skate, red leaf lettuce, peppers

2013 November 14
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by james

pan-fried skate, from Blue Moon Fish, with a gremolata of shallots, garlic, lemon juice, and parsley; accompanied by lemon-and-oil-dressed red oak leaf lettuce; and slighlty-carmelized small sweet peppers from Kernan Farms, finished with basil and balsamic vinegar

the wine was a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Hapuku

redfish fillets en papillote, summer squash

2013 September 22
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by james

presentation

 

I’ve really neglected this blog for some time, having been seduced by the ease and speed of Twitter, but sometimes 140 characters are more inadequate than usual for describing a really good meal (or almost anything else for that matter).

On Friday I came back from the Union Square Greenmarket with what the Pura Vida stand described as Redfish fillets.  They had stood out from the rest of the huge iced selection because they were not something I had cooked recently (actually, I’d not cooked them ever), because they looked beautiful, and  because the price was more than reasonable (I paid a little over $10 for two filets of about 6 ounces each).  Not familiar with the name (and fish names are notoriously imprecise), I asked what Redfish might be compared to.  I was told Red Snapper would be a fair equivalent, and that they were a mild-tasting fish.

Back home I went through my files of notes and recipe cutouts and eventually opened up Mark Bittman’s “Fish“.  One of his suggestions, “Red Snapper Fillets En Papillote“, almost jumped off the page.  It was fairly simple and uncomplicated, and I had all of the ingredients, fresh (all from the Greenmarket) and otherwise, already in the kitchen.   Bittman offered it as a basic recipe, to which he provided five variations.  I may find one or more of them useful another time, but I was amused by his suggestion, “Its sometimes interesting to make several different combinations at the same meal, so each serving is a surprise”.  There were only two of us for dinner, and it was still summer, so I absolutely had to go with the basic recipe, which allowed me to use more of the luscious heirloom tomatoes I had bought from Berried Treasures that day.

 

 

The procedure involved placing each fillet on a piece of parchment (large enough to enclose it once the other ingredients were added), then layering them with thin red potato slices (from Keith’s Farm) and thicker slices of red and  yellow tomato, sprinkling them with salt & pepper and shredded basil (from Stokes Farm), then drizzling them with oil.  The sealed packages were placed in a pan and baked at 450˚ for about 20 minutes (I think I removed it when I smelled the aromas) .

I had also picked up a few beautiful small zucchini and yellow squash from Sycamore Farms at the Greenmarket that day.  Thinking that my paper-wrapped entrée might not be quite enough for a meal without a first course, I started thinking about what I might do with them as a side dish.   In a hurry for ideas, I went to the internet and  quickly came up with a 1997 recipe from Gourmet magazine, “Grilled Zucchini With Black Olives And Mint“.   Great!  I had the Kalamata olives, some lemon, and a bunch of mint bought from Franca at Berried Treasures in the Greenmarket that day.  I pan-grilled diagonal slices of both the yellow and green squash, for color, before baking the fish packages, and kept them warm in a bowl on top of the oven (which is, handily, next to the burners on my 1931 Magic Chef.

We drank a bottle of Bourgogne Aligoté, which I believe we had purchased at Pasanella.  Terrific.

It was one of those meals where everything comes together perfectly.  It was totally delicious, with everything complimenting everything else.   And it was all so easy.  As the cook I also appreciated that I had nothing to do for twenty minutes after placing the entrée in the oven except sip on a Martini and nibble a few thin breadsticks.  I’m now totally sold on the en Papillote thing, for the rest period it affords, for everything being cooked á point, for the flavors having ended both blended and subtly distinguishable, and for the fact that everything was wickedly juicy.  I was also surprised that the seasoning needed no adjustment whatsoever.

Also, to tell the truth, I thought the meal looked awesome, no small matter for me.

Two more bonuses of the en papillotte technique:   First, it was amazing to find that while we were enjoying the fish at a very leisurely pace, it stayed warm throughout (not an easy thing to arrange when cooking fish). Second, the parchment-wrapped fish with its vegetables completed (in fact, more than dominated) the plate all by itself (I served the squash on a side plate), and so gave the impression of a much more luxurious portion than it was, although we did not feel the least bit deprived.

