It was delicious, the tuna possibly the best either of us had ever had, and I think it was a pretty sturdy Mediterranean meal, even if the description hadn’t occurred to me until we had sat down to enjoy it. The recipe is from Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, found in their book, ‘Italian Easy’; Recipes from the London River Cafe‘.
- two thick 7-ounce tuna steaks from P.E.&D.D. 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 a generous amount of 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, then pan-grilled above a medium-high flame for little more than a minute or so on each side and finished on the plates with a good squeeze of the juice of an organic Mexican lemon from Chelsea Whole Foods Market, a scattering of garlic flowers from Alewife Farm (a touch which has become a thing for me over the last few days, but it’s not a bad obsession) and a drizzle of Chelsea Whole Foods Market Portuguese house olive oil
- Artichokes Provençal Style, also (mostly) following a recipe from Mark Bittman, which began with the preparation of more than a dozen one-ounce artichokes, among the last from a box at the Union Square Greenmarket stand of Alewife Farm that day (removing the outer leaves, trimming the stem, cutting off the top third, and slicing in half lengthwise) while a little olive oil and 2 fresh garlic cloves, smashed first, their skins then removed, from Alex’s Tomato Farm in the 23rd Street farmers market were heated inside a large antique copper pot over low heat, and when the oil had begun to sizzle, adding a handful of pitted oil-cured black olives, the leaves from a few branches of fresh rosemary from Stokes Farm, a pinch of sea salt, and the artichoke halves (cut side down), the heat raised a bit and the chokes moved around until they had browned, at which time roughly 11 ounces of tomatoes, a mix of ‘the best cherry tomatoes’ from Stokes Farm and one chopped ‘beefsteak tomato’ from Jersey Farm Produce, also in the 23rd Street market, were added, along with a splash of water, and everything cooked, with the pot covered for part of the time, until the artichoke halves were tender, the dish seasoned to tastes, some chopped fresh parsley, again from Stokes Farm, added, served with more of the herb sprinkled on top, for garnish and served [NOTE: it can also be served at room temperature, which makes this recipe convenient for many occasions]
- the wine was a Spanish (Castilla Y Leon/Bierzo) white, Abad Dom Bueno Godello 2017, from Garnet Wines
- the music was Vincenzo Bellini’s 1830 opera, ‘I Capuleti e i Montecchi’, Fabio Biondi conducting Europa Galante
The entrée was a pair of simple pork chops. I’d prepared them almost the same way for many years, with slight variations in seasonings, but what pork chops they turned out to be!
I hadn’t been able to locate small chops in the Union Square Greenmarket for months, and at first I was disappointed again when I checked out the butcher display case at Flatiron Eataly on my way home Friday. There I only found chops weighing almost a full pound, but I went with the alternative suggested by one of the butchers, a pair of thick boneless chops, since they weighed only about 8 ounces each. My prejudice is for cuts which retain the bone, both for the appearance and the taste (although I’ve seen discussions which question whether retaining the bone has anything to do with how good the meat tastes), but our dinner experience last night makes me re-examine it.
This was our first pork dinner since returning from Berlin. I have to say, while we had some excellent meals of pork while there, this was better than any of them (although, to be fair, we never had anything like simple chops). It was also better than any I had prepared in the past myself, using this basic recipe. I can’t account for either of these superlatives.
- two thick 8-ounce tied boneless Berkshire pig Autumn’s Harvest Farm pork chops from Flatiron Eataly, rinsed, dried thoroughly, seasoned on both sides with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, plus a very small amount of crushed smoked dried jalapeño pepper from Eckerton Hill Farm, seared quickly in a heavy oval enameled cast-iron pan, one small halved Mexican organic lemon from Chelsea Whole Foods Market squeezed over the top of each (after which the lemon was left in the pan between them, cut side down), the chops placed inside a 400º oven for about 13 minutes altogether (flipped halfway through, the lemon halves squeezed over them once again and again on the bottom of the pan), removed from the oven and arranged on 2 plates, the few juices that remained poured over the top of each, the chops garnished with garlic flowers from Alewife Farm
- twelve ounces or so of ‘white potatoes’ from Jersey Farm Produce at our local 23rd Street Chelsea Down to Earth Farmers Market, scrubbed, boiled unpeeled in generously-salted water until barely cooked through, drained, halved, dried in the still-warm large vintage Corning Pyrex Flameware blue-glass pot in which they had cooked, tossed with a little whole Foods house Portuguese olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper and tossed again after adding some scissored fresh dill flowers from Lucky Dog Organic Farm
- one medium head of radicchio from Norwich Meadows Farm, sliced broadly and sautéed until barely wilted inside a large, high-sided tin-lined copper pot with a little olive oil in which half a dozen cut up garlic scapes from Norwich Meadows Farm had already been heated until they had softened, seasoned with salt and black pepper, finished with barely a splash of white balsamic vinegar and arranged on the plates
- the wine was an Oregon (Willamette Valley/Dundee Hills) white, Oregon Pinot Blanc 2016, ordered directly from Erath
- the music was Verdi’s 1847 opera, ‘Macbeth’, Claudio Abbado conducting the Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra and the Milan Teatro alla Scala Chorus, with Giovanni Foiani, Shirley Verrett, Stefania Malagú, Placido Domingo, among others
It came as a total surprise to me. I don’t really buy much corn of any kind, but on my first day back at the Union Square Greenmarket after a month away one of the first things I spotted was a striking small stack of huitlacoche-covered ears of organic corn in Tyler Dennis’ Alewife Farm stand.
