Month: January 2019

bacon and eggs breakfast with gram masala

I haven’t been posting our Sunday breakfasts lately, but this one was something of a revelation, so I decided to include it on the site. Looking for something out of our ordinary for seasoning our usual fried eggs, I pulled down from the shelf a small bottle of gram masala that I’d purchased last fall from Bombay Emerald Chutney Company in the Saturday Chelsea’s Down to Earth Farmers Market.

What is it? The food site describes it as the Indian equivalent of the French herbes de Provence or Chinese five-spice powder, adding that the ingredients vary by geography or culture, as well as whim. The two words together mean ‘hot’ and ‘a mixture of spices’, and while the spelling is usually ‘garam’, in Bengali it seems to be ‘gram’.

When I chose to sprinkle some on the eggs, I knew I wouldn’t have to include much else, except salt, but, unable to restrain myself, I added some chopped fresh rosemary anyway, to introduce something fresh and green; I figured it was an herb that wouldn’t fight the spices.

My point is that the eggs were not like any others we’ve had, and really wonderful, so this post, like all of them, is published fundamentally as a reminder for myself.

  • the ingredients were very fresh eggs from pastured chickens and bacon from pastured pigs, both from Millport Dairy Farm; one sliced Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomato’ from Chelsea Whole Foods Market warmed in a little house Whole Foods Portuguese olive oil; local (regional) Organic Valley ‘Cultured Pasture Butter’ placed to the side, for the toast, also from Whole Foods Market; chopped fresh purple thyme from Philipps Farms, sprinkled on the tomatoa couple pinches of gram masala from Bombay Emerald Chutney Company; chopped fresh rosemary leaves from Whole Foods Market; Maldon salt; freshly-ground black pepper; lightly toasted slices of Pain D’Avignon‘s ‘country sourdough bread’ from Foragers Market; and micro purple radish from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • the music was the ECM album, ‘Valentin Silvestrov: Sacred Songs’

coppa; herb-roasted poussin, maple squash; red cabbage

Chicken. Except that it’s not just chicken. It’s poussin. It’s a French thing, although it had a German-American accent on Saturday night.

Poussin are almost unheard of in US food emporiums today, if they ever were, and I haven’t even been able to find them in the large New York greenmarket where I get almost all of our comestibles.

Inside my much-warn copy of her book, ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’, Julia Child says that ‘squab chicken’, or ‘baby broiler’, was the American equivalent for the French poussin, or coquelet, (a young male chicken, because females, well, are more valuable alive, as with most domestic animals) but she wrote more than half a century ago, when you might have still been able to spot unusual items even in a grocery store (I know, since my first job was stock/bag boy in our local little supermarket, Nino’s, on Detroit’s far east side, well before she wrote the book, and they had almost everything).

Which brings me to the birds we enjoyed last night. I had noticed on a previous visit to Ottomanelli & Sons, on Bleecker Street in the Village, that they had frozen poussin inside the freezer in the front part of the shop; our own freezer was full, so I made a mental note to go back after the holidays. A gift of a special wine from a friend inspired an occasion. When I was there on Friday to find something to pair with the Cote de Beaune, I learned that they had unfrozen birds as well. The outlines of Saturday’s dinner had just come together.

There was an appetizer that was definitely a northern Italian diversion.

  • two or three ounces of Giorgio’s coppa picante from Eataly Flatiron, drizzled with a little olive oil, Badia a Coltibuono (Chianti Siena Italia) from Chelsea Flatiron
  • micro red chard from Two guys from Woodbridge
  • slices of a loaf of ‘Seedy Grains’ from Philadelphia’s Lost Bread Company in the Union Square Greenmarket

The rest of the meal, roasted squash, sunflower sprouts, braised red cabbage, shifted most of the vibe still further from France, but we kept the Burgundy wine.