Finally, I only thought about it when I began to consider this post, but it was definitely satisfying to realize that the ingredients for the entire meal were pretty inexpensive.  Of course, as always, there’s real economy (of  both cost and time) in cooking regularly.

 

remains

 

garlic scapes

2013 June 18
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by james

 

There was no way I was going to leave Bill Maxwell’s farmstand in the Union Square Greenmarket yesterday without some of these beauties.  Garlic scapes are the curling stalks, or ‘scapes’ of conventional garlic when it first appears in the spring.   They are removed by the farmer in order to encourage the growth of the bulb below.  They have a mild, fresh aromatic taste and hardly need any cooking.  I use them in any way I can;  tonight they will grace a simple dish of pasta.

Minutina, Erba Stella, or Bucks Horn

2013 March 26
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by james

“Minutina”, or “Erba Stella”, or “Bucks Horn”, take your pick.

I snapped this picture with my phone at the Bodhitree Farm stall at the Greenmarket last week, to remind myself to learn more about this very beautiful “herb”, and how it might best be used.  While I bought some equally gorgeous tatsoi that day, which I served as a side dish for Wienerschnitzel, I’m now anxious to snap up a bunch of Minutia, or Erba Stella, the very next chance I get.  Looking at this picture I totally understand the star reference in one of its names.  Oh, it’s also called ”Bucks Horn”, the name by which it was known here in the colonial period, for the slightly ragged or pointed edges of its leaves.

I was delighted to learn that it’s also very much an Italian thing, a cold weather salad green (and in fact a succulent) with a mild nutty flavour and slightly crunchy texture.   Best when it’s young, it can be used in salads, where it contributes its own virtues in a crowd (not least its leaf shape and texture).  I’m actually likely to use it more often wilted with a bit of olive oil (with or without garlic) as a side or garnish for a meat or fish entrée, or as a bed for fish, meat, cooked vegetables, or – perhaps an inspiration here – eggs.

For the gardeners out there, it seems it’s incredibly easy to grow, that new growth follows after harvesting, and that it’s pretty hardy to boot.

 

lamb shanks, polenta, baby collards

2013 March 26
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by james

dinner, March 24, 2013

I recently seized what may have been my last chance to enjoy a seasonal rich meal like this (it would definitely have felt out of sync with the warmer weather surely now just around the corner).

While on one of my regular visits to the Union Square Greenmarket the other day I learned that the shepherds of 3-Corner Field Farm, who offer their wonderful meats and cheeses – and more – there most of the year round, would be away from the local scene for a while (it’s lambing season).  I had just bought two beautiful rainbow trout from Dave at Max Creek Fishery, so I was stopping by their stall only to pick up a round of their incredible Shushan Snow cheese.  When I learned this would be my last chance to buy anything from them for a while, I decided to take home some chops, and two small (10 ounce) shanks as well, both for freezing.

We had already enjoyed the delicious chops, incredibly quick and easy to prepare, but my favorite recipe for slow-cooked shanks seemed a delightful way to perfume the apartment with cooking odors on a Sunday evening when we weren’t going to be going anywhere.   I was encouraged by the thought that the very fresh, and very sweet baby collards I had once again picked up from Rogowsky Farm (also in the Greenmarket) the day before would be a perfect foil for the rich flavors of the meat and its (virtually inevitable) accompaniment, polenta.

My standby recipe is taken straight from the first of the terrific Gray and Rogers cookery tomes, ”Rogers Gray Italian Country Cook Book“;  this is my broad description of how I dealt with its details:

  • I first dipped the shanks in flour and browned them in a heavy oval enameled cast iron pan.
  • I removed the meat while preparing the remaining ingredients of the dish in the same pan, first sautéing two very-thinly-sliced red onions until they were soft and slightly brown, then adding a small handful of chopped fresh rosemary leaves and chopped garlic.
  • I continued to cook the mix, but only briefly.
  • Finally I added a quarter cup of balsamic vinegar and almost half of a cup of good red wine (Cabernet Franc, this time), and turned up the heat for a few minutes to reduce the liquid a bit.
  • The lamb went back into the pan, and I covered everything with a sheet of wet parchment which I had cut to reproduce its shape.  I reduced the heat, covered the pan, and placed it in the oven to cook slowly for two and a quarter hours, basting occasionally, and adding more wine when the onion mixture looked dry.

