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local shrimp with chipotle, saffron, cumin, fennel; okra, chili

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

porgy, tomato/olive/herb salsa; sautéed purple okra, chili

Colorful goodness.

  • the fish serving began with a salsa prepared by heating 3 tablespoons of a Portuguese house olive oil from Whole Foods Market inside a small vintage Corning Pyrex Flameware blue-glass pot pot over a gentle flame, adding roughly 6 ounces of tomatoes (one sliced orange heirloom from Stokes Farm and a couple of sliced Mountain Magic tomatoes  (‘cocktail tomato’ in size, “..a cross between a large-fruited tomato and a very sweet grape tomato…” a hybrid released in North Carolina sometime within the current decade) from Norwich Meadows Farm, along with 2 ounces or so of pitted whole kalamata olives from Whole Foods Market, the mix seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper and stirred for a minute or 2 before the pan was set aside to cool a little, after which some 2 or 3 tablespoons of herbs (chopped fresh lovage from Quarton Farm, a Sullivan County grower new to the Union Square Greenmarket this year; an equal amount of fresh oregano buds from Norwich Meadows Farm; and torn leaves of a basil plant from Two Guys from Woodbridge) were stirred into the salsa, reserving some of the herbs to garnish the fish and salsa once it was on the plate, followed by the juice of half of an organic lemon from Whole Foods Market, the mix now stirred once again, and set aside while the fish was prepared
  • four 4-ounce porgy fillets from P.E & D.D. Seafood, the skin slashed with a very sharp knife in 2 or 3 places on each, placed skin side down inside a large rectangular enameled cast iron pan in a tablespoon or so of olive oil that had gotten very hot  sitting over a high flame, the top, or flesh side of the fish seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper and cooked for 2 or 3 minutes until the flesh was dark golden and the skin crisp’, the fillets turned over, cooked on the other side for just about one minute, quickly basting with the oil in the pan during that time, or until the fillets were just cooked through, arranged on the plates, the salsa drizzled around the porgy and both sprinkled with some of the reserved herbs

  • ten ounces or so of tiny purple okra from Lani’s Farm, sautéed over a high flame inside a large enameled cast iron pan in a little bit of olive oil [supposedly cast iron causes even green pods to blacken, but I’ve never really noticed that, at least not as a problem, these pods were already a dark purple going in, but I went with an enameled pan nevertheless], adding a good part of one crushed dried peperoncino Calabresi secchi from Buon Italia half way through, seasoned with sea salt  
  • the wine was an Oregon (Columbia Valley) white, Dave Harvey Columbia Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2017, from Naked Wines
  • the music was Handel’s 1738 opera, ‘Faramondo’, a story of the eponymous late 4th, early 5th-century Frankish dux and goings on in the ancient geographical home of my own family (“All ends happily with general rejoicing…”), performed by I Barocchisti, conducted by Diego Fasolis [a 6-minute excerpt from that same performance here]

oregano-roast squid; purple okra; tomato, basil, balsamic

Everything about it.

  • a large rectangular enameled cast iron pan heated on top of the stove until hot, its cooking surface brushed with olive oil, and once the oil was quite hot, one pound of rinsed and carefully dried large squid from P.E. & D.D. Seafood, which had been selected from the bucket right in front of me by the fisherman himself, Phil Karlin, who had come in with the catch from eastern Long Island early that day, quickly arranged inside, immediately sprinkled with a heaping teaspoon of super-pungent dried Sicilian oregano from Buon Italia, most of one crushed dried Sicilian pepperoncino, also from Buon Italia, and a section of orange/golden home-dried habanada pepper, picked up fresh from Norwich Meadows Farm last summer, 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 roasted for only 5 or so minutes, when their bodies had ballooned, removed, the squid distributed onto 2 plates and ladled with a bit of their cooking juices that had been collected in a glass sauce pitcher

  • two sliced heirloom tomatoes, one red, one orange, from Tamarack Hollow Farm, slipped into a 13-inch seasoned cast iron skillet in which a little olive oil had first been heated, seasoned with salt and black pepper, sprinkled with some whole leaves of a Full Bloom Market Garden Connecticut Valley basil plant from Whole Foods, arranged on the plates and drizzled with just a bit of balsamic vinegar

culotte steak, shallot blossom; tomatoes, dill flowers; okra

‘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

monkfish with stewed tomatoes, lovage, mint; okra, chilis

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