steak, savory; mushrooms, spruce tips; broccolini (3 allium)

It was Barry‘s birthday, so the meal would have to be special (for me, they’re all special, if only for the wonderful company, but some ingredients may be more special than others). Because it was a Saturday night, when so many New Yorkers are searching for the right dinner table, we thought ‘special’ and right would mean dinner at home. Because we would be coming home from the opera, I wouldn’t be able to begin preparations until it was nearly ten o’clock in the evening (late even for us). Because it would take so little time, and because culotte steak is always special, the night before I had defrosted one we had on hand in the freezer.

Because it was his birthday, and because the kitchen boasted so many choices, I asked Barry to decide on which we’d have.

There was still time for snacks (breadsticks from Buon Italia) and a celebratory sort-of-sparkling (well, a little fizzy maybe, and delicious) wine before the main course.

And then to a main course, which is as far as we got that night.

  • picanha/culotte steak from Sun Fed Beef in the Union Square Greenmarket, defrosted, brought to room temperature, halved, seasoned on all sides with sea salt and a generous amount of freshly-ground black pepper, seared for less than a minute on the top, thick, fat-covered side inside a dry oval heavy enameled cast iron pan, then the 2 long sides cooked for 3 or 4 minutes each and the ends briefly seared, removed from the pan at the moment they had become perfectly medium-rare (checking with an instant-read thermometer), arranged on plates that were at least not cold, a bit of juice from an organic Chelsea Whole Foods Market lemon squeezed on top, a little bit of thinly sliced red spring onions from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm that had been heated in an antique enameled cast iron porringer to soften them, then scattered with chopped fresh winter savory from Keith’s Farm, drizzled with a bit of olive oil, and allowed to rest for about 4 more minutes before being served

  • just before the steaks went into the pan, 4 ounces of small nutty and much-more-delicious-than-you-can-imagine ‘chestnut mushrooms’ from Josh Carnes of Ramble Creek Farm in Washington County, purchased in the Union Square Greenmarket, were tossed (the larger stems cut in half) into a broad heavy copper skillet in which 2 or 3 tablespoons  of Whole Foods Market house Portuguese olive oil had been heated over a high flame, the fungi seared until they had begun to brown, a little more oil added if necessary, a pinch or so of dried habanada pepper and 3 small sliced fresh green, or spring, garlic cloves from Lani’s Farm stirred in, the mushrooms now salted as they cooked a bit more, and when they were ready, some foraged spruce tips from Violet Hill Farm tossed in and combined with the mushrooms, the mix then distributed between the 2 plates next to the steak, with more tips tossed on top

  • a generous bag of broccolini (a hybrid cross between broccoli and gai lan (aka Chinese broccoli) from Alewife Farm, washed and drained a couple of times in fresh cold water, chopped roughly, sautéed/wilted over a low flame until the stems had softened by gradually being added to a heavy medium size antique copper pot in which 6 ramp bulbs (they last longer than you’d expect) had first been heated until they had softened themselves and become fragrant, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper ad drizzled with a little olive oil
  • the wine was a Spanish (Castilla Y Leon) red, Ribera del Duero ‘LosCntos’, Finca Torremilanos, from Foragers Market Wine
  • the music was David Lang’s album, ‘The Woodmans’, because we can’t get enough of David Lang

soft shell crab; spring garlic cucumber sauté, mint; tomato

It was the eve of Barry’s birthday, so it had to be special!

I had great luck in the Greenmarket that afternoon, and because the fish seller had a huge supply, they were marked down in price.  The reader doesn’t have to be told how I transitioned 4 very alive local blue crabs (callinectes sapidus) onto our 2 plates that evening. For those who really are interested, there’s this charming video of a native Marylander describing the process.

We love soft shell crab, but this was only the second time in decades I’d prepared them at home.

  • four live 3-ounce eastern Long Island soft shell crabs from Paul’s Pura Vida Seafood stand at the Union Square Greenmarket, cleaned as described in the video link already mentioned above, but without removing the ‘mustard’, or digestive system (it tastes wonderful!), rinsed in running water and dried very thoroughly (so they don’t ‘steam’, but sauté, and so encouraging crispness (I had decided not to use a batter of any kind), brought to room temperature, sautéed on both sides (bottom first) over a medium-high flame in a quarter inch of olive oil inside a 13-inch seasoned enameled cast iron pan (for about 3, maybe 4 minutes total), seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper as they were turned, removed from the pan and arranged on the 2 plates, sprinkled with a generous amount of freshly-chopped foraged local (Herkimer County) spruce tips from Violet Hill Farm in the Greenmarket and some freshly ground black pepper, drizzled with juice from an organic lemon from Chelsea Whole Foods Market
  • one larger yellow and 2 smaller green Japanese cucumbers from Eckerton Hill Farm, unpeeled, sliced 2 cm thick [it seems easier to describe something in centimeters rather than inches when a metric measure better fits the dimension I’m describing], sautéed inside a large antique copper pot over a medium-high flame, turning a couple of times, until the cucumbers had begun to carbonize, sprinkling the cucumbers with sea salt in the meantime, 3 or 4 cloves of sliced spring garlic from Lani’s Farm and a pinch of crushed dried habanada pepper stirred in near the end, the vegetable tossed with some torn mild fuzzy spearmint from from Space on Ryder Farm [formerly known as Ryder Farm] arranged on the plates, more mint scattered on top, drizzled with a little olive oil
  • a mix of tomatoes, 6 small cherry (‘The best Cherry Tomatoes’) from Stokes Farm, the remainder larger, Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Flatiron Eataly, all halved, warmed inside a small copper skillet (I was distracted and went too far this time, although they tasted as good as ever), seasoned with salt and pepper, scattered with only a pinch of dried Sicilian wild fennel pollen
  • near the end of the meal, tin order to enjoy the various juices remaining on the plates, a couple thin slices of ‘Seedy Grains’ (wheat, spelt, rye, and barley organic bread flours; buckwheat; oats; flax sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds; water, and salt) from the Philadelphia bakery, Lost Bread Co., via the Union Square Greenmarket
  • the wine was a super California (Napa) rosé, Matt Parish Napa Rose of Pinot Noir 2018, from Naked Wines
  • the music was the Zeitgeist album, ‘In Bone-Colored Light’

