spaghetto with olive oil, anchovies, capers, peperoncino

It’s sometimes called ‘midnight pasta’. I’ve cooked this simple dish many times, and it’s shown up on this blog four times before. I wrote last time, “It never fails to satisfy whatever either of us was looking for in a meal at the moment; usually it was when we didn’t have the time or patience to come up with something more complicated.”

It’s a great dish.

And so simple.

  • approximately 8 ounces of Afeltra spaghetto, from Eataly, boiled, but only until still pretty firmly al dente, tossed inside the same pot in which it had cooked with a very savory sauce (created with 4 garlic cloves from Trader Joe’s, roughly chopped, cooked in about a third of a cup of olive oil over low-medium heat until softened and beginning to brown, then 4 salted anchovies, well-rinsed, added to the pan and mashed with a wooden spoon, a tablespoon of Mediterranean organic wild capers in brine (from a Providence, RI distributor), rinsed and drained, half of one dried Itria-Sirissi chili, peperoncino di Sardegna intero from Buon Italia), along with several tablespoons of chopped parsley from Eataly, and a little of the reserved pasta water, then simmered for another minute or so while the sauce was both emulsified and slightly reduced, the mix distributed in two bowls and sprinkled with a little more parsley
  • the wine was an Italian (Marche) white, Saladini Pilastri Falerio 2015, from Philippe Wines
  • the music was Lorenzo Ferrero‘s 1985 comic opera, ‘Mare nostro

John Dory, sorrel sauce; potatoes; cabbage, scallion, fennel

We ate in a modest Paris bistro last night.

The trip started when I spotted John Dory at the Greenmarket, earlier in the day.

After selecting 2 of the fillets in that picture, I turned around to find that another stall was displaying the last of its farmer’s ‘bouquets’ of beautiful red sorrel, very much alive, their roots still intact. Minutes later, remembering that I had some boiling potatoes at home and also one small Napa cabbage. I had already composed a meal which gradually looked more and more French, but it was only when we had sat down to it that I realized we were inside a French bistro, about to enjoy Filets de St-Pierre à l’oseille.

In between, the kitchen had managed to look more serious than usual, with a number of pans in the fire at the same time.

The cabbage is in the large deep pot; the scallions and fennel seed in the small copper skillet in front of it; the sorrel sauce was being prepared in the deeper copper pan to the top right; the potatoes were boiling in the clear glass antique Pyrex pan; the small early-19th-century enameled cast iron porringer on the electric hot plate was melting butter in which the fillets would soon be dipped, inside the shallow white bowl on the far right; and at this moment that bowl was resting on top of the glazed ceramic baking pan in which they were shortly to be roasted. The fish is waiting out of the camera frame, on the counter to the right of the stove and the sink.

Note: I would never have been able to juggle this kitchen army only a few years ago, but practice makes courage.

This is a picture of the John Dory fillets as they emerged from the oven.

Fortunately this fish is a little firmer than some, because I had already placed the John Dory on the 2 plates before I realized that, to do it properly, it should rest on a pool of sauce. This meant that I now had to arrange the sauce to the right of each fillet, then gingerly lift the fish – turn it 180 degrees (to achieve a relatively aesthetic posture) – and bring it back down on top of its condiment.

The vegetables then followed. They were easy.

  • two 6-ounce fillets of John Dory (aka le Poisson de St.Pierre, Pesce San Pietro, Petersfisch, Heringskőnig, Zeus Faber [yeah.], or, funny-shiny-one with-the-sourpuss-face) from Pura Vida Seafood, washed, dried, seasoned with good sea salt and freshly-ground pepper on both sides, dipped in a tablespoon of melted butter (here it’s always ‘Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter‘), arranged inside a glazed ceramic oven pan just large enough to accommodate them without crowding, roasted in a 425º oven for about 8 minutes, removed and arranged on the top of a pool of sorrel sauce which had been prepared just before
  • one decent-size shallot from Norwich Meadows Farm, minced, cooked with a tablespoon or less of butter melted inside a tin-lined copper pan until soft, followed by a handful of red sorrel (whose red veins account for the pink tone of the sauce) from Two Guys from Woodbridge, their stems removed and the leaves scissored into roughly one-inch lengths, stirred and cooked until the sorrel ‘melted’, then one fourth of a cup of a good Sauvignon Blanc (Rumpus 2015) added and cooked until reduced by a fourth, 4 ounces of Ronnybrook Farm crème fraîche introduced and cooked gently for a few minutes, stirring, until it was able to coat a spoon, the seasoning corrected, and the sauce removed from the heat
  • four small Carola potatoes from Lucky Dog Organic Farm, boiled, drained, dried in the pan, halved, reserved until the fish had been arranged on the plates, when they were scattered with chopped lovage from two Guys from Woodbridge
  • the white and lighter green parts of a Japanese scallion from Norwich Meadows Farm, sliced, heated along with a tablespoon of fennel seed in one tablespoon of butter inside a tin-lined copper skillet until the scallion had softened and the fennel become pungent, then set aside while another tablespoon of butter, or a little more, was melted inside a large enameled cast iron pot and one 8-ounce Napa cabbage, also from Norwich Meadows Farm, roughly chopped, was added and stirred until wilted, after which the reserved scallion-fennel mixture, some sea salt, and a little freshly-ground black pepper were added, and the cabbage stirred some more, finished by tossing in the green tops of the scallions, chopped
  • the wine was a California (Carneros) white, La Tapatia Chardonnay Carneros 2015, form Naked Wines
  • the music was 2 very different, very rich new works, Andris Dzenītis, ‘E(GO)’, and Lorenzo Ferrero, his string quartet cycle ‘Tempi di Quartetto’

La Gricia, alla Trattoria da Lucia a Trastevere

Years ago we used to enjoy this, what I will call ‘perfect meal’, very often, but, maybe because it’s been so long since we were in Italy, or maybe because I’ve become obsessed with cooking local fish, La Gricia seems to have made only one appearance on this blog before tonight.

