Archive for September, 2013

Gorgonzola and Mache Sandwiches from Marcella Hazan

Monday, September 30th, 2013

 

My mother’s generation had their love affair with Julia Child.  Mine, perhaps in response to watching the pots and dirty dishtowels stack up, as our mothers mastered The Art of French Cooking, fell in love with Marcella.  Marcella Hazan, who passed away yesterday at the age of 89, became the voice, famously authoritative, of excellent Italian cooking.  As Julia introduced Americans to coq au vin, Marcella sent spaghetti and meatballs back to the Italian/American restaurant kitchens, and taught us that Italian cuisine is as varied as the country itself.  Julia ruled complicated French recipes with her high-pitched giggle and a sip of the cooking wine; Marcella reigned over Italian simplicity with a sharp mezzaluna, and stern words.  And she liked whiskey.

Here are just a few of the hundreds of Marcella-isms that have lead me in the kitchen:

If olive oil is the fat in the sauce, add a bit of it as you toss the pasta;  if butter is the fat in the sauce, add a couple of teaspoons of butter into the pasta and sauce as you toss.

Egg pasta must be tossed in a wide platter, because it is too delicate to toss in a deep bowl.

That old trick we had proudly acquired of adding a tablespoon of pasta water to the sauce to thicken it?  Marcella says, well, it’s ok in some recipes, but “when the practice becomes routine it ends up being boring.”  – too gelatinous tasting for her.

Discipline the garlic, Marcella demanded.  “The unbalanced use of garlic is the single greatest cause of failure in would-be Italian cooking,”.

In respect to Hazan, many writers have recalled her magical three-ingredient tomato sauce, a potion of all that is Marcella, and all that is therefore Italian cuisine:  economy plus simplicity plus good ingredients equals astonishing deliciousness.  In this case, butter plus canned tomatoes plus a halved onion equals the only tomato sauce you will ever need.

 

Here is another Marcella recipe that echoes the magic above.  For years I’ve been making these little tramezzini – sandwiches served in Venetian bars as small bites with which to quaff prosecco.  Four ingredients combine to make a bite of something in which all you taste is excellent ingredients and care.  A paste is made with the gorgonzola (at room temperature!) and olive oil, and it is slowly and gently tossed into the mache – (or arugula), keeping the arugula crisp and fluffy.  A small pile of the mixture is mounded on a slice of crustless white bread, made into a sandwich, and carefully sliced in half to save from squishing the mound.  It sounds silly, but this is just the kind of detail that takes this from being just a sandwich to being a light, flavor-packed delight of an appetizer – astonishing delicious.  Grazie, Marcella.

 

Gorgonzola and Mache sandwiches

makes 8 sandwiches

 

1/4 pound Italian Gorgonzola cheese, at room temperature

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 pound mâche (lamb’s lettuce or arugula), roots trimmed, leaves washed and dried

8 slices firm-textured white bread, crusts trimmed

 

Put the Gorgonzola in a small bowl and break it into small pieces with a fork. Add the olive oil and mash until creamy.

Put the mâche in a bowl. Add the creamed Gorgonzola, a little at a time, turning the leaves gently with a fork until evenly coated.

Mound one-fourth of the mâche and Gorgonzola filling in the center of each of 4 slices of bread; top with the other slices. Position a sharp knife diagonally across the slice of bread; hold the bread down with your other hand so as not to flatten the filling and quickly slice the sandwich to produce two tramezzini.

a good app, smoked fish and chipotle mayonnaise on toast

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

 

This smoked fish with chipotle mayonnaise on toast is luscious.  It can be made in fifteen minutes or an hour and a half; you decide how passionately you want to be involved.

The hour and a half recipe means preparing Amelia and Nico Monday’s wonderful kitchen-smoked fish, a technique which basically means, on top of the stove, burning rice in a contained pot in which also lay a couple of fillets of fresh haddock.  It’s a wonderful technique to have in one’s proverbial apron anyway.

You can also make your own mayonnaise and stir canned chipotle into that.  This would be delicious.

The fifteen minute recipe means buying smoked fish and using jarred mayonnaise.

We made a composite this weekend, a one hour version:  haddock prepared the Monday way, jarred mayonnaise.

