Month: July 2017

hake, potato, laurel, oil-cured olives; fennel, shallot, tomato

Normally this would not be a meal we could enjoy in the summer, although it’s a meal we always enjoy a lot. Last night the air was relatively cool, and remembering that it’s a recipe Barry likes to call ‘comfort food’, I decided to sneak it into the last week of July.

There were potatoes,

and, in a side dish more seasonal than the entrée, excellent fennel,

and some beautiful tomatoes.

  • One 15-ounce hake fillet from American Pride Seafood in Chelsea’s Down to Earth Farmers Market on 23rd Street, prepared accordingt to a Mark Bittman recipe I found in the New York Times in 1999 [although I always use only about two thirds of the amount of olive oil it suggests], last night using these other ingredients: ‘yellow potatoes from from N.J. Jersey Farm Produce, Inc., also from the 23rd Street market; black oil-cured olives and 15 Sicilian bay leaves, both from Buon Italia
  • one small fennel bulb from Alewife Farm, stems and fronds removed (the stems and most of the fronds kept for another use, some of the fronds set aside, sliced about one quarter of an inch thick crosswise, and 3 roughly-chopped fresh spring shallots, also from Alewife Farm, one crushed section of a dried golden/orange habanada pepper, and a teaspoon of Italian fennel seeds, sautéed inside a heavy high-sided tin-lined copper pan over medium high heat until the fennel had just begun to color, the heat lowered, the pan covered, the vegetables cooked for another 4 or 5 minutes, the cover removed and 7 or 8 mixed multi-colored cherry and baby plum tomatoes from Eckerton Hill Farm, halved, added, stirred, anad allowed to soften just a bit, the pan set aside until the hake was ready, divided onto the plates and garnished with the chopped fronds of the fennel
  • the wine was a California (Andrus, in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta) white, Jacqueline Bahue Albarino Gomes Vineyard California 2016, from Naked Wines
  • the music was the album, ‘Henricus Isaac: Nel tempo di Lorenzo de Medici & Maximilian I‘, music from the Medici and Austrian Habsburg courts, by the late 15th-century Flemish composer, performed by Jordi Savall, La Capella Real de Catalunya, and Hesperion XXI

dogfish/palombo al vino bianco; grilled tomatoes; potatoes

I’m leading here with the ‘before’ picture this time because I think it’s a really good illustration of how I could have been seduced by a fillet from something called a ‘dogfish’ (NOTE: the market prefers to describe it as ‘sand shark’).

The image is of a one-pound fillet, after it had been halved, lying on our kitchen counter yesterday evening.

This is how it went a little later, sitting atop a round plate in an arrangement of a square, more circles, and what looks like a rectangle

I had never cooked sand shark/dogfish before (‘rock salmon’ in the UK, ‘saumonette’ in France, ‘Palombo’ in Italy). I’m not certain I had ever even eaten it, so when I came across some beautiful, very fresh fillets in a small bucket inside my fishmonger’s iced cases Friday afternoon, I decided it was time I started.

The hardest part of the operation turned out to be researching how to prepare it. I settled on a recipe, described as Italian, and with an Italian name (‘Palombo al vino bianco‘), possessing one of the great virtues of that culture’s cooking tradition: a minimum number of ingredients, to keep from disguising the flavor of the best meat, fish, or vegetables available to the cook.

We were both pretty pleased with the outcome.  Barry loved it, and I have only one reservation, about whether I had sautéed the fillet just a little too much, but the recipe, which said how long to cook it, didn’t describe the thickness of the fillet it was dealing with. Since I had absolutely no experience with this fish myself, so I couldn’t draw on my own expertise.

The only way I’m ever going to know is to cook sand shark/dogfish/ground shark/etc. again. I’m sure it’s going to happen.


  • one 17-ounce sand shark fillet from Pure Vida Seafood, brought to room temperature, halved crosswise (I’m getting very good at cutting equal halves out of even the most irregular shaped fish or meat), dusted with some local North Country Farms Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour, shaking off the excess, sautéed in a little over one tablespoon of olive oil inside a large heavy oval tin-lined copper pan above a high flame for about 5 minutes on each side, or until browned, seasoned with sea salt and Freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, the heat then turned off while a second copper pan was heated over a low to moderate flame with another tablespoon of oil before 2 fresh finely-chopped spring shallots from Alewife Farm were added and cooked until softened, stirring occasionally, followed by one small (or halved full-size) salted and rinsed Italian anchovy, at least a tablespoon of chopped Italian parsley from from Norwich Meadows Farm, and a half cup of Gruet Brut sparkling wine (from an opened bottle that remained from entertaining guests earlier in the evening), the heat increased and the liquid reduced almost completely, then a tablespoon of fresh water added, the sauce seasoned with a pinch each of salt and pepper and poured over the top of the fillet halves, the pan heated over a low flame for a minute or two, the fish served on the plates with a sprinkling of nasturtium flowers from Windfall Farms
  • eight German Butterball potatoes from Berried Treasures boiled, drained, dried in the pan, rolled in a little olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and frshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, tossed with chopped summery savory from Stokes Farm
  • two long heirloom tomatoes (‘Striped Roman’?) from Eckerton Hill Farm, halved lengthwise, the cut sides sprinkled with sea salt and freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, grilled face down on an enameled cast iron grill pan for 3 minutes or so, turned over and the rounded side grilled for a little less time, removed, arranged on the plates and brushed with a little balsamic vinegar


There was a dessert.

