Month: December 2017

cabbage; pigeon; chutney; potatoes; collards; cheese; port

It was the 25th of December. We don’t celebrate Christmas as such, but, as with other major Christian holidays from each of our youths, we observe the occasion with good food, good wine, and, whenever possible, good company.

Last night we were only two. On these family days it’s often extremely difficult to get friends to join us for dinner, many or most having been committed to dinners elsewhere since birth.

These meals are still very special for us, regardless of the size of the company, and last night’s definitely was.

I had hoped to secure a brace of wild duck for the occasion, but wonderful local purveyor told me he wouldn’t be able to get any this year. I ‘settled on’ 2 pigeons, which are always extraordinarily delicious birds, even when raised on a farm in California, as these were.

We also enjoyed 4 different terrific vegetables through the first 2 courses.

The starter, pictured at the top of this entry, was very. very simple, also both delicious and light; in other words, a perfect appetizer.

  • one small Savoy cabbage (it may have been a San Michelle, formerly known as a Verza di Verona) from Norwich Meadows Farm, halved, the core removed, sliced very thinly, added to a little olive oil inside a large, heavy, tin-lined copper pot already above a medium high flame, joining one halved Rocambole garlic clove from Keith’s Farm that had already been heated, over a lower flame, until fragrant, the cabbage sautéed, stirring, along with 4 flattened juniper berries, until the leaves were tender and had begun to brown and become (ideally) slightly crisp at the edges, seasoned with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and a few drops of balsamic vinegar added and stirred over the heat for a moment, arranged on the plates with a drizzle of olive oil  [I’ve used the basic recipe a number of times as an appetizer when we have guests, a favorite with cook and guests for its convenience and its deliciousness, respectively; it’s from ‘Healthy Italian Cooking‘, by Emanuella Stucchi, a small ‘stealth’ vegetarian tome I had been using it for years before I realized there was no meat or fish in any of the recipes]
  • the wine was an Oregon (Illinois Valley) white, Foris Wine Shop Dry Gewürztraminer 2016

The squab, the centerpiece of the main course, were prepared using Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers’ recipe, ‘Spiced Pigeon’ (page 156), from their book, ‘Italian Easy’; Recipes from the London River Cafe‘, which is itself a treasure.

  • two one-pound California farmed pigeons from D’Artagnan, via O. Ottomanelli & Sons Prime Meat Market on Bleecker Street, seasoned inside with a mixture of sea salt; freshly-ground black pepper; 2 teaspoons of coriander seeds, ground in a mortar and pestle; and one dried Sicilian pepperoncino from Buon Italia, the legs and wings then trussed, tied to the bodies, browned on all sides inside a heavy oval enameled cast iron pan (little larger than the 2 birds), then 2 halved rocambole garlic cloves from Keith’s Farm, half of one cinnamon stick, 7 ounces of chopped Mutti San Marzano PDO tomatoes, 3/4 of a cup of red wine (Karen Birmingham Merlot Clarksburg 2015) added to the pan., 1/4 of a nutmeg ground in/over, seasoned with sea salt and more ground pepper, brought to a boil, placed inside a 400º oven and roasted uncovered until the legs turn in their sockets (about 40-45 minutes)
  • very fresh, crispy wild cress from Lani’s Farm, arranged as a garnish at the [former] heads of the birds
  • a quince and dried cherry chutney, made following this recipe, using a shallot from Keith’s Farm, a garlic clove from Stokes Farm, quince from Red Jacket Orchards, dried sweet cherries from Whole Foods, fresh ginger from Lani’s Farm, and apple cider vinegar from Race Farm
  • just under one pound of small sweet potatoes from Keith’s Farm, unpeeled, but washed thoroughly, cut into 3/4 to 1-inch sections, tossed inside a bowl with a little olive oil, sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, 3 whole, unpeeled Rocambole garlic cloves from Keith’s Farm, a crushed piece of dried dark habanada pepper, and some whole fresh sage leaves from Keith’s Farm, arranged on a large, now very-well-seasoned Pampered Chef unglazed ceramic oven pan, roasted inside a 400º oven for about 30 minutes [this time I had to juggle the oven timing of the sweet potatoes and the birds, because the former needed a significantly higher oven temperature than the latter]
  • one bunch of beautiful collard greens from Tamarack Hollow Farm, stripped of most of their stems, torn into small sections, washed several times and drained, transferred to a smaller bowl very quickly, in order to retain as much of the water clinging to them as possible, braised inside a heavy tin-lined copper pot in which one large quartered clove of Rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm had first been allowed to sweat in some olive oil, adding a little of the reserved water near the end to keep the greens moist, finished with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper,  a bit of the same crushed Sicilian pepperoncino, and a drizzle of olive oil
  • the wine, a gift from an artist acquaintance, Ryan Weston Shook, who had designed its label (and that of other wines from the same winemaker), was an exceptional California (Sonoma) red, 1849 Wine Company Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2013, and I can say the same thing I did about the previous bottle from this vintner, “..more than just a pretty label: It was a really wonderful wine and it a perfect pairing with the entrée.”