  • two 20-ounce local poussin (Griggstown Quali Farm, Inc., Princeton, NJ) from Ottomanelli’s in the West Village, rinsed under cold running water, then dried, brought to room temperature, their cavities first seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper then rubbed with a very small amount of olive oil before inserting inside each an organic Whole Foods Market lemon quarter, 2 small sprigs of Goodness Gardens thyme from the Chelsea Whole Foods Market; 2 sprigs of oregano from Philipps Farms; 2 sprigs of a Mexican-grown (my mistake: I misread its origin on the label) Goodness Gardens tarragon, also from Chelsea Whole Foods Market; and one crushed Keith’s Farm rocambole garlic clove, then the skin carefully loosened from the breast of both poussin, a sprig each of thyme, oregano, and tarragon inserted between it and the breast itself, half a tablespoon of Courvoisier V.S. cognac spooned into the same breast pockets, the birds trussed with kitchen string and each arranged on top of a thick piece of a She Wolf Bakery miche inside a small oval enameled cast iron pan, roasted inside a 500º oven for about 45 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer piercing the center of a thigh registered 165º, or, alternatively, when the juices ran clear if a thigh were pierced with a trussing pin or needle, arranged on the plates still sitting on top of the (now dar, toasted and very savory) bread, finished with the pan juices, after the addition of a couple tablespoons of butter were stirred in along with the few herb leaves that hadn’t made it inside of the birds earlier, poured over the top
  • a small handful of sunflower sprouts from Windfall Farms
  • two very small ‘honeynut squash’ from Samascott Orchards, scrubbed, halved, the seeds removed, placed cut-side up in a baking dish, and a mix of almost 2 tablespoons of maple syrup, an equal amount of fresh water, the zest and juice of less than half of a lemon, a bit of dried habanada pepper, and a pinch each of salt and black pepper brushed or poured over the top, the surfaces dotted with less than 2 tablespoons of softened butter and placed inside a 375º oven to be baked for 15 or 20 minutes, the squash then flipped over and the cooking continued, basting halfway through that period, until caramelized and tender, or about 20 more minutes [all of this was completed before roasting the poussin, in a much hotter, 500º oven, the squash kept warm and returned to the oven briefly while the birds and their sauce were finished outside], arranged on the plates where their hollows served essentially as edible sauce boats for their pan juices
  • a quantity of rich, complex-flavored cooked red cabbage that had remained from an earlier meal, of venison, a bit of fresh water added to it, heated gently and stirred
  • the wine was a pretty special French (Burgundy/Volnay) red, Michel Lafarge – Volnay 2013, from Chelsea Wine Vault

There was no dessert (just look at the picture of the generous entrée for cause), but we did share a little grappa that had been sitting around the apartment for years.



sea bass with tarragon; sunflower sprouts; roasted carrots

One and a half fillets, fried perfectly this time.

Normally I insist on an even number when there are 2 of us, but this time there were 3 fillets, weighing exactly one pound. I was aiming for about a pound of fish, but my only other choices for a divisor for two people would have been 2 fillets for 10.5 ounces, of 4 for 19.5 ounces. I decided I could  halve one of the 3 without sacrificing the plate aesthetic, and that’s what I Went with.

I got the color right (what looks like carbonized areas were not, just more intense), but the most important thing is always the flavor; I include texture in that noun, and this time I really scored: The bass was delicious, and the skin was crisp. I’ve now borrowed Hank Shaw’s technique several times, from his piece, ‘Perfect Seared Fish‘, and I think I’m getting the hang of it.

There was also a brief drama, when the oil I was using, which has a relatively low flash point, caught fire inside the pan and I had to blow out the flame – 3 times.

  • before the main course we nibbled on some extraordinarily delicious farm-made potato chips (Kennebec potatoes, sea salt, rice bran oil) from Rick Bishop’s Mountain Sweet Berry Farm in Roscoe, New York

And then there was the fish.

