Author: james

fried eggs with a salsa in lieu of a profusion of condiments

I wanted to minimize the number of condiments and constituents I’d put into this meal, so I decided I’d try to get most of them together in small cups, to be placed on the table where we could each reach for them as we wanted. It only occurred to me after I had started to write this post that basically what I had done was to assemble a miniature cooked salsa.

In the picture above, taken before we had begun to eat, only a bit of the salsa had made it out of the little pot to the top of the plate, but the rest soon followed.

The second image includes most of the elements, other than the eggs, bacon, and toast, that went into the meal, although the fresh bronze fennel buds and flowers didn’t make the cut that afternoon.

  • the meal included four slices of thick bacon from Millport Dairy Farm’s pastured pigs, fried over low heat inside a large enameled cast iron skillet, turning occasionally, removed while they were still juicy, before they had become crisp, set aside on paper toweling to drain, a tablespoon or so of butter added and the heat under the pan increased to medium before 6 fresh eggs, from free-range chickens, and also from Millport Dairy Farm, were cracked into the skillet, fried until their whites had barely set, seasoned with local P.E. & D.D. Seafood salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a pinch of dried fenugreek from Bombay Emerald Chutney Company (purchased at the Saturday Chelsea Farmers Market), but nothing else until they got to the table, although they were garnished with pungent micro lemon balm from Two Guys from Woodbridge; on the table I included a Brazil yellow pepper-infused olive oil and 2 small ramekins of a salsa just assembled with 2 small baby French leeks from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm and one very small dark green celery stalk from Norwich Meadows farm, one fresh habanada pepper from Campo Rosso Farm and one red shishito pepper from Alewife Farm, all of the vegetables finely chopped and briefly sautéed in olive oil, with some of the chopped celery leaves tossed in; the toast was made from slices of a levain from Bread Alone, like virtually everything else on the table, from the Union Square Greenmarket
  • the music was Johann Mattheson’s 1723 oratorial, ‘Der liebreiche und geduldige David’ (The Loving and Patient David), performed by the Kölner Akademie and the Cologne Academy Choir, conducted by Michael Alexander Wilens; this is from this interesting diplomat, composer, and music theorist’s Wikipedia entry: “All of his music, except for one opera, one oratorio, and a few collections of instrumental music, went missing after World War II, but was given back to Hamburg from YerevanArmenia, in 1998. This includes four operas and most of the oratorios. The manuscripts are now located at the Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg, the former Hamburg Stadtbibliothek (City Library).”

whole wheat reginetti, pepquinos, tomatoes, lemon things

It was so good, yet only an hour before I had begun to assemble this meal I wasn’t into cooking anything. It’s typical for me that once I had an idea, even if it was about a single ingredient, any reluctance vanished. This time it was remembering that I had some Mexican sour gherkins in the crisper drawer.

  • short pieces cut from a part of one garlic scape from Phillips Farms sautéed until softened in a little olive oil inside a large antique copper pot, followed by 8 ounces of halved ‘Mexican gherkins’ (which are not actually cucumbers, but ‘pepquinos’, or ‘Melothria scabra‘), along with a tiny bit of Brazilian wax pepper from Eckerton Hill Farm, after which 8 ounces of a New York pasta, Sfoglini whole grain reginetti, were mixed in, together with about a cup of reserved pasta cooking water, the mix then stirred in the pot over high heat until the liquid had emulsified, after which some small tomatoes were added (less than a handful), halved, remaining from a basket of mixed colors and shapes from Tamarack Hollow Farm that had been incorporated into an earlier meal, plus both the zest and juice of a Whole Foods organic California lemon, the pasta drizzled with a little bit of tomato water (same tomatoes!) remaining from that same meal, seasoned with local sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, placed in 2 shallow bowls, topped with micro lemon balm from Two Guys from Woodbridge, drizzled with a little olive oil
  • the wine throughout was a Portuguese (Douro) white, Quevedo Family Alvarinho 2018, from Naked Wines
  • the music was an album of works by Charles Avison which included 6 concertos ‘in seven parts’ (transcriptions of Scarlatti sonatas), performed by Cafe Zimmermann; Charles Avison (1709-1770) was a rara avis, a good eighteenth-century English composer)

herb-rubbed shark steak; tomatoes; sautéed cucumbers

At the fish stand on Friday, Paul had the very tip of a shark fin in his hand, but I went with the steaks.