There was a very small cheese course; we skipped the sweet I had hoped to serve, a special German holiday ‘bread’ (‘Hutzelbrot‘), but we’ll enjoy it later this week.

  • a small slice of Consider Bardwell ‘Rupert’ goat cheese
  • a slice of a crescent-shaped whole wheat seeded bread from Runner & Stone Bakery

The dessert that we did have was a wonderful white port we had brought back from (where else?) Portugal, at the very knowledgable Airport shop, a Dalva 20 Years Old Dry White Port.  I took one sip, and I knew I needed to accompany it with walnuts. Fortunately we had some in the house.



  • the music throughout the meal was from this Spotify playlist, ‘Boulezian Christmas’, assembled by Mark Berry (@Boulezian on Twitter)


spaghetti, smoked eel, garlic, two chili sorts, pangrattato

It was the eve of Christmas, La Vigilia, in southern Italy, and in Italian-American families, Festa dei sette pesci, but as we’re neither Italian nor Catholic, I thought we could get away with just one fish last night.

But it was a very special fish, and there was pasta too!

  • one large cloves of Rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm, sliced thinly, heated inside a deep enameled cast iron pan over medium-high flame, along with one dried whole hot pepper, dried Sicilian pepperoncino from Buon Italia, and a bit of crushed, dark, home-dried heatless Habanada pepper (gathered fresh from Norwich Meadows Farm last year), until the garlic was almost starting to color, pieces of half of a skinned and boned smoked local eel from P.E. & D.D. Seafood added and stirred until warmed through, half of the amount of a savory pangrattato*, prepared earlier, mixed in and stirred to combine, the cooked and drained pasta (8 ounces of Setaro spaghetti from Buon Italia), added to the pan, tossed with the eel and pangrattato and stirred over low heat for a couple of minutes, adding more than a cup of the reserved pasta water while doing so to keep the mix moist, the dish served in low bowls, where it was sprinkled with more pangrattato and finished with slices of several tiny scallions from Willow Wisp Farm

*The pangrattato was prepared by adding about a third of a cup of homemade breadcrumbs to about a fourth of a cup of olive oil in which more thinly-sliced Rocambole garlic cloves and 2 rinsed salted anchovies from Buon Italia had been heated for a short while, and, after being stirred for 4 or 5 minutes, the mixture was drained onto paper toweling, bringing it to room temperature, then placed inside a small bowl

blackfish, olives, tomatoes, micro wasabi; potatoes, lovage

I’ve made this dish before, but I don’t think all of its elements had ever come together as well as they did this time.

There was a fairly short process, beginning with the fish and the olives..

..and continuing with the tomatoes.

