Category Archives: Recipes

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

 

 

Meet Dan Richer of Razza; My Review of LP Steak; Montclair’s Food & Wine Fest; Switchel Goes Mainstream

“True Italian mentality says that your location dictates your ingredients.” – Dan Richer of Razza

Dan Richer of Razza

Dan Richer of Razza

For a veteran journalist I made a rookie mistake when I interviewed Dan Richer of Razza Pizza Artigianale, a James Beard Rising Star semi-finalist whose output made Thrillist’s list of tops in the US. That mistake? I fell so in love with my subject I completely blew the word allotment my editor had stipulated. See if you’re not captivated, too, here in the Summer 2014 issue of Edible Jersey (The story starts on page 42.)

Edible Jersey cover summer 14

Luke Palladino turns his hand to steak

Having attained accolades for his Italian fare at the Atlantic City area restaurants that bear his name, Palladino has turned his small Northfield location into a hipster steakhouse. Read my review here, in the June issue of New Jersey Monthly.

NJ Monthly June 2014

2014 Montclair Food & Wine Festival: Big names, big doings next weekend

Montclair Food Wine Festival logo

Each year this 3-day celebration gets bigger and better, helping to justify its claim that Montclair is NJ’s food capital. Here’s a snapshot of this year’s activities:

Saturday, May 31: The Grand Tasting takes over the Montclair Art Museum, with food from 30 area restaurants (including the Ryland Inn) and wines provided by Gary’s Wine & Marketplace.

Sunday, June 1: Seminars on pasta, NJ oysters & clams, Latin tapas, and foie gras. For that last, two experts – Ariane Daguin of D’Artagnan and Ariane Duarte of Culinariane – will debunk myths surrounding that beloved but controversial delicacy.

Monday, June 2: Gala Dinner at The Manor, with wines provided by Amanti Vino. Among the 6 accomplished chefs each doing a course is Floyd Cardoz, a Verona resident and winner of Top Chef Masters who first came to prominence at NYC’s Tabla. (Read my very personal interview with this talented chef and super-nice guy. We spoke in 2012, shortly before he started at Danny Meyer’s North End Grill, which he has since left. Click here to read the post.)

Chef Floyd Cardoz

Chef Floyd Cardoz

Get complete details and ticket information on next weekend’s festivities at montclairfoodandwinefestival.org.

Who knew? Switchel goes mainstream

I realized I was onto something when I encountered a switchel cocktail a couple of years ago at Jose Andres’ original incarnation of his America Eats Tavern. First, my post about it – complete with recipe – has accrued more hits on Dine With Pat than all posts save one (that one for orange soda bbq sauce, of all things). Then, in Wednesday’s NY Times dining section, Florence Fabricant spotlighted a switchel mixer made in Vermont. With or without alcohol, it makes a great summer cooler.

My Cookie Wedding Favors; More from Frank Bruni; Riedel Warehouse Sale

My primary contribution to my daughter’s recent wedding was, not surprisingly, food related. Each of 153 guests received a clear, beribboned and be-tagged box containing Mexican wedding cookies I had baked.

My Wedding Cookie Favors

My Wedding Cookie Favors

For inspiration and recipes I turned to two experts: Martha Stewart and Nick Malgieri. I chronicle the ups and downs, ins and outs of pulling this project together here, in the May issue of the Princeton Packet Magazine, which is devoted in its entirety to weddings. (Scroll down to “Good Taste” for my cookie story.)

More of my interview with Frank Bruni, including the reading list for his food writing class @ Princeton

frank bruniI’ve previously linked to my interview with the former NY Times restaurant critic in the May issue of NJ Monthly. Here’s more of our conversation about the food writing course he’s teaching at Princeton University this semester, and why he’s doing it.

Tell me about the sixteen lucky undergrads in your class…
Most of them are upperclassmen. Right now it’s eleven young women and five young men. Forty-eight students applied. They all had to write a letter saying, here’s why I’d like to be in your class. I tried, without over-thinking it, to respect the gender breakdown of the letters.

They also had to submit a sample of their writing, right? So what drew you to these particular students?
A couple of them had taken a foreign affairs writing class last semester with my colleague at the Times [Carol Giacomo]. She brought her class up to The Times Center and had a number of us come talk to them. Some of the kids who applied to this class had been in that session and that was the reason they wanted to take the class. So I let a few of them in on the theory they know what they’re getting. You want everyone to be happy: they had met me, their feeling was positive. Others, it was just the amount of enthusiasm in their letters. Also, some of it was that I didn’t want a class entirely of people who are deep in the weeds of food, entirely of people who cultivate their own organic gardens. I wanted a mix of people who are incredibly food obsessed and people who are really just interested in being better writers and who find the subject of food suitably engaging. That kind of diversity.