  • two thick 9-ounce alopias vulpinus (thresher shark) steaks, from Pura Vida Seafood Company, rubbed on both sides with most of a mixture of fresh herbs (lovage and winter savory from Keith’s Farm, and parsley from Jersey Farm Produce Inc. in the Saturday 23rd Street farmers market), all chopped together, using a chef’s knife, along with local sea salt, some partially smashed whole black pepper, 2 small cloves of ‘Chesnok Red’ garlic from Alewife Farm, a bit of zest from an organic Whole Foods Market California lemon, adding a bit of olive oil added to moisten the mix, reserving a little of the herb mixture for basting, the steaks then pan-grilled, basting throughout the cooking process with some of the reserved mixture, then and removed, ideally, while barely fully cooked in the center, arranged on the plates, finished with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil, garnished with some wonderful micro lemon balm from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • three ripe heirloom tomatoes, a red from Eckerton Hill Farm, a green and an orange from Norwich Meadows Farm each halved horizontally, the cut sides sprinkled sea salt, black pepper, chopped a bit of fresh marjoram from Stokes Farm, placed on a hot enameled grill pan, cut side up for 3 or 4 minutes, turned over and grilled for another minute, or minute and a half, arranged on the plates and sprinkled with a little more of the herb, and maybe a drizzle of olive oil
  • eight small dark green Kirby cucumbers from Lucky Dog Organic Farm, sliced into bite-size cross sections, sautéed along with 2 sliced red tropea onions from Alewife Farm in a little olive oil inside a large antique copper pot until both were slightly browned, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper, sprinkled with clipped buds and blossoms of  bronze fennel from Rise & Root Farm in the Union Square Greenmarket [I forgot to snap a picture while the cucumbers were still at the farm stand]
  • the wine was a California (Napa/Santa Lucia Highlands) rosé, Derek Rohlffs Santa Lucia Highlands Rose 2018, from Naked Wines
  • the music was an album of C.P.E. Bach Symphonies and a Cello Concerto, performed by Café Zimmermann, Pablo Valetti, violin and direction

smoked rillettes; herbed striped bass; cauliflower, tomato

A friend visiting from Los Angeles joined us for dinner on Wednesday. She had last been here in January, when we enjoyed a very middle-of-winter meal, (as in, duck, cabbage, sweet potatoes), so there was little chance of repeating anything this time.

That afternoon I brought home three beautiful striped bass fillets from the Union Square Greenmarket, displaying glistening silvery skin on one side, fresh pink flesh with 3 dotted bands of cherry red on the other. It had been line-caught in Long Island waters, probably the day before, becoming one of the mere 220 of the species that his license, and that of every other area fisherman, would allow him to reel in this year; it was a number that authorities had determined would protect a species that had been commercially over fished not may years ago. I felt it was an honor to share it, and I wanted to do it justice.

It was summery, and so were the herbs that blanketed it.

But then I picked a fresh bit of charcuterie as well, which doesn’t particularly say summer. When I stopped by the stall of Hudson Valley Charcuterie in the Greenmarket I think I was so distracted by the ‘fresh’, ‘local’, and ‘pork’, thing that I totally lost my focus on a summer concept, but at least each of the two courses had their own individual character. Ruby Duke, the farmer, calls smoked pork rillettes “the gateway charcuterie”, and I totally understand.

Ruby is in the center of the photograph above, Wolf is on the left, and Louie, Ruby’s brother, is on the right.

Because rillettes are quite rich, they are usually served on a white baguette, with cornichon on the side, to offset that heaviness, but I rarely have either of those in my kitchen. I’m also not a strict traditionalist, and I have no fear of rich food, so on Wednesday I served this wonderful local charcuterie with sturdy whole wheat toasts and a terrific local sweet horseradish preserve.

We had to wait at least a few minutes for the main course, because not everything could (or should) be prepared in advance.