I finished the coarsely-ground polenta (yes, with a pretty generous amount of butter) by seasoning it and mixing in some grated Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh marjoram.

I sauteéd the collards lightly in a pan in which I had briefly sweated two bruised garlic cloves.

The wine we accompanied it with was stunning, a Cannonau Di Sardegna D.O.C.  20008, the pairing Barry’s inspired choice.

Pike sauteed/baked, parsley potatoes

2012 October 5
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by james

dinner, early October, 2012

the Northern Pike (Esox lucius)

 

Fillet of fresh, wild West Virginia Pike from The Lobster Place, cooked auf Badische Art (although modified a bit), that is, seasoned, floured, and quickly-sauteed, then placed in a moderate oven after being sprinkled with guanciale cubes which were replaced after a few minutes, in consecutive stages, by diced onion and dill sprigs and finally by dots of butter, the fish finished in a very hot oven until the skin became crispy; accompanied by boiled parsley potatoes (Norland Red) finished with butter;  and a small lightly-dressed salad of cress, along with one sliced red heirloom tomato, on a dish to the side.

The recipe was modified from that in “Culinaria Germany”.

The wine was Franken, Hans Wirsching Iphofer Kronsberg Silvaner trocken 2010 (in a Bocksbeutel)

 

[image from the Wikipedia entry for Northern Pike, where it was isolated from the coat of arms of the Lower Saxon town of Gimte; the copyright holder has released the work into the public domain]

 

Kassler Rippchen and/in sauerkraut

2012 March 12
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by james

dinner, 3/9/12

My ancient copy of Mimi Sheraton’s The German Cookbook comes to the table again:  I had brought home two beautiful smoked pork chops (Kassler Rippchen) from John of  Lancaster County’s Millport Dairy stall at the Union Square Greenmarket two days before, and the contents of our larder at home pointed me to how I should serve them.  I already had a bag of sauerkraut, some great potatoes, a medium onion and one green-ish apple (all but the cabbage picked up on earlier trips to the Greenmarket), so the solution seemed obvious.  It would be Kassler Rippchen and sauerkraut.  The only question would be what wine to accompany it, and the Austrian light-to-medium red we had on hand was an excellent, if perhaps unusual choice.

  • a covered, oven-baked casserole of Kassler Rippchen and sauerkraut, meaning two seared smoked pork chops from Lancaster County’s Millport Dairy reasting on top of layers of a mixture of lightly- sauteed chopped Gold Rush apple from Phillips Farm and chopped onion, half a pound of briefly-sauteed sauerkraut, and half a pound of small thickly-sliced (un-peeled) Bintje potatoes from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm, all moistened with a bit of good chicken stock and dry white wine, then placed in  a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes.
  • wine:  Austrian, Rose Schuster Zweigelt Classic 2009 Burgenland from Astor Wines

goat ribs, green beans, plum tomatoes

2011 August 5
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by james

dinner, 8/3/11

An article in the New York Times last year described goat as the most widely consumed meat in the world, but I’ve seen any number of sources on line disputing that.  I think the explanation may be in the phrasing:  The world may consume more pounds of pork or beef or poultry, but goat is what is eaten by a lot of people who are only able to eat meat on rare occasions (goats are very economical, naturally free-range, famously mobile, and they give excellent milk).  So it may be true that more people around the world consume goat than any other meat.

In any event, you’d never suspect goat had any importance in the world’s diet if you started searching for recipes, as I have, especially recipes treating it as anything but stew meat.  In spite of this handicap, I’ve actually been cooking goat for a year or two (see chops entries here and here).  At first I was pretty much on my own, unable to find much information even on the internet.

