Month: August 2017

flounder with sage, habanada, scallion; eggplant with mint

I think I sometimes take flounder too much for granted. It’s easy to cook, and it’s something of a blank slate; It’s lean and somewhat flaky, with a firm texture; it has a mild sweetness, and it can be cooked with the lightest of sauces.

But this time I had to bow my hat to Paralichthys dentatus (or maybe to pseudopleuronectes americanus, since I wasn’t told whether I was buying Summer Founder or Winter Flounder, and I didn’t think to ask Jan while I was at the fish stand): I managed to take home 2 splendid, very fresh fillets yesterday (one, slightly thicker than the other, from the top of the fish, and one from the bottom), and I totally lucked out with the combination of ingredients I found to enhance it.

I’ve read that if you really wanted to appreciate a very fresh white fish, you should try poaching it and serving it with only a bit of salt. I don’t have that restraint, and besides, I have access to so many fresh herbs and seasonings that deserve some appreciation as well.

I’m going to want to revisit this very specific dish again, probably as often as I find I have all of the elements that went into it. It was superb.

The allium was a particularly sweet Japanese scallion.

  • two flounder fillets, altogether one pound, from P.E. & D.D. Seafood, each divided lengthwise along the line of the spine and then cut crosswise once, making 8 pieces in all, seasoned with salt and pepper on both sides, coated lightly with local North Country Farms Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour purchased in the Union Square Greenmarket, then submerged in a shallow bowl containing a lightly-whipped mixture of one egg from Millport Dairy, a fourth of  a cup of whole milk from Millport Dairy Farm, and a pinch of salt, then allowed to stay in the bowl until the accompanying vegetable had been prepared (it was to be served room temperature) and the remaining ingredients for preparing the fish set out, removed from the bowl at that time, placed in a heavy enameled cast iron pan on top of 3 tablespoons of melted butter, several halved large fresh sage leaves from Phillips Farm, one section of a dried, crushed orange/golden dried habanada pepper from Norwich Meadows Farm, and 3 sliced Japanese scallions from Norwich Meadows Farm, sautéed over a brisk flame until golden, about 2 1/2 minutes on the first side, 1 1/2 minutes on the second, sprinkled with juice of an organic lemon from Whole Foods Market, transferred onto warm plates, some micro lemon peppercress from Two Guys from Woodbridge scattered over the top

The vegetable was assembled from two sources (I didn’t have enough left in the refrigerator for a meal, so I bought a few more that day).

  • several different kinds and colors of baby eggplant, some from Norwich Meadows Farm, the others from Alewife Farm, all cut into quarter-inch to half-inch slices, mixed with a little olive oil, finely-chopped Rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm, sea salt, and freshly-ground black pepper, pan-grilled uncrowded on a 2-burner cast iron plate over a brisk flame, turning once, arranged on an oval platter, sprinkled with torn basil leaves from Stokes Farm, drizzled with a bit of olive oil, arranged on the plates just before the fish had been finished

The dessert was the simplest – and sometimes the most perfect – ending to a meal, a bowl of local grapes that had just been washed in icy-cold water.

  • ‘Interlaken’ seedless green grapes from Locust Grove Orchards [the lighter-colored grapes on the left in the image above]


insalata caprese; roasted striper, lacinato; berries ‘n cream

There were 4 at dinner again. The first course repeated the one served the last time, with a tweak from tradition in the insalata Caprese tomato choices.

Also as with that meal, there would be 3 courses, and I was again determined to make the main course something that could be prepared easily enough for me to be a part of the conversation even before we sat down.

When I need to cook enough for 4 people, many fish entrées (and seafood was virtually a given, especially since it was summer) take up an area larger than the surface of any of my pans. The best solution is to pick a fairly thick fish, like tuna or swordfish, or…

Once I spotted the beautiful bucket of striped bass (‘striper’) nestled in a tub of ice at the fishmonger’s stall that afternoon, I knew I had half of my main course picked out.

This great, most American of fish had threatened to disappear from our waters only 30 years ago, but was rescued by the heroic efforts of many good people, mostly fishers, during what some call the ‘Striper Wars’.

This is the view I had of the bass at the fishmonger’s (the clarity of the image is slightly obscured by the scratched plexiglas hinged lid of the tub).

As in the week before, I picked the vegetable for its simplicity, and especially for the fact that it could be prepared ahead of time (in the end however I didn’t actually do it in advance). Also, Barry loves Tuscan kale.

We started, as usual, with breadsticks and a ‘sparkling’, this time a very nice French un-champagne.

The antipasto was an insalata Caprese [see image at the top], which always takes longer to assemble than I expect it to, but it’s worth it every time, since I only venture it when the ingredients are the best and freshest.

