grilled: steak, balsamic-marinated treviso, eggplant & olives

I used 3 different grill pans in putting this meal together. That may be a first. It may also have been the first time I included some form of garlic in each element of an entrée, although probably not.

But I forgot to include the color.

The image is embarrassingly monochromatic; I hadn’t thought about the aesthetic effect until I was arranging everything on the plates. It’s still no excuse, but the treviso and the eggplant happened to be the only real vegetables in the crisper last night (both in smaller amounts remaining from larger, the majority of which had been used in earlier meals, and each of them almost begs for garlic under most circumstances).

A little red, or orange, or yellow on the plates themselves would definitely have been nice. but to be fair, the vegetables had at least started out with real color.

Still, it was a terrific dinner. The treviso and the eggplant were stars, and while at first I had some doubts about the steaks (mostly related to the decisions of the butcher), we very quickly came to appreciate both the flavor and the texture of this excellent grass-fed beef.

  • two 8-ounce rib steaks (roughly 8 ounces each) from the Union Square Greenmarket stand of Lowland Farm, brought to room temperature, dried, well-seasoned with Maldon salt and freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, placed on a very hot cast iron pan grill for just under 5 minutes on each side, removed and arranged on the plates, a little organic lemon juice from Whole Foods Market squeezed on top, sprinkled with some chopped summer savory from Stokes Farm, drizzled with a little olive oil and finished with some chopped garlic flowers from Windfall Farms
  • one small head of treviso from Campo Rosso Farm in the union Square Greenmarket (the farm, located in Berks County, Pennsylvania, specializes in chicories, other greens and other vegetables) halved, tied to maintain their shape, marinated for half an hour in a mix of garlic from Norwich Meadows Farm, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sea salt and freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, then pan-grilled, untied, and finished with some of the reserved marinade
  • 3  baby eggplant (3 different kinds and colors), each cut into 3 slices, mixed with a little olive oil , 5 pitted and sliced Kalamata olives olives from Whole Foods Market, a little finely-chopped garlic from Norwich Meadows Farm, sea salt, and freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, pan-grilled over a brisk flame, turning once, sprinkled with torn basil leaves from Stokes Farm, arranged on the plates and drizzled with a bit of olive oil
  • the wine, a perfect pairing with the food, was a California (Napa) red, Jac Cole Mosaico Napa Valley 2015, from Naked Wines
  • the music was the album, ‘Il Filosofo’, which is “..the second release in the Basel-based Joseph Haydn Stiftung Foundation’s collaboration..in recording all of Haydn’s 107 symphonies…

breakfast accompanied by garlic flowers, Messiaen’s birds

Nothing unusual going on here. It was pretty much Sunday breakfast as usual, although the plate may have been a little less busy than some have been.

But there was that  sprinkling of garlic flower on top of the eggs.  I could get very used to that garnish, but it’s clearly defined by a short season.

  • there were small very fresh eggs from Echo Creek Farm, of Salem, New York (a stall at Chelsea’s Saturday Down to Earth Farmers Market); thick bacon from Millport Dairy Farm; small cherry tomatoes from Stokes Farm, cooked with a little red spring onion and torn basil, also from Stokes Farm; one section of a small dried golden habanada pepper, crushed on top of the eggs; one small chopped garlic flower from Windfall Farms, also on the eggs; slices of lightly-toasted Balthazar rye boule, from Schaller & Weber; and a dab of a sun-dried chilli-pepper harissa from NYShuk Pantry
  • the day’s liturgical music was Messiaen, ‘Vingt regards sur l’enfant Jésus‘, performed by Joanna MacGregor [it’s supposed to be contemplative, a prayer to a divine child, but I think of it as a noble homage to the birds]

grilled soused breaded swordfish; sugar snap, zest, lovage

To be honest, this time the vegetable, some truly delicious fresh snap peas, upstaged the fish, and we’re very fond of swordfish.

