There was no plan, other than the idea that some baby eggplant would play a major role in this pasta. But then I quickly learned that I had a smaller amount of the vegetable than I had thought, so I looked around the kitchen for a supporting cast.
I ended up with 2 kinds of tomatoes, 2 kinds of allium, and a bit of other stuff. What resulted was so delicious I’d say that the mix had proved to be inspired, except that my choices were more of necessity than imagination.
The biggest surprise however was the way it appeared when it arrived on the table: There were 2 different versions. The first helping was loaded with pieces of eggplant and green tomato, but we couldn’t locate the cherry tomatoes inside the low bowls (the other, thinner and lighter-colored tomato just about melted into the pasta); when I scooped out the second, smaller serving from the pot in which everything had cooked, there were gold cherry tomatoes everywhere, but not a single section of eggplant could be seen. The small tomatoes had apparently slipped through the pasta, with an ease denied the eggplant, with its odd shapes. It’s a mystery why I hadn’t noticed that when serving the pasta, when I could have compensated for it.
- one large clove of Rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm heated with a tablespoon or more of olive oil (more added as needed during the following steps) inside a large tin-lined high-sided pot until softened, followed by 5 or 6 baby white eggplants from Berried Treasures, chopped into bite-size pieces, which were sautéed until they had begun to caramelize before one scarlet or Japanese scallion, thickly-sliced, and finely-chopped pieces of a small Calabrian medium hot cherry pepper from Alewife Farm were added to the pot and allowed to soften, followed by stirring in 10 or so halved ripe orange cherry tomatoes and one small thinly-sliced light green heirloom tomato, all from Berried Treasures Farm, the vegetables seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, and finally 8 ounces of Afeltra linguine from Eataly that had been cooked inside a large pot of salted water until barely al dente, then drained (reserving 1 cup of the cooking water), were added to the vegetables and mixed in, the reserved cooking water added as needed and stirred with the pasta, to emulsify the liquid, served in shallow bowls with a final drizzle of olive oil and sprinkled with Parmigiano-Reggiano Vache Rosse from Eataly
- the wine was an Italian (Friuli) white, Ronchi di Cialla Ribolla Gialla 2015, from Garnet Wines
There was a dessert.
- a scoop of some terrific Riverine Ranch Water Buffalo Sweet Cream Ice Cream [buffalo milk, organic farm eggs, pure cane sugar, organic coconut flour, and salt] dropped into the hollowed-out deseeded cores of 2 horizontally-sliced portions of half of an Asian melon from Norwich Meadows Farm, some blackberries from Locust Grove Orchards scattered over both, and some of the berries, mashed with a little turbinado sugar and a teaspoon or so of Toschi Orzata Orgeat syrup, poured over the top
- one very fresh, fairly-thick 16-ounce Long Island waters swordfish steak from Blue Moon Fish, divided at home into 2 pieces, marinated for half an hour in a mixture of olive oil, much of the pink section of a scarlet/Japanese scallion from Norwich Meadows Farm, some fresh fennel seed from Berried Treasures, and a very small amount of chopped medium hot Calabrian cherry pepper from Alewife Farm, the steaks drained well, coated on both sides with some homemade dried breadcrumbs, pan-grilled over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes on each side, tented with foil for at least a part of that time because of their thickness, removed to 2 plates, seasoned with Maldon salt, some of the juice of an organic lemon from Whole Foods Market squeezed on top, drizzled with a little olive oil, and sprinkled with micro sorrel from Two Guys from Woodbridge
The side dish began with some spectacularly-colored eggplant.
- eight or ten small Turkish eggplants from Norwich Meadows Farm, cut horizontally into 3 slices, mixed with a little olive oil, 2 finely-chopped Rocambole garlic cloves from Keith’s Farm, 6 or 8 pitted and halved Kalamata olives from Whole Foods Market, sea salt, and freshly-ground black pepper, pan-grilled on an enameled cast iron ribbed pan over a brisk flame, turning once or twice, sprinkled with chopped spearmint leaves from Stokes Farm, served on the plates and finished with a drizzle of olive oil
- torn pieces of an ‘everyday baguette’ from Hot Bread Kitchen
There was a small tomato salad served in small dishes on the side, which was included only because, while I was preparing the rest of the meal, Barry had noticed the largest of a small cache of heirlooms on the windowsill had begun to exude some of its goodness onto the surface.