 

The kitchen smoking gives the fish a lighter, cleaner taste than commercial smoked fish, although the commercial would be fine, particularly if it’s Sasquatch’s smoked haddock.  (See the previous blog.)  The jarred mayonnaise was just fine.  Lightly smoked lusciousness defines this appetizer, and a good appetizer is always a welcome recipe.  Of course, imagine the variations:  smoked mussels on a tender slice of new potato with this mayo.  Smoked scallops on a slice of apple.   Even smoked chicken on a cucumber.  This may be the only app you ever need.

 

 

 Smoked Haddock and Chipotle Mayonnaise on Toast

1 fillet kitchen-smoked haddock (see recipe or video)

1 cup chipotle mayonnaise (mayonnaise mixed with canned chipotle peppers to taste)

1/3 baugette, thinly sliced

olive oil for brushing baguette slices

lemon

cilantro

chipotle powder (optional)

 

Prepare the haddock according to the recipe or the video.

 

Preheat broiler.  Lay baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil.  (I used duck fat because I had some in the kitchen; it was delicious.)  Toast under broiler until well-browned but not burned.

 

Allow to cool for a minute, and arrange on a platter.  Dollop each toast with a 1/2 teaspoon of mayonnaise.  Top with a flake of haddock.  Squeeze just a drop of lemon over the fish to make it shiny.  Top with cilantro leaf, and dust with chipotle powder.

Gluten-Free “Finnan Sasquatch” Pizza

Friday, September 20th, 2013

 

Gloucester resident Jen Pickens lives an Uber-paleo lifestyle:  not just gluten-free but grain free, a sensitivity she believes originated in childhood when her family’s Iowa farm received a heavy shower of DDT from the adjoining commercial fields.

The Paleo Diet advocates meat, fish, vegetables, some fruits, but nothing that a Neanderthal wouldn’t have enjoyed for dinner.  Wheat, and other refined grains, came much later in the history of man; according to the Paleo people, these late additions to our diet are the demons responsible for crazy spikes in our glycemic indices which make our bodies vulnerable to modern disease:  diabetes, heart disease, obesity, etc.

Lucky for Pickens, her partner is Paul Cohan, otherwise known as Sasquatch, Gloucester fisherman and producer of the finest smoked fish products this blogger has ever tasted.  On record, I declare Sasquatch smoked fish definitively “the best.”  “Squash,” as they call him, smokes sweet, meaty salmon, cod, and mussels (ok, also scallops, but they’re hard to find), very, very, very slowly – it takes an average of 8 hickory-smoked hours to go from zero degrees to 140 –  in a building behind the Gloucester Times Offices.  He sells his products at The Rockport Farmers’ Market, The Cave, Willowrest, and Vidalia’s, among others.

 

 

I only mention Squatch to point out that the guy who produces the best preserved protein around makes a good partner for the Paleo-committed.  I cooked with Jen recently, a dish  she says should be “Gloucester’s Pizza,”  her own fascinating paleo crust topped with mashed potatoes, “Finnan Sasquatch,” red onions, herbs and sprinkled with grated cheese.  Bubbling from the oven on a cast iron skillet, it tasted not so much like a pizza but a smoked fish gratin on a tender crust of ground almonds, duck fat and eggs.  Yes, duck fat.  Here’s another interesting Pickens lifestyle idea:  She cooks almost solely with duck fat.

 

Every month, Pickens purchases a free-range duck from Restaurant Depot for about $15.  From that Pickens extracts about three servings of meat and a gallon of soup from the carcass.  She renders the duck fat, which becomes her cooking oil, her baking fat, her toast spread for the month, the only oil in her household.  Just the economics here are impressive.

In terms of health she’s on to something.  In a 10 year study by the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Lyons, France, Dr. Serge Reynaud determined that men in the Gascon region of France, where the streets are almost paved in foie gras, eat twice as much duck as other Frenchmen and 50 times more than Americans, and yet the incidence of heart attacks in Gascon men was half that of other French men and a quarter that of American men, at least in 1991 when the famous “French Paradox” was reported in the New York Times.

According to every source I googled, the nutritional make-up of duck fat is much closer to olive oil than butter, but even higher in the essential omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid than olive oil.