It’s usually described as a traditional dish of the shepherds in the hills of Lazio. We first enjoyed it in 1996 while sitting at a table in the little street outside Piccola Trattoria da Lucia, in Trastevere, served by the founder’s grandson, Renato Bizzarri (the address of the restaurant is Vicolo del Mattonato 2).

This is Fred’s recipe. Note that the proportions are for only one serving, I assume in tribute to the setting in which the dish was traditionally prepared, that is, solitary, by one shepherd, for one shepherd.

  • 500 grams (eight+ ounces) of Rigorosa di Gragnano Penne Rigate from Eataly, boiled until barely al dente, some of the liquid reserved and the pasta drained and tossed into a large enameled cast iron pot in which 4 ounces of guanciale from Buon Italia, cut in 1/4 to 1/2 inch square pieces, had been heated with 2 tablespoons of olive oil for about a minute, a bit of reserved pasta water then added to the pot, everything stirred for a minute to emulsify the sauce; several tablespoons of freshly-ground black pepper added and stirred into the mix, which was then removed from the heat and allowed to cool just a bit before 3 or 4 tablespoons of roughly-shredded pecorino, also from Buon Italia, was tossed in, the pot left standing for 30 seconds or so, the dish then served in shallow bowls, with more cheese and black pepper on the side
  • the wine was an Italian (Umbria) white, Arnaldo Caprai Grecante Grechetto dei Colli Martani 2015, from Chelsea Wine Vault

We finished the meal with two ‘Pixie tangerines’ from Whole Foods.

spicy cured grilled salmon; roasted roots; tomato and leek

The storm on Tuesday meant that our local fishermen did not go out, which meant there was no fish in the Greenmarket on Wednesday. But we had a guest for dinner once again. I wanted it to be at least a little special, but we had enjoyed goat chops the day before and I didn’t want to serve a meat entrée 2 days in a row.

Although I could have devised an interesting pasta dish, I didn’t really have any what I would call starring vegetables on hand, so that didn’t inspire me. While I knew our friend had said he was not a fan of salmon, I decided to take a chance with the wild Coho fillet available at Whole Foods. While it’s a treat I can ‘reel in’ almost any day of the week, and sometimes it’s not even been frozen, I still think of it as special. It’s not local but it it’s wild, not farmed salmon, probably not the species or form of this fish generally available in Germany.

I had what I thought would be some excellent vegetable accompaniments for the recipe I had in mind, so I really looked forward to putting this meal together.

  • one 22-ounce wild sockeye salmon fillet from Whole Foods, rinsed dried, coated on both sides with a mix of some light brown vanilla bean-infused turbinado sugar, sea salt, freshly ground pepper, freshly ground allspice, freshly ground nutmeg, the zest of half of a sweet local lemon from Fantastic Gardens of Long Island, and some olive oil to make it a paste of sorts, allowed to marinate in the refrigerator in a covered dish for about 3 hours, the fish then rinsed, patted dry, brought to room temperature, oiled generously, and cooked on an enameled grill pan, flesh side down, for a few minutes, then turned over, removed when the inside was not quite pink, the outside slightly crisp and smoky, divided into 3 pieces, arranged on plates, drizzled with a little olive oil and a little juice from the lemon mentioned earlier, and served with lemon wedges [the recipe is little altered from this one from Melissa Clark]
  • four different root vegetables already on hand, about 24 ounces total, some peeled, cut into approximately 3/4″ pieces (they were: carola potatoes from Lucky Dog Organic Farm; celeriac from Tamarack Hollow Farm; parsley root from Norwich Meadows Farm; and carrots from Norwich Meadows Farm), plus several halved shallots from Norwich Meadows Farm, all tossed together in a bowl with two tablespoons of olive oil; salt; freshly-ground pepper; one crushed piece of a mahogany-colored home-dried dark, dried heatless Habanada pepper acquired last summer fresh from Norwich Meadows Farm; and the leaves from several sprigs of rosemary from Eataly, everything arranged, not touching each other, on 2 large, well-seasoned Pampered Chef unglazed ceramic pans and roasted in a 400º oven for about 35 minutes, then sprinkled with 2 sliced garlic cloves from John D. Madura Farm, and some small fresh sage leaves from Eataly, stirred around a bit, removed and divided onto 3 plates
  • one large leek from Phillips Farm, cleaned, halved lengthwise, chopped not too finely, cooked in a little heated olive oil until wilted, then some Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods, each divided into 4 slices, slipped into the pan and barely heated, a generous amount of chopped red thyme from Phillips Farm and a bit of (vanilla bean-infused) turbinado sugar stirred into the vegetables, some of the leek’s green parts, chopped stirred in, the mix served in small oval bowls on the side of the plates, because it was fairly liquid
  • the wine was an Oregon (Umpqua Valley) red, Scott Kelley Pinot Noir Oregon 2015, from Naked Wines
  • the music was our conversation

grilled marinated goat chops; roasted sweet potato; kale

Goat chops. An unfamiliar treat on most tables, and, even if we’ve been enjoying them for years (beginning long before this blog), not familiar enough on ours. This is especially how we both feel after this meal.

The chops and the vegetables were local, the goat from west central Vermont, the Japanese sweet potatoes from northwest New Jersey’s Kittatinny Valley, and the kale from the Catskills, northwest of us.