Category Archives: Recipes

HomeFront’s Teaching Kitchen Helping Families Become Self-Sufficient;Yet More Restaurants Opening in Princeton; Making Perfect Porchetta

Long-time Princeton Caterer & Cooking Instructor Teaches Homeless Adults and Children in New State-of-the-Art Kitchen

Christina Crawford’s Wooden Spoon Catering Company was Princeton staple for 15 years. After that, she taught children and adults at the culinary center inside Princeton’s Whole Food. But now that she’s heading up HomeFront’s Teaching Kitchen in Ewing, she told me, “This job is a thousand times better than anything I could have thought about doing.” Find out why, here in my profile in the February issue of The Princeton Echo.

Christina Crawford & Students

Christina Crawford & Students

February Food for Thought: 3 More New Eateries Coming to Downtown Princeton; Dining Deal at the Peacock Inn; Mediterranean Farm-to-Table Dinners at Hopewell Valley Vineyards

Hopewell Valley Vineyards Chef Nikiforos Vaimakis, courtesy Infini-T Cafe Princeton

Hopewell Valley Vineyards Chef Nikiforos Vaimakis (courtesy Infini-T Cafe Princeton)

Gosh, how I love having the central part of our state as my base of operations. One prime example: this February Echo column that’s chock-full of exciting developments. Details on: Jules Thin Crust Pizza, Marhaba, Kung Fu Tea & Noodle House, a new Osteria Procaccini outpost, $49 to dine at the Peacock Inn, $70 for a 5-course meal with wines in Hopewell. My, oh my.

Picture Perfect Porchetta

For some reason I got it into my head that I wanted to attempt porchetta for Christmas this past year. It turned out to be a showstopper (my family took to calling it the Meat Log), and it would make an impressive centerpiece for any winter dinner party.

My porchetta

My porchetta

Now, I’m not going to tell you that forming a jelly roll out of thick slabs of meat and fat is easy, but it’s worth the effort. I followed this Martha Stewart recipe and video for Porchetta with Salsa Verde, using wonderful boneless pork loin and pork belly from Double Brook Farm (which I had pre-ordered from butcher Cole Dougherty at Brick Farm Market).

You know you're onto something when your canine guest plants himself outside the kitchen

You know you’re onto something when your canine guest plants himself outside the kitchen and won’t budge

The stuffing of fresh Mediterranean herbs and garlic featured exceptionally fragrant fennel pollen from Princeton’s Savory Spice Shop. And added bonus was that for days afterwards we enjoyed leftovers of porchetta sandwiches on Terra Momo Bread focaccia.

Lambertville, Princeton & NJ Monthly’s Best-Downtown Showdown; The Story Behind Shibumi Mushrooms; The Story Behind Rachel Weston’s “New Jersey Fresh”

NJ Monthly Turns the Spotlight on Our State’s Most Interesting Downtowns – and You Can Vote for Your Fave

NJ Monthly cover sept 2015

I contributed profiles of 2 downtowns that are dear to my heart: Lambertville & Princeton. They’re among 25 featured in the September issue of the magazine. Read them all, then vote for your favorites here, in the online showdown.

Ever Wonder About Those Beautiful, Delicious Shibumi Farm Mushrooms?

Shibumi Farm Mushrooms

Shibumi Farm Mushrooms

Where they come from and how they’re developed and grown? Me too. Up til now Shibumi’s owner, Alan Kaufman, has been tight-lipped about his business – both personal and professional. When I sat down with him for this in-depth interview in the September Princeton Echo , I knew it was going to be interesting. But he and his story turn out to be downright fascinating. Here’s just a sampling of what I learned:
– He started college at 15
– He has developed 28 strains of mushrooms to date
– Mushrooms are being used to remove Agent Orange from soil in Vietnam
– Shibumi mushroom customers range from Thomas Keller to Blue Apron
– Chicken-of-the-woods (not to be confused with hen-of-the-woods) taste like Chicken Francese all by themselves.

Take the full magical mystery tour here.

Then There’s Rachel Weston’s Story…

Rachel Weston Portrait

Rachel Weston Portrait

You’ve probably encountered Rachel either in print or in person in recent times. This “locavore provocateur,” as I dub her, has been crisscrossing the state doing cooking demos and signings since her book, New Jersey Fresh: Four Seasons from Farm to Table, came out in May.

I got the goods on this born-and-bred Jersey girl, here in the September 2nd issue of US 1. Among the things I discovered:
– She was for many years an award-winning night photo editor for The Star-Ledger family of newspapers
– She won a scholarship that allowed her to spend 10 days trailing and living with Nora Pouillon, whose Restaurant Nora in DC was the first certified organic restaurant in the U.S.
– How to make roux in the microwave.

 

Outstanding Italian Eats at the Shore & in San Francisco

I’ve had so many memorable meals in recent weeks – all around NJ, in NYC, and in the Bay Area – that it’s going to take several posts just to get caught up. I’m starting with 2 Italians: a real find at the Jersey Shore, and the San Francisco restaurant by James Beard award-winning chef Michael Tusk (of Quince fame) that inspired the design of Agricola in Princeton.

But first, your moment of zen:

Rib Tickler in vintage coupe, Chez Tanner

Rib Tickler in vintage coupe, Chez Tanner

This photo of a Rib Tickler cocktail was taken by my daughter Alice at my Memorial Day weekend cookout. My son-in-law-to-be, Ryan (via my other daughter, Elizabeth), is an excellent mixologist and expertly produced a pitcherful for me from this recipe on tastingtable.com.

