Month: August 2019

mackerel, tomato/caper/epazote salsa; potatoes, lovage

It’s a magnificent fish.

Oily or fatty fish is richer in flavor than other finned seafood, ‘fishy’, meaning it has a stronger flavor of the sea (I love the sea), an extremely healthy choice, usually sustainable, and often relatively inexpensive. Fresh is essential, and very fresh, as these 2 fillets were, can be awesome.

Mackerel needs almost nothing but seasoning to complete it, but introducing an acid can raise it to an ethereal level. I usually pick some kind of good tomato, usually along with some citrus, almost always the celestial lemon.

  • two very fresh and very perfect 8-ounce Spanish (aka ‘Atlantic’) mackerel fillets from American Seafood Company, washed, dried, brushed with olive oil, seasoned with local sea salt from P.E. & D.D. Seafood and freshly-ground black pepper, pan grilled on a large, 2-burner cast iron grill pan over high heat for a total of about 6 minutes, skin side down first, then turned over half way through, then removed, arranged on the plates and dressed with a salsa assembled just before grilling the mackerel, consisting of 8 ounces of small halved ‘honeydrop’ heirloom cherry tomatoes from TransGenerational Farm tossed into a small bowl with a teaspoon or more of rinsed and well drained Sicilian salted capers (halved, since these were large), half a tablespoon of juice from a Whole Foods Market organic Mexican lemon, a pinch of sea salt, a bit of black pepper, and some pungent very fresh epazote leaves, also from TransGenerational Farm, finished with more epazote sprinkled on top

  • roughly 12 ounces of pinto potatoes from Norwich Meadows Farm in the Union Square Greenmarket, scrubbed, boiled whole and unpeeled in heavily-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, a tablespoon of Whole Foods Market house Portuguese olive oil added, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper, mixed with a little chopped lovage from Keith’s Farm, arranged on the plates and tossed with a little more of the herb
  • the wine was an Oregon (Willamette Valley/Dundee Hills) white, Oregon Pinot Blanc 2016, ordered directly from Erath
  • the music was Rameau’s 1748 opera, ‘Pygmalion’, performed by the Apotheosis Orchestra, conducted by Korneel Bernolet

rigatoni di gragnano, aglio e olio, ma con timo fresco

This meal almost didn’t happen.

It wasn’t clear we were up to a full dinner until moments before I began cooking. What did it was a proposal for the simplest of pastas, aglio e olio, and then I went and threw an herb into it.

Simple; perfection.

  • three plump still-fresh/juicy cloves of ‘Nootka rose’ garlic from TransGenerational Farm, chopped, plus a prudent amount of dried Itria-Sirissi chili, pepperoncino di Sardegna intero, from Buon Italia, heated inside a large antique copper pot until the garlic had barely begun to color, then 8 ounces of a very good Campania pasta (Afeltra 100% Grano Italiano Biologico Pasta di Gragnano IG.P. Artigianale rigatone from Eataly Flatiron), cooked al dente tossed in, together with about three quarters of a cup of cooking water, the mix stirred over high heat until the liquid had emulsified, some chopped thyme leaves from Stokes Farm stirred in, the pasta arranged in shallow bowls and drizzled with a little olive oil around the edges
  • the wine was an Oregon (Willamette Valley) white, Chris Baker Willamette Pinot Gris 2018, from Naked Wines
  • the music was from an album of the late symphonies of Giovanni Battista Sammartini (c. 1700-1775), performed by Alessandra Rossi Lürig conducting the Accademia D’Arcadia

baked cod, potato, smoked chili, tomato; corn on the cob

The small ears of corn were a little larger than the last time I had served them, which pleased me at first, but it turned out both a plus and a minus. Larger ears, it had seemed, would be a good thing, although I can’t say exactly why I had thought that. It did mean that shucking them was a little easier and a little faster, but in this size the cob itself was borderline edible (although I ended up eating all of them, partly because I like variety in the texture of food, and because I hate the messiness that goes with eating only the kernels.