Here’s Picken’s recipe for Sasquatch Finnan Coddie Gluten-Free Pizza, the kind of kitchen serendipity born in the gluten-free household of a fisherman.  For those of you interested in an interesting gluten-free crust, take this and run with it.  Use it as a foundation for all kinds of quiche-like combinations.  If you’re simply in need of a great Finnan Haddie-like recipe, Finnan Sasquatch rules.  Make the extra errand stop for Sasquatch smoked fish at The Cave, Willowrest or Vidalia’s.

 

 Jen Pickens’ Gluten Free Finnan Sasquatch Pizza

makes 2 pizzas

Ingredients

1 recipe Picken’s Gluten-Free Pizza Crust

2 cups seasoned mashed potatoes

1 recipe Finnan Sasquatch

1/2 cup sliced red onion

fresh basil

1 cup grated cheese (mozzarella, fontina or parmesan) to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Make the crust as below.  Allow crusts to cool briefly.  Spread a layer of seasoned mashed potatoes, 1/2 inch thick, to cover each crust.  Spread the Finnan Sasquatch over the potatoes.  Sprinkle with onion slices and fresh basil.  Cover with a good layer of cheese.  Bake until brown and bubbly, approximately 25 minutes.  Serve warm.

Gluten-Free Duck Fat Crust from the GAPS Diet

2 1/2 cups ground almond

1/4 cup duck fat

3 eggs, beaten

(I would add a pinch of salt to the crust)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Grease a cast iron skillet with duck fat.  A 9” x 11” baking sheet would work, also.

In a large bowl, mix together almonds and duck fat to crumbly.  Add eggs.  Work together with wet hands.  Press onto skillet.  Bake until lightly browned, about 25 minutes.

There are many variation on this crust from the “Gut and Psychology Syndrome, natural treatment for -” – or the GAPS diet, by Natasha Campbell-McBride.

Finnan Sasquatch

Ingredients

 

2 pounds smoked fish (haddock, cod, trout, salmon)

1 quart milk or cream

2 tablespoons butter or duck fat

2 tablespoons all purpose white flour (for gluten-free use cornflour or arrowroot)

2 diced hard-boiled eggs

3/4 cup frozen or fresh green peas or edamame, shelled

cayenne pepper to taste

freshly ground white or black pepper to taste

allspice to taste

nutmeg to taste

cream sherry or brandy (optional)

 

Instructions

Make a light sauce:

In a deep skillet, gently simmer smoked fish  in 1 quart milk/cream for 10 minutes

Remove fish.  Reserve to side.  Save milk for making light cream sauce below.

Melt butter or duck fat.  (Do NOT brown.)

Whisk in all purpose white flour until smooth.  Will be somewhat dry.

Whisk in reserved 1 quart whole milk or light cream (the same liquid in which the fish was simmered.)

Whisk and simmer until smooth and thick.

To the white sauce stir in hard-boiled eggs, peas, cayenne pepper, white pepper, allspice, nutmeg, cream sherry.

Serve white sauce over the fish which was reserved in the beginning with mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower.  This recipe can be easily cut in half or doubled.

Pairs well with grilled asparagus or grilled Brussel sprouts and a medium-dry white wine.

 

 

green tomato and apple pie, and a pie contest

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

The Gothic beauty of a late September vegetable garden evokes so much – moldy fruits speak of missed opportunity.  Dessicated vines weave thatch, like a Cy Twombly drawing, around swollen zucchinis no one has the oomph to harvest anymore.  Drought-shriveled leaves reveal a rising tide of pumpkins heaving themselves to the finish-line of plumpness.  Green tomatoes droop, wishing for ripeness, verdant phantoms of their Big Boy brothers, from withered stalks.

Ah, those tomatoes:  “You planted too late!” they parrot.  Frugality and pride demand we do something with these misshapen orbs that stubbornly refuse to redden.  Quick!  Hide them in a brown, sugary chutney!  Dredge them in flour and fry them!  Pretend they are not just delicious, but sentimental!

 

 

Here’s a green tomato option scrumptious and seasonal enough to present at a dinner party or tote, chin high, to an autumn potluck.

 

 

 

 

Choose larger green tomatoes if you can. As you can see, mine were green to semi-green.  (Without a garden of my own to plunder, I found it hard to find green tomatoes.)  Make sure to core out the entire white core, which stays harder than ripe tomatoes.