Your syllabus lists three books other than your own Born Round: Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals and Nora Ephron’s Heartburn. Why these?
They’re so different from one another. Michael Pollan’s work is such classic kind of expository journalism, written in a very elegant style. Foer’s Eating Animals is written in a completely different and much more gonzo style and it’s about a very particular thing, which is the ethics of eating. And Nora Ephron, again, a completely different style.
It’s just to get different voices in their head. I want them to read a lot. I really think that the easiest way to be a good writer, the best thing is to read. Even at my age I feel that if I’m not reading a lot I’m writing a lot worse. I feel like to make a writing course just writing and writing and writing, it’s a little bit like putting the cart before the horse. It’s one of the concerns I always have about people in high school and college taking a whole bunch of writing courses. So I want to make sure that over the course of the semester they’re also reading.

Born Round coverHow do you plan on using Born Round in the course?
I think it would be hard to teach a food writing course and not have a food memoir in there. There were many I considered. The reason I put my own in there was not to sell sixteen copies – I don’t know if they even had to buy any [of these books]. I could have assigned, say, Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones & Butter and because she’s a local person I might be able to get her to come to talk to the class for an hour. But if I’m going to assign a food memoir, why not give them something that as they’re reading it if they have questions about why this approach, why is it done this way, or if they have questions about structure or anything, they have unfettered access to the author. It just made sense.

Will you bring in guest speakers?
Absolutely! For the first half of my next class Melissa Clark, who’s a friend and a good Times food writer, is going to be there. I’ll probably have my friend Kate Krader who’s the restaurant editor for Food & Wine magazine come down. And I’m also going to bring the kids up to the Times to interact with my colleagues.

What made you want to take this on, with all your other responsibilities?
A new experience! You know, when you’ve been in the business as long as I have and you’ve written on deadline as much as I have and you’ve filed as many articles of various kinds, well, if you can find ways to build something novel into your weeks and months, it’s great. And in a corny way I like the idea of teaching. I’m one of those people at work whose friends often ask for advice or to read stuff and I think I’m not horrible at explaining things and critiquing things. I hoped I might actually be useful.
————————————–

Riedel Warehouse Sale Now through Saturday, in Edison

If you’re a fan of Riedel wine glasses and decanters (count me in), you’ll want to head over to Edison, where their wares are discounted from between 45% and 75% for the next few days.  Details here. A shout out to June Jacobs of Feastivals who alerted me to this event. If you go, I’d love to get a report. btw: The sale includes items from Spiegelau and Nachtmann, too.

NJ Super Heroes Edition: Edible Jersey! New Culinary Scholarship! Fighting River Blindness! (includes a recipe)

Edible Jersey Names 2014 Local Heroes & I Profile of One of Them

Among this year’s six winners, chosen by the readers of the magazine, are Caron Wendell & Joe McLaughlin of Lucy’s Kitchen & Market in Princeton. (You may recognize this place under its original, long-time moniker: Lucy’s Ravioli Kitchen.) Read what sets apart Caron, Joe, and all these other Garden State greats in the Spring 2014 edition of Edible Jersey.

Edible Jersey cover spring14

Here’s the full list:

Food artisan: Michael Sirchio, The Arctic Market & Butcher, Point Pleasant Beach
Food shop: Lucy’s Kitchen & Market, Princeton
Beverage artisan: OQ Coffee Co., Highland Park
Farm/farmer: Jess Niederer, Chickadee Creek Farm, Pennington
Nonprofit organization: Franciscan Charities, Inc./St. Ann’s Soup Kitchen, Newark
Chef/restaurant: Aishling Stevens, Americana Diner, East Windsor

Dine Well & Do Good at the Joe Romanowski Culinary Education Foundation (JoCEF) Gala

JoCEF logo

Last year the Shore’s restaurant community was rocked by two back-to-back tragedies: first, the decimation of Superstorm Sandy and then the untimely death of one of its most admired and beloved chef/restaurateurs, Joe Romanowski. With his wife, Maggie, the couple’s restaurants, Bay Avenue Trattoria and before that Joe & Maggie’s, were legendary.

