Month: February 2017

roasted squid, Sicilian oregano and chilis, habanada; rapini

I wrote yesterday about my obsession with Habanada peppers. Later that same day I had a chance to remind myself just why.

I’ve gone through the simple routine of this recipe many times, once, in a small break with the orthodoxy, even introducing a small pinch of the dried orange gold sort. Last night however, maybe because I had become excited writing about these peppers earlier, I splurged, crushing an entire section into the mix of dry oregano and chili pepper I cast into the pan with the squid before they went into the oven.

It was our best experience yet with a recipe already way up there among our favorites. As always, the Habanada itself remained indiscernible, but it contributed a wonderful complexity and richness to the whole.

  • a large rectangular enameled cast iron pan heated until quite hot, its cooking surface brushed with olive oil, and, when the oil was also quite hot, about 15 ounces of rinsed and dried squid from P.E. & D.D. Seafood in the Union Square Greenmarket, bodies and tentacles, arranged in it very quickly, immediately sprinkled with some super-pungent dried Sicilian oregano from Buon Italia, part of a dried Sicilian pepperoncino, also from Buon Italia, and an entire section of a home-dried heatless, orange/gold Habanada pepper (purchased fresh from Norwich Meadows Farm last fall), followed by a drizzle of a few tablespoons of juice from a local lemon from Fantastic Gardens of Long Island, and some olive oil, the pan placed inside a pre-heated 400º oven and roasted for 4 or 5 minutes, removed, the squid distributed onto 2 plates, ladled with their cooking juices after they had been transferred to a sauce pitcher, scattered with a little micro bronze fennel from Two Guys from Woodbridge, and served with halves of another, tiny local lemon-lime served on the side of each plate

  • loose “overwintered broccoli rabe” (aka rapini) from Lani’s Farm, wilted in olive oil flavored with one large garlic clove from Healthway Farms & CSA which had been bruised and heated until beginning to color, seasoned with salt and pepper, divided onto 2 plates and drizzled with more olive oil
  • the wine was an Italian (Sicily, Palermo) white, Corvo Insolia 2015 from Philippe Wine and Spirits, on West 23rd Street less than one block from our table, a wine which we have often, and have enjoyed just as often
  • the music was that of the still-hugely-neglected Swedish composer, Allan Pettersson, his 1976 Symphony No. 13,  Christian Lindberg, Norrkoping Symphony

the habanada pepper: fresh, and dried two ways

I’ve used and written about these peppers so often, both fresh, as seen above, when they were available last summer, and now home-dried, that I decided I had to do a special post about them alone, if only to have something to link to.

The Habanada is a highbred pepper which was developed only recently; I think it it’s a very special one.

This paragraph, from a page on the Cornel University Small Farms Program site, is an introduction to their origin story, which, like most such stories, includes a hero:

Habanada is a brand new pepper, the first truly heatless habanero (hence the haba-nada) bursting with all the bright, tropical flavor of the fruit unmasked. Many attempts have been made over the years but none have achieved the fullness of flavor with absolutely zero heat. Their crisp, thin skin has an exotic, floral flavor like no pepper I have ever tasted. From cast-away seed to a signature show-stopper variety, Michael Mazourek has brought this pepper a long way in just thirteen generations.

I’ve encountered Habanadas only at Norwich Meadows Farm, in the Union Square Greenmarket.

When dried, which I did myself in order to extend their season through the winter and spring, at the suggestion of Haifa Kurdieh, who runs the farm with her husband Zaid, they look like this:

I retrieved the darker, very serious looking mahogany-colored batch from the oven just in time; they have more than a hint of smokiness (and, oddly something like an anise scent), in addition to the elements they retain from the original Habanero. The golden orange ones, which were my second try, are somehow both more gentle and more powerfully aromatic; they’re quite perfect, in every way.

This is a close-up of the dried golden orange, just after they came out of the oven:

All three versions have been wonderful additions to many parts of many meals over the last 6 or 8 months. I miss the fresh peppers, but I’ve been using both the darker and the lighter versions more than frequently ever since I dried them last fall, as a quick search will show. They work with everything, meat, fish, eggs, pasta, vegetables. The only difficulty they present, I might confess, is controlling my addiction (and deciding which of the 2 to use in any particular application).

duck, lemon, rosemary; roasted paprika potatoes; collards

The duck is always a treat, and the vegetables served with it, which always vary, are chosen for their sturdiness and color. It always works. This time there was a small tweak in one of the standby classics, the introduction of some Spanish paprika (picante) and a little dried dark habanada pepper.

