Month: June 2019

grilled fennel/chili paved tuna; tomato, basil; eggplant, mint

This was rich, but a spring, Mediterranean kind of rich.

Everything was juicy, although I hadn’t started out with that objective. It was more of a quest to choose and prepare 3 things that would contrast with but still complement each other.

The very ripe grape tomatoes were at their peak juiciness, but I worried a little about the Japanese eggplant, because it had been started inside a greenhouse, because of its unaccountable piebald appearance, and because of its rotundity (they were going to be pan grilled), but they were really tasty, and possibly the juiciest I’d ever had.

  • two thick 5 1/2-ounce tuna steaks from American Seafood Company, rinsed, dried, tops and bottoms seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, brushed or paved with almost 2 tablespoons of a mix of some incredibly wonderful dried Semi di Finocchietto Ibleo [wild Sicilian fennel seed], harvested in the Iblei Mountains, from Eataly Flatiron and a little dried peperoncino Calabresi secchi from Buon Italia in the Chelsea Market, both first crushed together in a porcelain mortar and pestle, the steaks pan-grilled above a medium-high flame for little more than a minute or so on each side, finished on the plates with a good squeeze of the juice of an organic lemon from Chelsea Whole Foods Market and a drizzle of Chelsea Whole Foods Market Portuguese house olive oil, garnished with a scattering of a wonderful spring treat, tiny bursting seeds from inside a blossoming onion found at the Norwich Meadows Farm stall in Union Square
  • a decent amount of very ripe grape tomatoes from Alex’s Tomato Farm, located in Carlisle, New Jersey, at Chelsea’s Down to Earth Farmers Market on 23rd Street, washed, halved, heated inside a small copper skillet in a little olive oil, seasoned with salt and black pepper, garnished with basil leaves removed from a live plant sold by Central Valley Farm in the Greenmarket
  • three ‘dappled’ Japanese eggplant from Norwich Meadows Farm, each halved lengthwise, brushed all over with a mixture of a little olive oil, 2 finely-chopped spring garlic cloves from Michisk’s Farm in Flemington, NJ, a pinch of super-pungent dried Sicilian oregano from Buon Italia, salt and black pepper, pan-grilled on an enameled cast iron ribbed pan above a brisk flame, turning twice, adding more of the material from the marinade the second time, then arranged on the plates, sprinkled with torn spearmint leaves from Keith’s Farm and drizzled with a small bit of olive oil
  • the wine was a New York (long Island) rosé, Wölffer Estate Rosé 2018, from Philippe Wines
  • the music was a great recording of Alessandro Stradella’s gorgeous early 1670s opera, ‘La Doriclea’, performed by the ensemble Il Pomo d’Oro

pasta, radicchio, feta, garlic, parsley, lovage, breadcrumbs

It was a splendid meal, and extremely satisfying. Barry really loved it. I’m thinking of referring to it in the future as ‘the little magic meal’, since, aside from its other charms, it also betrays physical hints of the original.

Everything came together beautifully, and surprisingly easily.

My idea was to use some of my stock of 4 heads of radicchio (It had felt like I’d been hoarding these treasures) but doing something fairly simple with it. A search of this blog didn’t give me any ideas, because I’d only used small amounts of radicchio in pasta dishes until now.

I found good prospects on 2 other sites, and they turned out to be basically the same recipe, the main variable being the livestock sort from which the cheese, one of the principal ingredients, originated. I ended up cribbing most of both, while copying out my own, third version. The Result?  ‘Spaghetti with Radicchio and Ricotta’/’Spaghetti with Radicchio and Chevre’ became ‘Rigatoni with Radicchio and Feta’.