Juices ran like rivers in the pie I baked, but I didn’t mind.  How moist is your pie will depend on your green tomatoes’ juiciness.  If you don’t like a sodden bottom crust, omit it.  Put the filling into a buttered pie dish and top with one crust, which will become a crispy, golden comforter for your late September harvest.

PIE CONTEST ALERT!  On October 19th, at Rockport’s HarvestFest, there will be a special contest for homemade pies, jams, and pickles – one category for each.  BRING YOUR BEST RECIPE!  

 

Green Tomato and Apple Pie

 

A top and bottom pie crust, or just one crust if you choose to omit the bottom – recipe below, or use your favorite.  (A cornmeal crust might be amazing.)

2 cups green tomatoes, sliced

3 large apple, peeled and diced (Granny Smith apple preferred, but any good baking apples will do)

1 tablespoon lemon juice (fresh is best)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon sugar

1 egg + 1 tablespoon cream mixed together for an egg wash

 

Instructions

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Prepare your favorite pie crust and chill.

Toss tomatoes and apples in a large bowl with lemon juice.  Add sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Mix well.

Roll out pie crusts as directed.

Put one pie crust in 9” pie pan.

Spread ½ of the mixture into the pie crust and dot with 1 tablespoons of butter.

Spread the other ½ of the mixture on top and dot with 1 tablespoons of butter.

Cover with the top crust and crimp the edges with the tines of a fork.  Brush all over, including edges, with egg wash.  Cut slits in the top of the crust for steam to escape.

Bake at 425º F for 15 minutes. Then, reduce heat to 350º F and cook for another 45 minutes.

In the last 15 minutes of baking time, sprinkle pie crust with 1 teaspoon sugar.

Pie Crust

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups flour

2 sticks of butter

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

6-8 tablespoons of ice water

Instructions

Put the butter and flour in the freezer so it’s cold.  Everything must be very cold. Mix first four ingredients in the food processor or mixer.  (It helps to put the food processor bowl and blade in the freezer, too.)   After that is crumbly, add ice water a tablespoon until it comes into a ball.  When combined, divide dough in two, wrap in saran wrap, and return to the freezer again.  Use in ten minutes or so, when the dough is cold but not frozen.

 

 

The Chalkboard

Monday, September 9th, 2013

“Maybe we need a ‘Certified Local User’ stamp,” says Mike Raymond from First Light Farm in Hamilton.

The Chalkboard, that slate of local sourcing placed at the helm of many restaurants,  might need some policing.

Some restaurants choose not to source ingredients locally at all.  That’s fine.  Maybe it’s just how they’ve always done business.  Maybe they can’t justify the costs; local produce is usually more expensive.  Again, that’s fine.

The problem lies with restaurants who buy “crappy California lettuce,” as Noah Kellerman of Alprilla Farms describes it, and then declare it locally sourced, sometimes on a chalkboard by their front door.  I don’t have to point out how wrong this is for how many reasons, the least of which is that people believe Alprilla Farms, or Maitland Mountain, or First Light, or Marini, or Clark – is growing stuff that looks like crappy California lettuce.

I surveyed a bunch of farmers, and asked for thorough lists of the restaurants with whom they have solid relationships.  Maybe not every leaf in the place is from that farm, but the connection is solid.  Foreign Affairs doesn’t have a chalkboard, but writes this on their menu:   “We like to support local farms and purveyors whenever possible; here’s a list of some of our favorites.”  That’s honest; the “whenever possible” says it all.  They’re not making claims too grand to stand behind.  They’re acknowledging it’s difficult to shuffle menus and seasons.

Here’s my list, assembled by talking to local farmers, of the restaurants that regularly have local produce on their menus.  I know a few restaurants in Newburyport, but there are probably more.  What restaurants am I missing?  How about adding to my list so we can get an honest one going?  I wouldn’t want to omit anyone.   Perhaps there really should be a central resource, if only to respect the extra work and costs of trying to keep an honestly local restaurant.

 

Blue Ox

Christopher’s Table

Duckworth’s Bistrot

Finn’s

Five Corners

Ithaki

The Market

Pride’s Osteria

Salt

Scratch Kitchen

Short & Main

Willowdale Estates

Willowrest

 

Newburyport:

Brine

Ceia

Enzo

 

Some Burger.