  • one duck breast (12 ounces) from Hudson Valley Duck, the fatty side scored in tight cross hatching with a very sharp knife, the entire breast then sprinkled with a mixture of sea salt, freshly-ground pepper, and a little turbinado sugar (infused over a very long time with a whole vanilla bean), the duck left standing for about 45 minutes, this time, before it was pan-fried over medium heat, the fatty side down first, in a tiny bit of olive oil, draining the oil part of the way through [to be strained and used in cooking later, if desired], the breast removed when medium rare (cut into 2 portions to check that the center is of the right doneness, that is, no more than medium rare), left to sit for several minutes before serving, but drizzled with a sweet local lemon from Fantastic Gardens of Long Island and drops of a very good Campania olive oil, scattered with a little chopped rosemary from Whole Foods once the duck had been arranged on the plates [NOTE: the tenderloin was removed from the breast, marinated along with it and fried very briefly near the end of the time the bulk of the meat was cooking, divided in half and served next to it]
  • four red gold potatoes from Keith’s Farm, scrubbed, halved uncut, tossed with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, a little picante Spanish paprika, a large pinch of dark home-dried habanada pepper, arranged cut side down on a small Pampered Chef unglazed ceramic pan, roasted at about 375º-400º for about 20 or 25 minutes, roasted at about 375º for about 20 or 25 minutes, arranged on the plates draped with a little bronze micro fennel from Two Guys from Woodbridge

filetti alici marinate as primi

Because the pasta course was a leftover which had already made an appearance here, I’m only showing the primi portion of last night’s meal.

There was no actual ‘cooking’ involved, but there was enough busy work (also a neat image), so I decided to record it.

  • A package of alici marinate produced by Agostino Recca, from Eataly, the fillets removed from the package, laid on top of paper towels on a large plate in order to drain the sunflower oil in which they had been packaged, the top side gently dried with another paper towel, then carefully arranged on a second large plate, scattered with chopped parsley from Eataly, chopped oregano from Stokes Farm (which had somehow survived the winter inside our refrigerator door), and finely-chopped garlic from Healthway Farms & CSA, drizzled with Campania D.O.P. Penisola Sorrentina ‘Syrenum’ olive oil, the plate covered and set near a window where they remained at precisely 58º F (hey, I read somewhere that Italians love 58º F for their alici) for about an hour and a half, served as with some lightly-dressed upland cress from Two Guys from Woodbridge, and slices of a pain au levain from the Bread Alone stand in the Greenmarket
  • the wine was an Italian (Marche) white, Saladini Pilastri Falerio 2015, from Philippe Wines
  • the music was the German songs on the album, ‘I Hate Music – But I Love To Sing’, plus the Hanns Eisler songs on the album, ‘Salome Kammer; I’m a Stranger Here Myself’


mackerel with mushrooms, lemon, herb, fennel; cavolo nero

Mackerel and Mushrooms? It’s a dream dish if you add lemon, and then not much more is really needed. I found the base recipe here; I’ve worked with it twice before, once with sea bass, and it’s been terrific each time.

  • three Boston mackerel fillets (a total of 15 ounces) from Pura Vida Fisheries, seasoned on both sides with salt and pepper, sautéed fairly gently with butter and a little olive oil inside a large, thick oval copper pan, flesh side first, then turned after about 3 minutes and the other side cooked for about the same length of time, removed to 2 plates when done, covered to keep warm (or placed inside a just-warm oven), 2 tablespoons of butter added to the pan, and then about 6 ounces of medium-size Shiitake mushrooms (lentinula edodes) from John D. Madura Farm, cut in half, added and sautéed while stirring until lightly cooked, seasoned with salt, pepper, after which a mix of a couple tablespoons of chopped lovage from Two Guys from Woodbridge and chopped parsley from Eataly, plus about a tablespoon (or a little more) of lemon juice was added to the pan, everything stirred before the herbed mushrooms and their juices were spooned on top of the mackerel, which was finished with a little fresh chopped lovage and parsley [in this case, after the picture was taken], garnished with some bronze micro fennel, again from Tow Guys from Woodbridge
  • cavolo nero, aka black kale, or Tuscan kale, from Norwich Meadows Farm, sautéed until wilted inside a large enameled cast iron pot with olive oil in which 2 halved garlic cloves from Healthway Farms & CSA had first been heated until beginning to color, seasoned and drizzled with olive oil
  • the wine was an Italian (Puglia) white, Verdeca, Angiuli – 2015, from Astor Wines
  • the music was Q2 Music, streaming