ein deutsches Picknick, zu Hause, im Hause

It was ‘Magische MahlzeitVorabend (more on that holiday tomorrow).

For a little while I had been assembling a number of foods, prepared and fresh, that would lend themselves to being part of a picnic, and in particular, mostly a German picnic.

Last night, after a visit to Schaller & Weber in the afternoon, I was ready to assemble one.

As usual, the plates were anchored with a tasty dressed green, in this case various baby mustards from the Union Square Greenmarket, to which I added some grown-up arugula, also from the Greenmarket.

sage-lemon grilled portobello; thyme-roasted asparagus

It may not look like it, but that entrée is vegan. That wasn’t actually my objective.  I had merely turned to a farmer who was offering mushrooms after learning that my Monday fish mongers had sold out their entire catch before I arrived at the Greenmarket. The rest of the story was, luscious..

..not least because a few minutes later I picked out our very first asparagus of the season.

That evening the mushrooms were grilled..

..and the asparagus roasted (here on their way into the oven).

  • four large portobello mushrooms (mature white mushrooms) from John D, Madera Farm (weighing something less than a pound when first brought home), stems removed, the caps wiped free of soil, and their ‘gills’ scraped off, allowed to rest for half an hour in a glazed ceramic pan just large enough to hold them, in a marinade composed of a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, almost as much juice of a sweet local lemon [this time orange in color!] from Fantastic Gardens of Long Island, and half a dozen sprigs of sage from S. & S.O. Produce Farm, the mushrooms turned once while in the pan, and occasionally brushed with the marinade, then removed, pan grilled for about 4 minutes on each side, arranged on 2 plates, squeezed with more lemon juice, scattered with more sage, this time chopped, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with micro red amaranth from Windfall Farm
  • eighteen or so asparagus spears from Phillips Farm, trimmed, the stems of the larger stalks peeled, the asparagus rolled, along with a handful of thyme branches in a little more than a tablespoon of olive oil and a little sea salt, roasted inside a large Pampered Chef unglazed ceramic pan at 425-450º for about 15 to 20 minutes, removed to 2 plates, some of the juice of a sweet local lemon from Fantastic Gardens of Long Island

Then someone brought out a cheese course, and the meal was no longer vegan.

  • three cheeses from Consider Bardwell Farm, left to right, ‘Manchester’ goat milk cheese, ‘Barden Blue’ cow cheese, and a blue goat milk cheese, all served with a bit of micro red amaranth from Windfall Farms
  • lightly-toasted slices of ‘Pane Mediterraneo’ from Eataly


rib eye, grilled ramps; herbed fingerlings; mustard greens

Even though there would be only 2 of us for dinner on Sunday, I had expected to cook something festive, something roast-ish (but necessarily small),  but a glance at the mid-April New York weather forecast (high in the mid-80’s, and humid), sent me back to my sketch pad.

My choices at the market when I was there 2 days before didn’t include anything lamb or goat, or even pork of an appropriate size; any of them would have been my preferences. I then turned to the farm stall I knew as an purveyor of excellent beef (and other meats). there, with Mike’s counsel, I picked out a very fine thick ribeye.

Then, on Sunday evening, everything was proceeding well (I was nearly halfway thorough roasting the fingerlings) when I finally had a good look at the cut that was going to be the centerpiece of our meal.

It was a full 2 inches thick.

I had no experience with a steak of that size.

Barry starts worrying when i begin Googling 30 minutes before we were supposed to sit down to eat, and I totally understand, especially when it’s already a bit late.

I didn’t find much this time, except many reminders that some folks take their beef very, very seriously (it’s something like coffee fanaticism), and that most of those folks seem to have outdoor grills, so I went with my instincts, guided by earlier steak experiences.

It was absolutely delicious, and I think the image at the top helps to describe that.

Barry was very, very happy.

  • it all went together so fast that I’m not certain I’m remembering all the details, but the steak preparation involved bringing to room temperature one 100%-grass-fed 2-inch-thick Black Angus rib-eye steak (22 ounces), purchased from the very sunny Mike at Sun Fed Beef (Maple Avenue Farms) in the Union Square Greenmarket, drying it, rubbing both sides with olive oil, seasoning it well with sea salt and freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, searing each side for about 3 or 4 minutes over high heat inside a vintage seasoned cast iron pan, placing it in a 500º oven for about 6 or 7 minutes, turning once, then removing it when a thermometer had read about 130º (it would continue to cook outside of the oven), letting it rest for about 7 minutes, loosely covered with aluminum foil, removing the bone, dividing it into 2 equal shares, arranging the beef on the plates, where they were drizzled with a juice of a local sweet lemon from Fantastic Gardens of Long Island, a bit of olive oil, and draped with half a dozen ramps, an impulse purchase, from Eataly (not yet seen in Union Square this spring, they had to have come from somewhere south of New Jersey) which had earlier been rolled in a little seasoned olive oil and pan-grilled, bulbs first, the leaves following
  • red French fingerlings from Race Farm, halved lengthwise, tossed with a little olive oil, sea salt, freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, sage leaves from from S. & S.O. Produce Farm, 2 small bay leaves broken into pieces, from from Westside Market, and a small amount of crushed dark home-dried habanada pepper, arranged cut side down on a large Pampered Chef unglazed ceramic pan, roasted at about 375º for 15 0r 20 minutes, sprinkled with micro bronze fennel from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • a small bunch of frizzy purple mustard greens from Lani’s Farm, wilted inside a large enameled cast iron pot in a little olive oil in which 2 cloves of  garlic from John D. Madura Farm, halved, had been allowed to sweat, seasoned with sea salt, Tellicherry pepper, and a very small amount of crushed dried Sicilian pepperoncino from Buon Italia, finished on the plates with a drizzle of juice from the same sweet local lemon used on the beef, and a bit of olive oil
  • the wine was a California (Amador) red, Ana Diogo-Draper Amador Tempranillo 2015, from Naked Wines
  • the music was Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, performed magnificently by Tafelmusik