Ingredients for Rib Tickler cocktails

Ingredients for Rib Tickler cocktails

I was attracted to it because it used something I hadn’t encountered before: Suze, which I found at CoolVines in Princeton. The cocktail was gorgeous, yes, but also delicious and a big hit.

NJ Monthly cover june15On to the restaurants. First up is Mossuto’s Market & Cafe in Wall Township. Surely you’re heading down the Shore this summer. If you’re anywhere in the vicinity of Belmar and Brielle, I strongly recommend you stop in for a terrific Italian meal (at minimum, a wood-fire pizza and Peroni) and/or to stock your Shore pantry with top-notch Italian comestibles from the market portion of this family-run restaurant, deli, butcher shop, & bakery. Here’s my review, in the June issue of New Jersey Monthly.

On to the City by the Bay.

Cotogna SF window

Cotogna SF window

With only 1 day in San Francisco on my latest trip to visit my daughter in Berkeley, CA, I chose Cotogna, the Northern Italian restaurant in the financial district that’s joined at the hip with sibling Quince. (Cotogna means “quince” in Italian.) Of particular interest was that Jim Nawn, owner of Agricola, had named Cotogna as an inspiration for the design of his Princeton popular eatery. To be exact, the window on Witherspoon Street that shows the cooks hard at work and a suspended wood-slat ceiling. Here’s Cotogna’s ceiling:

Wood slat ceiling at Cotogna, SF

Wood slat ceiling at Cotogna, SF

To be honest, I expected a fine rustic Italian lunch. But I didn’t expect the fireworks Cotogna delivered, nor that it is apparently a power lunch spot. Maybe it’s the bargain $28 3-course fixed price, or the wine list with all glasses at $12 and all bottles at $50. (I had an excellent Niklas lagrein from Alto Adige.) No matter, a decidedly stylish group of diners of all age groups turned up, some clearly on business, some purely social.

Pictorial highlights:

Calypso cocktail & arugula salad with stone fruit & almonds, CotognaSF

Calypso cocktail & arugula salad with stone fruit & almonds, CotognaSF

Cotogna country loaf, more than worth the $6 tab

Cotogna country loaf, more than worth the $6 tab

Super-rich agnolotti stuffed with sugo of 3 meats (1 of which is lamb): Cotogna, SF

Super-rich agnolotti with sugo of 3 meats (1 of which is rabbit): CotognaSF

Buttermilk budino with berries, Cotogna SF

Budino with berries, CotognaSF

Next post: an izakaya in Berkeley that serves anything but your run of the mill sushi, sashimi, and yakatori. Squid in salted squid guts, anyone?

Pork Roll Mania: Cookbook, Signing, Festival, Recipe

Why did it take a publisher in Maine to recognize the potential of NJ’s favorite porcine foodstuff? I can’t say, but thank goodness there’s now Pork Roll The Cookbook – and Pork Roll The Festival. Check them out – and more – here in my post on NJMonthly.com. (Including, btw, a dip recipe for your next party.)

Pork Roll Cookbook

NJ Boasts 4 JamesBeard Semifinalists!; Martha Stewart Coming to Bridgewater; Mauritian Fish Curry

2015 James Beard Award Semi-Finalists Announced

These Garden State culinary luminaries are nominees this year – including in two national categories:

For Outstanding Chef (in the U.S.): Maricel Presilla, Cucharamama, Hoboken

For Outstanding Baker (in the U.S.): Marie Jackson, The Flaky Tart, Atlantic Highlands

For Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic: Both Scott Anderson, Elements, Princeton and Joey Baldino, Zeppoli, Collingswood

Congrats & best wishes to them all!
Finalists will be announced on March 24 and the winners named on May 4.
Here’s the complete 2015 list of semifinalists in all categories.

Heads Up Martha Stewart Fans

clean-slate-cover_sq

She’ll be signing copies of her latest book, Clean Slate, on Thursday, February 26 at the Costco in Bridgewater. Ms. S. will be there at 2 pm but only for one hour, so good luck! For event info phone 732.584.1003.

Homemade Fish Curry from the Island of Mauritius (via Northern VA)

Do I hear you saying, “from where?” I explain the where, why, who, what and how below. (This post is excerpted from my In the Kitchen column in the 2/6/15 issue of the Princeton Packet.)

Of the many important things in life that we have little or no control over, our children’s choice of mate has to rank right up there. So my husband Bill and I counted ourselves among the fortunate in this regard when our elder daughter, Alice, married Chris Le last year. He is all anyone could hope for in a son-in-law. But the bonus for me, a food writer, is that Chris hails from a food-obsessed family with an interesting and unusual cultural background.

Alice & Chris Le

Alice & Chris Le

Chris’s father, Thanh Le, emigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam after the war. In Northern Virginia he met his future wife, Marie-Ange So Ting Fong, who was born and raised on the island of Mauritius, which is known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. Situated off the coast of Madagascar, Mauritius is the only place on earth where the dodo lived. In 2010, the New York Times lauded the island’s “perfect year-round climate, talcum-soft sands, [and] crystalline waters.” This tropical paradise is multi-ethnic and multi-lingual. Languages spoken there include Mauritian Creole, French, and English, as well as several Asian tongues.

Chris and his two brothers were raised on dishes that span the Vietnamese, Chinese, and Mauritian repertoire. While his father, Thanh, likes to grill and barbecue, the bulk of the cooking is done by his mother, Marie-Ange, and her mother, Josephine So Ting Fong, who lives with the family part of the year. This past Christmas Eve the Les graciously invited me and Bill to join their extended family for what turned out to be a veritable feast.