  • three 5-ounce striped bass filets from Pura Vida Seafood Company removed from the refrigerator, salted a little, allowed to rest at room temperature for almost half an hour, the skin sides then scraped with a butter knife to remove excess moisture, both sides patted with a paper towel until thoroughly dry, after which, once a seasoned steel pan had been heated above a high flame, a tablespoon or a little more of Mac Nut macademia nut oil from Chelsea Whole Foods Market was poured into the pan, being careful to avoid spilling any oil onto the flame below the pan [see above], then, holding the handle, swirled to cover the bottom and heat the oil in the process, the 3 filets placed skin side down inside the pan, immediately jiggled to ensure that the fish doesn’t stick, the top or flesh side of the filets quickly seasoned with sea salt, to taste, the heat turned down to medium-high, the filets pressed down lightly with a spatula for 30 to 60 seconds, to ensure that the skin browns evenly and the fillets don’t curl, cooked without moving them for 3 or 4 minutes, and, because these fillets were small, either constantly spooning the hot oil over the flesh side until the meat turned opaque, or, once their outside edges had cooked, turning the fillets over for a minute or two to finish their cooking, the fish removed to a warm platter and the heat turned off altogether, a couple tablespoons of a rich butter swirled into the pan so it melted swiftly, a tablespoon of fresh tarragon from Whole Foods Market added and pushed around, the pan tilted, the sauce scraped to the bottom and poured onto the plates, the filets then placed on top of the sauce
  • a small handful of sunflower sprouts from Windfall Farms
  • a mix of small red Kyoto carrots and more familiar loose orange carrots, both from Norwich Meadows Farm, scrubbed and dried, tossed inside a bowl with a little olive oil, salt, black pepper, more than half of a teaspoon of crushed Italian fennel seed, and a bit of crushed dried habanada pepper, arranged inside a large unglazed ceramic Pampered Chef oven pan, roasted at 400º for about 30 minutes, or until tender, arranged on the plates and garnished with micro purple radish from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • slices of a ‘Seedy Grains’ loaf from Philadelphia’s Lost Bread Company, whose ingredients are wheat, spelt, rye, and barley organic bread flours; buckwheat; oats; and 4 seeds (flax, sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin); water, and salt

There was a small cheese course, but I didn’t photograph it this time.

  • two excellent cheeses, a new one, still in development, a washed rind buffalo milk from Riverine Ranch, something like a German Munster or Danish havarti; and their classic medium-firm goat cheese, ‘Manchester’, from Consider Bardwell Farm
  • lightly-toasted very thin slices of Lost Bread Company’s ‘Seedy Grains’


scallops, thyme; garlic/oregano-roasted tomatoes; arugula

It was late January, but last night’s dinner looked more like summer, thanks to the creativity of our local producers (everything, except for the tomatoes, came from area fields and waters). The delicious large cherry tomatoes came from Maine, which, as an adopted New Englander, I think of as almost local (at least it’s not as far away as the tomato factories in Mexico, California, Florida, or Israel).

  • twelve large sea scallops from American Seafood Company, washed, drained, and very thoroughly dried on paper towels (twice), generously seasoned with sea salt and fresh;y-ground black pepper, pan grilled for about 90 seconds on each side, arranged on warm plates, finished with a squeeze of a local lemon, a very sweet small fruit from one of the greenhouses of Fantastic Gardens of Long Island in the Union Square Greenmarket, a scattering of chopped fresh local Goodness Gardens thyme from Orange County, NY, via Chelsea Whole Foods Market, and a drizzle of olive oil
  • ten Maine cherry ‘cocktail’ tomatoes from Whole Foods, slow-roasted inside a small seasoned Pampered Chef oven pan after they had been rolled in olive oil, with a generous amount of dried oregano from Norwich Meadows Farm, and 8 tiny, slightly-smashed rocambole garlic cloves from Keith’s Farm
  • almost 2 handfuls of a great arugula from Philipps Farms, washed thoroughly, drained and dried, dressed with a small drizzle of a house Portuguese olive oil from Whole Foods Market, a bit of Maldon salt, black pepper [and, had I remembered to add it, a few drops of a Napa Valley red wine (‘Chianti’) vinegar]
  • there were some delicious juices on the plates, so I jumped at the opportunity to include slices of a really delicious bread from a Philadelphia bakery new to the Union Square market, ‘Seedy Grain’ from Lost Bread Company (wheat, spelt, rye, and barley organic bread flours; buckwheat; oats; flax sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds; water, and salt)

Note the pretzel sticks on the upper right in the picture below: they’re a reminder of the persistence of Philadelphia’s – and Pennsylvania’s – German heritage, which began more than 300years ago.

spicy salmon, micro mustard; roasted mixed roots; arugula

We hadn’t enjoyed any seafood in days, an unusual dry spell for us. Normally we would have had some on Monday, but the fisher people from Eastern Long Island who are normally there that day, didn’t make it, like almost every other producer, because of the severe cold and wind.