raie meunière with mushrooms, spruce tips; spinach, garlic

I’m a fan.

Fish. At this point, I think I can say that for me the only remaining problematic thing about cooking fish may be the part when you have to turn it over inside a pan. I did pretty well this time, in spite of the size of the skate wings, thanks to the availability of a perfectly suitable large pan, and the small collection of various kinds of spatulas I’ve been assembling.

But the exciting bits about this meal, aside from the very fresh skate (‘raie‘ in French, ‘ray’ in British English), were the chestnut mushrooms, and the extremely rare appearance (here, or almost anywhere for that matter) of the spruce tips I’d found at the Greenmarket a few days before. They worked together beautifully, even though the fungi, in spite of their appearance, were cultivated, and not wild.

The recipe that inspired my own efforts Wednesday night was this one by Jacques Pepin.

  • two skate wings (aka raie or ray), or exactly one pound altogether, from American Seafood Company, seasoned with salt and pepper, dredged in whole wheat flour from The Blew family of Oak Grove Plantation in Pittstown, N.J., added to a heavy round 13″ antique French copper pan, and sautéed in a little olive oil and butter (2 tablespoons combined) over a medium-high flame for less than 4 minutes on one side, turned and cooked for the same amount of time on the other, or just until the skate was cooked through, arranged on the plates and 4 ounces of small ‘chestnut mushrooms’ from from Gail’s Farm in Vineland, Herkimer County, New Jersey, most not sliced at all, other than separating the stems from the tops, added to the drippings in the pan and cooked for just  about a minute (they should still be firm), while adding a little butter and oil, since the pan was pretty dry, seasoned with salt and pepper and scattered on the top or edges of the skate, then, after half a tablespoon of organic Whole Food Market lemon had been squeezed over all, and a tablespoon or so of butter that had been melted in a small antique iron porringer until foamy and brown poured on top, the dish garnished with a generous amount of chopped fresh spruce tops that had been foraged by Violet Hill Farm
  • one bag of spinach from Tamarack Hollow Farm, washed in several changes of water, drained, very gently wilted (that is, trying not reduce it too far) inside a large, heavy, antique high-sided tin-lined copper pot in a little olive oil in which 3 spring garlic cloves from Lani’s Farm had first been allowed to soften, seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, finished on the plates with a little more olive oil
  • the was was a French (Burgundy/Chablis) white, Jean-Marc Brocard – Chablis Domaine Sainte Claire 2018, from 67Wine
  • the music was an album including 8 decades of music by women composers, ‘Zeitgeist: If Tigers Were Clouds’

marinated goat ribs; roasted potatoes; asparagus, ramps

‘ribs’

I grew up in the upper Midwest, where I’m pretty sure the practice of cooking outdoors on a real fire was called a cookout, at least it was way back then. A barbeque, or more often, bar-b-q, was something cowboys had, or at least something that happened in the Southwest. To me it was certainly associated with some not random, but very competitive spicy smokey tomato sauce. Barbecued ribs were the classic form. The entire concept was eventually repackaged as serious casual restaurant food for rugged guys with rugged tastes, guys who probably didn’t know how cook it themselves, or at least didn’t have the time or equipment to do it themselves. These guys didn’t mind messy finger food. I always have, so barbeque has never been much of a thing for me.

Last night we had a cookout at home, although, as a New York apartment cookout, it was actually a cook-in.

There was also no spicy, smokey tomato sauce, and there was no fire, but there really were ribs. They were goat ribs however, which must certainly disqualify the experience as anything associated with the American male appetite.

Except that they were delicious.

In the end, I even abandoned my knife and fork, which I almost never do.

They also didn’t take hours, which meant they didn’t heat up the apartment for hours. Every recipe I saw on line for goat ribs (or lamb, which can be treated in almost exactly the same way) described some form of extended cooking involving the oven, and then I came across this simple suggestion on a New Zealand site for cooking lamb ribs, once they had been marinated:

Preheat a barbecue grill or frying pan to a medium-high heat. Add the ribs and cook until browned and crunchy on all sides – around 15-20 minutes. If you have single ribs they will only take about 10-15 minutes.

