caprese; balestra, eggplant, pepper; cheese; fruit; sorbetto






Yeah, it was a something of a feast, although perhaps lighter than what would normally be associated with the word. We had invited two friends to dinner, to celebrate their return to New York, and we knew they really enjoyed food, and conversation.

I think we were all pretty lucky nothing was bungled, especially since the meal and the talk continued for almost 5 hours, counting a certain amount of lingering.

As the menu was coming together during the day I gradually realized that it would be almost entirely Italian, in fact southern Italian, and Sicilian, although with a few obvious, and some perhaps not so obvious, exceptions.

We began the evening with breadsticks, toasting ourselves with a excellent sparkling wine.

The first course was a classic Italian appetizer.

  • an insalata Caprese, with one large red plum tomato and one ‘green zebra’ heirloom tomato from Lower Hayfields, a friend’s garden in Garrison, sliced, arranged on 4 plates, slices of Italian mozzarella di Bufala Campania from Buon Italia tucked in between the slices, sprinkled with Maldon salt and coarsely-ground pepper, some torn leaves of basil from Lucky Dog Organic Farm sprinkled on top, and all drizzled with a Campania olive oil, Syrenum D.O.P. Peninsula Sorrentina
  • the bread was a sturdy ciabatta, made with unbleached whole-grain wheat flour, from Bobolink Dairy
  • the wine was a California (Lodi) rosé, Karen Birmingham Rosé Lodi 2015

The star of the main course was triggerfish, variously known in Italy as pesce balestra, pisci castaregia, pescepuorco, pescio porcu, pesce porco, pesce puorco, or mola, and in Sicily as pisci porcu, or pisci poccu, so it’s definitely Mediterranean as well as western Atlantic. 

[Note: From the front, the triggerfish looks curiously like a Boeing 747; go ahead, ‘Google it’.]

  • four 6-ounce fillets of triggerfish fillets from Pura Vida Fisheries, rinsed, dried, seasoned with salt and freshly-ground black pepper, sautéed inside a large, heavy, enameled cast iron pan in olive oil over medium-high heat for only about 2 minutes on each side, removed to 4 plates, drizzled with a little fresh lemon juice, immediately sprinkled with chopped fresh dill from Keith’s Farm, with more dill tossed into the pan along with a few drops of olive oil, pushed around with a narrow wooden spatula, those juices then drizzled over the fish, which was then sprinkled with fennel flowers from Ryder Farm, and finished with micro bronze fennel from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • two round Italian heirloom eggplants, one a Biellese ‘Prosperosa’ from Berried Treasures Farm, the other an heirloom Sicilian from Phillips Farm, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds, brushed with a mixture of olive oil, finely-chopped garlic, chopped mint leaves, salt, and pepper, the slices pan-grilled, turning once, arranged on an oval platter, sprinkled with some more chopped mint, drizzled with a little olive oil
  • four small sweet orange peppers from Eckerton Hill Farm, 2 pale green banana peppers from Lower Hayfields, halved or quartered, seeds and membranes removed, sautéed inside a heavy copper skillet wiht a little olive oil over a high flame until slightly cararmelized, with one seeded and finely-chopped small red Calabrian pepper from Campo Rosso Farm added near the end, the peppers finished in the pan, with the addition of chopped oregano leaves from Stokes Farm and a dash of balsamic vinegar
  • the wine was a French (Bordeaux) white, Château Ducasse Bordeaux Blanc 2015, with an grape blend of 60% Sémillon, 35% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Muscadelle, the large proportion of Sémillon, being unusual for the region

There was a cheese course, the portions very small.

  • there were 3 local cheeses, each from Consider Bardwell Farm, ‘Slybro’ (goat), Rupert (cow), ‘Barden’ (blue cow), and one Swiss cow cheese, ‘Bergflichte’, from Canton Thurgau, via Eataly
  • the bread was the Bobolink ciabatta again
  • the wine was a California (Clarksburg) white, David Akiyoshi Chardonnay Clarksburg 2015, from Naked Wines

The fruit course was even more minimal than the cheese plate had been.

  • striped yellow figs from California, via Eataly, and a few blackberries from Phillips Farm

The final, sweet, course was pretty Italian, at least until I added the maple sugar topping.

  • Sicilian lemon sorbetto from Ciao Bella, via Whole Foods, topped with ‘Maple Candied Ginger’ which I’ve kept in the freezer for just such an opportunity, from a source I no longer can remember

The music throughout the evening was our conversation.