Month: July 2015

butterfish, breaded, sautéed; heirloom tomato salsa


Three butterfish, their fins removed in this picture, but still waiting to be cleaned, resting next to the sink on a sheet of parchment.


They were beautiful, and they were delicious, but, note to self: I’m not likely to prepare them again. It’s about those bones.

But now, as I continue working on this post the next afternoon, I’m thinking:  They really were beautiful, and very tasty; maybe if I had a little more patience, and took a little more time with the fillet knife…?



This picture shows what the butterfish looked like when they reached our ancient dining table.



And this one includes, at the lower right of the second basket/tray from the bottom, the one-pound heirloom tomato which became a salsa all by itself.


Barry was going to be in a Catskills wilderness from Wednesday through Friday, ‘camping out’ with his Artsy coworkers.  I would have gone to the Union Square Greenmarket yesterday out of habit alone, but I also still wanted to eat well.  More and more, for us, ‘eating well’ has come to mean seafood, so seafood it would be.  Since I was going to be the only guest at the table, I decided to try to find something I hadn’t cooked before, something with which I might take a chance, exposing only myself to the possibility of failure.

Blue Moon Fish had a few butterfish left when I got there at 11:30, a very few – one more than the two visible, in fact, once Margo had scooped through the ice to find the third.  I had never cooked butterfish, but I was so excited with their simple beauty that I didn’t even think about the fact that they weren’t yet cleaned, and I also had no idea what I was going to do with them.

There was also a certain amount of pride in buying my dinner, 11 ounces of whole fish, for only $2.25 ($3.50/lb) when some popular, premium species might sell for, . . . yup, up to seven times that price.  Then there are those bones.

I cut off their fins (not quite deeply enough, it turned out, in the case of the dorsal and ventral rows), gutted them (I was surprised at how tiny was the pocket occupied by the innards), keeping heads and tails intact with the bodies, washed them and returned them to the refrigerator, to turn to assembling a recipe I might use.

I knew I might spend some time removing the fillets from the bone, so whatever vegetable accompaniment I selected would have to be happy sitting around for a while.  The decision to use a tomato salsa was more or less determined for me by the ripeness of a single large heirloom which had been sitting on our table for a few days.

  • three whole butterfish, from Blue Moon Fish, cleaned, brought to room temperature, rinsed, dried, brushed with olive oil, seasoned inside with salt, pepper, and a couple of sprigs of thyme from Keith’s Farm, rolled in homemade breadcrumbs seasoned with salt, pepper, and more thyme now chopped, sautéed over a medium-high flame for a total of 6 minutes in olive oil and butter (turning once) in an enameled cast iron pan, removed, placed on a small, oval, antique ironstone platter, a bit of lemon then squeezed over the top, some clippings of chives from Stokes Farm added, and olive oil drizzled over all
  • one large (one pound) ‘grotesque’ heirloom tomato from Norwich Meadows Farm, chopped, placed in a small bowl with two small fresh garlic cloves from Lucky Dog Organic, slightly crushed (and removed later), two tablespoons of olive oil, and a third of a cup of herbs, meaning a mix of most of what I had on hand (other than the thyme or chives), salt, and pepper, then allowed to sit on the counter for about half an hour before being drained and placed in a jolly black Fiesta bowl
  • slices of whole wheat (‘Integrale’) bread from Eataly, to absorb the salsa juinces
  • the wine was an Italian white,from the Marche, Falerio dei Colli Ascolani 2013, from Saladini Pilastri
  • the music was John Adams’s Los Angeles symphony, ‘City Noir’, performed by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, David Robertson conducting

sea robin fillets with tapenade; okra; tomato salad


Note to self:  The fish was astoundingly good, in both taste and texture, and the vegetables, which actually happened to be what I had on hand, excellent accompaniments.


There really are other fish in the sea. And some of them are scrumptious.

Please do not tell anyone about the ‘sea robin’, or ‘gurnard’who might not discover this post on their own;  its impecunious devotees might become very angry with me if the news of its virtues were broadcast too widely.  This delicious, yet widely and unfairly disparaged fish, is incredibly tasty, very inexpensive, and, in our experience on this occasion at least, without bones.   Found in abundance in seas from Southern New England and New York to Cape Hatteras, the species is among the least expensive, and apparently least endangered, of any of those harvested from our local waters; I can attest to their numbers anecdotally, having actually gone out into local coastal waters to pull in some cousins of theirs who are generally regarded as a far more desirable catch.

Now I can also attest to their toothsomeness.

The price of Sea Robin reflects its demand (pretty weak) and its supply (a seeming abundance).  $5.45 was enough to bring home the six fillets, which weighed a total of about .82 pounds, an amount which worked out perfectly as portion for two.

I found almost no information on their cooking (even Mark Bittman is silent on this species, in his book and anywhere else on line), but since our Sea Robin is related to the Mediterranean Rascasse, I searched under that name and came up with this recipe, for Rascasse à la tapenade.  Since deciding to use it, I’ve come across a couple more, and I expect to take advantage of my new, small inspirational ‘index card’ recipe bounty following future visits to my local fish mongers.

