Month: November 2015

grilled shrimp, lemon, oregano; smoked eel pasta primi


minimal, ungenerous? but it took so long to eat that it still felt like enough


There was also a primi, so the relatively small secondo seen in the image above would probably have felt like enough for a satisfying dinner even if we hadn’t spent a lot of time peeling those five or six fresh shrimp.  Grilling with the shells however, even pan grilling, is important for realizing the full taste of some wonderful fresh decapods.

I arrived at the Greenmarket just in time to grab the last of Jean Claude’s shrimp on Friday.  Since they weighed in at somewhat less than what I would have preferred, I just added a first course to our dinner;  this one could not have been easier to prepare, and it featured another great sea creature.

  • less than half a pound of fresh whole Hudson Valley ECO shrimp, cut all of the way up the middle of their backs with a small kitchen shears (but still retaining the shells, as well as the heads and the tails), tossed with perhaps only two thirds of a dressing consisting of 1 large garlic clove from Northshire Farm mashed in a mortar along with a fourth of a teaspoon of salt and mixed with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, ground black pepper, and most of one not-so-hot Cayenne thin red pepper from Oak Grove Plantation, finely-chopped, then one fourth of a cup of olive oil poured into the blend in a slow stream, while stirring, to emulsify it, and almost 2 teaspoons of super-pungent dried Italian oregano from Buon Italia added at the end, and left to marinate for less than 15 minutes; one lemon, cut into segments, lightly brushed with a little of the dressing, pan grilled until grill marks appear, and transferred to plates, immediately replaced on the pan by the shrimp, turned once, for about 4 minutes, or until cooked, served with the remaining dressing
  • husk cherries from Norwich Meadows Farm, tossed with a handful of torn delicious ‘wild’ arugula from Lani’s Farm, dressed together with good olive oil, a drizzle of organic lemon, salt, and pepper, served in a bowl on the side [note; once again I forgot top halve the little fruits, which made picking them up about as tedious as removing the shells from the shrimp]



Before the shrimp we enjoyed a primi which was simply what had remained from the main course of a meal we had a few days earlier.

  • two cazuelas holding a small amount of the smoked eel pasta served last Sunday, a little reserved pasta water stirred in, slipped into a 350º oven for about ten minutes, drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with a crunchy pangratatto
  • the wine was an Italian (Marche) white, Le Salse Verdicchio di Matelica 2014
  • the music was Poppy Ackroyd

lemon and chile herring; tomato-caper salsa, garlic potato


thinking the award for most photogenic fish fillet goes to the oily fish family


In the first minutes after arriving at the fish stall in the Greenmarket I thought my choice would be swordfish or blackfish/tautog, maybe a sea bass or hake fillet, but when I saw these beautiful herring I couldn’t resist their beauty, even though I had no idea what I was going to do with them.

In the evening I went for very simple approach, one which involved lots of lemon, and a good helping of chiles, and tamed the fish with a tomato-caper salsa, and twice-cooked potatoes. It was very similar to the treatment I had often given to mackerel, originally a Sicilian-inspired recipe from Michael White.


seasoned, ready for the grill pan





  • eight one-and-a-half-ounce herring fillets from Pura Vida Fisheries, washed, dried, dusted with the zest of one and a half lemons, one and a half dried peperoncini, crushed, salt, and freshly ‘ground’ (I always use an ancient wooden mortar) pepper, placed skin side down on a ridged grill pan, cooked for 1 or 2 minutes, turned and cooked for 1 or 2 minutes more, drizzled with olive oil, served with lemon ‘eighths’, and a tomato-caper salsa
  • a salsa of halved red grape tomatoes from the gentler southern jersey climes of Kernan Farms, tossed with olive oil, salted capers which had been rinsed and drained, some finely-sliced fresh garlic from Norwich Meadows Farm, lemon juice, salt, and pepper,
  • four German Butterball potatoes from Berried Treasures, scrubbed and boiled in salted water until just tender, then drained and dried, cut into approximately one-inch sections, cooked in 3 tablespoons of oil over high heat until beginning to brown lightly (about 5 minutes), the flame turned down, one sliced medium clove of garlic from Norwich Meadows Farm added and cooked with the potatoes for about 3 more minutes, or until both potatoes really are brown and garlic crisp, seasoned with salt and pepper, served alongside the fish and salsa
  • the wine was a Portuguese (Dão) white, Casa de Mouraz, Dão Blanco ‘Encruzado’ 2013, from Flatiron Wines & Spirits
  • the music was an album of works by the almost-forgotten eighteenth-century composer Marianna Martines (hers is an amazing story)