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

 

The best burger on Cape Ann may have its origins in Mrs. Klopotoski’s 1989 third grade East Gloucester Elementary School class, where Doug Papows was “the Boy Scout” and Christian Collins was “always in time-out.”

 

Those third graders, now 32, have reunited in the kitchen of Foreign Affairs, a great new local restaurant.  Papows is the head chef; Collins is his sous chef.

The Foreign Affairs signature is a menu stacked with just what one wants in a local joint – a great roast chicken, a thick, meaty  pork chop, luscious braised lamb shank, a BURGER – prepared with beautiful, educated technique; Papows attended the Cordon Bleu in Chicago, and spent a number of years in Chicago kitchens, notably Japonais, a 4.5 star Japanese/European restaurant in downtown Chicago.

Foreign Affairs is wooing those who want their traditional dishes to come with delicious surprise.  There’s firey creativity in that kitchen, perhaps some of it born in all those hours of third grade time out?  Lest anyone forget, Christian Collins’ combustible imagination kept him on our t.v. screens to the bitter end of the 2011 Fox MasterChef series, where he finished third.

At Foreign Affairs, the “stack,” a salad of grilled local zucchini, summer squash, marinated eggplant and olive tapenade, recently sprouting a field of micro-greens, is no less beautiful than a plot of woodland garden, an example of the swooshing culinary paintbrush behind Collins’ wild child reputation.

 

To the Boy Scout and bad boy in the Foreign Affairs line-up we add Rockport native – “good student, a bit of a dreamer” –  Matt Rose, just a couple of years behind Collins at Rockport High School.  Once the general manager at Alchemy, Rose acquired there a halo-ed reputation for his wine passion, regularly charming customers with his new and reasonable wine finds.  Now a sales representative for Martignetti’s, but instrumental in organizing this new interpretation of Foreign Affairs (The restaurant opened a year ago, but closed and recently reorganized with new staff.)  Rose designed the restaurant’s wine list, which has impressed even his new circle of Martignetti experts.  He still appears behind the bar at Foreign Affairs for an occasional celebrity bar-tending shift.  The intimate, cooly chic wine bar is a welcome Cape Ann addition.

 

Back to that burger:   Wagyu beef is a Japanese-style beef with fine marbling; it’s higher in omega 3’s and lower in saturated fat than most commercial beef.  The Foreign Affairs version towers with sauteed onions, wild mushrooms, spicy kimchee, cool avocado, sriracha aioli, and crackling wontons, all on a Virgilio’s St. Joseph’s roll, which, Collins explained, is perfect because the crossed top allows the roll to fan the burger better; it better releases the burger with each bite.  Some local burger.

It may be the perfect symbol of theses two Gloucester kids’ reunion in a restaurant kitchen.  – very smart, a little local, that kimchee the mark of an enfant terrible.  Matt Rose, in a “what the hell” kind of wine pairing moment, recommends the Riesling, Paul Cluver estate 2010 with this almost impossible to pair burger.  (That kimchee! That sriracha aioli!)  Riesling is the most versatile and food friendly wine around, Rose says, but adds that the sweetness of the Dolcetta D’Alba, Beni di Batasiolo 2011 would complement this burger-deliciousness, too.

On contests:  Collins may be known as only taking Masterchef’s third place, but in Mrs. Klopotoski’s 1989 class he won the Valentine’s Day contest.  The prize:  dinner for his family at Twin Lights Manor.  There is a photo circulating online of Collins beaming, holding his winning Valentine, while the rest of the class, including Papows, glares.

For all this, we say Thank You, Mrs. Klopotoski.

 

Jean Georges Vongerichten’s Fried Sushi

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

 

 

This blog is nothing more than re-declaring a recent New York Times recipe outrageously delicious.  Mark Bittman tells Jean Georges Vongerichten in the super watch-able video that this is the best thing he’s eaten all year.  “If I were an award committee, I’d give it “best of the year.”

Jean Georges goes on to tell Mark Bittman, “and it’s simple enough that even you can make it; I know you like things simple.”

Mr. Keep-It-Simple meets Mr. “Classic-French-Indulgence-With-Contemporary-Flair” (- Frank Bruni, NYT, 1997)  in this demi-tower of warm-crunchy, creamy-spicy, cool-velvety, sweet-salty.