Le Family Christmas Eve 2014

Le Family Christmas Eve 2014

I lost count after 15 dishes had hit the table, among them dumplings, egg rolls, Vietnamese grilled beef skewers, noodle dishes, abalone, and pickled eggs. All were terrific, but there was one dish that I couldn’t stop eating: Mauritian fish curry. This turns out to be a deceptively straightforward combination of fried fish with onions, a couple of spices, and a splash of vinegar. It’s a curry in the broader Southeast Asian sense of something having been cooked in spices, which may or may not include curry.

Mauritian Fish Curry

Mauritian Fish Curry

Of course, the first thing I did when I got home was to google recipes for Mauritian fish curry. But the images and recipes that popped up were quite different from what I had enjoyed. The apparently more common version turns out to be a “wet” curry, with the fried fish bathed in sauce, often tomato based. The Les’ is a “dry” curry, its moisture derived mainly from the oil that the fish is fried in. So I asked Ms. Le and her mother for their recipe, which they kindly supplied. (As is typical in recipes handed down in families, no one had ever measured ingredients, let alone recorded it on paper.) The only constants among theirs and the other recipes are onions, garlic, and fish (usually white-fleshed) fried in vegetable or seed oil. Many include – besides the aforementioned tomatoes – fresh ginger, cilantro, and thyme. Some use curry leaves or curry powder, as well as cumin or garam masala.

The Le family recipe contains none of these. Instead, spoonfuls of saffron and mustard seed provide color and flavor. Ms. Le cautions, “I would suggest that you test the recipe and adjust the amounts according to your taste.” She also suggests using your personal favorite fish. For her, that’s thick fillets of boneless tilapia, although her mother prefers tilapia (or other fish) with bones intact, and her husband favors salmon.

The recipe below is straight from the Le family, with one deviation. Marie-Ange Le and her mother allow the uncooked fish, sprinkled heavily with salt, to sit at room temperature for four hours. (Other Mauritian recipes stipulate one hour.) This helps the fish to crisp up nicely and not fall apart in the pan. But food safety experts advise never to let raw seafood sit out at room temperature, so you can skip that step and either coat the fillets lightly with flour just before frying or simply follow your normal routine for frying fish fillets. The results won’t be the same, but still good.

Elizabeth & Ryan

Elizabeth & Ryan

By the way: There’s another Tanner family wedding approaching. In October our other child, Elizabeth, will marry Ryan Ritterson. Bill and I can hardly believe that we’ve lucked out here, too. Ryan, like Chris, is all we could ask for to ensure our daughter’s happiness. His ancestry, though, is far less exotic. He’s from solid Midwestern stock. I promise not to hold that against him.

LE FAMILY MAURITIAN FISH CURRY
Serves 8 to 10

3 pounds thick fish fillets, such as tilapia or salmon, cut into large pieces
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying, such as peanut, soybean, or canola (not olive oil)
6 cloves chopped garlic
1 teaspoon powdered saffron, or 12 strands (1 gram) saffron, crumbled
1-1/2 tablespoons mustard seed
3 tablespoons white vinegar
2 white onions cut in quarters (or eighths, if large) and the slices pulled apart

  1. Wash and pat dry the fish. Salt the fish on both sides, to taste, and deep-fry the fish in oil as you normally do. Remove the fish and set aside, reserving the oil.
  2. In a small bowl mix the saffron with a little warm water.
  3. Heat one cup of the reserved oil and stir-fry the onions and garlic until the onions are soft and translucent but not brown. Add the saffron mixture, the vinegar, and a pinch of salt. Combine and turn off the heat.
  4. Immediately add the mustard seed, then the fried fish and gently combine. Turn the heat back to medium-low and cook only until the mixture is just heated through. (Make sure that you do not overheat the mixture at the end, or the mustard seed will turn bitter.)
  5. If the fish curry is too dry, add more of the reserved frying oil.

Summer is NOT Over: Dine on the JC Waterfront; Attend a David Burke-Curated Alfresco Fundraiser; & Make Seasonal Salsas

Before We Get Started: Join me at Readathon for Adult Literacy

This Thursday, September 4th, I’m participating in Literacy New Jersey‘s Readathon at the Princeton Public Library. At 1 pm, I will read from my favorite (food-related) book for 5 minutes, as part of an all-day event to spotlight adult illiteracy.

A few cookbooks from my shelves

A few cookbooks on my shelves

Did you know that in Mercer County alone, 60,000 adult residents cannot read above a fourth grade level? As someone with a sibling who never learned to read (incredible, I know), this cause is very close to my heart.

From 10 to 11 am, children’s books will be featured; from noon to 4 pm, adult books. Please join me! The public is welcome to sign up as readers, too. Phone 609.587.6027 or email vgolden@literacynj.org.

 

As It Grows” Dinner to Benefit Little Silver’s Historic 1665 Parker Homestead

Parker Homestead

Parker Homestead

David Burke is the celebrity chef (David Burke Fromagerie, etc.) creating a sumptuous farm-to-table menu for what event co-chair Bob Sickles (of Sickles Market) terms a “serious food and wine event with a fun, casual approach.” It takes place on Saturday, September 13 starting at 6:30 pm under a sailcloth tent at the historic Parker Homestead in Little Silver, which is the beneficiary.

The “elegant casual” evening includes wines from Colts Neck’s 4JGs Vineyard, music, dancing, and a live auction (featuring rare collectible wines) conducted by Antiques Roadshow star Nicholas Dawes.