grilled tuna; grilled Thai eggplant; cherry tomatoes; arugula


nightshades, with a little fish on the side


The meal ended up a great mix of flavors (and colors, clearly) but it was almost entirely fortuitous, to the extent that I feel my role was only to only to guide it into place.

I had bought the tuna in the morning, and the red grape tomatoes in the picture, far more than are shown here.  I expected to use the tuna that night, but not the tomatoes, since I already had some golden cherry tomatoes ripening on the windowsill.

Once I started assembling the meal I realized that 10 tiny cherry tomatoes wouldn’t even be enough for a proper garnish, so I added some of my red grape purchase to the bowl where I had put them.  Although mostly accidental, the mix turned out to be inspired; they made a great team.

The choice of another vegetable was almost a tossup, the decision ultimately resting on deciding what I already had should be used first, but at the same time would go well with the tuna.

I had been attracted to the eggplant on a Greenmarket visit two days earlier.  These four happened to be the very last of the larger examples remaining in the plastic pan in the farm stall. I thought the sign had said ‘Fairy eggplants’, although I should have known that that wasn’t what they were.   But I was in a hurry, so I just paid for them and headed home.

They turned out to be absolutely delicious, at least as good as any other type I’ve cooked, and my experience with eggplant has always been very, very good.  It was only after dinner that I took the time to investigate on line what they really were.  I found that they were Thai eggplant, of which, I’m not surprised, there are many varieties.

Supposedly Thai eggplant becomes increasingly bitter as it ages.  These had obviously not aged.

I love the vegetables.

I had already washed and dried a little arugula, which I thought I would somehow marry with the golden tomatoes, but I realized that didn’t sound promising, and it was about then that I decided to marry the two different tomatoes.

The arugula was good enough to stand on its own, so I put it into bowls on the side, by itself, very simply dressed.

  • one tuna steak from Blue Moon Fish Company, divided into two, rubbed with a mixture of dry fennel seed and one dried peperoncino, ground together, additionally seasoned with salt and pepper, then pan-grilled for only a little more than a minute or so on each side, finished with a good squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil
  • four small Thai eggplants from Lani’s Farm, halved, seasoned by being placed face-down in a shallow bowl containing a mix chopped fresh oregano from Rise & Root Farm, salt, pepper, and olive oil, then rolled in the marinade, pan grilled until tender, basting occasionally
  • a mix of golden cherry tomatoes from Berried Treasures and grape tomatoes from Kernan Farms (in Southern New Jersey), halved, rolled in olive oil, salt, pepper, a tiny drizzle of white balsamic, and chopped tarragon from Keith’s Farm
  • arugula from Lani’s Farm, washed, dried, torn, dressed with good olive oil, salt, pepper, and a small drizzle of organic lemon
  • the wine was an Italian (Campania) white, Fiano Taburno Sannio 2014, purchased at Flatiron Wines & Spirits
  • the music was Paula Matthusen’s ‘Pieces for People’

cacio e pepe ravioli, garlic, heirloom tomato, oregano


This can be put onto the table in half an hour; no exaggeration. Unable to give any more time than that to preparing dinner, I did just that two nights ago.

