My recipe says ‘sea bream’ but my fish monger says ‘porgy’. They’re both right, as it turns out.
- their presentation began with a salsa prepared by heating 3 tablespoons of a Portuguese house olive oil from Whole Foods Market inside a vintage Corning Pyrex Flameware blue-glass pot pot over a gentle flame, adding 5 ounces of tomatoes, a mix of red grape tomatoes from Kernan Farms and golden cherry tomatoes from Alex’s Tomato Farm, and 2 ounces or so of pitted whole kalamata olives from Whole Foods Market, seasoning the mix with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, stirring for a minute or 2, the pan set aside to cool, and some chopped fresh lovage from Two Guys from Woodbridge and an equal amount of chopped fresh spicy oregano leaves from Windfall Farms (several tablespoons altogether) were, reserving some for garnish, stirred into the salsa, the juice of half of an organic lemon from Whole Foods Market added and the salsa stirred once again before being set aside while the fish was prepared
- four 3 and a half-ounce porgy fillets from P.E & D.D. Seafood, their skin slashed with a very sharp knife in 2 or 3 places each, placed, skin side down, in a little very hot olive oil inside a large rectangular enameled cast iron pan sitting over a high flame, the flesh side of the fish seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, cooked for 2 or 3 minutes until the flesh was dark golden and the skin crisp’, the fillets turned over, cooked on the other side for 1 minute, basting with the oil in the pan, if any, until the fillets were just cooked through, arranged on the plates on top of the salsa described above, garnished with micro scallion from Two Guys from Woodbridge
I saw these bunches of celtuce (aka ‘stem lettuce’ or ‘asparagus lettuce’) in the market that same afternoon. In fact I had a choice of 2 inside Lani’s Farm tent. One was more green than the other, and looked like what I would expect to find. Its sign read, I think, only, ‘celtuce’. The other was labelled, ‘Purple Sword celtuce’. I asked the helper near the tables in that area of the stall which one I should pick. He gave it a thought for a couple seconds, then replied that I should probably go for the latter, adding, before I could ask why, that, because it was purple, it would be richer in antioxidants. I really have no idea what that means, but I generally trust the farmers.
- one bundle of some small-diameter ‘Purple Sword celtuce‘ from Lani’s Farm, the leaves, removed from the ‘stalks’, washed several times, wilted in a bit of olive oil and set aside, then the stalks, scrubbed, cut into one-inch sections, briefly par-boiled, drained and dried, sautéed in a little olive over a moderate flame for a minute or two, along with some chopped spring garlic from Berried Treasures Farm, the celtuce leaves reserved earlier now gently reheated and distributed onto the plates as a bed for the cooked stalks, some chopped lovage from Two Guys from Woodbridge sprinkled about on both, and some toasted pine nuts that had earlier been heated, stirring, inside a cast iron pan until they had begun to brown scattered on top
- the wine was a California (Santa Lucia Highlands/Monterey County) rosé, 99 Barrels Derek Rohlffs Santa Lucia Highlands Rosé, from Naked Wines
- the music was Rossini’s 1817 opera, ‘La Cenerentola’, Riccardo Chailly conducting the Bologna Teatro Comunale Orchestra and the Bologna Teatro Comunale Chorus
The meal began with the idea of sausage, and it turned out to be one described as ‘Spanish style’, from a German-American butcher shop (on the Tuesday of the previous week I had asked Barry to bring some back when he was near one of our favorite shops in Yorkville).
Dinner moved on into cucumber territory (cooked cucumber, and so belonging to any number of cooking traditions, perhaps especially that of eastern Asia, but not the United States).
Then I remembered I had bought some Moroccan M’smen at the Greenmarket 2 days before. That naturally led to the spiced Labneh, (its origins are in the Levant, the eastern Mediterranean generally, including Greece, plus the Middle East, and Central and southern Asia) that I had been given by a Union Square Greenmarket farmer on the Wednesday before and had not yet even tasted.
The wine, a California zinfandel, came next. The last guest to join the party was Moondog, and I have no idea where to locate him geographically.
It was just a little bit like the the International Express, although perhaps a train waiting on a sidetrack, with people, mostly strangers, sharing food. It was delicious and in the end it managed to feel of a piece with some culinary tradition, even if I couldn’t put my finger on it. Maybe the greater Mediterranean (all sides of it)?
