Perks & Quirks

27 Feb

It’s been about a month since we’ve been living in Bay Ridge, just enough time to start learning some of the neighborhood’s quirks. What at first seemed a quiet, lazy, almost suburban neighborhood is slowly revealing itself to, indeed, be part of New York City, and therefore, slightly eccentric.

Or, maybe I’m just projecting my eccentricities on the neighborhood. Either way, there’s are some major quirks to living here, but there are also some major perks.

Case in point, my morning commute.

Mackerel & Olive Oil Braised Vegetables

I’m finally reading again. A lot in fact. I’m blowing through at least two books a week. But that’s not the biggest perk. The biggest perk comes at the end of the line on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. And what is it? The Union Square Greenmarket, of course.

I clamber out of the subway at it’s northernmost terminus to the sight of the stalls of the market. So far I’ve been in control of myself, it’s been helped by the grim reality of a market in winter, but last Friday, I was seduced.

I believe I was running late for work (as I always am). I came bounding up the steps, and then out of the side of my eye, I saw something and I froze mid-puddle leap. There off to the left, like something out of a nightmare sat two sharks.

Sharks? Yep. Sharks. Well, actually, more like dogfish, but they’re still sharks!

Mackerel & Olive Oil Braised Vegetables

So, why am I telling you about these sharks but not showing you a picture? Because many of the vendors at the Greenmarket don’t like people taking pictures of their wares. Why? I dunno, probably because I’m not the first blogger to write about Blue Moon Fish Co.

After admiring the sharks for a few minutes I took a gander at the other fresh fish on display. Lo and behold, they had a whole tub of one of my favorites, mackerel. Whole ones too (minus the head). So I grabbed the two biggest for a grand total of $1.05. It’s good to like what most people consider garbage fish.

And since I was already committed to carting home some perishable goods I decided to wander a bit and make myself a little later (they always keep me really late at work on Fridays, so I figured I’d chip off a few minutes at the front end of my workday).

The grass-fed beef guy was there, and he had short ribs, so I grabbed some of them too (more on those later).

Mackerel & Olive Oil Braised Vegetables

A large coffee later, and I was in my office placing beautifully briny, and yet still kinda fishy smelling, fillets of mackerel into the company fridge, right next to someone’s grotesque South Beach Diet cardboard lunch. It felt kind of nice.

We ate a lot of tiny, whole fish in Croatia. Most of the time, we think, they were sardines but they were often simply listed as blue fish. They were always prepared simply, usually just coated in olive oil and grilled, and were always delicious.

And so, with these memories in mind, a simple Adriatic preparation for my mackerel was called for. I stuffed their bellies with thinly sliced garlic and lemons, and a few leaves of mint and oregano (they happened to be what I had on hand) and cooked them under the foil of my Adriatic braised vegetables.

Adriatic Vegetables

And what are Adriatic braised vegetables? Only the single most amazing way to make your vegetables taste delicious and to (probably) sap them of all their nutritional value; vegetables cooked slowly in olive oil. A lot of olive oil! These came with every dish in Croatia, but I wasn’t 100% sure how to make them until the Tiny Banquet Committee sent me a scan of a recipe from a very old Helen Gurley Brown cookbook.

And so the perks of living in Bay Ridge do seem to be outweighing the quirks. But I fear for my wallet, and my shoulders, once the vegetables start coming back to the Greenmarket!

Head below the jump for the recipes for Vegetables Hrvatski & Mackerel Adriatica.

Vegetables Hrvatski

prep time: 15 minutes ~ cooking time: at least 1 hour

  • 1 head of Garlic, minced + 2 cloves minced and set aside
  • 2 Onions, finely chopped
  • about 1-1 1/2 lbs Potatoes, cut into medallions
  • about a dozen Baby Carrots, cut into chunks
  • 2 small Summer Squash, cut into medallions
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt

Preheat your oven to 300°F.

While you are chopping place a braising pan over a medium flame and add an ungodly amount of Olive Oil. Add the vegetables to the olive oil as they are ready beginning with the garlic and working down. Once all the vegetables are in and the oil is lightly bubbling, turn the heat off and, season heavily with salt, and if you have an oven proof lid put it on, if not, cover in heavy duty foil.

Place the pan in the oven and allow to cook, shaking gently from time to time, at least one hour. Taste the vegetables at this time. Are they done? Close to being done? Adjust the cooking time accordingly allowing the last 10 minutes to be used for cooking your fish. At the end stir in the last two cloves of minced garlic.

Serve the vegetables with a slotted spoon to allow some of the oil to drain off. If you wish, garnish with some fresh minced parsley. Enjoy!

Mackerel Adriatica

prep time: 5 minutes ~ cooking time: 10 minutes

  • 1 whole Mackerel, head removed, per person
  • 1/2 clove Garlic, thinly sliced per fish
  • 1 Lemon cut into thin half moons
  • Fresh Herbs (whatever you have on hand)
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt

Rinse the fish inside and out. Season with salt and olive oil inside and out. Stuff their bellies with the garlic and a few leaves of herbs. Set aside in the fridge until the last ten minutes of vegetable braise.