I didn’t use its marinade suggestion found there, but the thought that long, slow cooking wasn’t an imperative was a breakthrough. Still, I didn’t fully trust its [only 10-20 minutes!] timing indication, so I started the ribs just before I would be putting the potatoes or asparagus into the oven, knowing that I could keep the 2 vegetables or the ribs warm while finishing the other. Everything worked out fine.

  • just over one pound of goat riblets, separated, from Lynnhaven Dairy Goat Farm in the Union Square Greenmarket, rolled in a marinade which included a little chopped spring garlic from Lani’s Farm, one large chopped ramp bulb from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm, a couple tablespoons of Whole Foods house Portuguese olive oil, flowering thyme from Norwich Meadows Farm, the zest from more than half of an organic Whole Foods lemon, a little lemon juice, a few tablespoons of Corvo Sicilian white wine, one tablespoon of dried Sicilian oregano, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, the chops then set aside covered, on the counter for about one hour, drained, seasoned, and placed inside a large heavy enameled cast iron skillet above a medium high flame, seared on all sides and cooked, turning occasionally, for about 25-30 minutes (at this point I wasn’t watching the clock, but the vegetables) during which time they were checked for doneness – and tenderness – and at some moment the heat was turned down while waiting for the vegetables to finish cooking
  • six medium ‘red thumb’ potatoes from Norwich Meadows Farm, halved, tossed with a little olive oil , salt, black pepper, a pinch of hickory smoked Jamaican Scotch Bonnet pepper from Eckerton Hill Farm, and another pinch of home dried habanada pepper, originally purchased fresh from Norwich Meadows Farm, spread across the surface of a medium Pampered Chef unglazed ceramic pan and roasted at 400-425º for a little longer than 20 minutes
  • about 11 ounces of thin asparagus spears from Hoeffner Farms and the white sections (the green leaves removed) of 8 or more ramps from mountain Sweet Berry Farm, a handful of thyme branches from Stokes Farm, a little more than a tablespoon of olive oil, a little sea salt, and a bit of freshly-ground black pepper, all rolled along the surface of a large Pampered Chef unglazed ceramic pan, roasted for about 20 to 25 minutes at 400-425º, and near the end of that time, some of the reserved green ramp leaves, roughly-sliced, thrown on top of the asparagus, pushed around with a wooden spatula, the vegetables removed, more thinly sliced ramp leaves laid on top, everything drizzled with a bit of lemon juice
  • the wine was a wonderful Portuguese (Lisbon/Estremadura) red, Montaria Reserva Portugal 2016, from Naked Wines (they’re expanding beyond the U.S.)
  • the music was Roman Haubenstock-Ramati’s album, ‘Konstellationen’

roasted monkfish, potatoes, bay, olives; fava greens, mint

It’s one of our favorite dishes. Last night I tweeted that it was the definition of savory. I think the pictures show us why. The one below is of the potatoes just before they went into the oven, preceding the black olives and the monkfish by 20 minutes or so.

  • twelve or 14 ounces of scrubbed, dried, and thinly sliced ‘red thumb’ potatoes from Norwich Meadows Farm, arranged, overlapping, on the bottom of a glazed earthenware oven pan, covered with 3 tablespoons, or slightly more, of a Chelsea Whole Foods house Portuguese olive oil, seasoned with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, a pinch of an Eckerton Hill Farm crushed dried hickory smoked Jamaican Scotch bonnet pepper, the same amount of a dried habanada pepper, and 9 whole Italian bay leaves from Buon Italia scattered on top, and then more oil (another 2 tablespoons or so) poured over everything, the pan placed inside a 400º oven for about 20 or 25 minutes, or until the potatoes had begun to brown on the edges, then almost two thirds of a cup of mostly pitted Sicilian black oil-cured olives from Buon Italia and a few kalamata olives from Whole Foods [fewer olives would definitely not make the flavors of the entrée suffer, but this amount is luscious] were scattered about them, and one halved 15-ounce monkfish tail from P.E. & D.D. Seafood was placed on top of everything, the fish sprinkled with salt and pepper, and the pan returned to the oven for another 15 minutes or so more (the ‘tails’ were pretty thick), or until the monkfish was tender but not overcooked (I used an instant thermometer and 140º as the final say), arranged on the plates garnished with a little micro purple mustard from Norwich Meadows Farm

  • a generous amount of fava bean greens, stems and leaves, from Keith’s Farm, washed in several changes of cold water, drained, gradually stirred into a large, heavy, antique copper pot in a tablespoon or more of olive oil already heated above a medium flame where a bit of spring garlic had been allowed to soften, and once the greens had wilted, a generous amount of roughly-chopped spearmint from Phillips Farms was tossed in, followed by a bit of sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • the wine was a French (Languedoc-Roussillon) white, Vin Blanc, La Patience 2017, from Astor Wines
  • the music was the Peter Eötvös album, ‘Concertos’