It's summertime, the farmers' markets are loaded, and all I want to do is cook cook cook cook cook all day, every day. Specifically:
Open-faced BLTs with garlic-rubbed toast, a slather of mayo, butter lettuce and basil leaves, thick-cut bacon, the ripest of ripe tomatoes and a load of black pepper...
...strawberry gazpacho, Daniel Humm-style (but plus basil and a few extra-sweet tomatoes and minus bread, because we ran out)...
...grilled sweet onion, cherry and sugar snap pea salad with toasted hazelnut vinaigrette...
...Maine lobster salad with sweet onions, corn, arugula and garlic toast (recipe below!)...
...grilled oysters with hot sauce-y garlic butter and roasted carrots with cumin, coriander, pimentón, garlic and citrus...
...Turkish-style poached eggs with garlic-mint-dill yogurt, scallions and Urfa pepper sautéed in butter, and a summery green salad...
...and ALL OF THE TOMATOES, all of the time (with cucumbers, dill, oregano, basil, olive oil, balsamic and red wine vinegar).
Lobster Salad with Sweet Onions and Corn
Serves 4 as a main course, as long as there are other things to eat...
2 two-pound lobsters
2 tablespoons really good sweet butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 smallish sweet white onions, diced (around 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 ears of sweet corn, kernels removed (2 cups or so of kernels)
1/2 cup basil, torn or roughly chopped
1/2 cup parsley, roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Good bread (a miche or some crusty sourdough)
Cook the lobsters: Plunge them head-first into a very large pot of boiling water, cover, and return to a low boil. Six or seven minutes per pound should do it (I've also heard 10 minutes for the first pound, and three for each additional), and if the lobster is ever-so-slightly undercooked, it's ok (as it gets another turn in a hot pan before serving). Once cooked, plunge the lobster into an ice bath and, once cool, remove the meat from the tail, claws and knuckles. Chop into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter and the olive oil. Add the onions and cook until just translucent, then add the garlic and the corn. Cook for another five minutes or so, stirring regularly so that everything sweats but doesn't brown. Squeeze the lemon over the lot, give it a good stir, and then add the lobster and herbs. Season with salt and pepper, stir some more, and taste -- add more lemon, salt or pepper as needed.
Toss the arugula with lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper and lay it on a serving plate. Mound the lobster on top, and serve it with a pile of bread that's been toasted, rubbed with a cut clove of garlic, drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with sea salt. You won't be sorry!
Makes 1 cup of dressing
1 small shallot, minced
1 medium clove garlic, minced
1 heaping teaspoon whole-grain mustard
3-4 tablespoons lemon juice (1 lemons)
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup tarragon leaves
Salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients and--this is key--let them sit, room temp, for at least half an hour. Maybe more. Let these guys marry. Then spoon over everything (especially grilled vegetables, sliced tomatoes, boiled new potatoes and piles of lettuces). It's wonderful on a Niçoise salad--so wonderful, in fact, that your guests might not notice that the cook drank too much rosé and forgot to add the Niçoise [olives] to the damn salade...
A week after a 10-day jaunt to Barcelona and Madrid, the cravings were hitting hard. Sherry, garlic, pimentón and jamón withdrawal were in full effect.
Fortunately there was a birthday to be celebrated, so we did it Spanish-style--with fat white asparagus, spritzes, almejas a la marinera, garlicky roasted potatoes, and a rack of pork from Dickson's Farmstand Meats with shallots cooked in Pedro Ximenez. For dessert, a golden cake rich with Spanish olive oil.
THE MENU // spritzes, jamón Iberico, Marcona almonds, olives and pimentos de piquillo // white and green asparagus with lemon vinaigrette and basil oil // almejas a la marinera // pork rib roast with PX shallots and salsa verde // garlicky roasted potatoes // olive oil cake with roasted strawberries and genmaicha ice cream
Aperol Spritzes are the drink del momento in Madrid. We decided our bottle of Carpano Antica would do, and set it out alongside slices of jamón Iberico, Marcona almonds, olives and piquillo peppers, sliced and tossed with olive oil and basil.
Next came asparagus, green and white, braised a la Patricia Wells, tossed with lemon and olive oil, drizzled with basil oil, and sprinkled with redbud blossoms plucked from an obliging tree on Bergen Street. A basil oil tip: If using any but the mildest young leaves, blanch the basil first (5 seconds in boiling water will do) to eliminate any bitterness.
There were almejas a la marinera, too, Long Island clams enveloped in a ruddy sauce of Spanish smoked paprika (pimentón dulce), white wine, garlic and onions (scroll down; voilà, recipe!). The dish is named for sailors, marineros, and I would consider a life as a Spanish sailor if these were promised daily. They're just that simple-but-craveable, thanks to the hefty dose of smoky pimentón.
As for those shallots, a quick brown in butter was followed by a long bath in a half-bottle's-worth of raisiny Pedro Ximenez, rosemary and thyme. They emerged from the oven sweet, aromatic and savory, lacquered with the reduced sherry. (The inspiration: An unforgettable dish of steak with pearl onions and grapes cooked in Pedro Ximenez, eaten in the heart of sherry country in 2006.)
A bite of genmaicha-honey ice cream at Van Leeuwen the day before inspired the dessert: Maialino's genius olive oil cake with roasted strawberries and said (also genius, I'd say) ice cream.
Almejas a la Marinera
Serves 4 as an appetizer
32 littleneck clams
1 bottle white wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, minced
4 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon pimentón dulce (Spanish sweet smoked paprika)
1 teaspoon flour
An hour before cooking, soak the clams in water to get 'em to spit out their sand. Pour a few glugs of wine (a half-cup or so) into a large sauté pan, and turn the heat to medium-high. When it starts to simmer, add the clams and cover, peeking frequently so that you can catch them as they open. Stand with tongs at the ready so that you can snag just-opened clams and transfer them to a bowl. Pour the cooking liquid from the pan into the bowl with the clams, give the pan a quick wipe, and set it back over the heat.
Add the olive oil, onion and garlic, and sauté until the alliums soften. Pour the liquid from the clam bowl into the pan and add another half-cup of wine. Once it's bubbling vigorously, add the pimentón and flour and cook, stirring regularly, for 2 minutes or so, so the wine cooks down a bit and the flavors do their thing. Taste for seasoning (you might want to add a touch of salt), add the clams, and gently toss to coat them with the sauce. Sprinkle with a good shower of parsley and serve, preferably with glasses of sherry (Fino or Manzanilla) or a Spanish white like Albariño or Godello.