- one beautifully-catfaced [I should definitely have photographed it] large orange heirloom tomato from Berried Treasures, cut into bite-size sections or wedges, served with olive oil, a bit of lemon juice, salt, pepper, chopped lovage from Keith’s Farm, and chopped parsley from S. & S.O. Farm
- the wine was an Italian (Sicily) white, Ippolito Vini Grillo 2016, from Manley’s Wine & Spirits, 35 8th Avenue
- the music was Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s 1685 chamber opera, ‘La Descente D’orphée’, in a performance by William Christie and Les Arts Florissants
So it was just chicken, but it seemed to me it would be a very good chicken. I also had the help of some wonderful foraged mushrooms.
It was very good chicken.
And there was excellent wine.
I had bought the wild mushrooms at the Union Square Greenmarket. I knew I wouldn’t be able to use them that night, but I hadn’t thought about what I would cook them with the next day until after I had left the square and was approaching 23rd Street. I realized I didn’t have anything suitable at home, but I was already some distance from the farmers’ market, so I checked out my local Flatiron district Eataly, where I found they had product, new to me, that it seemed a perfect candidate.
The peppers were also pretty special.
- two partially-boned Cascun Farm chicken thighs (a total of one pound) from Eataly, browned on both sides inside a heavy oval cast iron enameled pot (one with a secure cover) just large enough for the chicken in some olive oil, removed and set aside, a little butter added and melted, 3 whole Rocambole garlic cloves from Keith’s Farm; one small red onion from Norwich Meadows Farm, halved and broken up a bit; and some crushed dried dark habanada pepper added to the pot and heated over a moderate flame until the alliums had softened and colored, then nearly 4 ounces of foraged Wine-cap mushrooms [Stropharia rugosoannulata] from Windfall Farms, roughly chopped, tossed in, stirred, and allowed to soften, the chicken returned to the pot, about 1/4 cup of a proper white wine added (Quinta da Aveleda Vinho Verde 2016, which we have been enjoying as an aperitif) and brought to a boil, the heat lowered to a steady simmer, the pot covered and the chicken and the other ingredients cooked until all were tender, or about 40 minutes, served on a crusty slice of ’12 Grain & Seed Bread’ (organic wheat and whole wheat with 12 cracked grains and seeds) from Bread Alone, the chicken garnished with chopped lovage from Keith’s Farm [the recipe which inspired this, from ‘Chicken Parts, 12 Ways‘, one suggests spreading the softened garlic onto the bread before placing the chicken and the rest of the sauce on top, but I forgot]
- some ‘Mars’ (sweet, citrusy) French heirloom peppers from Campo Rosso Farm, cut once lengthwise, the seeds and membranes removed, sautéed over a high flame until slightly caramelized, one sliced Japanese scallion, a chopped section from a small Calabrian medium hot cherry pepper from Alewife Farm, and a pinch of crushed dark dried habanada pepper added near the end, the mix tossed with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper and sprinkled with some chopped summer savory from Ryder Farm, served with a drizzle of olive oil
- the wine was a terrific French (Chinon) red, Bernard Baudry ‘Les Grézeaux’ Chinon 2011, the gift of some wonderful friends
- the music was Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s 1693 tragédie mise en musique, ‘Médée’, composed with a libretto by Corneille, in a performance by William Christie and Les Arts Florissants
Really, really good.
It was also very good for anyone’s budget, regardless of how small: The squid was $6.95 per pound, and I brought home enough for both of us for $6.
We couldn’t decide whether the seafood or the vegetable part of this meal was more delicious; they both were pretty awesome, so we called it a draw.
We enjoy squid regardless of how it’s prepared. This time I decided to work it on top of the stove, mostly because I didn’t want a hot oven to add to the discomfort of a warm, humid evening, even if it would be on for only a few minutes.
The accompaniment to the cephalopods became something of a salmagundi, because I didn’t have a sufficient amount of any one vegetable to serve alone.