  • * the fish dish began with two 8-ounce fillets of tautog, or blackfish, from Pura Vida Fisheries [prepared following a recipe by Melissa Clark published in the New York Times 5 years ago, substituting a mix of an excellent cayenne pepper and a pikante paprika for the Aleppo pepper indicated], seasoned with salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and a few pinches of a mix of a spicy Spanish paprika and a Nigerian cayenne pepper, placed in a large heavy oval copper skillet over a medium-low flame, a quarter cup of pitted Gaeta olives from Buon Italia scattered around the fish, cooked for about 4 minutes, flipped and cooked for another 4 minutes, then, near the end of that time, roughly 10 ounces of quartered Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods Market were tossed into the pan, moved around a bit and allowed to break down, the fish and the olives transferred to 2 plates when done, the tomatoes spooned around the fillets, everything sprinkled with chopped winter savory from Stokes Farm and topped with a drizzle of good olive oil, and garnished with wasabi micro greens from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • four German butterball potatoes from Max Creek Hatchery, boiled with a generous amount of salt until barely cooked through, drained, halved, dried while still inside the large still-warm vintage Corning Pyrex Flameware blue-glass pot in which they had cooked, tossed with a little olive oil, chopped pieces of the green stem of one Japanese scallion from Norwich Meadows Farm, sprinkled with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and a generous amount of lovage from Keith’s Farm
  • the wine was a California (Sonoma) white, Scott Peterson Rumpus California Sauvignon Blanc 2016, from Naked Wines
  • the music was Handel’s 1736 opera, ‘Atalanta’, Nicholas McGegan conducting the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, with a cast which included Philip Cutlip, the brilliant Michael Slattery, Dominique Labelle, Cecile van de Sant, Susanne Rydén, and Corey Mckern

oysters; herb-marinated John Dory; lacinato; Satsumas

When I opened the sealed plastic bag that held the John Dory fillets, I was immediately overwhelmed by the same intoxicating scent of the briny sea that accompanies the very freshest oysters; the fish was that fresh.

A little bit of background:

Because of what we had already scheduled for early in the evening, I wasn’t going to have much time to prepare a meal Friday night, but I still wanted the two of us to enjoy a good meal. So when I arrived at the Pura Vida stand in the Greenmarket in Union Square I was certain that the silvery-skinned John Dory fillets I saw would be all I needed, along with maybe some kind of fresh greens. Paul, standing on the other side of the fish cases, obviously didn’t agree, as he wouldn’t accept my negative reply to his usual query, “anything else?” He suggested I needed some oysters as an appetizer, but I explained we wouldn’t have time for a first course, and, besides, I’d have to schedule a pause in the middle of the meal to allow time for me to open and plate the silver-bedded bivalves. He had a solution: “Your partner knows how to open them, right?”

Now I couldn’t fault his argument, so I brought the oysters home, comforted a little by the fact that there were only 4 left on the ice inside the tub: How long could it take to open and serve 4 oysters? Once I arrived home I decided it would be easier for me to shuck the oysters myself, since the kitchen work area really can’t easily accommodate 2 people, and I had also quickly realized I could prepare in advance everything needed to cook the John Dory, so there really wouldn’t be a significant pause after all.

It didn’t take long at all, and the meal was just about perfect.

Early in the evening, even before I had started working on it, I was unable to resist tweeting, “tonight’s dinner will star 4 silvery oysters and 4 silvery John Dory fillets”, and now I can say it actually happened, and that both the Ostreidae and the Zeus faber were definitely stars.

And so was the sweet winter lacinato, or cavolo nero.

  • * four iced Great South Bay oysters from Pure Vida Seafood
  • * a bit of wild cress from Lani’s Farm, dressed with a very good Sicilian olive oil, from from Agricento, Azienda Agricola Mandranova (exclusively Nocellara olives), a drizzle of juice from an organic Whole Foods Market lemon, Maldon sea salt, and freshly-ground black pepper
  • slices of a classic baguette from Bread Alone

[slight pause here]