  • little more than one tablespoon olive oil poured into a medium size antique copper pot and heated over a medium flame before adding 2 minced spring garlic cloves from Michisk’s Farm in Flemington, N.J. and cooking them until soft but not browned, adding a fourth of a cup of mixed finely chopped fresh parsley from Phillips Farms and lovage from Keith’s Farm, and 1/4 of a cup homemade breadcrumbs, stirring frequently until breadcrumbs were golden, or about 3 minutes, the mix allowed to rest while the basic sauce itself was being assembled with 8 or 9 ounces Setaro Torre Annunziata Napoli Penne Rigatoni from Buon Italia in the Chelsea Market, cooked al dente and drained, the hot pasta transferred to a large bowl, where it was followed immediately by 4 ounces of a crumbled feta from from Lynnhaven Dairy Goat Farm in the Union Square Greenmarket, the mix tossed gently to melt the cheese, much of a cup of reserved warm pasta water added gradually until the rigatoni was accompanied by a liquid of a good sauce consistency, being careful not to add too much water, then mixing in one and a half small heads of variegata radicchio di lusia from Eckerton Hill Farm, quartered top to bottom and thinly sliced crosswise, and half of the breadcrumb mixture, seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, the contents of the bowl now gently tossed to coat in the sauce evenly, the pasta transferred to shallow bowls and sprinkled with the remaining breadcrumb mixture [NOTE: depending on how dry it may be when placed inside the bowls, a little olive oil drizzled around the edge might not be out of line; also noting that I had also intended to sprinkle on some onion blossoms (mostly because I had them), but I forgot, and, as it turned out, I think it would have been like gilding a lily]
  • the wine, ordered directly from the winery, was an Oregon (Williamette Valley) white, Erath Oregon Pinot Gris 2016
  • the music was Johann David Heinichen’s 1720 opera, ‘Flavio Crispo’ [tragically, while today we can appreciate its great beauty, the world had to wait 300 years, and for the Stuttgart Baroque Orchestra, Il Gusto Barocco, to learn this (the ensemble resurrected it and premiered it in 2016), because of the slightly outrageous circumstances of its stillbirth: the opera was never performed in its own time, or in the 3 centuries after, “due to an incident”)

bluefish ‘greek style’ (this time with feta); red new potatoes

It was a phenomenal dish.

Because it was a great recipe, really very easy to put together (if you have most of the suggested ingredients), and because it welcomes variations and improvisations. This time I included feta cheese for the first time, which wasn’t really an improvisation, since it’s suggested in the original, very sketchy recipe (I had just never had some around when I was assembling this entrée before).

Of course it meant the preparation would be even more Greek than before, so we looked around for a Greek wine and found something that would have been a perfect pairing whatever its heritage.

By the way, the bluefish is a magnificent prize, even if not fully appreciated everywhere, even today (it still remains one of the best bargains available at the market). I suspect it’s because most people don’t know how to cook it to take advantage if its almost singular virtues.

Also noting here, for the record, that boiled potatoes are not unknown in Greece.

  • one 17-ounce beautiful, very fresh bluefish fillet from P.E. & D.D. Seafood Company in the Union Square Greenmarket, rinsed, rubbed with olive oil and a little Columela Rioja 30 Year Reserva sherry vinegar, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, placed inside a vintage 13″ tin-lined low-sided copper pan, sprinkled liberally with a very pungent dried Sicilian oregano from Buon Italia and a bit of crushed dried Calabresi peperoncino secchia from Buon Italia in the Chelsea Market, covered with thin slices of one small-to-medium red onion from Quarton Farm, halved very ripe grape tomatoes from Alex’s Tomato Farm in the Saturday Chelsea’s Down to Earth Farmers Market a block west of us, some chopped fresh oregano from Phillips Farms, 8 or 9 pitted Kalamata olives from Flatiron Eataly, a few ounces of feta cheese from Lynnhaven Dairy Goat Farm in the Union Square Greenmarket, crumbled, and 6 very thin slices of a Whole Foods Market organic lemon, the pan placed inside a 425º oven and baked for 15 minutes, the fillets arranged on the plates and garnished with roughly chopped bronze fennel from Space on Ryder Farm
  • one pound of red Adirondack new potatoes, from Norwich Meadows Farm, boiled with a generous amount of salt until barely cooked through, drained, halved, dried while still in the still-warm vintage medium size Corning Pyrex Flameware blue-glass pot in which they had cooked, rolled around inside the pot in a little more than a tablespoon or so of Whole Foods Market house Portuguese olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, garnished with onion blossoms from Norwich Meadows Farm