Here’s the menu created by David Burke (who, btw, grew up in Hazlet):

Cocktail Reception: Bacon Clotheslines with Pickled Carrot Garnish; Cheese”burker” Sliders; Quinoa Sliders; Pork Rillettes; Corn Panna Cotta Jars; Pig Trotter Terrine Spiced Apple; House Cured Lardo; Garden Conserva; Country Crostini; Chicken Lollipops.

Lusty Lobster Raw Bar: Wild Caught Sandy Hook Bay Clams; Wild Caught Delaware Bay Oysters; Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail; Jonah Crab Claws.

Sickles Market Cheese Table: Assorted Farmstead Jersey Cheeses including Long Valley Shepherd, Bobolink Dairy and Cherry Grove. Gourmet accompaniments and fruits.

“Local” Salad Station: Organic Kale Caesar Salad; Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Apples; Candies Pecans, Blue Cheese, Dried Cranberries; Fall Market Salad with Fixins’; Tomato Burrata Salad.

Fish Station: Barnegat Light Day Boat Scallops, Parsnip, Apple, Chanterelle, and Leek Fondue.

Pork Station: Porchetta Carving Station, Pineapple and Mustard Kraut, Quince, Lentils, Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Corn Bread Stuffing, Country Potato Salad.

Beef Station: Roast Prime Rib with Au Jus, Horseradish, Crème Fraiche and David Burke Steak Sauce.

Pasta Station: House Made Cavatelli, Sheep Milk Ricotta, Butternut Squash.

Dessert: Cotton Candy, Smokin’ Hot Doughnuts; Peach Pies.

Tickets are $250 and can be purchased at www.AsItGrows.org or by calling 732.462.1466.

Surfeit of Scrumptious Salsas Sizzle at Salsa Slam 2014

Princeton Salsa Slam 2014

Princeton Salsa Slam 2014

Last month I was a judge at a different event at the Princeton Public Library: it’s third annual salsa contest. Ten area eateries vied for the coveted title of best salsa in this Ivy League town. Terra Learning Kitchen (located inside the YMCA) won over us judges with its Salsa Verde with Avocado, while People’s Choice went to Tortuga’s Mexican Village for its classic Secret Family Recipe Salsa.

My fellow judges: Gab Carbone of the bent spoon, Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, & food blogger Sue Gordon

My fellow judges (left to right): Gab Carbone of the bent spoon, Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, & food blogger Sue Gordon

Naturally, I used the occasion to gather recipes for some of my personal favorites. Don’t let the Labor-Day-means-the-end-of-summer hype fool you: there’s plenty of NJ harvest time left to make the following fresh, exciting salsas. The folks at Agricola, Princeton’s popular farm-to-table restaurant kindly shared their intriguing entry, anchored by kimchi and heirloom tomatoes. The mango salsa recipe is courtesy of my friend George Point of Lawrenceville, who won awards for it years ago when he competed on the NJ barbecue cook-off circuit.

For a full report on the Slam, read this terrific account by one of my fellow judges, Sue Gordon, who blogs as the Princeton Food Examiner. (Recipes are reprinted from my column in the August 15 issue of the Princeton Packet.)

KIMICHI – HEIRLOOM TOMATO SALSA
Pete Maglaty, Sous Chef, Agricola

3/4 cup kimchi
2-1/2 cups heirloom tomatoes
1/2 cup spring onion, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
Juice from 1-1/2 limes, separated
4 tablespoons kimchi juice, separated
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves

  1. Combine the onion, jalapeno, juice from 1 lime, and 2 tablespoons of kimchi juice in a small bowl. Cover and let macerate overnight at room temperature.
  2. Next day, cut the tomatoes into small dice and chop the cilantro leaves. Mix together the tomatoes, cilantro, and kimchi. Stir in the macerated mixture of onion and jalapeno, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of kimchi juice. Season with salt, cover, and let rest in the refrigerator overnight. Before serving adjust seasoning if necessary with additional salt and lime juice.
    Makes about 3 cups.

MANGO MADNESS SALSA
George Point

2 15-ounce cans sliced mango
1/4 cup crushed pineapple
1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
2 ripe kiwi fruit, chopped
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper, or to taste
Juice of one fresh lime
Fresh cilantro, chopped

Puree the mango. Combine all ingredients except cilantro in a small bowl. Sprinkle with cilantro.
Makes about 3 cups.

Review: Battello – Ryan DePersio’s Latest, at the Newport Marina in Jersey City

NJ Monthly cover sept 2014The views of Manhattan, the open-air porch on the Hudson, the breezy nautical decor all make Battello a natural for catching the last of summer’s fine weather. The modern Italian seafood ain’t bad either. Read the joint report from me and senior editor Eric Levin, in the September issue of New Jersey Monthly.

Big Bad Dad’s NJ Jams; Fancy Food Show Finds & Recipes

“South Jersey Jam” Just One of Big Bad Dad’s Homemade Jams & Jellies

Dan Freeman isn’t really big or bad as far as I can tell (although he is recently back from duty in Afghanistan, so clearly he’s tough). But he is definitely a dad to two little girls, one of whom came up with the name Big Bad Dad’s for his line of all-natural jams, jellies, and fruit toppings. I was happy to make the acquaintance of Dan, his wife, and his jams at the Princeton Farmers Market. I was drawn in by his imaginative combinations, like this curried carrot butter:

Big Bad Dad's Curried Carrot Butter

Big Bad Dad’s Curried Carrot Butter

But what most piqued my interest was his South Jersey Jam, a savory blend of tomatoes, peppers, and garlic seasoned with lemon juice. It’s fresh tasting and nicely balanced – not too heavy on the garlic. Here’s what Freeman says about it: “This jam was born when my friends and I were taste testing a tomato jam I had made. We started by adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that next thing you knew I had the flavor of the old neighborhood. Great on hoagies, hamburgers, hot dogs, eggs, or whatever you can imagine. Enjoy the flavor of the old neighborhood.” Hoagies? Instead of subs? Clearly, the man hails from South Jersey.