It started with a modest bulb of fennel (which cost about half what the squid had, and it came with stems for an easy crudité, and fronds for a garnish).
- cleaned Squid, bodies and tentacles, from Blue Moon Fish, marinaded for half an hour in a mixture of zest and juice from one organic Whole Foods Market lemon; sliced garlic from Keith’s Farm; olive oil; dried Sicilian oregano; part of a dried golden/orange habanada; part of a small Calabrian medium hot cherry pepper, chopped, from Alewife Farm; salt, and pepper, drained, then pan grilled, turning once, arranged on the plates, drizzled with more lemon, finished with chopped parsley from S. & S.O. Farm and chopped lovage from Keith’s Farm
- one fennel bulb, from Lucky Dog Organic Farm, cut as wedges on the radius of its core, sautéed inside a large, high-sided tin-lined copper pan with a couple tablespoons of olive oil until beginning to color, then one thickly-sliced clove of Rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm, chopped pieces of that same small Calabrian medium hot cherry pepper from Alewife Farm, and some dried Sicilian fennel seeds from Buon Italia added and stirred until the garlic had softened and the mix had become pungent, followed by the addition of a handful of halved ripe orange cherry tomatoes from Berried Treasures, which were stirred in and briefly heated before the pan was removed from the burner, then some of the more tender fennel fronds, chopped, also stirred in, the vegetables served on the plates with a sprinkling of more fennel fronds
- there were slices of ’12 Grain & Seed bread’ (organic wheat and whole wheat with 12 cracked grains and seeds) from the Bread Alone stand in the Union Square Greenmarket, to ensure that none of the juices from the squid or the fennel dish would be wasted
- the wine was an Italian (Sicily), Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Bianco 2016, from Garnet Wines & Liquors
- the music was Mozart’s Violin Concerto in A Major, K. 219, and Henri Vieuxtemps’Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 31, Hilary Hahn, Violin, with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, conducted by Paavo Järvi
The idea for the steak came first, but when I saw these baby artichokes at the Greenmarket stand of one of my favorite farmers, it was more like the meal had been conceived as a whole.
I didn’t know what I was going to do with these little thistle buds, but this time I was resolved to remove more of the indigestible parts than I’m known to do sometimes, anxious to avoid wasting any of the goodness.
I also decided on a pretty minimal treatment as the proper accompaniment for a luscious steak.
- one one-pound Angus boneless ribeye, “pasture-raised, grain-fed, grain-finished”, from Diamond Creek Ranch in Wilsey, Kansas, via Eataly, brought to room temperature, dried, well-seasoned with freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, placed on a very hot cast iron pan grill for just under 5 minutes on each side, turning 3 times, adding salt once a surface had been seared, removed and arranged on the plates, a little organic lemon juice from Whole Foods Market squeezed on top, sprinkled with some chopped rosemary from Phillips Farm and a bit of finely-chopped green sections of a scarlet, or Japanese scallion, finished with a drizzle of olive oil
- ten or eleven ounces of baby artichokes from Alewife Farm, their outer petals peeled off and discarded, and stems and tips trimmed, halved lengthwise, each tossed into a bowl of cold water and lemon juice while being processed, drained when all had been prepared, added to a layer of olive oil over a medium flame in a large non-reactive pan, in this case, a high-sided ton-lined copper pot, seasoned with salt and pepper, stirred 5 to 7 minutes until slightly browned, two cloves of chopped Rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm, bit of a small Calabrian medium hot cherry pepper from Alewife Farm, chopped, and a couple tablespoons of chopped parsley from S. & S.O. Farm added to the pan, the vegetables transferred to the plates, where they were sprinkled with a few drops of a good Rioja wine vinegar [they can be enjoyed hot, warm, or at room temperature]
- ten small golden cherry tomatoes from Berried Treasures Farm, washed, dried, pierced with sharp point to avoid explosions on the plate, heated inside a small tin-lined copper pan with a little olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and fresh pepper, sprinkled with chopped fresh oregano from Keith’s Farm
- the wine was a Portuguese (Alentejano) red, Herdade dos Grous Alentejano Tinto 2013, from Manley’s Wines in the West Village
- the music was Leif Ove Andnes playing Sibelius piano works