It was to be four of us for dinner. There would be the same number of courses, but only one of them required any real cooking, and very little cooking at that. The kitchen therefore never had the chance to heat up (although, since we ate in the dining room/gallery, I suppose it wouldn’t have mattered much anyway). Also, while normally I have difficulty interacting with guests as I would like to while cooking, I really knew my way around each of these four plates, so I was able to invite everyone into the kitchen area while I was still working on them. Yay!
I really recommend these ‘recipes’ to anyone who might have the same entertaining parameters.
Also, the meal was delicious; the main course featured two of my favorite things, they were both incredibly fresh (probably caught and picked the day before), and they were prepared in just about the simplest way possible.
The tuna, which followed a serving of Speck and greens, was prepared using Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers‘s simple recipe; the very basic treatment of the okra was a suggestion I had come across somewhere long ago; and the intentionally un-spicy cherry tomato salsa was another simple treatment, my own invention.
- three tuna steaks from P.E. & D.D. Seafood (they totaled about 28 ounces, to feed four), small sections of each removed to make up a fourth serving, tops and bottoms of the steaks rubbed with a mixture of fennel seed and crushed dried peperoncino peppers which had been ground together, seasoned with salt, and pepper, then pan-grilled for only a minute or so on each side, and finished with a good squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil
- a combination of small green and purple okra (about a pound) from Ryder Farm, sautéed in olive oil with additional crushed dried pepperoncini in an iron pan over a high flame, then seasoned with salt (the purple ends up more or less a darker green when cooked)
- really tiny red cherry tomatoes from Berried Treasures (Franca could not remember at the moment I asked her exactly what they were called), which I sliced most of the way through so they wouldn’t explode when picked up with a fork, tossed with good olive oil, salt, pepper, Thai basil from a friend’s garden in Garrison, New York, and some garlic chive flowers from Paffenroth Farms, then left to sit for about an hour before being served in bowls to the side of the dinner plates
Speck has become one of our favorite antipasti. For some reason it always makes me feel it’s part of a festive occasion, and this time it genuinely was, since we were sharing it with good friends, and they had thoughtfully brought along a bottle of an excellent Austrian sparkling wine (this is probably not the right time for me to bring up the historical connection between the Südtiroler Speck and the country in which the Grüner Veltlinger Sekt was produced). I served the salumi with a very good bread and a bit of arugula (as it turned out, too small of a bit, so I added some celery leaves I had on hand).
- thinly-sliced Alto Adige Speck from Eataly, each piece rolled around a fork’s tines and put on a plate where it was drizzled with some very good olive oil, and accompanied by arugula from Keith’s Farm which I had mixed with a smaller amount of roughly-chopped celery leaves from Whole Foods, the greens seasoned and dressed with the same good oil and drops of lemon
- the antipasto was accompanied by slices of a loaf of ‘rustic classic’ from Eataly
After the tuna, there were three regional cheeses (‘Manchester’ and a special late-season ‘Danby’, both goat cheeses from Consider Bardwell Farm; and ‘Brebis Blanche’, a sheep cheese with a coating of ground mixed pepper, from 3-Corner Field Farm), served with thinly-sliced ‘Rustic Classic’ from Eataly, toasted.
The dessert was some of Berried Treasures’s celebrated strawberries (the breed a mix of domestic and wild), topped with a scoop of Madagascar Vanilla Ciao Bello gelato, with a sauce composed of a few of the berries which had been macerated a bit with Toschi Orzata Orgeat syrup spread over the ice cream and garnished with chopped hazelnuts.
- the wine with the Speck was an Austrian sparkling white, Szigeti Grüner Veltliner Brut from Gols, on the Neusiedler See, in Burgenland
- the wine with the tuna was a New York Cabernet Franc rosé, Schneider & Bieler Rosé “le breton” 2014 from the Fingerlakes
- the name of the wine with the cheese course has faded from my memory
- The after-dinner drink was Varnelli L’Anice Secco Speciale Mistra Liqueur, from the Marche.
- the music was our own conversation