Big Bad Dad's South Jersey Jam

Big Bad Dad’s South Jersey Jam

Big Bad Dad’s flavors reflect the seasons, and often sell out. Blackberry Basil Jam should be available soon; Blueberry Lime already is. Fall flavors include Cranberry Horseradish, Pear Chocolate, and Pear Ginger. Hotheads will enjoy Orange Habanero Marmalade and Hot Pepper Jelly but will have to wait for Inferno Jam to come back online.

Speaking of online, you can order jars ($7 for 8 oz.) through the Big Bad Dad’s website. In addition to the Thursday Princeton Farmers Market, Freeman has a table at the Ocean City Farmers Market on Wednesdays, and some of his jars are stocked at Savory Spice in Princeton.

Trends, Finds, & a Cache of Great Recipes from the Fancy Food Show

Summer Fancy Food Show 2014

Summer Fancy Food Show 2014

My full report on the Summer Fancy Food Show, held a few weeks ago in NYC, is coming out the first week in August in US 1, but in the July 18th issue of the Princeton Packet I preview the trends (e.g., sriracha in everything) and share these four excellent recipes I snatched up that make the most of Jersey’s summer bounty:

– Bibb salad with red onion, oranges, and feta drizzled with super-trendy beet finishing vinegar (you can substitute balsamic)

– Mexican grilled poussins with avocado-tomato pico de gallo. An ideal summertime use for butterflied poussins from Griggstown Farm

– Oven-baked candied bacon with aromatic bitters. This is what my next breakfast or brunch guests can expect to be treated to.

– Maple peach yogurt parfait with granola. Jersey peaches are now in high season, but they reach new heights when paired with Jersey maple syrup from Hopewell’s Sweet Sourlands Farms.

The full the recipes and details here.

New Chef (& Lunch) @Rat’s; Filipino Recipes; Halinka Polish Deli

Scott Swiderski Takes the Helm at Rat’s

View from Rat's restaurant @ Grounds for Sculpture

View from Rat’s restaurant @ Grounds for Sculpture

A couple of months ago the top toque at Grounds For Sculpture‘s marquee restaurant quietly changed hands. Shane Cash, who came aboard in late 2010, left Stephen Starr’s restaurant group (which manages Rat’s) to join the team of his TV buddy Robert (“Dinner Impossible”) Irvine. In his place is Scott Swiderski, whose resume includes having been opening chef for Starr’s Buddakan in Philly.

If the lunch I enjoyed at Rat’s in June is any indication, the kitchen is in very capable hands. For one thing, the menu itself is extremely appealing. I almost never bypass rabbit, especially if it, like here, it’s in ragout with tomato, bacon, and white wine over bucatini. But bypass I did because this rainbow trout, the fish of the day, was calling to me:

Rainbow Trout at Rat's, Grounds for Sculpture

Rainbow trout at Rat’s, Grounds for Sculpture

I love trout for itself, but top it with salmoriglio (the pungent chunky salsa from Southern Italy made with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, oregano, and parsley), and it becomes irresistible. This particular salmoriglio is amped up with minced green olives and red bell pepper. Although you can’t see it, the accompanying frisee salad includes a few fingerling potatoes and haricot vert. Nice.

Turns out I would have been equally happy with my friend’s choice of spring vegetable risotto with asparagus, English peas, creme fraiche, and lemon oil:

Spring vegetable risotto at Rat's, Grounds for Sculpture

Spring vegetable risotto at Rat’s, Grounds for Sculpture

For dessert we shared this orange semifreddo with balsamic pearls, orange gelee, and blood orange supremes:

Orange semifreddo at Rat's, Grounds for Sculpture

Orange semifreddo at Rat’s, Grounds for Sculpture

We started off lunch with two refreshing cocktails, a lemongrass mojito and one made with Crop cucumber vodka and white grapes. Food, drink, and taxes came to $38 per person.

After lunch we wandered the grounds of the 42-acre sculpture park  (admission is $15 for adults), which has an astonishing number of new sculptures, foremost among them Seward Johnson’s 26-foot-tall Marilyn.

Seward Johnson's Marilyn, Grounds for Sculpture

Seward Johnson’s Forever Marilyn, Grounds for Sculpture

Recipes for Filipino Favorites:  Lumpiang (Spring Rolls) & Pancit Bam-I (Cebu-style Noodles w/Sausage & Shrimp)

Maria T. Morales, Kusina Pilipina

Maria T. Morales, Kusina Pilipina

In a previous post I extolled the virtues of the take-away fare of Kusina Pilipina in Franklin Park. Proprietor Mae Morales was subsequently kind enough to share two of her most popular recipes with me. These are excerpted from My story in the 20th issue of the Princeton Packet. (The story includes more background on Ms. Morales and her recipes.)

KUSINA PILIPINA’S FRIED LUMPIANG GULAY (VEGETABLE SPRING ROLLS)

Lumpia, Kusina Pilipina

Lumpia, Kusina Pilipina

Mae Morales doesn’t specify quantities, but you’ll need 1/4 cup of filling per spring roll.

