We were to leave for three weeks in Germany the next day so I was interested in using as much of the fresh ingredients left in our refrigerator as possible. I think I did a pretty good job, with absolutely no taste sacrifices. It also looked pretty good. The hardest part of assembling this one-dish meal was deciding which pan (that is, mostly, which size pan) I was going to use. I ended up with a seasoned thick 11″ steel skillet, 1 3/4″ deep, and it turned out to be just right for the quantity of the ingredients and the amount of heat I wanted to work with.
The Greenmarket-sourced crab cakes were as wonderful as always, and they hit it off with the radish micro greens; the salsa was a little different from so many earlier versions, and the ingredients somewhat more eccentric; and I think the addition of thyme sprigs worked pretty well with the excellent roasted local asparagus, shown below before it went into the oven.
- two crab cakes from PE & DD Seafood (the ingredients are crab, egg, flour, red & green peppers, garlic, salt, pepper, breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, milk, celery, and parsley), heated in a heavy copper pan, 3 to 4 minutes to each side, served on a salsa composed of 6 Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods, which had been chopped and combined with salt, freshly-ground black pepper, a bit of homemade French Basque piment d’Espellate we had purchased in a small town north of Baie-Comeau, Quebec last year from the producer’s daughter, some dried Itria-Sirissi chili, peperoncino di Sardegna intero from Buon Italia, chopped peppermint from Lani’s Farm, some chopped stems of ramps from Berried Treasures, the crab cakes finished with a sprinkling of radish micro greens from Two Guys From Woodbridge
- eighteen asparagus spears from Phillips Farm, trimmed, the stems of the larger stalks peeled, then rolled, along with a handful of thyme sprigs, in a little more than a tablespoon of olive oil and a little sea salt, roasted at 425-450º for about 15 to 20 minutes, removed to two plates, the juice of an organic lemon squeezed over the top
- the wine was an Oregon (Willamette) white, Scott Kelley Pinot Gris Willamette 2015
- the music was Mozart’s Divertimenti Nos. 10 and 11, Sandor Vegh directing the Camerata Salzburg
I think that the appeal, arguably inordinate, of both ramps and fiddlehead ferns lies in some combination of their perceived status as harbingers of the real growing season, their fleeting appearance, and their romantic character as forage plants. Together these very particular attributes mean they have a status not entirely unrelated to the plant which which lent its name to the 17th-century tulip bubble. If it were just about the taste, both the North American wild onion and the ostrich fern might occupy positions little distinguishable from any of our other vegetables, but we have raised both to a status little supported by the intrinsic value of either.
I’m writing this as a cook, one who is very aware of the genuine appeal of both of these plants, but still mindful of the fact that for most of us their most engaging virtue (as forage spoils) cannot actually be realized, since the ‘finding’ has been accomplished by others, who then sell them to us in farmers’ markets.
This meal included both of these spring treasures, as well as a certain number of ingredients whose supply is somewhat more regular.
No hurray: Like so many dishes which combine disparate ingredients, the taste of this one improved dramatically as it slid closer to room temperature.
- the ingredients of this pasta meal, in the order of their introduction into a large copper pan which made the sauce, included one clove of organic garlic from Trader Joe’s, thickly-sliced; 4 roughly-sliced ramps from Lucky Dog Organic; 4 ounces of fiddleheads from Tamarack Hollow Farm; 6 halved Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods; a squeeze of organic lemon; dried Itria-Sirissi chili, peperoncino di Sardegna intero from Buon Italia; sea salt and freshly ground pepper, all tossed with about 7 ounces of Afeltra Zito Corto Rigato which had been cooked al dente, served with some grated Parmigiano Reggiano Vacche Rosse from Buon Italia scattered over the top of each shallow bowl
- the wine was an Italian (Sicily) white, Corvo Insolia 2013, from Philippe Wine in Chelsea
- the music was Pascal Dusapin’s ‘Etudes Pour Piano’, performed by Vanessa Wagner
Choosing the ingredients for this meal was easy. I went to the Greenmarket on Wednesday primarily to buy fish, and nothing else. The sign for Blackfish (aka ‘Tautog) jumped out at me as soon as I arrived at the Blue Moon stand, and so it would be; it’s one of my favorites.
I didn’t really need any more vegetables, but I’m a sucker for a good display, and the people of Eckerton Hill Farm are masters at it. Lying next to a table laden with beautiful greens in woven wicker and miniature ‘bushel’ baskets was this display of ‘French Breakfast radishes‘. I decided that choosing them as a side would give me both roots and greens in one dish.
- a 1-pound fillet of Blackfish (Tautog in New England) from Blue Moon Fish Company, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground Telicherry pepper, sautéed in a heavy tin-lined oval copper pan for about 4 minutes on each side, the skin side down first, drizzled with organic lemon juice, and finished with a dusting of Pollen Ranch Dill Pollen, divided into two and moved onto plates, the pan juices gently drizzled over each one
- one bunch of French Breakfast radishes from Eckerton Hill Farm, washed, the leaves removed and set aside (the little white ‘tails’ could have been left on, but I removed them without thinking), and the roughly-chopped buds of a half dozen ramps from Berried Treasures, sprinkled with salt and pepper, sautéed in a little olive oil in another copper skillet for a few minutes, the radish leaves and the ramp leaves (cut as ribbons) added to the pan and stirred in, chopped lovage from Berried Treasures added, and more used to garnish the vegetables when they were on the plates [I added a little white wine after sautéeing the radishes and ramp buds, and kept cooking, stirring, until the liquid had evaporated, but that step is certainly optional]
- the wine was a French (Loire) white, Château Soucherie Cuvée Les Rangs de Longue Anjou Blanc 2014 , from Chelsea Wine Vault
- the music was by Heinrich Ignaz Biber, the album, ‘Mensa Sonora, Sonata Representiva‘
Because we’re leaving the country this Monday for Germany (Munich and Berlin) and will be away for three weeks, I’m beginning to, figuratively, extinguish the kitchen fire. It means I have to remember that there will be only a finite number of meals before then, and I’ve started to plan accordingly.
Tonight it was pasta in an unlikely marriage with collards.
I incorporated these delicious greens, which I had been keeping in the crisper for a few days, in a dish which used most of a lemon (both rind and juice) that had also been awaiting its turn to shine, along with the last of a jar of pine nuts that I had stored in the refrigerator when the market price was relatively modest. The medium was a package of a very good whole wheat pasta for which I had hoped to find a good excuse to include in a meal; this turned out to be the occasion.
The very simple recipe is from Martha Stewart.
- my ingredients included Garofalo whole wheat spaghetti, organic garlic from Trader Joe’s, dried Itria-Sirissi chili, peperoncino di Sardegna intero from Buon Italia, collard greens from Norwich Meadows Farm, organic lemon from Whole Foods, and Pecorino Romano from Buon Italia
- the wine was a Spanish (Castilla y Leon/Uclés) white, Fontana Mesta Verdejo Uclés 2014, from Chelsea Wine Vault
- the music was the album, ‘Yarn/Wire/Currents Vol. 2‘, and also, because we lingered at the table until fairly late, ‘David Brynjar Franzson: The Negotiation Of Context‘