  • one halved 16-ounce swordfish steak from American Pride Seafood Company at Chelsea’s Down to Earth Farmers Market on 23rd St., marinated [‘soused’] for half an hour in a mixture of olive oil, 2 finely-chopped red scallions from John D. Madura Farms, some chopped fresh peppermint from Berried treasures, and a very small amount of crushed dried peperoncino Calabresi secchi from Buon Italia, then drained well, coated on both sides with some homemade dried breadcrumbs, and pan-grilled over medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, removed to 2 plates, seasoned with Maldon salt, some juice of an organic lemon from Whole Foods Market squeezed on top, sprinkled  with chopped garlic flowers from Windfall Farms, then drizzled with a very small amount of little olive oil
  • five small cherry tomatoes from Stokes Farm, halved, heated inside a small pan in which  a couple small red scallions from John D. Madura Farms, chopped, had been heated in a little olive oil until wilted and pungent, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, tossed with a few small leaves of basil from Stokes Farm, torn
  • sugar snap peas [French: Mangetout] from Berried Treasures Farm, parboiled for about a minute, drained, dried in the pot in which they had cooked, shaking it over a flame, then set aside, and just before serving, warmed inside a heavy tin-lined copper pan with a little olive oil, tossed with lemon zest, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, finished with chopped lovage from Keith’s Farm
  • the wine was a California (Lodi) rosé, Karen Birmingham Rosé Lodi 2016, from Naked Wines
  • the music was the album, ‘Johann Baptist Vanhal: Four String Quartets’, performed by the Lotus String Quartet

bluefish as I’ve always wanted it to be; turns out it’s Greek

[If the fish looks like a fishing boat, it’s pure chance, and not a cute conceit of the cook.]

 

The recipe for this dish, which almost never happened, at least in my kitchen, produced the best bluefish I have ever tasted – or looked at.

The fillets were obviously very, very fresh on Friday (more even than most seafood generally, bluefish, like mackerel, must be absolutely fresh because of its high oil content), and my fish seller pointed to them even before I looked like I might welcome some curation.

Once at home however, after looking for a recipe I could get excited about and wouldn’t require much time – especially oven time – I realized I didn’t have anything that I could get excited about. Then I found a loose paper with the heading, ‘BLUEFISH FILETS GREEK STYLE’ above a list of really refreshing ingredients that seemed to scream ‘summer’, and a pretty sketchy description of the procedure that was supposed to do the trick. I knew I could still work with it, and while the oven was involved, it would only be for about 15 minutes (an estimate, not in the recipe, but gleaned from bluefish recipes that had already appeared on my own blog).

Today I searched on line for the origin of a recipe I now cannot praise enough. I found it inside a discussion on Chowhound, where it had appeared 5 years ago, under ‘Great Bluefish recipes?’, as only a friendly recommendation, delivered in a short narrative, more than a proper formula. The contributor was Bacardi1.

I bow to Bacardi1, and thank her for a great meal, and presumably many more to come.

This is what the fish looked like inside the pan, with its intimate accompaniments, just before going into the oven.

Fortunately I had picked up a couple of fantastic heirloom tomatoes the same afternoon that I found the bluefish; they were the first of the season, at least at the stand of one of my favorite farmers, and one of them was perfectly ripe for joining the 2 fillets.

The  side dish was built around a generous amount of baby zucchini, which may also have been the first of the summer, again, at least first for the farmer offering them. Normally I would pan grill these sweet summer squash, but it was late by the time I had sorted out what I was going to do with the fish, so in order to save time I halved them lengthwise and sautéed them with a very few small spring onions until they had begun to caramelize, producing much the same effect, and at least as much taste, as the grill would have.

And, confirming once again that New Yorkers are blessed with all kinds of food ‘extras’, there were garlic flowers, both for their flavor and for their aesthetic, as a garnish on top of the vegetables.

  • two bluefish fillets (1.04 pounds) from Pura Vida Seafood; sherry vinegar; dried wild Sicilian oregano from Buon Italia; dried peperoncino Calabresi secchi, also from Buon Italia; one small red onion from Norwich Meadows Farm; one thinly-sliced ripe heirloom tomato, also from Norwich Meadows Farm; 8 or so Kalamata olives, pitted and halved, from Whole Foods Market; and slices of an organic lemon, also from Whole Foods Market, the ingredients used in preparing a dish using this description, mostly, by the author of the recipe [noting that I cooked the dish inside a tin-lined oval copper gratin pan for 15 minutes]:

    My favorite way of preparing nice Bluefish filets (when I can get them) is “Greek” style. I rub the filets with extra-virgin olive oil & a dash of red wine vinegar, sprinkle liberally with dried oregano & some crushed red pepper flakes, & then cover with thinly sliced red onion, thinly sliced tomato, crumbled feta cheese, chopped fresh oregano if available, & thinly sliced lemon. Sometimes I’ll add some pitted chopped Kalamata olives as well. I then bake until done.