So It seemed like a good night for wild salmon, whose availability in East Coast markets does not depend on good weather (sold fresh during part of the year, or frozen in the months when fishing is proscribed) nor does it’s enjoyment. In fact, with the right seasonings and the right accompaniments, it pairs very well with even the coldest, most blustery winter weather.

The recipe I used, which I’ve borrowed over and over again, with few alterations, but sometimes with an embellishment or two, came originally from Katy Sparks, via Mark Bittman, and it’s a little more precise than my description that appears below.

  • one 18-ounce fillet of wild Pacific coho salmon (previously frozen, because of the season) from Chelsea Whole Foods Market, its skin carefully peeled off on top of the kitchen counter, halved, seasoned on both sides with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, the former skin side pressed with a mixture of roughly ground coriander seeds, cloves, and cumin seed, and some grated nutmeg, that side placed onto the surface of an enameled, oval cast iron pan in a mix of a little olive oil and butter that had already been heated over medium-high heat until the fat had shimmered, sautéed for only 2 or 3 minutes, then turned over and cooked for another 2 or 3 minutes, arranged on the plates and garnished with a little micro red mustard from Two Guys from Woodbridge

  • three different kinds of potatoes that I already on hand, but none of them would have been sufficient in quantity to serve as a side by itself, all unpeeled, scrubbed and cut into approximately 3/4″ pieces (one large Kennebec potato from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm, which turned out to be a natural for this roasting treatment; one large Japanese sweet potato from Race Farm; and 2 medium-size ‘Magic Marley’ purple fingerlings from Norwich Meadows Farm, plus 2 large halved ‘yellow shallots’ from Norwich Meadows Farm, all tossed together in a bowl with less than two tablespoons of olive oil; sea salt; freshly-ground black pepper; one crushed piece of a mahogany-colored home-dried dark, dried heatless Habanada pepper acquired 2 summers before as fresh peppers from Norwich Meadows Farm; a really tiny dusting of a dried hickory smoked Jamaican Scotch bonnet peppers from Eckerton Hill Farm; and the leaves from several sprigs of rosemary from Eataly, everything arranged, without touching, on a large, well-seasoned Pampered Chef unglazed ceramic pan and roasted in a 400º oven for about 35 minutes, then sprinkled with 2 sliced garlic cloves from John D. Madura Farm, and some small fresh-but-drying-out sage leaves from Philipps Farms and shoveled around a bit with a spatula, removed, divided onto 2 plates

  • a couple handfuls of arugula from Philipps Farms, dressed with a small drizzle of a house Portuguese olive oil from Whole Foods Market, Maldon salt, black pepper, and a few drops of a Napa Valley red wine (‘Chianti’) vinegar
  • the wine was a wonderful French (Burgundy/Beaujolais) red, Domaine des Cotes de la Moliere Moulin a Vent 2014, from Copake Wine Works
  • the music was Wagner’s first completed opera (unperformed in his lifetime), finished in 1833 when he was 20, ‘Die Feen’, Wolfgang Sawallisch conducting the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Bavarian Radio Chorus, with June Anderson, Linda Esther-Gray, Krisztina Láki, Kari Lövaas, Cheryl Studer, John Alexander, Friedrich Lenz, Norbert Orth, Roland Hermann, Roland Bracht, Kurt Moll, and Jan-Hendrik Rootering (Having heard the opera at least once before, but not this particular performance, we were surprised to find that ‘Die Feen’ wasn’t bad Wagner, which is pretty good; the quality of this performance certainly contributed to its success.)