  • one 17-ounce cod fillet from P.E. & D.D. Seafood Company in the Union Square greenmarket, washed, rinsed, and quartered (to arrive at pieces of equal size and thickness for 2 diners), placed inside a platter on a layer of coarse sea salt, with more salt added on top until the cod was completely covered, set aside while a cooking bed was prepared for them composed of 12 ounces of ‘Lilly’ German Butterball new potatoes from Savoie Organic Farm (new to the Union Square Greenmarket this summer) sliced to a thickness of roughly 1/4″ and tossed into a bowl with olive oil, salt, black pepper, and a pinch of a dried smoked serrano pepper from Eckerton Hill Farmthe potatoes arranged overlapping inside a rectangular glazed ceramic oven pan, to be placed inside the oven for 25 minutes or so, or until they were tender when pierced but not fully cooked, then, having already been thoroughly immersed in many fresh changes of water to bring down the saltiness, the cod was drained, dried, and placed inside the pan on top of the potatoes, drizzled with a little olive oil, sprinkled with black pepper, blanketed with thin slices [although even the picture above shows that this time I didn’t slice it thin enough, since the tomato should almost melt] of one yellow/orange heirloom tomato from Campo Rosso Farm (“There isn’t another farm in the U.S growing the variety of Italian chicories they do, and they do it at an incredibly high quality.” – Suzanne Cupps, of the restaurant Untitled at the Whitney), the tomatoes seasoned lightly with salt and pepper and the pan returned to the oven for about 8 or 9 minutes more (the exact time depends on the thickness of the fillets), removed when done, arranged on the 2 plates with the potatoes still below it, garnished with scissored dill flowers from Quarton Farm

tomato bruschetta; lemon pork chop; sautéed bitter melon

Although I hadn’t anticipated any problems earlier, once I had started to put it together, this meal turned out to be a bit of a challenge.

Without doing any research on it, I had decided to buy a vegetable (I think it’s actually a fruit) that I seen showing up in the Union Square Greenmarket for at least several seasons: Bitter melon [momordica charantia], known in India as Kerala, or elsewhere as bitter apple; bitter gourd; bitter squash; balsam-pear, or any number of other names, whose number suggests it’s more popular than most of us would imagine.

Before Sunday however I knew nothing about this gourd except that there were Chinese versions and Indian versions (on Friday I bought the shorter, more deeply green Indian one, with the much more rugged surface), and that both were very bitter. That description  showed up everywhere, and otherwise I don’t remember any discussion of taste. I read only that it was bitter, very bitter; ‘an acquired taste’, the accounts all said, each adding that it might be something that could be acquired, if you were willing to keep at it).

I love cucumber, and I’m also used to sautéing it. While aware it was unlikely this particular beautiful gnarly green fruit, which also grows along a vine, would be anything like that favorite, my casual decision to associate it with cucumis sativus made it oh-so-easy to take home.

It wasn’t like cucumber, of course.

I have to make it clear that, for my own kitchen-conservative reasons (wanting it to relate to the style of, and to be incorporated into my own Western cooking, including the rest of the ingredients and recipes used in this  particular meal), I chose to not prepare the melon in a manner even remotely related to customs in China or India, which may or may not explain why it was still so bitter when I served it, even though I followed the universal advice to soak the raw pieces in heavily salted water to reduce that attribute.

Supposedly it’s very good for you, and it appears in many forms, including extracts and capsules, that reflect the ancient Indian ayurveda tradition, but health foods and supplements are not a come-on that works for me; I’m more likely to be attracted to the rarity of something than its advertised wholesomeness.

I also had a couple of very ripe heirloom tomatoes on the windowsill, but before I had investigated the bitter melon cooking process very far it seemed to me that I had a lot of it, enough to make a second vegetable unnecessary.

I decided to use the tomatoes in a first course, but I didn’t have any form of soft cheese, which would be needed for what may currently be the most familiar way to use really good tomatoes. I did have a great bread, a very dark, complex bread, a corn and wheat bread, nutty, with a hint of sweetness, a kind that would be the rarity I mentioned above, at least in an Italian antipasto context – or in any kind of tomato first course – so I improvised a bruschetta.

Something else was unusual about the meal, although not as unusual as Indian Kerala, at least on our table. Instead of a grape wine, we enjoyed a wonderful bottle of a local dry cider! Think serious Basque dry cider.

