I took a quick trip to New York City this week, just one night and a couple of dinners. One of my explicit goals was to visit the Union Square Greenmarket again. Even though it was a Monday, with fewer vendors and a bit of drizzle, my efforts were rewarded. I was able to come home that evening with some of the special treats of Spring, all from farmers near the city. The featured items in my haul were:
- a bunch of Stinging Nettles
- a beautiful, large Maitake mushroom
- two bunches of the freshest, prettiest Ramps I’d ever seen
- a Chinese green vegetable, related to Bok Choy, but lighter, thinner and more appealing
- and a loaf of organic peasant bread, purchased at the Whole Foods across the street
The next day I ate the Ramps, simply sautéed in olive oil, with some grilled bread and a glass of Gruner Veltliner for lunch. Two nights later I made a Spring Vegetables dinner:
The meal consisted of the NYC goodies, plus ingredients obtained locally over the past week. No recipe, but you can tell how it came together from the picture above and the list below:
- freshly-made polenta, cooled, cut into strips, and sautéed in olive oil until crisp on both sides
- cauliflower cut into thick steaks, drizzled with olive oil, oven roasted at 375° F. until tender, then topped with organic tomato puree from Catalonia, plus some chopped Kalamata olives, roasted another 20 minutes while the flavors concentrated
- 1/3 head of cabbage, thinly-sliced, tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted on the same pan with the cauliflower
- stinging nettles, leaves picked off the stem using rubber gloves, boiled, then quickly sautéed with garlic and oil
- fresh fava beans, tossed with sautéed green tops from the second bunch of ramps
- and 8-10 fingerling potatoes, braised with onions, garlic, more cabbage, and white wine, then roasted in the small copper pot with the lid on — these sturdy little gems do best when cooked for a relatively long time, something like 45 minutes braising and another 20-25 in the oven. In fact, the next day I took the remaining leftover fingerlings, cut them in half lengthwise, and then grilled them (a la plancha) cut-side-down for 10 minutes more, alongside the maitake.
The combination was quite salubrious, as my friend Ron would say. The wine was an excellent match: a 2010 Natalino del Prete “Torre Nova”, a rustic Salice Salentino alive with so many fresh flavors. It’s made with a blend of Negroamaro and some other grapes to soften it. A Louis Dressner import, I had obtained it recently from ThirstWine in the Fort Greene area of Brooklyn, and it’s an excellent value — organic and only $13.
I have since seen some unfavorable reviews of this wine online, but they don’t match my experience with it at all. In contrast to those reports, you might read this one from a very knowledgeable reviewer whose opinions I trust (Tom Ciocco). To quote his words (perhaps a few too many descriptors) about a bottle of the 2009 Torre Nova :
Azienda Agricola Natalino del Prete Salice Salentino “Torre Nova” 2009
Deep, opaque, cloudy and sultry blackish garnet color. Very complex and “pulpy” aromas of minerals, dried flowers, blackberry, barnyard, licorice, chimney, motor oil, country air, cucumber, mocha, and pine tar. The wine in the mouth is big, full-bodied, dense and chewy in texture, with a powerful, fine, deep, and polished tannic structure on which are hung rich, vivid, three-dimensional flavors of juniper, black cherry, black currant, prune juice, sap, and woody herbs. The finish is very long, intense, warm and dry, with clear flavors of blood orange juice and raisins. A wine of powerful, expressive, and profound rustic elegance.