broiled ocean perch, alliums, aji, anchovy; tomato, basil

Summer perch.

Last night I decided it might actually be a thing. I think what did for me it were the luscious ripe heirloom tomatoes I chose as the only accompaniment for this wonderful fish.

  • nine small (less than 2 ounces each) beautiful orange/red-skinned ocean perch fillets from Danielle Bickleman at American Seafood Company’s stand at Saturday’s Chelsea’s Down to Earth Farmers Market on 23rd Street, rinsed, and dried, both sides brushed with 2 tablespoons of olive oil mixed with a total of little more than one teaspoon, combined, of a chopped Rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm and the white section of one thinly-sliced scallion from Lani’s Farm, the fish seasoned, also on both sides, with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, placed inside an enameled cast iron pan and broiled, skin side up, 4 or 5 inches from the flames, for 4 or 5 minutes, or until the skin had become crisp and the fish cooked through, finished on the plates with a sauce that had already been prepared by gently heating 2 salted anchovies from Buon Italia, rinsed and filleted, and part of one aji dulce pepper (NOTE: I don’t think the pepper, an innovation of mine this time around, really added anything) in a bit of olive oil inside a small antique enameled cast iron porringer over a very low flame for about 3 minutes, or until the anchovies had fallen apart, and then kept warm, the perch garnished with micro chervil from Two Guys from Woodbridge and organic lemon wedges from Whole Foods Market served on the side

  • two large very ripe red heirloom tomatoes from Campo Rosso Farm (the ones on the right above), sliced 1/4″ thick, slid into a medium size copper skillet in which some olive oil had been heating and softening some thickly-sliced sections of a bulbous fresh shallot from Tamarack Hollow Farm, allowed to warm and also soften just a bit, seasoend with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, a number of leaves torn from an almost local  basil plant (Full Bloom Market Garden, Whatley, Massachusetts, from Whole Foods Market), still proudly flourishing in its rich Connecticut River valley soil, mixed in with the tomatoes, carefully arranged on the plates, some of the juices reserved for another day, and sprinkled with a pinch or so of dried fenugreek from Bombay Emerald Chutney Company (that had also been purchased at the Saturday Chelsea Farmers Market),
  • slices of a very satisfying rich organic multigrain baguette from Bread Alone
  • the wine was a California (Central Coast) rosé, Yian Lu Central Coast Rose 2017, from Naked Wines
  • the music was Haydn’s 1777 opera, ‘Il mondo della Luna’, a wonderful opera which we’ve probably heard all the way through half a dozen times, in a great, classic performance with Antal Dorati directing the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne and the soloists Arleen Auger, Edith Mathis, Frederica von Stade, Lucia Valentini Terrani, Luigi Alva, et al.

There was neither a cheese course nor a sweet, but there was ein Schlückchen Schnaps. After the table had been cleared, we decided to remain sitting through the end of the opera. We each poured ourselves a little bit of a superb Oregon eau de vie.  It was Clear Creek Distillery’s Douglas Fir Brandy, inspired by the Alsatian, Eau de Vie de Bourgeons de Sapin [clear brandy of fir buds]. A 2009 New York Times piece, ‘The Pursuit and Pleasures of the Pure Spirit‘, provides the context for the inspiration and production of the distillery’s founder, Steve McCarthy.