  • the wine was a quite unusual Greek (Macedonia) white, Domaine Tatsis, Xinomavro White ‘Xiropotamos’, 2015, from Flatiron Wines, [“Less than 50 cases are made of this killer biodynamic white each year. It’s made from the free-run juice of Xinomavro (a red variety similar to Nebbiolo) before the rest of the grapes are made into a rose.” – seller’s notes]

waldy’s pizza, and crossing borders with other arts as well

Sometimes we order pizza. We rotate among several really excellent shops, and they’re their styles are totally individual. They are not all Italian.

This past Sunday seemed to have been wrapped up in one thousand and one days. I’ll explain.

We ordered pizza in the evening, but it felt even more special than usual.

We had begun around noon with a breakfast accompanied by music incorporating Jewish, Christian and Muslim Psalms from the 16th & 17th centuries, performed by an ensemble formed specifically to bridge the geography of those cultures.

That afternoon we were in Sunset Park for a theatrical performance, ‘News of the Strange’, whose inspiration came from the medieval Arabian fantasies of ‘One Thousand and One Nights‘, a collection of folk tales associated with the middle east. The work may not actually have originated in the Middle East, and it can speak to a much broader, multicultural world today, an assignment which guided the theater company’s mainstage season as well as the ‘lab’ works associated with it.

When we got home, we ordered a Waldy’s pizza.

The pizza is literally out of this world, or at least somewhat out of Italy: Waldy Malouf was blessed with a Sicilian grandmother, a Lebanese grandmother and grandfather, and a mother he has described as a New England farm girl. It seems to have worked, and some of his work fit nicely into a day in which we enjoyed opening a number of cultural borders.

By the way, it’s not a round pie, not a square pie, but a beautiful, very thin crust, rounded rectangular pie, with spectacular ingredients.

The music that night continued the theme running through the day, having been described in 2003 by the New York Times as:

A Western period instrument group jams with a Turkish band, setting off sparks and shedding delightful light on whole musical ages and cultures.


[the second image is from the DGG site]

breakfast with lettuce and tomato; abrahamic psalms

and one piece of egg (actually two, but at least they’ve been arranged as they were in the pan)

  • the ingredients were relatively few (few at least for our breakfast room table): 6 fresh eggs from pastured chickens and 4 slices of bacon from pastured pigs, all from Pennsylvania’s Millport Dairy Farm in the Union Square Greenmarket, the eggs, while they were being fried, seasoned with a newly-introduced local Long Island sea salt (P.E. & D.D. Seafood), freshly ground black pepper, sprinkled with chopped lovage from Keith’s Farm, and tiny buds from an onion flower stem from Norwich Meadows Farm; a few very ripe tomatoes from Alex’s Tomato Farm in the Saturday Chelsea’s Down to Earth Farmers Market only one block west of us, punctured first, then heated inside a small antique blue Pyrex skillet in a little olive oil and a small amount of thinly sliced rocambole garlic scapes from Keith’s Farm until the tomatoes were a little more than warm, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper, mixed with some chopped dill from Stokes Farm and arranged on the plates with a few leaves of a small head of red and green lettuce from Campo Rosso Farm already dressed with salt, pepper, a few drops of Whole Foods Market house Portuguese olive oil, and even fewer drops of organic lemon from Whole Foods; and lightly toasted slices of Pain D’Avignon ‘seven grains bread’ from Foragers Market


[the image at the bottom is from Sarband]