  • the salad was assembled with sliced heirloom tomatoes from Cherry Lane Farms LLC, and a few halved sun gold cherry tomatoes from Windfall Farms, arranged on 4 plates, alternating with slices of some very fresh ‘mozzarella classica’ from Eataly and leaves of fresh basil from Stokes Farm, sprinkled with Maldon salt and coarsely-ground Tellicherry pepper, drizzled with a great Puglian olive oil, Alce Nero DOP ‘Terra di Bari Bitonto’ from Eataly
  • slices of ‘Pane Paesano’ (unbleached, unbromated wheat flour, water, salt, yeast) from Hill Bakehouse of Gansevoort, NY, at the bakery’s Union Square Greenmarket Saturday stall
  • the wine was a California (Sonoma) white, Scott Peterson Rumpus California Sauvignon Blanc 2016, form Naked Wines

The main course plates looked simple, and everything actually was pretty simple.

If there was any complexity in the preparation of the bass, it was only the number of herbs I tossed on top. I knew ahead of time what I was going to do, cobbling it up on my own, with the intention of letting the fish itself be the star. The oven timing was unknown territory however; in the end I used the ‘insert sharp knife in center’ and ‘bounce finger on top’ tests.

Yes, there was an oven involved. I try to avoid turning it on in warm weather, but it would mean less stress, and last night it was pretty mild; there was even a breeze, and we sat at the table in the gallery dining table, away from the kitchen.

The addition of homemade breadcrumbs was an impulse, and it is certainly optional. I was probably thinking I’d like the aesthetic, and the protection that such a coating might offer. Whatever.

This is the bass on the kitchen counter..

..and this is the pan as it was about to be placed in the oven, but before the breadcrumbs.

  • one thick Striped Bass fillet (a total of 28 ounces for 4 of us) from P.E. & D.D. Seafood, washed, drained, brought to room temperature, divided into 4 equal sections top to bottom, arranged skin side down on the bottom of a ceramic pan resting on a coating of about 2 teaspoons of olive oil, scattered with a mixture of fresh herbs (oregano from Norwich Meadows Farm; thyme from Stokes Farm; sage and peppermint form Phillips Farm; and lovage from Keith’s Farm) plus one partially-crumbled bay leaf, purchased while fresh, from Westside Market [alternatively almost any fresh herb or combination of herbs could be used], sea salt, freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, the bass sections sprinkled with some homemade dry bread crumbs and drizzled with a little olive oil, the pan placed in a 425º oven for approximately 25 minutes, removed when done and arranged on the plates, squeezed with the juice of an organic lemon from Whole Foods and drizzled with olive oil

The vegetable served with the fish was one of our favorite greens, and it couldn’t be less complicated to prepare.

  • more than one bunch of cavolo nero (also known as lacinata, black kale, or Tuscan kale) from Paffenroth Farms, wilted with olive oil and 4 halved large Rocambole garlic cloves from Keith’s Farm, the garlic first heated in the oil until they had became pungent, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, arranged on the plates and drizzled with olive oil


The dessert was berries and cream, ice cream.

  • blackberries from Locust Grove Orchards, some of them mashed with a little turbinado sugar and a couple teaspoons of Toschi Orzata Orgeat syrup to make a self-sauce, the berries scattered on top of scoops of Brooklyn-made Van Leeuven vanilla ice cream from Whole Foods Market, the sauce drizzled over ice cream and berries

steak, lemon peppercress; sweet peppers, basil, balsamic

The Culotte.

We’ve been enjoying this cut for many years [the history]; it’s become one of my favorite beef steaks.

I stopped in at Dixon’s in the Chelsea Market a week or so back, looking for two small steaks I might grill on top of the range to accompany a good vegetable. I was very happy to spot a culotte cut inside the shop which had been my source many times in the past. It weighed just under a pound; if I were to cut it in half, it would be exactly the size I had in mind.

Cut into two pieces, and vacuum packaged, I brought it home and froze it, and I’ve been on the lookout ever since for a good opportunity to enjoy these steaks – and also that good vegetable.

The vegetable.

  • one 15-ounce sirloin culotte (Picanha), purchased from Dickson’s Farmstand Meats, cut into two pieces, brought to room temperature, seasoned with freshly-ground tellicherry pepper (and sea salt on each side in succession, once they had been sealed), seared briefly on the top, or fat surface, then turned and sautéed for about 4 minutes on each of the 2 sides, then the bottom surface seared briefly, the steaks (now incrementally beyond medium rare, which I would recommend for this cut, as does Dickson’s Adam Tiberio: “As with other intensely beefy cuts, you lose both flavor and tenderness if you serve culotte too bloody;”), removed from the pan and arranged on the plates, juice from an organic lemon from Whole Foods Market and some olive oil drizzled over the top, a bit of lemon peppercress from Two Guys from Woodbridge scattered on and around each
  • a dozen or so ‘lunchbox peppers’ from Norwich Meadows Farm, halved, quartered, or divided further, depending on their size, the seeds and membranes removed, sautéed over a high flame until slightly caramelized, one sliced spring red onion and a pinch of crushed dark dried habanada pepper added near the end, sea salt and a bit of Gotham Greens Rooftop packaged basil from Whole Foods Market tossed in and stirred, the vegetables arranged on the plates, sprinkled with more basil and drizzled with a bit of balsamic vinegar
  • the wine was a California (Lodi) red, David Akiyoshi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, from Naked Wines
  • the music was the late composer’s later chamber music, from the album, ‘Peter Maxwell Davies: The Last Island