In Joe’s honor, a group of friends – among them Marie Jackson of the Flaky Tart in Atlantic Highlands and Andy Clurfeld, who for many years was restaurant critic for the Asbury Park Press – have founded JoCEF, the central focus of which is culinary scholarships for the Shore’s aspiring chefs. On Monday, March 31st, 30 of the Shore’s most talented chefs (e.g., Drew Araneo of Drew’s Bayshore Bistro) will help raise funds at a gala at the Navesink Country Club in Middletown, starting at 6:30 pm. For the full line-up and for tickets ($75), click here.

African Soiree Raises $16,000 to Fight River Blindness (& How You Can Help)

Photo by Robin Birkel

Photo by Robin Birkel

[Adapted from my In the Kitchen column in the March 14, 2014 edition of the Princeton Packet.]

A feast of authentic African food, the telling of lively African folktales, and a spirited live auction were joyous underpinnings to gala evening I attended earlier this month that raised funds for the United Front Against Riverblindness (UFAR). This Lawrenceville-based nonprofit works to control and eliminate that disease in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

About UFAR & River Blindness

More than one-third of the DRC’s 60 million people are at risk for river blindness, which is caused by a parasite and transmitted by black flies. A donation of $10 keeps 6 people from going blind for one year. The medicine, which prevents new cases and arrests the progress of existing ones, is provided free by the Merck Corporation, with UFAR arranging the distribution. UFAR treats more than two million people each year. Annual treatment for each person is required for ten years to eliminate the disease.

Christine Shungu, daughter of UFAR founder Dr. Daniel Shungu

Christine Shungu, daughter of UFAR founder Dr. Daniel Shungu

For more about the work of UFAR – including how your $250 tax deductible donation to their Adopt-a-Village program can spare a village of 500 people from river blindness – visit www.riverblindess.org, or phone 609.771.3674.

About the African Soiree

Much of the evening’s food was prepared by volunteer members and friends of the Princeton United Methodist Church and almost everything else was donated – including the space at the Princeton Theological Seminary and fare from two area restaurants: Makeda Ethiopian restaurant in New Brunswick and Palace of Asia in Lawrence.

Goat Stew a la Congolaise, Saltfish with Collards, Fufu

Goat Stew a la Congolaise, Saltfish with Collards, Fufu

Among the 20-plus church and UFAR volunteers who cooked for the event was Isabella Dougan, who made African banana fritters (recipe below).

They can be served plain or with hot sauce or dusted with confectioner’s sugar.

AKARA (Banana Fritters)
Isabella Dougan
Serves 4

3 ripe bananas, peeled
1 cup rice flour, plus more as needed
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup olive oil

  1. Mash the bananas in a bowl into a smooth paste. (Alternatively, use a food processor.)
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt in a bowl. Add the mashed bananas, mixing well. (Add additional flour if the mixture is too soft, or water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if the mixture is too stiff.)
  3. Heat oil in a skillet until medium hot. Scoop round tablespoons of the banana mixture into the oil and flatten slightly. Cook until underside is medium brown and flip over to fry the other side.
  4. Place cooked balls on paper towels to remove excess oil. Serve hot.

Beard Awards: Big-time Semi-finalists from NJ; Food Photography Lesson; Marvelous Meyer Lemons

Jersey Chefs Up for National & Regional Awards

I was thrilled to see 3 Garden Staters on the national lists and another 3 up for Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic among the semi-finalists for the 2014 James Beard Awards, which were announced earlier this week.

Maricel Presilla

Maricel Presilla

Marc Vetri

Marc Vetri

Congrats to Maricel Presilla and Marc Vetri for their nominations as Outstanding Chef in the U.S. – Presilla for Cucharamama in Hoboken and Vetri for Vetri in Philadelphia. But because he crossed river this year with Osteria in Moorestown Mall, I’m claiming him for NJ! I can’t stop myself from including another name here: Gabrielle Hamilton, who’s nominated for her work at her NY restaurant, Prune. But since she was raised in Lambertville, I’m labeling her NJ, too.

Ben Nerenhausen & Scott Anderson. Courtesy PrincetonInfo.com

Ben Nerenhausen & Scott Anderson. Courtesy PrincetonInfo.com

Congrats also to Ben Nerenhausen of Mistral in Princeton, who is nominated for Rising Star Chef in the U.S.

Congrats, finally, to these 3 who are among the 20 nominees for Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic region: Scott Anderson, Elements; Joey Baldino, Zeppoli; Lucas Manteca, The Red Store. What’s particularly gratifying to me is that all 3 restaurants are in the southern half of the state – Princeton, Collingswood, and Cape May, respectively – which has long played second fiddle to the more populous metropolitan areas up north.