- four links of ‘Spanish Style Chorizo’ (12 ounces) from Schaller & Weber’s store, pan grilled for a few minutes, turning often until carbonized somewhat on all sides, spread with the last of a jar of wonderful Inglehoffer cranberry mustard sauce (I’m now looking for more)
- two pieces of Hot Bread Kitchen Moroccan M’smen, heated separately over a medium flame in a very large cast iron dry skillet for about one minute on each side, served with a large dollop of spiced Labneh from Courtney and Brian Foley’s Riverine Ranch
- four small Kirby cucumbers from Alex’s Tomato Farm at Chelsea’s Down to Earth Farmers Market on 23rd Street (they had begun in a high tunnel early in the spring, and were then opened up to the weather by mid-May), washed, dried, chopped into disks, sautéed in a tablespoon or so of olive oil inside a medium copper pot over medium heat until beginning to turn brown in places, and, just before that moment, one small sliced red onion from Norwich Meadows Farm was added and stirred until softened, then a bit of chopped lovage from Two Guys from Woodbridge and a sprinkle of fenugreek from Nirmala Gupta (of the 23rd Street Market’s ‘Bombay Emerald Chutney Company‘) added near the end, the vegetables arranged on the plates, with a little more lovage tossed on top
- the wine was a zinfandel a Califronia (Lodi) red, Karen Birmingham Reserve Zinfandel Lodi 2015, from Naked Wines
- the music was the 2010 album, ‘Moondog: Sidewalk Dances‘
It was one of the more minimal, and one of the best, examples of this sort of half-traditional/half created Sunday breakfast that I’ve ever thrown together; the fact that I didn’t lose a single one of the 6 yolks is only a part of that boast, but I feel like it’s a good part.
- the ingredients were Americauna chicken eggs and thick smoked bacon from Millport Dairy Farm, golden cherry tomatoes from Alex’s Tomato Farm, red grape tomatoes from Kernan Farms, a dry seasoning called L’ekama from Ron & Leetal Arazi’s New York Shuk, micro scallion from Two Guys from Woodbridge, thyme from Stokes Farm, Maldon salt, freshly-ground Whole Foods Market house black pepper and their house Portuguese olive oil (both very, very good), small-leaf Sylvetta ‘wild’ arugula from Willow Wisp Organic Farm, and lightly-toasted slices of She Wolf Bakery Toasted Sesame Wheat loaf
- the music was Messiaen’s ‘Vingt regards sur l’enfant Jésus‘, performed by Joanna MacGregor
Just straight scallops this time, but I couldn’t resist adding the beautiful micro red basil.
- ten medium-large Hamptons Bay sea scallops (14 ounces altogether) from American Seafood Company, washed, drained and very thoroughly dried on paper towels (twice), generously seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, pan grilled for about 90 seconds on each side, finished with a squeeze of organic lemon from Whole Foods Market and some Frankies 457 Sicilian olive oil, the gift of a friend, arranged on 2 plates and garnished with micro red basil from Two Guys from Woodbridge
- a mix of red grape tomatoes from Kernan Farms and golden cherry tomatoes from Alex’s Tomato Farm, heated in a little olive oil inside a medium copper pot in which some chopped garlic scapes had first been sautéed until tender seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, sprinkled with chopped spicy oregano from Windfall Farms, arranged on a bed of Sylvetta ‘wild’ arugula from Willow Wisp Organic Farm that had been seasoned with Frankies 457 olive oil, sea salt, and freshly-ground black pepper
- the wine was a California (Lodi) white, Karen Birmingham Sauvignon Blanc Lodi 2017, from Naked Wines
- the music was the ECM album, ‘Siwan’, with Jon Balke, Amina Alaqui, Jon Hassell, Kheir Eddine M’Kachiche, and Bjarte Eike
I swear I wasn’t trying for the purple thing, but I have to admit that sometimes it can look very cool.
- three stems of spring garlic from Berried Treasures Farm, cut into one-inch lengths, sautéed until softened in a little Whole Foods Market Portuguese house olive oil and Organic Valley ‘Cultured Pasture Butter’ inside a large rectangular, enameled cast iron pan over medium heat, then removed and discarded, or maybe set aside for another day [NOTE: this first step, in which mature garlic could be substituted at other times of the year is definitely optional, especially if the cook is in a hurry], a little more oil and butter added, the flame raised to medium-high and two nearly-8-ounce sea bass fillets from Pura Vida Seafood Company, previously rinsed, dried with paper towels, and seasoned with sea salt, added to the pan and seared, skin side down first, for 3 to 4 minutes (the skin should be nicely golden and fairly crisp by then), turned over and cooked for another minute or so, removed and placed on 2 plates, kept warm, either in a warm oven or tented with aluminum foil, and half a dozen or more tender garlic scapes from Windfall Farms sautéed briefly until softened, the scapes divided between the 2 warm plates and a bass fillet placed on or under them, finished with a generous squeeze of an organic Whole Foods Market lemon, and garnished with micro red basil from Two Guys from Woodbridge, lemon wedges placed in small containers on the side of the plates
- one bunch of beautiful spicy purple radishes from Berried Treasures Farm, the leaves removed, rinsed in several changes of water and set aside, the radishes themselves washed, scrubbed, and cut into wedges, before they were sautéed in a little olive oil inside a copper skillet for a few minutes, one sliced small-to-medium red onion from Norwich Meadow Farm added near the end of the cooking, along with a pinch of peperoncino Calabresi secchia from Buon Italia, after which the reserved radish leaves, now cut very roughly, were introduced into the pan, stirred, and allowed to wilt, the vegetables sprinkled with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, a little white wine poured in and stirred until the liquid had evaporated
- the wine was a Portuguese (Alentejo) white, Esporao Alandra Branco 2016, from Garnet Wines
- the music was Jacob Cooper’s label debut album, ‘Silver Threads’, a six-song cycle performed by soprano Mellissa Hughes