Carrots, julienned
Yam, julienned
Green beans, sliced
Onions, chopped into small cubes
Mung bean sprouts
Vegetable oil for sautéing and deep frying
Firm tofu, cut into small cubes
Spring roll wrappers, such as Wei-Chuan
Dipping sauce of white vinegar seasoned with minced garlic and salt and pepper, for serving

Sauté the vegetables together in a small amount of vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet. When cooked halfway through, remove the vegetables and drain them well. Combine the cubed tofu and the vegetables and let the mixture cool. Place 1/4 cup of the mixture on a spring roll wrapper. Fold the bottom edge over the mixture, and then fold the two sides toward the center. Roll the wrapper tightly toward the top edge. (If desired, seal the top edge with a bit of juice drained from the vegetables.) To deep fry: heat enough vegetable oil to come halfway up the side of the spring rolls. Fry until golden brown and crisp. Drain the lumpiang well on paper towels. Serve with vinegar sauce on the side, for dipping.

KUSINA PILIPINA’S PANCIT BAM-I (Noodles with Sausage and Shrimp)

Pancit, Kusina Pilipina

Pancit, Kusina Pilipina

Onion, chopped
Garlic, chopped
Vegetable oil
1/8 pound boneless pork, julienned
2 pieces Chinese sausage, sliced diagonally
1/8 cup small shrimp, shelled and deveined
Fish sauce, such as Filipino patis
Ground black pepper
2 cups water
Carrots, julienned
Green beans, sliced
Celery, julienned
Mushrooms, such as shiitake, sliced (optional)
Cabbage, julienned
Cellophane noodles (bean thread vermicelli)
Canton pancit noodles (Chinese egg noodles)
Soy sauce

  1. Sauté the onion and garlic in a small amount of vegetable oil. When golden, add the pork. As soon as the pork is tender, add the sausage, shrimp, patis, and black pepper. Pour in 2 cups water and bring to a boil.
  2. Add the carrots, green beans, celery, and mushrooms (if using). Bring to a boil again and add the cabbage and cellophane noodles. When they are barely tender, add the canton pancit noodles and stir the mixture until it’s heated through. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes, and then add soy sauce to taste.

Terrific Find! Halinka Polish Deli in Hillsborough

Halinka Polish Deli platter: stuffed cabbage, potato pancake, cheese & potato pierogi

Halinka Polish Deli platter: stuffed cabbage, potato pancake, cheese & potato pierogi

I and my Central NJ food-writing buddy, Faith “NJSpice” Bahadurian, are on a roll! First, we checked out the homestyle Mexican fare at La Costenita in Hillsborough (full report to follow later). Then we chomped our way through Kusina Pilipina together. Our latest outing – and another winner – is the family-run Halinka Polish Deli in Hillsborough. It stocks a beguiling array of Polish and Eastern European groceries and features the excellent take-away fare and baked goods of owner Halina Herdzik. Hot meal combos like the one above are offered at the bargain price of $7.99. There are a few bare-bones tables at the rear of the space for eating in.

Halinka's blini, courtesy www.PolishDeliNJ.com

Halinka’s blini, courtesy www.PolishDeliNJ.com

We sampled a lot of dishes besides those in the lunch platter above, among them smoky kielbasa, sauerkraut and pork stew, and pork meatballs in creamy mushroom sauce. All are lighter and more delicate in texture than you’d expect, but pack a full complement of flavor. For the complete rundown of the food and experience, check out Faith’s report at NJSpice.net.

Lunch @ Le Cheri (w/recipe); Girl Scouts’ Herb Giveaway; Avanti in Pennington Changes Hands

Lunch @ Le Cheri: How Sweet It Is

I don’t get into Philadelphia nearly as often as the exciting dining scene there warrants, but I made sure to find time to dine at Le Cheri, the second restaurant from Pierre and Charlotte Calmels. Five years ago I fell in love with Bibou, their tiny byob French bistro on South Eighth. (Bibou’s Sunday pre fixe dinner, 4 courses for $45 , is the best deal around.)

Philadelphia Art Alliance, Wikipedia

Philadelphia Art Alliance, Wikipedia

So when the Calmelses opened Le Cheri on Rittenhouse Square in the Philadelphia Art Alliance building – the neat Italianate period piece above – I had to give it a go. Lucky for me, what had been forecast to be a rainy afternoon turned out gloriously sunny, so my little group opted to dine out in the garden in back. Charming, no?

Le Cheri patio garden

Le Cheri patio garden

The weather, season, and setting seemed to cry out for glasses of rose, and the Jean Paul Brun Rose d’Folie ($11) turned out to be as delicious as it is beautiful:

wine glassesThe ambiance also dictated my choice of starter: creamy (but not overly rich) watercress soup with a centerpiece of a few small, tender mussels mixed with julienne duck breast and dots of cayenne oil around the edges.

watercress soupBut I would have been just as satisfied with my friends’ choices: pretty scalloped ravioli filled with mushrooms and napped with rich sauce ivoire…

ravioli…and chilled poached rabbit terrine with Cumberland sauce. (Cumberland sauce is a chunky concoction customarily served with game, similar in style to cranberry sauce. Red currant jelly, orange and lemon rind, and Port are some of its components.) Like the sauce ivoire and much that would follow, this dish is straight out of Escoffier, only made with Pierre Calmels’ light touch and modern sensibility.

rabbit terrineMain dishes are equally beguiling, with each component of every preparation interesting, carefully selected, cooked to perfection, and presented beautifully. To wit:

Seared scallops, lavender oatmeal panisse, sugar snap peas, honeydew melon & mustard seed vinaigrette

Seared scallops, lavender oatmeal panisse, sugar snap peas, honeydew melon & mustard seed vinaigrette

Veal medallions, fingerlings, asparagus, lemon veal jus

Veal medallions, fingerlings, asparagus, lemon veal jus

Chef Georges Perrier crab cake, endive & haricots verts salad, whole grain mustard sauce

Chef Georges Perrier crab cake, endive & haricots verts salad, whole grain mustard sauce

If there’s a weak spot here, it’s dessert. I found the chocolate terrine too rich (tart raspberry sorbet that accompanied it notwithstanding), and the white peach Melba (below), while pretty, was the only classic among an entire meal of classics that seems dated.