  • small oval bowls of Lā Loos ‘Vanilla Snowflake’ goat milk ice cream from Whole Foods Market, drizzled with a sauce I had made from Wilklow Orchards gooseberries


carciofi ravioli, habanada, heirloom tomato, micro scallion

While I usually pull out a package of filled pasta because it simplifies making a meal choice, we also really enjoy them, and they still offer the possibility of individualizing them, sometimes with creative additions. This simple artichoke-filled ravioli was a good example.

The sauce was superb, as the picture may suggest. Most of the credit has to go to the complex flavors of the habanada pepper and the excellence of the heirloom tomatoes, plus the dried Italian wild fennel flowers!

  • two chopped garlic cloves from Norwich Meadows Farm heated inside a large tin-lined high-sided copper pan in a little olive oil until pungent, most of one orange dried Habanada pepper, crushed, added to the pan and stirred over medium heat for a minute, followed by 2 heirloom tomatoes (one red, one yellow) from Stokes Farm, roughly chopped, and some chopped oregano from Norwich Meadows Farm and torn Genovese basil from Windfall Farms, then the contents of a 10-ounce package of Rana carciofi [artichoke] ravioli from Eataly (after having been boiled for barely 3 minutes) was spilled into the pan along with some of the reserved pasta cooking water, carefully mixed with the sauce over medium heat to emulsify it, sprinkled with a bit of dried Italian wild fennel flowers (more accurately, pollen) from Buon Italia, the pasta finished, once inside 2 shallow bowls, with a scattering of micro scallion from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • the wine was a California (Lodi) rosé, Karen Birmingham Rose Lodi 2016, from Naked Wines
  • the music was the album, ‘Trionfo d’Amore e della Morte: Florentine Music for a Medici Procession’, performed by Piffaro and the Concord Ensemble

monkfish, caper butter, tarragon; pan-grilled eggplant, basil

I did it again.  I mean a recipe that was totally new to me 2 weeks ago.

The first time it was so terrific I knew I’d be back soon. I did it again on Wednesday.

I thought it turned out very well, but although I had followed all procedures pretty much the same as I had the first time, there was a suggestion within our small dinner party that I could have left the monkfish over the flame a wee bit longer.

Still, …

  • ‘monkfish with caper butter’ prepared following this great recipe, starting off with 4 monkfish tails (16 ounces total) from Blue Moon Seafood Company, sliced through once horizontally to reduce their thickness for quick cooking, and continuing with local North Country Farms Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour seasoned with salt, pepper, and ground mustard seed; Organic Valley ‘Cultured Pasture Butter’; shallots from Trader Joe’s Market; Sicilian salted capers, thoroughly rinsed; the juice of an organic lemon from Whole Foods Market; and chopped tarragon leaves from Keith’s Farm
  • eight small orange ‘Turkish’, and an equal number of purple (aubergine) ‘Patio Baby’ eggplants, from Norwich Meadows Farm, each cut horizontally into 2 or 3 slices, mixed with a little olive oil, a little finely-chopped garlic clove from Norwich Meadows Farm, sea salt, and freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, pan-grilled on a large iron plate over brisk flames on 2 burners, turning once, sprinkled with torn basil leaves from Stokes Farm, arranged on the plates and drizzled with a bit of olive oil
  • the wine was an Oregon (Willamette Valley) white, Scott Kelley Pinot Gris Willamette 2016, from Naked Wines
  • the music was the 2010 Earl Brown album, ‘Synergy’ 

spaghetti olio e peperoni e finocchio, no acciughe

The meal was something of a break from the at least relative intensity of some of those that have appeared on our table recently; it really was a very simple, totally unstressful construction.

It mostly included things already in the larder, but I added a small fennel bulb, because it was there, and because I knew that it wouldn’t have gotten any fresher by the time I figured out what I might do with it otherwise.

I skipped the anchovies, which would normally be a part of this classic pasta, thinking that to do so would keep it lighter, but the dish would probably have been even more interesting if I had not.

  • while the water for boiling 8 ounces of Setaro spaghetti chitarra from Buon Italia was being readied in a large stainless pasta pot, one small fennel bulb, halved and sliced thinly crosswise, was heated with a little olive oil over a low-medium flame inside a large enameled cast iron pot until it had barely begun to soften, then 2 fat garlic cloves from Norwich Meadows Farm, coarsely-chopped, were added, along with an additional quarter cup of olive oil, the flame turned down, the garlic gently heated until it had softened and begun to turn golden, followed by part of a dried Sicilian pepperoncino from Buon Italia, crushed, a tablespoon or two of roughly-chopped parsley from Phillips Farm and about a quarter cup of the pasta cooking water, the mix then allowed to simmer and reduce slightly, while the pasta finished cooking (removed from the pot after only about 6 minutes, while still a little chewy in the center), at which time the spaghetti was drained, tossed into the pot with the sauce, and, the heat turned up slightly, cooked further, stirring, for another minute or two, then arranged in 2 shallow bowls with another tablespoon or two of parsley sprinkled on top

There was a cheese course.

  • a blue (still unnamed) goat cheese and ‘Manchester’ goat cheese from Consider Bardwell Farm
  • thin toasts of a French-style organic whole wheat and whole spelt miche from Bread Alone