marinated breaded grilled swordfish, micro cress; mustards

The swordfish itself, plus the recipe of course, and, yeah, my modest part (which was just taking it off the grill at the right moment) came together beautifully.

And then there was this incredibly good mustard. I had picked it because it would be quick and easy on a night when I didn’t have much time to put a meal together but it was much, much more than just a placeholder.

  • one very fresh 16-ounce swordfish steak from Blue Moon Fish, divided into 2 pieces at home, marinated for half an hour in a mixture of olive oil, one spring red onion from N.J. Jersey Farm Produce, Inc., some chopped fresh oregano buds from Norwich Meadows Farm, and a very small amount of crushed dried peperoncino Calabresi secchi from Buon Italia, drained well, coated on both sides with some homemade dried breadcrumbs, and pan-grilled over medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, removed to 2 plates, seasoned with Maldon salt, some of the juice of an organic lemon from Whole Foods Market squeezed on top, drizzled with a little olive oil, and sprinkled with micro lemon peppercress (yes, it really is lemony, and peppery) from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • one bunch of red mustard from Keith’s Farm, wilted inside a large high-sided tin-lined copper pot in a little olive oil in which 2 halved cloves of  garlic from Lucky Dog Organic Farm had been allowed to sweat, then seasoned with sea salt, freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, and a very small amount of crushed dried peperoncino Calabresi secchi from Buon Italia, finished on the plates with a drizzle of juice from an organic lemon from Whole Foods Market and a bit of olive oil
  • the wine was an Italian (Sicily) rosé, Gerbino Rosato di Nerello Mascalese 2016, from Eataly Vino
  • the music was the album, ‘Sieur de Sainte-Colombe: Concerts a Deux Violes Esgales’

wild boar sausage, boiled potato, leeks; Roman puntarelle

I would have picked a sausage from Schaller & Weber, since I love patronizing that wonderful Yorkville German food emporium, and Barry was going to be up there in the afternoon, but I was thinking of this as an Italian meal, mostly because of the puntarelle I wanted to serve, so it was the turn of our local Italian outlet, Eataly.

But then the very Germanic potato ended up as a part of the meal after all (although dressed with olive oil rather than butter).

  • four links of a wild boar sausage from Eataly (the ingredients were, simply, wild boar, salt, pepper, and wine), cooked by heating them with about a quarter inch of water in the bottom of a covered heavy cast iron pan for about 15 minutes, removing the lid and allowing the liquid to evaporate (although, not wanting to overcook them, on this occasion I poured out most of the now-flavored liquid before continuing, indicating that this technique is a work in process for me), then letting the sausages brown, turning occasionally, in the fat that accumulated with the small amount of liquid that remained until they began to look just a little blistery
  • one large, oddly double-spheroid, ‘yellow potato’ from from N.J. Jersey Farm Produce, Inc. in the 23rd Street Saturday farmers market, halved, making 2 rounds, scrubbed, boiled, drained, dried, mixed with a little olive oil and chopped French leeks from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm
  • one small bunch (about 6 ounces) of young puntarelle from Tamarack Hollow Farm, thoroughly washed, the leaves separated and placed inside a large bowl of ice water, where they were allowed to let sit, outside the refrigerator, for about one hour, while, half an hour later, three quarters of a tablespoon of red wine vinegar was placed inside a small bowl with 2 well-rinsed, finely-chopped salted Sicilian anchovies and 2 crushed cloves of garlic from Lucky Dog Organic Farm, and allowed to rest for about half an hour, also outside the refrigerator, at which time the garlic was removed from the small bowl and the puntarelle was drained and dried (using towels or a vegetable spinner), placed inside a large dry bowl and the vinegar mixture poured over it, seasoned very lightly with sea salt, one and a half tablespoons of olive oil added, along with freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, the salad mixed/tossed at the last minute and served [NOTE: the puntarelle didn’t curl up as it really should have, probably because it had not been sliced at all, and so did not up as thin as it would have had I been working with a larger bunch, or ‘head’ of this very special chicory]
  • the wine was an Italian (Puglia) red, Salice Salentino DOC, from Philippe Liquors and Wine
  • the music was from the album, ‘William Christie conducts Charpentier’