  • * four John Dory fillets caught off eastern Long Island, from Pura Vida Seafood, marinated inside the refrigerator for about 30 minutes in a mix of half a clove of crushed Rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm. one teaspoon or more of chopped thyme from Stokes Farm, the juice and zest from roughly a quarter of a Whole Foods Market organic lemon, half a teaspoon of walnut oil, sea salt, and freshly-ground black pepper, removed from the refrigerator and allowed to come to room temperature, placed, skin-side down first, inside a large heavy, tin-lined copper skillet that had been heated over medium-high heat with enough olive oil to coat the surface, the heat then reduced slightly and the fillets cooked for just 2 minutes on each side, removed and arranged on warm plates, sprinkled with a bit of micro wasabi from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • two Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods Market, halved, the cut sides placed on a plate sprinkled  with a little sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, then heated on both sides in a little olive oil inside a 19th-century enameled cast iron porringer, removed and arranged next to the John Dory, sprinkled with a little chopped thyme that had not been used in the marinade
  • one bunch of lacinato kale (aka cavalo nero, black cabbage, or Tuscan cabbage) from Norwich Meadows Farm, wilted briefly in olive oil in which one clove of Rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm had first been heated until pungent, a bit of dried peperoncino Calabresi secchi from Buon Italia added at the end, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper and drizzled with a little more oil

The dessert was definitely the simplest of the courses.

  • Satsuma mandarins from Whole Foods Market


  • the music throughout was the album, ‘Per Violoncello’, all of the music of Aribert Reimann for cello (as of the 2005 recording date), plus his ‘Drei Klavierstucke’

bay scallops, lemon sauce; cabbage, juniper, balsamic

I’ve only prepared bay scallops once before (at least in modern, Food Blog times). They were okay, but the experience wasn’t good enough to encourage me to try it again. When I saw some in the Greenmarket yesterday I decided I’d give them another try. I was going to go for a treatment somewhat more simple than what I ended up doing, but this time they were terrific.

I swear I’ll do almost nothing to them the next time, and see how that works out.

I chose a simple recipe for a sympathetic and a favorite winter vegetable as a complement, and that worked out very well too.



  • one tablespoon of oil and a half tablespoon of butter heated in a large enameled cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, one medium-size sliced clove of Keith’s Farm Rocambole garlic slipped in and cooked, stirring occasionally, until it was pale golden, after which 26 washed and thoroughly-dried Peconic bay scallops from Blue Moon Fish in the Union Square Greenmarket (on, sadly, what Stephanie and ALex Villani had announced would be their their last day – ever – in the the Union Square Greenmarket location) were added and quickly sautéed without moving, until seared (about 30 seconds), then flipped and seared on the other side (tough to do quickly and completely, no matter how handy the cook may be) for about 30 seconds more, the scallops then removed from the pan and placed on warm plates while the flame was reduced to medium and about 1 1/2 tablespoons more butter added, the butter allowed to turn a light brown color (pans with black surfaces, like the one I used this time, make this difficult to determine), the heat turned off and about a tablespoon of Whole Foods Market organic lemon juice and chopped parsley from S. & S.O. Produce added and pushed around for a few seconds before the sauce was seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper and poured over the scallops on the plates, which were garnished with a ‘dusting’ of micro wasabi from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • one small Savoy-type San Michele (formerly, Verza di Verona) cabbage from Tamarack Hollow Farm, halved, the core removed, sliced fairly thinly, sautéed, along with thin strips of one very small leek from Willow Wisp Organic Farm, in a little olive oil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage leaves were tender, had begun to brown and become (ideally) slightly crisp at the edges, seasoned with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and 4 flattened juniper berries, a few drops of white balsamic vinegar added, then stirred over heat for a moment and arranged on the plates with a drizzle of olive oil
  • The wine was a California (grapes from the Sacramento River Delta with a small amount of Viognier from Lodi) white, Miriam Alexandra Chenin Blanc California 2016, by Alexandra Farber, from Naked Wines
  • the music was a terrific album of goodies, ‘Schubert Epilog‘, in which the contemporary composers Kurt Schwertsik, Aribert Reimann, Hans Werner Henze, Luciano Berio, and Hans Zender reimagine some of Schubert’s most iconic works, the performances all with Jonathan Nott directing the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra and the Bamberg Symphony Chorus