A dandy showing! Good luck to all.

Want to improve your food photography?

Lord knows I need to! We’ll get the chance on Sunday, March 9th when professional photographer Frank Veronsky of Princeton Photo Workshop presents “Shoot It & Eat It” at Tre Piani in Forrestal Village. During the 3-hour class, guests will first photograph and then down a 3-course dinner. Click here for details and to register.

My Meyer Lemon Madness (with recipes)

(Adapted from my “In the Kitchen” column in the Princeton Packet of 2/28/14)

Meyer lemons 006

A few years ago I fell hard for sweet, floral Meyer lemons at San Francisco’s Ferry Building Farmers Market. At the time they weren’t regularly available around these parts, so my San Fran-based daughter, witness to my infatuation, thoughtfully gave me a dwarf Meyer lemon tree for Christmas. My sapling arrived months later, complete with excellent instructions for potting and growing, from Four Winds Growers based in Winters, CA.

Meyer Lemon brochure 002Here in Zone 7 the tree must winter indoors. It took three growing seasons, but this past summer mine produced 5 big beauties (pictured above) that ripened just before the first frost. (A 6th was still small and green; more on that later). I was so excited, I planned an entire dinner party for 4 guests around those 5 lemons.  For inspiration I turned to this L.A. Times article: “100 Things to Do with a Meyer Lemon.”

Here’s my menu:

Meyer lemon feast 013Nibbles & drinks: Marcona almonds; hefeweizen beer with slices of Meyer lemon
Main: Roasted monkfish with Meyer lemon salsa; basmati rice; zucchini and sliced Meyer lemons
Dessert: Meyer lemon-almond cake with Meyer lemon Chantilly cream

As you can tell, I stretched my quintet as far as it could go. I even used the lemon leaves for table decor. ??????????

Amazingly, the dinner did not result in Meyer lemon overload and, with one exception, was wildly successful. Beer and Meyer lemon is a match made in heaven, although it takes a few minutes for the lemon to assert itself. I chose monkfish for its dense, meaty, snow-white flesh, but found the salsa, which contained shallots and olives as well as the fruit, bitter and overpowering. Next time I’ll substitute the compound butter I’ve included in the recipe below. On the other hand, the combination of thin rounds of zucchini and even thinner ones of lemon sautéed together in olive oil was a revelation! I may never make zucchini without lemon again.

??????????Without a doubt, though, the Meyer lemon-almond cake, a variation on one of Claudia Roden’s, stole the show. It has the texture of a tea cake and is as simple to make. It’s good on its own, and its flavor even deepens overnight, but I felt compelled to gild the lily by adding Chantilly cream flavored with Meyer lemon.

??????????

As to the fate of that last green fruit left on the tree: It continued to grow indoors, albeit at a greatly reduced pace. Just as it became full, ripe, and ready for plucking, this recipe from Bobby Flay for Meyer lemon potatoes the New York Times. It turned out to be the perfect coda to my Meyer lemon season.

ROASTED MONKFISH WITH MEYER LEMON COMPOUND BUTTER
Serves 4.

1-1/4 pounds monkfish, in one piece (tuna can be substituted)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 cloves garlic, sliced very thin
Salt & pepper, to taste
For the Meyer lemon compound butter:
1/2 stick butter, softened to room temperature
Zest of 1 Meyer lemon
1-1/2 teaspoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme, leaves only
Salt & pepper to taste

  1. Make the compound butter: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Mash and stir until well blended. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat an oven-safe baking dish with oil.
  3. Make a series of small incisions on both sides of the fish, and insert a sliver of garlic into each cut. Rub or brush fish with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Place fish in prepared dish and roast in preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until just opaque and cooked through. Slice fish into thick, diagonal slices and serve with compound butter at room temperature.
    Serves 4.

Old & Newfangled Turkey Stuffing; Old & Newfangled Carversville General Store

Looking for a Stuffing Recipe? I’ve Got 3!

1) Sausage & Apple, from chef Chase Gerstenbacher of Hopewell’s Brick Farm Market, where the turkeys come from the market’s own Double Brook Farm.
2) Wild Rice – naturally gluten free – from Marilyn Besner of Lawrenceville’s Wildflour Bakery & Cafe.
3) Classic Bread & Herb, the recipe my family hasn’t let me depart from for more Thanksgivings than I care to count. It’s inside the bird pictured here, taken at the first Tanner Thanksgiving. (Not bad-looking for my inaugural bird.)Thanksgiving turkeyThese recipes, below, are reprinted from my In the Kitchen column in the November 22nd issue of the Princeton Packet.