But I was determined to check out cabrito, or kid, for myself (ourselves), and at least try preparing simple goat chops or racks.   Yet while I was getting a bit of advice, and encouragement, from purveyors in the Greenmarket who specialized in milk products, I was afraid I was going to screw up and dishonor this wonderful animal.  Goat is very forgiving however, and once I realized I was able to pretty much follow the approaches I use to cook lamb, I was home free.  Goat and sheep are relatives, after all, as both belong to “the goat-antelope subfamily Caprinae.”

I recently picked up a copy of a new book called “Goat:  Meat, Milk, Cheese,” and I expect to be consulting it a lot, but even Weinstein and Scarbrough didn’t help me out with my latest adventure in goat cookery:  No mention of spare ribs.

Neither it nor anything I had learned up to two days ago could keep me from being at least a little stressed out about what I was going to do with the 21-oz. frozen rack of spare ribs – in lieu of a package of 5 chops (what were two guys going to do with an odd number?) – I had picked recently from Patches of Star Dairy in the Union Square Greenmarket. I had in fact never cooked spare ribs of any kind, and I couldn’t even locate basic instructions for lamb ribs on line, to say nothing of cabrito.

I wanted to avoid heating the oven on a very warm summer day, so I hoped to pan-grill the meat.  I was reassured about how quickly the ribs might cook by their pale color.  It was almost veal-like.  I decided to use my square enameled cast-iron ribbed grill pan and in the end I pretty much winged it, grabbing some hints about timing from several recipes which were mostly devoted to spicy Indian or Moroccan cooking (I was trying for a more-or-less Italian concept, as usual, one which could be put together with ingredients I had on hand in my small kitchen).

Since the dinner description made it to the blog, it means it was yummy, but I’ll add: “really yummy”.

I have to say however that the Puglian wine with which we accompanied it, which is excellent, which we have always enjoyed many times, and which I’d buy again if I could (I think this was the last bottle from a case we had gotten from Astor Wines), just didn’t seem to stand out with this meal. And yet everything we had loved about it in the past was still there when we savored it alone.

Ligurian pasta (potato, green beans, pesto)

2011 August 1
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by james

dinner, 7/31/11

The small list of ingredients may look pretty unexciting, but this pasta recipe is actually a small masterpiece.   Also, while sometimes the whole may be declared better than its parts, when the parts are all of the quality of those I managed to assemble for this dish, it should have been obvious from the start that it would be terrific.

  • appetizers:  Ligurian olives, fennel-flavored taralli (both from Buon Italia), quartered radishes (from the Union Square Greenmarket) and salt
  • drink: Arak (Kefraya, from Lebanon) mixed with water
  • Linguine (Linguettine, Setaro, from Buon Italia) cooked with chunks of new red potato and sliced thin string beans from the wonerful Franca at Berried Treasures in the Greenmarket, and finished with a pesto of basil, garlic, pecorino, pine nuts and oil [see Mark Bittman's recipe, "Trenette with Pesto," from the New York Times]
  • wine:  Sardinian, La Cala 2009 Vermentino di Sardegna from Phillipe Wine

flounder, fairy eggplant, Tuscan bread

2011 July 31
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by james
dinner 7/30/11

  • two beautiful 6 oz. filets of flounder from from Riverhead’s P.E. & D.D. Seafood in the Union Square Greenmarket which were pat-dried, sprinkled with white wine vinegar and salt, lightly coated with flour and browned in hot olive oil, then removed from the pan, into which a bit of butter, lemon juice and parsley was introduced and heated before being poured over the fish; accompanied by tiny Fairy egglants from Lani’s Farm (also in the Greenmarket), sliced in half and coated with oil, chopped garlic and fresh mint, (all from the Greenmarket), then quickly grilled on a ribbed cast-iron pan; and slices of Tuscan bread from Eataly.
  • wine: Loire, an excellent Sancerre Rosé Fournier [pdf link] Les Belles Vignes 2010 (100% Pinot Noir), gift of a generous, wine-savvy friend