  • several heirloom tomatoes from Campo Rosso Farm, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, combined in  a medium bowl with local Long Island sea salt from P.E. & D.D. Seafood, some freshly ground black pepper, one small sliced and chopped and red onion from Norwich Meadows Farm, a little While Foods Market house Portuguese olive oil, and some chopped epazote leaves from Jane’s TransGenerational Farm, spooned over several slices of wonderful dark Homadama bread (wheat, corn, water, maple syrup, salt, slaked lime) from Lost Bread Co.after their grill-marked toasted surfaces, immediately after coming off of a very hot cast iron ribbed grill pan, had been lightly rubbed with cut surfaces of a ‘Nootka rose’ garlic clove, also from TransGenerational Farm, served with more epazote sprinkled on top

The main course followed soon after, because both the meat and the vegetable cooking times were short, and I was able to prepare most of the larger and smaller ingredients ahead of time.

Also, I was very interested to see how the vegetable would work out.

  • two very thick 10-ounce boneless heritage breed pork chops from Raven & Boar farm, rinsed, dried thoroughly, seasoned on both sides with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, plus a very small amount of crushed hickory smoked Jamaican Scotch bonnet peppers 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 15 minutes altogether (flipped halfway through, the lemon halves squeezed over them once again and again on the bottom of the pan, some finely chopped fresh habanada  chili from only a part of one pepper sprinkled on top of the pork at that time), removed from the oven and arranged on 2 plates, the few juices that remained poured over the top of each, the chops arranged on the plates accompanied by the lemon halves

  • one pound of bitter melon from Gopal Farm, washed, cut into 2cm slices, the seeds and pith removed, placed inside a bowl, a generous amount of salt sprinkled on top and with enough water to just cover them, allowed to sit on the counter for about 20 minutes, removed, drained, and dried on a towel or paper toweling, placed inside a large heavy well-seasoned cast iron pan, sautéed over a medium-high flame, turning several times, sprinkled with sea salt after as they pieces had begun to carbonize, and, well into that process, one small sliced red one sliced small red onion from Norwich Meadows Farm added to the pan and the onions allowed to soften, some black pepper and a pinch of dried fenugreek from Bombay Emerald Chutney Company (purchased at the Saturday Chelsea Farmers Market) added, the mix arranged on the plates when done on top of fans of some leaves from a small head of purple Romaine lettuce from TransGenerational Farm, drizzled with both a little olive oil and a small amount of white balsamic vinegar, added part of the way into the meal, hoping it might mitigate the bitterness of the fruit (which is also why I had earlier added the lettuce, at the last moment)

So, the post-dinner report on the bitter melon? In the end it definitely remained bitter, but by the time I had finished I was thinking I may have already begun to ‘acquire the taste’ (Barry was somewhat less positive), but I’m still going to look further into the possibility of bringing down the acerbity.

lunch with Amish farm eggs and bacon, tomatoes and stuff

But of course our Sunday lunches (which are also breakfasts) almost always include Amish farm eggs and bacon; it’s almost everything else that changes, although sometimes only slightly.

    • yesterday, in addition to 6 fresh eggs from pastured chickens and 4 slices of bacon from pastured pigs, all from John Stoltzfoos’ Pennsylvania Millport Dairy Farm in the Union Square Greenmarket, there were two small ripe green and/or red-ish heirloom tomatoes from Norwich Meadows Farm, sliced, seasoned and heated in a bit of olive oil, sprinkled with scissored fresh dill from Quarton Farm, and the eggs fried inside the same very large well-seasoned cast iron pan in which the bacon had been slowly cooked, but only after thin slices of a Phillips Farms garlic scape had been stirred in and softened in the fat, to which first a little very rich Vermont Creamery butter had first been added, seasoned with local Long Island sea salt from P.E. & D.D. Seafood and some freshly ground black pepper, sprinkled with some finely slivered fresh habanada pepper from Camp Rosso Farm and a pinch of crushed dried smoked serrano peppers from Eckerton Hill Farm, scattered with chopped leaves of flowering pericón (‘Mexican tarragon’) from Norwich Meadows Farm; the bread, which was very fresh and not toasted, was Homadama bread (wheat , corn, water, maple syrup, salt, slaked lime) from Lost Bread Co.
    • the music was an album of 12 Suites for Harpsichord by Johann Mattheson (1681-1764), played by  Alessandro Simonetto