BRICK FARM MARKET’S SAUSAGE AND APPLE STUFFING
Chase Gerstenbacher, Executive Chef

“We will be featuring this sausage and apple stuffing in our prepared foods case this Thanksgiving. I generally stay away from actually stuffing it inside the raw turkey because I find that by the time the center of the stuffing is hot enough the turkey is usually overcooked. If you want that classic look to present your turkey you could cook them both separately and then spoon the stuffing into the bird just before taking it to the table.” –C.G.

1/2 cup melted butter plus 2 tablespoons for sautéing
1 large onion, finely diced
3 ribs celery, finely diced
Kosher salt
3 cloves garlic, smashed and finely diced
1 pound sweet Italian or garlic sausage, casing removed, broken up into bite-size chunks
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch dice
1 cup apple cider
1/2 bunch sage, leaves finely chopped
10 cups stale rustic bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 to 3 cups chicken stock

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and celery, season with salt, and cook until the veggies start to become soft and are very aromatic.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Add the sausage and cook until the sausage browns.
  3. Stir in the apples and apple cider and cook until the apples start to soften, about 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle in the sage leaves and turn off the heat.
  4. Add the diced bread and toss together. Pour in the chicken stock and 1/2-cup melted butter and knead with your hands until the bread is very moist (actually wet). Taste to check for seasoning and season with salt. (It probably will need it.)
  5. Transfer mixture to a large, deep ovenproof dish (roughly 9 by 11 inches) and bake until stuffing is hot all the way through and crusty on top.

WILDFLOUR CAFÉ & BAKERY’S WILD RICE STUFFING
Marilyn Besner, Chef/owner

Makes 6 cups.

1-1/2 cups wild rice
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup finely diced onion
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup thinly sliced shitake mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped roasted chestnuts or canned water chestnuts, drained and sliced
1 tablespoon wheat-free tamari sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Cook the wild rice with 3 cups water and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a sauté pan and sauté the onion and celery until softened. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking until fragrant. Remove from heat and add the cooked rice and the prepared chestnuts. Season to taste with tamari, salt and pepper.

NEW ENGLAND STUFFING
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine

 Makes 12 servings.

1 large loaf day-old country white bread, crusts removed and cut into enough    half-inch cubes to measure 12 cups
1/2 cup minced parsley
2 tablespoons dried sage
1 tablespoon salt (or less to taste)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
2 cups minced onions
1 turkey liver, minced (reserved from bag of turkey organs)
2 sticks (1 cup) butter
1 cup minced celery
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup heavy cream

  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Spread the bread cubes on baking sheets and toast in the oven until lightly browned. Allow cubes to cool on baking sheets.
  2. In a very large bowl combine the cubes with the parsley, sage, salt, pepper, thyme, and marjoram and toss the mixture well.
  3. In a large heavy skillet melt the butter and add the onions and turkey liver. Sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the celery and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of bread cubes and add the egg, chicken stock, and cream. Combine well and let the mixture cool before either stuffing the turkey or baking it in an ovenproof pan until heated through and crisp on top.

Call Central Casting: Max Hansen Carversville Grocery is Ready for its Closeup

Photo courtesy of George Point

Photo courtesy of George Point

I can’t decide what I like best about the recent takeover and revamping of what for decades had been the Carversville General Store in rural Bucks County, PA. Is it the fantastic breakfast and lunch sandwiches and other prepared foods of accomplished chef and caterer Max Hansen? The genuinely friendly demeanor of Max and his staff? The idiosyncratic collection of groceries and household goods stuffed onto the shelves? Or perhaps the fact that the Carversville post office is still located inside the store?

Exterior, Max Hansen Carversville Grocery

Exterior, Max Hansen Carversville Grocery

Well, all of the above, plus the store’s picturesque bucolic setting on Fleecy Dale Road. Yep, Fleecy Dale. I stopped in earlier this month during the store’s Customer Appreciation Day. Here are just a few of the impressions I took away – including an unexpected, on-the-fly interview I snagged with a bona fide TV celebrity. Let’s start with that.

Max Hansen lives just down the street from the store, but just around the corner is the antique toy emporium of Noel Barrett, the mustachioed, pony-tailed gent we all recognize as the toy expert on PBS’ “Antiques Roadshow.”