to explain again, I didn’t cook this meal; I just assembled it

Because it was on what some folks call ‘Holy Saturday’ (as a child, a choir boy, and an altar boy, I was one of them), and it was the second day of the ‘Paschal fast’, the meal we enjoyed last night would have been much in line with Catholic tradition.

But that’s not why we had it.

Also, I didn’t actually cook the meal; I just assembled it.

It was an evening that would straddle Friday’s fish and a Sunday steak. I knew pasta would make sense, and then I realized that I had time to check out what Luca Donofrio had in his fresh pasta shop inside Eataly that day. There I spotted his ravioli filled with ricotta, lemon zest, nutmeg, marjoram, and mascarpone, and it both looked and sounded terrific; also, it obviously wouldn’t demand a complex sauce.

Once I had brought some home I decided that meant butter, a smidgen of green scallion stem, a bit of aromatic heatless pepper, salt, and black pepper. I wasn’t sure how I would finish the dish until almost the moment it had been placed in the bowls, when I decided I could not not use the red amaranth I had, if only because nothing else would look so spectacular on top of the pasta.

  • several tablespoons of Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter heated slowly inside a large high-sided tin-lined heavy copper pan with a very small amount of sliced green parts of scallions from Norwich Meadows Farm, a crushed piece of orange-gold habanada pepper, and a bit of sea salt and freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, then 12 ounces of a fresh ricotta-lemon zest-nutmeg-marjoram-mascarpone-filled ravioli from Eataly, which had just been boiled inside a large pot of well-salted water for 2 minutes and drained, slipped into the copper pan and mixed well with the sauce, everything stirred together over a low flame, arranged inside 2 shallow bowls, some micro red amaranth from Windfall Farms arranged on top

Just before the pasta there had been an antipasto, as there was a little bresaola left from the meal we shared with friends on Wednesday.

  • a couple ounces of an Uruguayan bresaola from Eataly, arranged on plates with sprigs of slightly-flowering arugula from Bodhitree Farm, both meat and green drizzled with a good Puglian olive oil (Alce Nero biologico DOP ‘Terra di Bari Bitonto) from Eataly and some of the juice of a large local lemon from Fantastic Gardens of Long Island, the greens seasoned with Maldon salt and freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper
  • slices of an Eric Kayser ‘baguette monge’

late breakfast, Easter Sunday: totally worth missing lunch

We usually sleep very late on Sunday, and since we almost invariably have some form of egg dish which is not quickly assembled, it’s often well into the afternoon by the time we sit down.

Today it was especially late (both the rising and the preparing, and thus the eating as well), once again ensuring that there would be only 2 meals for us on the day of rest. As I finished this particularly tasty breakfast just before 3, I couldn’t help telling the one assembled guest: “totally worth missing lunch”. Fortunately Barry had grabbed a digestive biscuit and a strong iced coffee even before I began cooking.

There was a centerpiece, because of the holiday (one which had meant a great deal to me growing up, and now only means spring), a 19th-century blown glass life-size egg, nestled inside an ancient (ca. 1800) miniature splint basket, both found in Rhode Island almost half a century ago.

  • the ingredients for this particular breakfast included 6 free-range eggs and 4 thick slices of bacon from Millport Dairy Farm, the eggs dusted with a little dried orange-gold habanada pepper, Maldon salt, and freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, served on the 2 plates with a sprinkling of micro bronze fennel from Two Guys from Woodbridge; there were also 4 halved Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods, heated in a little olive oil with a bit of sliced scallion stems from Norwich Meadows Farm, salt, and freshly-ground pepper, sprinkled with a few chopped leaves of a basil plant from Whole Foods; and slices of a sturdy ‘Pane Mediterraneo’ from Eataly (whole wheat, rye flour; pumpkin, sesame, poppy, sunflower, flax seeds; millet and farro), which were barely heated in the old toaster
  • the Sunday (‘Easter Sunday’ this time) music was Carl Heinrich Graun’s early 18th-century (exact date unknown) ‘Easter Oratorio’, Michael Alexander Willens conducting the Kölner Akademie