Pull the braise out of the oven, carefully lift the foil and place the fish on the vegetables. Replace the foil and put the braise back into the oven.

Allow to cook at least 10 minutes or a few minutes more depending on the size of your fish.

Eat carefully, try to avoid bones and enjoy!


11 Responses to “Perks & Quirks”

  1. Rebecca February 27, 2007 at 9:33 am #

    Who knew that Helen Gurley Brown wrote a cookbook?! Who knew that she ever even ate anything?! I’m sure that she wouldn’t recommend that a girl make these vegetables if she had a date that night, but they sound absolutely delicious and perfect for a winter’s night. And I can’t believe the price you got on that fish.

  2. Lydia February 27, 2007 at 9:58 am #

    You are so lucky to have the Greenmarket on your flight path to work. Every time I visit NYC, I’m drawn to Union Square. Wish we had something half that wonderful in Providence.

  3. ann February 27, 2007 at 11:10 am #

    Rebecca — I know, it’s funny, right? I know that she “wrote” at least two, the one the recipe came from that TBC sent me, and another one that I have, the name of which I can’t remember just now. They’re really neat books, if you ever see one, grab it. You can tell they’re from the 60s as they’re written in a liberating way, like, step back from the stoves ladies! Use your financial power! Buy some prepared foods, and then cook a little something, mix a cocktail, put on a mini-dress and watch him swoon over your gorgeous self, and your delectable meal! HGB really is a trip!

    Lydia — thanks, I know I’m lucky… I just wish I was lucky in my job too ;-)

    Oh, and FYI to one and all, the mackerel above is Atlantic mackerel, fished off the coasts of New England and Long Island, not Spanish mackerel. They’re wee tasty little things ;-)

  4. jenblossom February 27, 2007 at 11:19 am #

    That looks and sounds really fantastic – and I love your pot!

    I don’t know why, but while the mackerel always looks gorgeous when I see it (and we love stuff like sardines and bluefish), I never seem to bring any home. I’m going to go for it next time.

  5. sher February 27, 2007 at 11:29 am #

    I felt like I was stepping out of the subway with you and then felt so sad that I don’t have a farmers market (or Greenmarket) like that . Ours is quite nice, but not like yours. I love both of those recipes. They are perfect–and since you used mint with the fish, I was immediately smitten! :):)

    I’m so glad you’re enjoying your new neighborhood.

  6. Anne February 27, 2007 at 12:03 pm #

    It’s a lovely meal, and it always warms me to see someone make food that looks like a million bucks out of just a few dollars. But I was distracted from your lovely food by that gorgeous blue pan! Is it vintage? Where oh where did you find that beautiful piece of cookery?

    A friend of mine met HGBrown on a cruise. She said she was lovely. She ate salad with her fingers! It’s supposedly a thing with her.

  7. ann February 27, 2007 at 12:10 pm #

    Anne — I got it on eBay! oh my god, do I sound like a commercial or what!? It’s by Dansk and can be found by searching Kobenstyle. They’re vintage, made in the 70s I believe and are enamel coated stainless. They’re not as heavy as cast iron, which can be both a good thing and a bad thing… they’re lighter, but they don’t retain heat as much, but, they’re wicked cheap compared to LeC or Staub.

    Sher — YAY! that’s what I was hoping for, that feeling at least. And be jealous of my greenmarket all you want, I’m jealous of your Eden-ic garden!

    jenblossom — if you guys like bluefish and sardines, there’s no way in hell you wouldn’t like mackerel. Give it a go! (but if you hate it, it wasn’t my fault ;-)

  8. Glenna February 28, 2007 at 9:36 am #

    Loved your post from the recipes to the visions of the market to the, ahem, laugh about the fridge. I could go on and on about that for a while but I won’t. So glad you’re enjoying your neighborhood and even your commute. Dinner looked wonderful!

  9. Tiny Banquet Committee March 2, 2007 at 11:49 am #

    I’m so glad the braised vegetables worked out – this looks delicious!
    I, too, was admiring your pan. It’s a great color, and I love those handles.
    I haven’t ever tried mackerel – will have to get some soon – I love grilled sardines and mackerel seems to do well with the same type of simple preparations – olive oil, herbs, lemon.

  10. ann March 4, 2007 at 10:43 am #

    Glenna — I’m glad someone caught that ;-)

    TBC — Yes, worked like a charm, thanks so much! and if you love sardines, you will love Atlantic mackerel!

  11. Julie March 11, 2007 at 11:10 am #

    I’m another one who’s jealous of any commute that takes you through the Greenmarket. What a great commute! Between that and your neighborhood it sounds like you’re in a food shopping heaven.

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