You have to have all the ingredients, or similar ingredients, perhaps even more ingredients, already in your kitchen.  Although it may not be really necessary, since the pasta cooks in just 2-3 minutes, it helps to be able to get fresh cold water from the tap without having to let it run first.  [As we don’t have that, and I suspect it’s because we’re the only people in our apartment line of who use their kitchen, to minimize my preparation time, I drew water for the pasta pot earlier in the evening]

  • ‘caccio e pepe’ ravioli from Eataly, finished in a pan with olive oil, more black pepper, part of one whole peperoncini from Buon Italia, crushed, some of the reserved pasta water added and emulsified over low heat, slices of one orange heirloom tomato from Norwich Meadows Farm introduced, gently tossed with the pasta, the mix placed in two bowls, chopped oregano from Rise & Root Farm sprinkled over the top (the photo was snapped before I had drizzled a bit of more olive oil on the dish)
  • the wine was a California (Central Valley) white, JC van Staden Pinot Grigio 2014
  • the music was ‘Monk Mix (CD1): remixes and Interpretations of Music by Meredith Monk

grilled scallops on a bed of salsify, wreathed in arugula


not an Advent wreath, but it does look festive; probably tastes much better


For years I had been trying very hard to find a way to use salsify.  The vegetable had long fascinated me, at least partly for its homeliness. The fact that I could find almost nothing in the way of a recipe in any of my books or files didn’t help.  It also didn’t help that I was unaware that ‘oyster plant’ was another name for the same vegetable, meaning that it was actually under my nose all along.

I had often seen black salsify in the Greenmarket, but the stalks always seemed to be too narrow to deal with easily if you aren’t just going to add it to a soup or a stew, especially since the vegetable has to be peeled.


Then last week, when I spotted this beautiful row of white salsify displayed in the Greenmarket by one of my favorite farms, I finally decided to take some home.  I first picked up five or six, put them in a bag, and had already exchanged some banter about the root before I asked how much they would cost.  I heard, “20 dollars a pound”, and thought it was a part of the banter.  It wasn’t.

I thought, wow, vegetables sure have come a long way since the days when they only grew (and often died) inside supermarkets, and apparently I’m not the only one who esteems them above meat today.  I returned all but one stalk to the row where I had seen it, but three days later I returned for one more.  I still didn’t know what I would do with the vegetable, but I didn’t think I wanted to be caught short when I did.

Now I wish I had bought four.

Last night, starting too late as usual, but interested in marrying the scallops with the salsify, I looked on line once again, I found a mere sketch of an attractive recipe, but one which I decided I could work with, and it could put a meal on the table in about an hour.

The original recipe is so simple it seems like it’s intended as only a framework for others to play with.  In my version there were some serious liberties taken, one of which included a substitute for the watercress.  I didn’t have watercress, but I did have some extraordinarily luscious arugula. Those very fresh greens were so good that I ended up using a reckless amount, which meant I had to place it next to the scallops and salsify, not on them;  I decided on a circle – only for the geometric efficiency of course.

Other changes included dressing the arugula with good oil, salt, crushed pepper, and a drizzle of organic lemon.  I also Pan grilled the scallops, as I do usually, and, especially because they were fairly small already, I did not halve them.  I parboiled the thinly-sliced salsify, then sautéed it, but next time I’ll simply slice it into ¼-inch segments and caramelize them in butter. The next time I will also try for more salsify, and larger scallops (I won’t halve them), and whatever green (or ‘red’) I use will be in a smaller amount, and sprinkled over the salsify (but maybe not the shellfish).

I want to ask everyone out there reading this to please ask for salsify when you’re in your local greenmarket.  It’s a delicious vegetable, and its preparation is absolutely nothing to be afraid of, but It’s pretty expensive right now, and I can only think it has something to do with rarity.

  • two handsome salsify roots from John D. Madura Farm, scrubbed, peeled, cut into thin slices, blanched, drained, and dried on paper towels, sautéed in olive oil until the slices began to turn brown, then seasoned with salt and ‘India Special Extra Bold’ Tellicherry peppercorns, and spread onto the center of two plates, topped with 14 small scallops (nine ounces) which had been washed, rinsed and dried, seasoned with salt and the same ‘special’ peppercorns, pan grilled, turning once, finished with a squeeze of lemon juice and drizzled with olive oil
  • very fresh, very, very sweet and tasty young arugula from Lani’s Farm, washed, dried, and spread around the circumference of the plates, drizled with a little good olive oil, salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice
  • the wine was a California (Clarksburg) white, Akiyoshi Reserve Chardonnay Clarksburg 2014
  • the music was Michel van der Aa’s Violin Concerto