 

I’ve made these sushi three times now, including tonight for dinner, which was the best version so far.  (I apologize to guests to whom I’ve served it; it’s finally perfected.  The rice made in the rice cooker works better, as it’s softer.  The creamy, soft rice makes a tender foil for the super-crisp exterior.  We made half with scallops and half with avocado, equally unctuous.  A dollop of sriracha heats things up one last time.)  Do watch the video; there are a lot of good tips there – like JG okay’s the Hellman’s and chipotle shortcut for the first sauce.

Once again, thanks to Sophia Padnos for pointing me in the fried sushi direction.  The only thing more exciting than this recipe is imagining what other combinations can float upon a crunchy raft of rice.

 

 

 

Jean Georges Vongerichten’s Fried Sushi

 

24 cakes, 6 to 12 servings

Ingredients

FOR THE RICE CAKES

1 and 1/2 cups short-grain sushi rice

2 tablespoons mirin

1 and 1/2 tablespoons rice-wine vinegar

2-inch piece konbu

1 tablespoon salt

FOR THE CHIPOTLE MAYONNAISE

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon red-wine vinegar

1 and 1/2 teaspoons orange juice

2 teaspoons lime juice

1 tablespoon chipotle in adobo, including some of the liquid

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup grapeseed oil

1/4 cup olive oil

FOR THE HONEY SOY SAUCE

1/2 cup light soy sauce

1/2 cup honey

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1 tablespoon rice-wine vinegar

FOR FRYING AND ASSEMBLING

Rice flour, for dredging (or substitute all-purpose flour)

Grapeseed oil

Coarse salt

Minced scallions

6 big scallops, each sliced into 4 pieces

minced cilantro

Instructions

Combine sushi rice, mirin, rice-wine vinegar, konbu and 1 tablespoon salt in a medium saucepan with 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover with a lid wrapped in a damp cloth and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes or until done. (Alternatively, use a rice cooker.) Remove from the heat and let sit for 15 minutes.

Line an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with plastic wrap. Firmly press the rice into the pan. Refrigerate until set, preferably overnight. Remove the rice from the pan and, using a chef’s knife dipped in hot water to prevent sticking, cut into roughly 1-by-3-inch rectangles.

Make the chipotle mayonnaise: Combine the egg yolk, red-wine vinegar, orange juice, lime juice, adobo and liquid and 1 teaspoon salt and purée in a food processor or blender. Add the 3/4 cup grapeseed oil and the olive oil in a drizzle and process until smooth, thick and creamy.

Make the honey soy sauce: In a small saucepan, bring the soy sauce, honey, sherry vinegar and 1 tablespoon rice-wine vinegar to a boil and stir until smooth. Cool before using.

Heat grapeseed oil in a pan, deep enough to just about cover the rectangles. A broad skillet will require more oil than a deep saucepan, but will allow you to cook more pieces at once. Allow oil temperature to reach 350 to 360 degrees. Dredge the rice rectangles in rice flour and cook until golden and crispy, about 5 minutes total, turning once; transfer to paper towels and season with salt

Combine chipotle mayonnaise and scallions. Top each rectangle with a bit of the mayonnaise, then drape with a piece of raw scallop. Brush or drizzle with honey soy, then garnish with a bit of cilantro and a tiny pinch of salt.

 

“Oysters,” by Seamus Heaney

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

Oysters

by Seamus Heaney

Our shells clacked on the plates.
My tongue was a filling estuary,
My palate hung with starlight:
As I tasted the salty Pleiades
Orion dipped his foot into the water.

Alive and violated
They lay on their beds of ice:
Bivalves: the split bulb
And philandering sigh of ocean.
Millions of them ripped and shucked and scattered.

We had driven to the coast
Through flowers and limestone
And there we were, toasting friendship,
Laying down a perfect memory
In the cool thatch and crockery.

Over the Alps, packed deep in hay and snow,
The Romans hauled their oysters south to Rome:
I saw damp panniers disgorge
The frond-lipped, brine-stung
Glut of privilege

And was angry that my trust could not repose
In the clear light, like poetry or freedom
Leaning in from the sea. I ate the day
Deliberately, that its tang
Might quicken me all into verb, pure verb.

The cover photo of Heaney was taken at the Breadloaf School in Vermont, photographer unknown.  The Irish Times photo is by Panetta.