??????????My friend who opted for one of the cheeses instead of a sweet came away a winner with this ramekin of runny, creamy, wonderfully pungent epoisses at the perfect stage of ripeness and served with slices of excellent baguette:

epoisses and cappuccinoFrench press coffee, espresso, and cappuccino are impeccable at Le Cheri. For lunch, menu prices range from $8 to 13 for starters, $21 to $27 for mains, and $7 to $9 for desserts and cheese.

"Galette 1523" @ Le Cheri

“Galette 1523” @ Le Cheri

Now for the promised recipe. The crab cake is listed on the menu as “Galette 1523.” That number refers to the street address of the old Le Bec Fin, and is a faithful replication of the one made famous by Calmels’ mentor, Georges Perrier. Ethereal custard-like texture sets it apart – a cross between quiche and souffle – and plays up the crab’s delicate flavor.Here’s a link to the original recipe.

Girl Scouts Giving Away Fresh Herbs (and Growing Tips)

Apparently it’s not just a one-night stand between chef/owner Jim Weaver of Tre Piani and local Girl Scouts.
Wait – that doesn’t sound right. Let me start again.

scouts at tre piani 013Last year I reported here on a sweet event in which Weaver, the founder of Slow Food Central NJ, invited a Girl Scout troop from Flemington into his kitchen to cook up a farmers-market-to-table meal as part of their badge-earning journey. Now, on Friday, June 27 between 11 am and 2 pm – during the Princeton Forrestal Village farmers market held on the plaza outside Tre Piani – another Girl Scout troop, this one from Plainsboro, will share their knowledge of fresh herbs, as well as herbs themselves, with the public. Here’s the deal, straight from farmers market manager Nirit Yadin:

garden 2009 007

My own herb garden

“Come learn to grow herbs in your own kitchen and reap the benefits of herbs in fresh food. Then get a free pot of herbs to take home. The program is presented by Girl Scout Troop 70694. The girls are working on a Sow What Journey which is all about connecting people to their food. Come, educate yourself and support the troop!’

 

 

 

Breaking News: Changing of the Guard at Pennington’s Avanti

Michael Moriello

Michael Moriello

Michael Moriello, chef and owner of La Mezzaluna, the popular Italian byob on Witherspoon Street in Princeton, has acquired Avanti, the equally popular Italian byob in downtown Pennington. Moriello, who came to the US 9 years ago from Naples, has bought out Vincenzo Severino, a Sicilian native who established Avanti almost 20 years ago on W. Delaware Avenue.

Avanti in Pennington

Avanti in Pennington

Moriello isn’t planning major changes to the menu at Avanti, which offers classic fare like linguine with red or white clam sauce and pasta Bolognese inside a charming carriage house. One change: the restaurant is now serving lunch on Sundays (in addition to dinner).

La Mezzaluna, Princeton

La Mezzaluna, Princeton

At La Mezzaluna, Moriello offers refined Italian dishes like seafood risotto and hazelnut-crusted rack of lamb. He just completed a major renovation of that restaurant’s modern minimalist decor.

Happy Anniversary Alchemist & Barrister (w/recipes) and Zone 7; My Meal @ Razza in JC

PRINCETON’S ALCHEMIST AND BARRISTER TURNS 40

Alchemist & Barrister

Alchemist & Barrister

When it comes to restaurant longevity, I think in dog years: a ratio of 7 to 1. At that rate, this casual pub and restaurant on Witherspoon Street would be turning 280 this year. Like many a grande dame, the A&B is having some work done as she enters her fifth decade, including a new exterior (current one shown above), new windows, a set of French doors that will open onto the restaurant’s alleyway entrance, and an additional bar that will bring the number of beer taps to 50.

Arthur Kukoda, Alchemist & Barrister

Arthur Kukoda, Alchemist & Barrister

A linchpin of the A&B’s success for at least the last 26 years has been executive chef/co-owner Arthur Kukoda. He has consistently traversed that tricky culinary fine line between the traditional and the of-the-moment. The current menu includes both classics – shepherd’s pie and chicken pot pie, to name two – and modern American fusion dishes like poutine with short ribs and ginger-sesame fried calamari. This summer Kukoda’s daughter Melissa will join the A&B team as social media director.

Below are 2 recipes that exemplify this chef’s style. With outdoor grilling season upon us, his mango barbecue chicken (shown above) brings this backyard favorite to new heights. The chicken can be split in half or quartered.

"Fantastic Five" Salad, Alchemist & Barrister

“Fantastic Five” Salad, Alchemist & Barrister

The five-grain salad gives nods to three trends: ancient grains, gluten free, and vegetarian/vegan. (A&B customers can opt to add chicken or shrimp.) The restaurant uses its own grain mix consisting of equal parts quinoa, millet, kaniwa, amaranth, and teff. Kaniwa is a relative of quinoa and similar in its nutty taste. Both are technically seeds, by the way.