Huitlacoche, or ‘corn smut’, is an ancient delicacy with a smoky, earthy flavor used to flavor Mexican dishes of many kinds, but I had never seen it before in the wild, so to speak.
I have no experience cooking Mexican dishes, but I do appreciate unusual ingredients, and remembering that pasta does as well, I decided I’d marry this precious fungus with an artisanal spaghetti, more or less making up my recipe as I went along.
It was every bit as interesting and delicious as I’d expected.
- nine ounces of an artisanal spaghetti (Pastificio Setaro F. Lli pasta di semola di grano duro, Lavorazione artigianale Torre Annunziata Napoli) from Buon Italia inside Chelsea Market, cooked al dente, tossed with a sauce made by sautéing one minced garlic clove from Stokes Farm and a small/medium spring red onion (picked up from Jersey Farm Produce that afternoon at our very local 23rd Street Chelsea Down to Earth Farmers Market) in a little olive oil inside a large antique copper pot until both had softened, adding a small minced section of a seeded fresh jalapeño chili pepper from our neighborhood Forager’s Market near the end, followed by 5 ounces of fresh huitlacoche cut from a rinsed ear of organic corn from Alewife Farm (I read that the black residue is okay, and in fact it’s the main objective, and that a bit of corn silk remaining is also no problem), plus the few kernels in their more familiar, original form, the fungi cooked slowly for about 10 minutes, or until soft, after which a little dried Sicilian oregano, dried Sicilian wild fennel seed, and some crushed smoked dried serrano pepper from Eckerton Hill Farm were added and the mix allowed to continue simmering for a couple of minutes, the drained spaghetti then tossed in and mixed with the sauce, some of the pasta water added and everything stirred over a medium-high flame until the liquid had emulsified, seasoned with sea salt to taste, the now-finished dish arranged in shallow bowls and garnished with toasted pine nuts from Buon Italia and chopped fresh parsley from Stokes Farm, a bit of olive oil drizzled around the edges
- the wine was an Oregon (Willamette Valley/Dundee Hills) red, Erath Oregon Pinot Noir 2016, ordered directly from Erath
- the music was Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s ‘Das Wunder der Heliane’, John Mauceri conducting the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin Radio Chorus, with Nicolai Gedda, Hartmut Welker, Martin Petzold, Anna Tomowa-Sintow, and others
Most of the time, a single entrée plate with several different things on it, will offer two or three different experiences, and occasionally even more, but once in a great while, at least in my experience, they will all come together as slightly different aspects of a whole. This is what happened last night, with this wonderful meal.