  • baby zucchini from Berried Treasures, halved, sautéed, along with 3 halved red spring onions from Alewife Farm (the 3 were all I had left in the crisper last night) inside a very large seasoned cast iron pan, turning zucchini and onions once, until they had begun to caramelize on all sides (the onions having to be removed earlier, since they cook faster), seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, tossed with a generous amount of peppermint, chopped, from Berried Treasures Farm, finished with chopped garlic flowers from Windfall Farms and a drizzle of olive oil
  • the wine was a French (Bordeaux) rosé, Château de Fontenille Rosé Bordeaux 2016, from Chelsea Wine Vault
  • the music was the album, ‘Rameau’s ‘Pièces De Clavecin En Concerts’, five suites published by Jean-Philippe Rameau in 1741, performed here by Kaori Uemura, Christophe Rousset, and Ryo Terakado

monkfish, caper butter, tarragon; warm onion-tomato salad

Do this at home. You’ll love it.

It was, literally, a ‘wonderful’ treat. Monkfish is the delicacy the French know as Lotte, the Italians as Coda di rospo, the Spanish as Rape, the Germans as Seeteufel (the English call it Anglerfish, which in fact is what it is).

It is a very special fish.

Before I had prepared this particular dish I have to say that I had no idea just how wonderful it could be, even though we’ve enjoyed Monkfish often in the past, and I’ve also had fun preparing it.

Where did this recipe come from? I didn’t want to turn on the oven on Wednesday, so that eliminated one of my favorite routines. Also, I wanted to try something other than my usual alternatives, even though we had always thoroughly enjoyed what had become our standards over the years.

I was about to give up the search, through my files, my cookbooks, and then on line, when I came across a recipe attributed to Florence Fabricant that intrigued me for its simple assembly and for its modest, yet slightly odd list of ingredients.

But I was skeptical about the instruction to coat the fish with flour and sautéed on only one side, and also for “no more than a minute or so”; I had never heard of doing such a thing in preparing fish, or meat.  I double-checked the text elsewhere for accuracy, and the same lines came up.

I decided to take a chance (even though I made a note to myself that I might have to flip the fish over, and/or keep it above the flame a little longer). It came together beautifully. Fortunately I had the sense in time to realize the monkfish I had brought home were all about twice the thickness of those described in the recipe, so I sliced them in half horizontally.

This is going to become my new favorite monkfish preparation. I think that the idea of starting with ground mustard seed is a brilliant touch, and I think I payed a modest homage to it by sprinkling some mustard-colored nasturtium blossoms on top at the very end.

  • monkfish with caper butter prepared following this great recipe, starting off, I believe, with 6 tails (14 ounces total) from Blue Moon Fish Company; local North Country Farms Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour seasoned with salt, pepper, and ground mustard seed; unsalted Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter; several minced ramp roots from Berried Treasures Farm (substituting for the shallots); Sicilian salted capers, thoroughly rinsed; organic lemon, juice and wedges, from Whole Foods Market; chopped tarragon leaves from Keith’s Farm; and, my own innovation, a few nasturtium blossoms from Berried Treasures Farm, chopped, on the very top, to finish the dish
  • two large handfuls of tomatoes (2 large red and a number of small multicolored cherry tomatoes) from Alex’s Tomato Farm, allowed to warm and begin to soften inside a tin-lined copper pan in which several halved red spring onions from Alewife Farm had already been sautéed in a little olive oil until they had begun to caramelize, a little minced garlic from Norwich Meadows Farm added near the end, before they had, the tomatoes and alliums seasoned with sea salt, freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, and finished with torn basil from Stokes Farm
  • the wine was a California (Central Coast) white, Rick Boyer Coastal White Blend 2016, from Naked Wines
  • the music was Handel’s ‘Flavio’, René Jacobs conducting Ensemble 415