A&B bar guru Jason Wilkins has kindly volunteered the craft beer pairing suggestions.

 

A & B’s MANGO BBQ CHICKEN
(Suggested craft beer: Brooklyn Summer Ale or Wells Banana Bread Beer)

1 chicken, boned-out with exception of wing drumettes (Ask butcher to split chicken and debone the rib cage and thigh and leg bones)
For the marinade:
1 bunch scallions, sliced thin
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lime
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1/2 cup tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)
1 cup vegetable oil (Kukoda uses a blend of canola and olive oils)
For the mango barbecue sauce:
1 large onion, diced small
1/4 cup fresh ginger, minced
4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 poblano pepper, diced small
4 tablespoons vegetable oil (e.g., canola, olive, or a blend of the two)
12 ounces mango nectar or frozen mango chunks (defrosted)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup lime juice
1 cup rum
4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
24 ounces ketchup

  1. Combine the marinade ingredients. Pour over deboned chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  2. Make the mango barbecue sauce: In a large saucepan, saute the onion, ginger, garlic, and poblano pepper in 4 tablespoons vegetable oil until soft. Add mango, cider vinegar, lime juice, rum, Worcestershire sauce, and ketchup. Combine well, bring to a boil, and simmer for 30 minutes. Allow sauce to cool, and puree in blender or food processor.
  3. When ready to grill, set aside at least half a cup of the bbq sauce for serving. Remove chicken from the marinade and grill as usual. Toward the later stages of grilling, brush the chicken with the sauce, being careful not to have the chicken over the open flame so sauce does not burn. Serve the reserved sauce with the cooked chicken.
    Serves 4.

A & B’s “FANTASTIC FIVE” GRAIN SALAD
(Suggested craft beers: If adding chicken, pair with Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale or a bottle of Hacker Pschorr Weisse. With shrimp, pair with 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer.)

2 pounds cooked mixed grains (from 1 pound of uncooked), preferably a mix of equal parts quinoa, millet, kaniwa, amaranth, and teff, or use quinoa alone
1/4 cup blanched broccoli florettes
1/4 cup sliced radish
1/4 cup grated carrots
1 cup grilled fresh pineapple rings, diced and separated
Toasted almonds, for garnish
For the grilled pineapple-tamari vinaigrette:
1 shallot, diced
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
1 cup vegetable oil (preferably a blend of canola and olive oil)
1/2 cup grilled pineapple (from above)

  1. Make the vinaigrette: Combine shallot, rice vinegar, and tamari in a bowl. Whisk in the oil. Fold in 1/2 cup grilled diced pineapple. (Save the other 1/2 cup to add to the salad.)
  2. Combine in a bowl the cooked grain(s), broccoli, radish, carrot, and remaining diced pineapple. Pour in the vinaigrette and toss well. Sprinkle salad with toasted almonds.
    Serves 4.

(The above is excerpted from the May 27, 2014 issue of The Princeton Packet)

Happy Anniversary, Zone 7!

Zone7_Logo_Color-250x300Straight from proprietor/visionary Mikey Azzara of this farm-to-restaurant distribution service comes this notice: “In May of 2008, Zone 7 made its first delivery of Muth Organic Strawberries to The Bent Spoon in Princeton, NJ.  Every year around this time, we like to reflect on our past and look ahead to what the upcoming season will bring.  As we enter Year 7, we want to give thanks for all of your support.” To see how Zone 7 got its start, check out this video: The Story of Zone 7.

My Dinner @ Razza

Razza board

A couple of posts ago I linked to my interview with Dan Richer of Razza Pizza Artigianale that’s in the Summer 2014 issue of Edible Jersey. What I didn’t report on was the terrific meal I enjoyed after the interview concluded. Here are some of the highlights.

Bread at Razza

Bread at Razza

Richer is a man obsessed with fermentation. The wild yeast culture he started more than four years ago forms the basis of both his pizza dough and the loaves of bread that emanate from his wood-fired oven. He pairs the bread with the handmade cultured butter he makes from the cream of grass-fed Lancaster County cows. Bread & butter costs $4 here – and patrons are happy to pony up. The table setting reflects the rustic-industrial look of the space.

Razza bread and butter

Razza bread and butter

Razza’s meatballs ($9) are loose and tender. My husband paid them the highest compliment when he remarked that they reminded him of my own mother’s. They’re made with chunks of day-old Razza bread soaked in buttermilk that’s left over from churning that housemade butter. The tomato sauce is fresh and bright tasting, with a great tomato tang.

Razza meatballs

Razza meatballs

Below is a detail of the Margherita pizza ($15). Note the big, crusty edge, which is full of flavor yet light in texture and has just the right balance of tender/chewy/crisp. It may look like there’s a lot of cheese (handmade fresh mozz), but actually it’s just a thin layer. Richer considers the dough the main event, and all toppings merely condiments. He’s right.

Razza Margherita pizza

Razza Margherita pizza

We also wolfed down the beet salad ($10), which stands miles above the countless other versions out there with its tender red and gold fire-roasted beets, crunchy heirloom watermelon radishes, gorgeous nasturtiums and dollop of rich Lancaster Valley yogurt. And don’t pass up the hazelnut panna cotta if it’s a dessert-of-the-day. You’ll also want to check out the abbreviated but smart list of cocktails, Italian wines, and craft beers from both Italy and the region (NJ, NY, and PA).

Dan Richer of Razza

Dan Richer of Razza