- one beautiful 11 and a half ounce swordfish steak from Pura Vida Seafood Company, halved, marinated inside a small antique rectangular ironstone serving dish for a little more than 30 minutes, turning once, in a mixture of a few tablespoons of olive oil, much of a teaspoon of a pungent dried Sicilian oregano, which is sold still attached to its stems at Buon Italia, a pinch of dried smoked serrano pepper from Eckerton Hill Farm, and a bit of thinly chopped garlic scapes from Norwich Meadows Farm, after which the swordfish was drained, both sides covered with a coating of homemade dried breadcrumbs and pan-grilled over medium-high heat for 3 or 4 minutes on each side, or until barely cooked to the center, removed from the pan and arranged on 2 plates, sprinkled with a little local Long Island sea salt (P.E. & D.D. Seafood), with some of the chopped green section of the scallion], drizzled with a bit of juice from a Whole Foods Market organic lemon and garnished with scissored garlic flowers from Alewife Farm (those very seasonal flowers were a small part of the preparation, but they make me very happy)
(those very seasonal flowers were a small part of the preparation, but they make me very happy)
- one pound of Red Pontiac new potatoes from Cherry Lane Farms that I had purchased exactly one month before, prior to our 3 weeks in Berlin (so, not so new, but they see to have even improved with ‘age’), 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 in a bit more than a tablespoon of Whole Foods Market house Portuguese olive oil, sprinkled with salt and freshly ground black pepper, garnished with scissored dill blossoms picked just the day before, from Lucky Dog Organic Farm
- one not very large head of Romanesco broccoli from Lucky Dog Organic Farm, broken up into florets, tossed with a little olive oil (not too much, to ensure some crispness and a carbonized finish), salt, pepper, and one crushed section of a dark dried habanada pepper, the mix spread onto a Pampered Chef unglazed ceramic pan and roasted at 400º for about 25 or 30 minutes, the outer leaves, trimmed, added just before the broccoli was removed from the oven, the mix stirred and arranged on the plates
- the wine was an Oregon (Willamette Valley) rosé, 2018 Oregon Rosé of Pinot Noir which we had ordered directly from Erath
- the music was a newy-discovered 1718 Neapolitan version of Handel’s ‘Rinaldo’, described as “a pastiche with a Mediterranean allure which Leonardo Leo assembled” 7 years after the premier of the original at the Queen’s Theater in London
It was the first meal I’d cooked in 24 days. We had returned from Berlin on Wednesday, the day before, too late for a visit the Union Square Greenmarket, and naturally there was nothing fresh in the kitchen, so we ordered a good pizza from one of our favorite kitchens.
Our next local market day wouldn’t be until Friday, so I scanned the GrowNYC site for the list of those open on Thursdays, and decided I’d head for Tucker Square the next afternoon. I knew there wouldn’t be any fish there (it’s a much smaller group of producers than that in Union Square), and I couldn’t be sure of what meats would be available, so I moved to the refrigerator the only entrée I had in the freezer.
It was a choice one.
- two previously frozen water buffalo filet steaks or tournedos (under 6 ounces each) from Riverine Ranch in the Union Square Greenmarket, wrapped with strips of fresh pork belly fat obtained from Joseph Ottomanelli, one of the brothers who run their family’s iconic shop on Bleecker Street (I separated the outer, skin layer from the one inch-wide sections on the kitchen counter, and secured the fat with both toothpicks and butcher’s string), dried with paper towels, pressed on both sides with one and a half teaspoons of crushed black peppercorns, sandwiched in wax paper and allowed to rest on the counter for over an hour before they were sautéed in a mixture of butter and olive oil inside an oval enameled cast iron pan for about 3 or 4 minutes each side, removed, seasoned at this point with sea salt and kept warm, the butter, oil, and accumulated meat fats removed from the pan and 2 teaspoons of a sliced ‘camelot’ Dutch red shallot from Quarton Farm added, along with a little butter, and stirred for just a minute, 2 or 3 tablespoons of a good beef stock poured in and boiled down, while scraping up the coagulated cooking juices, until thickened, followed by 2 tablespoons of Courvoisier V.S. cognac, which was also boiled until its alcohol evaporated, and then, off heat, one or two tablespoons of butter stirred nto the sauce (about half a tablespoon at a time), the sauce poured over the filets
- ten ripe sweet cherry tomatoes from Stokes Farm (‘the best cherry tomatoes‘), washed, dried, halved, heated for a minute in a little olive oil inside a small tin-lined copper skillet, seasoned with salt and pepper, sprinkled with fresh thyme from Stokes Farm
- a few handfuls of haricots verts from Stokes Farm, left whole, blanched, drained, dried in the same pan over low-medium heat, shaking, then set aside in a bowl until the steaks were almost finished, at which time they were reheated in a little oil inside a heavy well-seasoned cast iron pan, finished with salt and black pepper, and mixed with chopped parsley from Stokes Farm
- the wine was a French (Bordeaux) red, Châtean La Grolet, Côtes du Bourg 2017, from Astor Wines
- the music was Handel’s 1730 comic opera seria [sic (yeah, comic and serious)], ‘Partenope’, with Riccardo Minasi conducting Il Pomo d’Oro