  • three thick Striped Bass fillet pieces (8 or 9 ounces each) from American Seafood Company, washed, drained, brought to room temperature, arranged skin side down resting on a coating of about a tablespoon of olive oil on the bottom of a medium glazed terra cotta pan, scattered with a mixture of chopped fresh herbs, specifically, ‘za’atar’, or, technically, origanum syriacum, from TransGenerational Farm, peppermint from Alex’s Tomato Farm in the Saturday 23rd Street farmers market, lovage from Keith’s Farm, plus one partially-crumbled fresh bay leaf [fresh bay leaves from Uncle Vinny’s, possibly Columbian] from Westside Market [almost any fresh herb or combination of herbs could be used in this recipe], seasoned with Phil Karlin’s P.E. & D.D. Seafood Long Island Sound sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, sprinkled with some of my homemade dry bread crumbs (these very newly made) and drizzled with a little olive oil, placed inside a 425º oven for just under 25 minutes, removed when cooked through, sprinkled with a bit of chopped parsley from Jersey Farm Produce Inc. in the Saturday 23rd Street farmers market and arranged on the plates, squeezed with the juice of a small organic Mexican lemon from Whole Foods and drizzled with olive oil

  • the florets of a small head of purple cauliflower from Tamarack Hollow Farm sautéed until beginning to color and soften in a pan in which 3 roughly-sliced cloves of ‘Chesnok Red’ garlic from Alewife Farm and more than a teaspoon of dried Semi di Finocchietto Ibleo (wild Sicilian fennel seed harvested in the Iblei Mountains), from Eataly Flatiron had first been heated, the cauliflower braised for a few minutes until beginning to soften, one finely chopped quite tiny very hot Brazil wax pepper from Eckerton Hill Farm stirred in before being  joined by 5 ounces of small tomatoes of many colors and shapes from Tamarack Hollow Farm, and, to add some bright red to the scheme, half a dozen ‘Super sweet 100’ cherry tomatoes from Keith’s Farm, all halved and seeded, and the cooking continued, gently, until the tomatoes had been heated through and become a full partner in the mix, the vegetables finished by stirring in some chopped winter savory from Keith’s Farm
  • the wine with the second course was a Spanish (Bierzo) white, Bierzo Godello, Abad Dom Bueno 2017, also from Astor Wines

There was a plain fruit course after the fish.

  • bunches of Niagara Grapes from Locust Grove Fruit Farm in the Union Square Greenmarket, rinsed in very cold water and arranged in a bowl, with small plates at each setting

 

  • the music throughout was our own conversation, accompanied by a number of albums on Spotify devoted to the music of the Czech composer,  Leopold Koželuch (1747-1818), who spent most of his creative life in Vienna

squid/conch salad; pasta, scapes, espelette, tomato, herbs

Both were definitely local, but If the ‘wild tomatoes’ were not, technically wild anymore, the seafood really was, even if it had been domesticated by the fisherman (by bringing it home) and the fisherman’s wife (by preparing the salad at home).

  • eight ounces of a squid and conch salad (including olive oil, parsley, red pepper, lemon juice) from P.E. & D.D. Seafood in the Union Square Greenmarket, made by Dolores Karlin, the wife of Phil Karlin, the fisherman himself, arranged on a thin bed of arugula from Norwich Meadows Farm, the seasoning of the salad adjusted only slightly, including a drizzle of juice from an organic California lemon from Chelsea Whole Foods Market, arranged on leaves of  a head of Roxy purple leaf lettuce from Lucky Dog Organic Farm, dressed with a good olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a drizzle lemon juice too, arranged as a bed for the salad
  • slices of an organic multigrain baguette from Bread Alone

 

The main, or pasta course, included a scion of the ur-tomato, called the ‘wild Mexican tomato’, here grown on Eckerton Hill Farm, boasting the sophisticated flavors expected of a member of an ancient lineage.

  • a very simple pasta sauce begun by heating and softening in a little olive oil inside a large antique copper pot over a medium flame, one and a half garlic scapes, cut into very short lengths, from Phillips Farms, adding some crushed dried espelette pepper from Alewife Farm, the mix tossed with 9 ounces of an Afeltra pasta artigianale di Gragnano I.G.P. 100% grano Italiano biologico that had been cooked al dente and drained, almost an entire cup of its cooking water also added, everything stirred over a high flame until the liquid had emulsified, then 4 ounces of fantastic, sweet tiny ‘wild’ Mexican tomatoes from Eckerton Hill Farm were stirred in, followed by a mix of chopped lovage from Keith’s Farm, chopped parsley from Jersey Farm Produce Inc. in the Saturday 23rd Street farmers market, and torn peppermint leaves from Alex’s Tomato Farm, also in the Saturday market, and finished with more herbs and a little olive oil drizzled around the edges