boy, and there’s a happy ending.
The meal was perfectly delicious and all else was perfect as well, except for the fact that we needed the air conditioner running, which meant that we didn’t even hear the fireworks on the East River.
Also, there were shallot blossoms! Spring really does belong to the alliums. ‘
- one 14-ounce grass-fed, grain finished culotte steak (called ‘culotte’ here, ‘coulotte’ in France, ‘picanha’ in Brazil) from Greg and Mike of Sun Fed Beef/Maple Avenue Farms in the Union Square Greenmarket, brought to room temperature, halved crosswise (the cut is unevenly shaped, but I came out with two pieces weighing precisely 7 ounces each!) seasoned on all sides with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, seared briefly on the top, or thick, fat-covered side inside an oval enameled heavy cast iron pan, the 2 long sides cooked for 3 or 4 minutes each, then the ends and the narrow bottom side seared, each very briefly, the steaks removed from the pan, perfectly medium-rare this time, thin slices from the stem of a flowering spring shallot from Keith’s Farm, along with most of its beautiful scissored blossoms, sprinkled on top, then drizzled with a Whole Foods Market house Portuguese olive oil and allowed to rest for about 4 minutes
- a large handful of ripe red grape tomatoes from Alex’s New Jersey Tomato Farm, found at Chelsea’s Down to Earth Farmers Market on 23rd Street (see the image above), and 4 equally ripe Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods Market, washed, halved, the larger tomatoes cut into fourths, heated inside a medium Pyrex glass pan in a little olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, garnished with dill blossoms from Windfall Farms
- a few handfuls of okra from Kernan Farms, sautéed over a high flame inside a very large seasoned cast iron pan in only a little olive oil and a good part of one crushed dried dark habanada pepper, seasoned with sea salt
- the wine was a zinfandel a Califronia (Lodi) red, Karen Birmingham Reserve Zinfandel Lodi 2015, from Naked Wines
- the music was Beethoven’s 1805-1814 opera, ‘Fidelio’, in a performance with Claudio Abbado leading the Mahler Chamber Orchestra/Lucerne Festival Orchestra and the Arnold Schoenberg Choir, with soloists Nina Stemme, Rachel Harnisch, Jonas Kaufmann, Christoph Strehl, Peter Mattei, Falk Struckmann, and Christof Fischesser
I don’t normally do stews. I don’t have anything particular against them. Maybe I usually like to work fast, or maybe I prefer the neatness of a more aggressive relationship between food and heat than that associated with dishes called stews.
But the luscious product of this quite simple recipe could change my mind, especially since I cam imagine how well it might be suited for serving to guests as a casual entrée. I found it while looking for something this past Sunday night to match both my food stores (a single monkfish tail, lots of heirloom tomatoes, handfuls of small okra) and the time I had available to make dinner. It was fairly quick to prepare, and the process itself pretty straightforward.
The reward was the happy melding of ingredients, and a wonderful savory creamy sauce that had absolutely nothing to do with cows.
- two cups of chopped heirloom tomatoes from Berried Treasures Farm, and one cup of chopped yellow onions from Neversink Organic Farm, sautéed in 3 tablespoons of olive oil inside a large, heavy tin-lined high-sided copper pot over a medium-high flame for about 8 minutes, or until the onions had softened and the tomatoes had virtually become a sauce (turning the heat up still higher near the end to reduce the amount of liquid, since they were heirlooms, and not a sturdier breed), seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, then ½ cup loosely packed chopped mint from mint from Alex’s Tomato Farm and ¼ cup loosely packed chopped lovage from Keith’s Farm (tarragon would actually be the first choice, but I didn’t have any), ¼ cup white wine and 2 to 3 tablespoons of a good white wine vinegar, here Aceto Cesare Bianco white wine vinegar from Buon Italia, were all added and the contents of the pot allowed to continue to cook for about 2 minutes, or until the smells of the wine and vinegar had dissipated, a one pound monkfish tail, from American Seafood Company in Chelsea’s Down to Earth Farmers Market on 23rd Street, sliced into pieces 1 ½ inch thick, added to the tomato mixture, the pot now covered, and cooked for 5 minutes, or until the flesh was opaque, then uncovered, the fish turned over and cooked for another 2 minutes, served sprinkled some of the fresh herbs
- handfuls of small okra from Kernan Farms, their stems trimmed, washed, dried thoroughly, sautéed over a high flame in a large cast iron pan with a little olive oil and 2 crushed dried peperoncino Calabresi secchi from Buon Italia, seasoned with sea salt, served in broad low bowls to the side of the the monkfish stew
- the wine was a wonderful Greek (Thessaly) white, Zafeirakis, Malagousia, 2016, from Flatiron Wines; it turned out to be a perfect pairing
- the music was Mozart’s ‘La Finta Giardiniera’, Nicolas Harnoncourt conducting Concentus Musicus Wien