  • six small fillets of sea robin, aka ‘gurnard’, from P.E. & D.D. Seafood, rinsed, pat dry, then placed in a pan of sizzling olive oil and sautéed over medium-high heat for barely 2 minutes on each side, transferred to two plates, a little lemon squeezed on top and a bit of a tapenade sauce* spread over the fillets, which were garnished with fresh basil off of a plant from Full Bloom Market Garden in Whately, Massachusetts, purchased at Whole Foods and currently happy in one of our south windows
  • a few purple okra from Lani’s Farm, remaining from the batch we enjoyed yesterday, again sautéed in olive oil with crushed dried chiles in an iron pan over a high flame, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • a salad of tiny golden cherry tomatoes from Eckerton Hill Farm and two very ripe Maine cherry ‘cocktail’ tomatoes from Whole Foods, dressed with a good olive oil, salt. pepper, a few drops of balsamic vinegar, and chopped fresh oregano from Lani’s Farm
  • the wine was a Spanish white, Naia D.O. Rueda 2014, from Verdejo old vines
  • the music was Giovanni Paisiello’s 1782 ‘Il Barbiere di Siviglia‘ (one of the composer’s 94 operas), conducted by Adam Fisher


* see this recipe for details (in which I incorporated Gaeta olives, salted capers, and one salted anchovy, all from Buon Italia, and some chopped fresh thyme from Keith’s Farm)

lamb chops with sorrel butter; okra; heirlooms


Note to self:  This entire meal was a tasty delight, presumably as much for the quality of the ingredients as for the simple preparation, and accolades go to the modest cheese course as well (small portions of three cheeses, and some whole wheat toasts), which is not described here.


At the Greenmarket on Saturday I tried to think of something with which the beautiful purple okra I had picked up earlier would be a good match.  Then I was happily reminded that 3-Corner Field Farm was a part of the Union Square Greenmarket on that day. I bought a package of four thick loin chops, which were frozen.  When I got home, I let them defrost just enough to separate the sections, so that I could place two chops in the freezer, and also two in the refrigerator, where they would defrost overnight.

The entrée I put together the next day represented the fairly rare appearance of red meat on our table, especially in the summer, but this particular appearance was a very good one.

  • two thick loin lamb chops from 3-Corner Field Farm, cooked on a very hot grill pan for about 4 minutes on each side, finished with one small sliced shallot from John C. Madura Farms,  a squeeze of lemon, a spreading of wood sorrel butter (the sorrel from Bodhitree Farm), and a drizzle of olive oil
  • purple okra from Lani’s Farm, sautéed with crushed dried chiles in an iron pan over a high flame, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • sliced red and yellow heirloom tomatoes from Stokes Farm, dressed with some good olive oil, salt, pepper, and a small amount of balsamic vinegar
  • the wine was an Italian red, a very good Poliziano Rosso di Montepulciano 2012
  • the music was an incredibly exciting performance of St. John Cage’s ‘Credo in Us’, by the Amadinda Percussion Group

rillettes; then hake (nasello dorato), baby artichokes


The first course, of rillettes, with a condiment, was the fruit of an impulse purchase.


The hake appeared on the table on Saturday because we hadn’t enjoyed that noble fish in three months, and because I had spotted some very fresh-looking fillets at the Greenmarket earlier in the day.  As I had once before, again trying to avoid turning on the oven on a summer evening, I used a recipe originally calling for cod, merluzzo dorato, I substituted hake (making it nasello dorato), as the two fish are very similar.  It’s the late Kyle Phillips‘s terrific recipe.

  • hake fillets from Seatuck Fish Company, dredged in seasoned flour and dipped in a beaten egg from Millport Dairy, sautéed in butter, along with a handful of chopped fresh oregano from Lani’s Farm, then sprinkled with lemon juice and the pan juices that remained
  • their outer petals peeled off and discarded, stems and tips trimmed, baby artichokes from S. & S.O. Produce Farms, quartered lengthwise (each placed in a bowl of water and lemon juice while being processed) and drained when all were ready to cook, added to a layer of olive oil over a medium flame in a large non-reactive pan (in this case, enameled cast iron), seasoned with salt and pepper, stirred 5 to 7 minutes until slightly browned, some red pepper flakes, two finely-chopped fresh garlic cloves from Lucky Dog Organic, and a couple tablespoons of chopped parsley from Keith’s Farm added to the pan, the vegetables finally transferred to plates and sprinkled with a few drops of a chianti wine vinegar


spinach ravioli with heirloom, scapes, oregano


This meal was really tossed together in minutes.  We had returned relatively late from an evening of David Moss and Harry Partch because afterward we visited with friends who were also in the audiences. Also, it was a ‘school night’, so we couldn’t eat as late as we might otherwise.

  • fresh Rana spinach-and-ricotta-filled ravioli from Eataly, cooked and drained, mixed with a handful of fairly small garlic scapes from Lucky Dog Organic which had been sautéed in olive oil until almost tender, then sections of a ripe heirloom tomato from Norwich Meadows Farm gently stirred into the mix, and chopped fresh oregano from Lani’s Farm tossed on top
  • the wine was a white Italian, Le Salse Verdicchio di Matelica 2014
  • the music was Barbara Benary’s ‘Aural Shoehorning’