Noel Barrett & Max Hansen

Noel Barrett & Max Hansen

“I moved here 28 years ago and the general store was just opening,” Barrett told me. “It was big on plumbing supplies. I’ve come here through six iterations and four owners. It’s been a long wait for the best.” With a twinkle in his eye he added, “We’re very blessed, but the downside is it will bring more people into this tiny little town!”

Note the slow smoked pig in the smoker behind Max

Note the slow smoked pig in the smoker behind Max

Above is Hansen at work fixing barbecued pork sliders using the whole Berkshire pig he had slow-smoked earlier that day. It went well with his smoky baked gigante beans, mac & cheese, and sautéed broccoli rabe.

Carversville Grocery 021

Hansen is most renowned for his smoked salmon – he even wrote a cookbook of smoked salmon recipes. Tasting his salmon made me realize how I’ve been settling for inferior versions. His is subtle – not overwhelmed by salt or smoke, and rich but not oily. You don’t have to take my word for it: Hansen supplies Thomas Keller’s restaurants and, closer to home, Agricola in Princeton. A package is in the rear right, above. If you look close, you’ll also see charcuterie from Porc Salt.

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A real charm of the store for me is the high-low mix of products juxtaposed on cluttered shelves. Porc Salt salami, yes, but also Taylor ham. Cracker Jack next to chia crisps. Boxes of Jell-O pudding and burlap bags of Virginia peanuts.

Everywhere you turn you encounter beautiful, interesting, and delicious sights. Here’s just one tableau (the post office counter is at the rear):

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In his off hours, Max Hansen carves wooden spoons. Here’s a sample of his handiwork:

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Growing up, the Hansen family was close with Julia Child’s. He counts her as a major influence, and among his prized possessions are two of her knives, which he still uses. Ask him for stories when you visit Max Hansen Carversville Grocery. By the way: the store is located across the street from another Carversville institution: the excellent Carversville Inn.

Carversville Inn

Carversville Inn

Edible Jersey Holiday 2013; NJ’s Own Black Forest; Noteworthy Food Events

The newest edition of Edible Jersey – holiday 2013 – is out. In it you’ll find my story about the 3 generations of the Aichem family behind the venerable Black Forest Inn in Stanhope (on the border of Morris and Sussex counties). In the kitchen alone, 4 of the Aichem men work side by side – and 3 of them are named Heinrich! Included are recipes for ham in bread dough and red cabbage with apples.

Edible Jersey Holiday 2013 004

The digital edition is online (click here). Flip to page 35 for my story. You can find copies of this free magazine at farmers markets, Whole Foods markets, restaurants, and specialty food shops throughout the state. For the exhaustive list click here. (A word to the wise: in my neck of the woods, copies of Edible Jersey disappear faster than you can say Schwarzwald.)

Speaking of the Black Forest Inn…

I decided to stay for lunch after interviewing the Aichems. I haven’t been to Germany in decades, but the refined German cuisine at this old-school restaurant brought me back there in the best possible way. When it comes to food, “refined” and “German” aren’t always joined at the hip, but they are here.

I didn’t have my camera, so below is the only photo I could dig up of something I actually ate during that glorious meal: maultaschen, the German version of ravioli ($7.75 as a starter; $13.75 as entrée).

Inside these tender pasta wrappers – which are neither too thick nor thin – is a layer of silky, subtle ground veal and spinach that conjures a fine terrine. As you can see, the envelopes are ladled with jus (caraway, and darned flavorful) and strewn with thin strands of fried onions.

I had begun with a fillet of house smoked trout ($9.75), which was expertly boned and delicately smoked. Classic accompaniments include creamy horseradish sauce, capers, and minute strands of red onion. Completing the plate were these beauties: fresh mache, carrot shavings, one endive leaf filled with chow-chow, a cornichon, and a tiny pickled onion. Clearly, presentation counts for something here.

I also indulged in cucumber dill salad ($4.75) – a simple-sounding dish that isn’t so simple to get right. Here it was perfection, its paper-thin slices of crunchy, in-season cukes tossed in a tamed-down white vinegar dressing with handfuls of fresh snipped dill thrown in.

My final treat was a big slice of something I normally have an aversion to: Black Forest cake ($5.75). This one’s a specialty of Heinrich, the grandson of founder Heinrich (dubbed “Heinz” in the kitchen to avoid confusion), and it’s a revelation. For one thing, it has a thin, buttery, pie-dough bottom crust. Above that, three layers of midnight-black but light-textured chocolate cake. In between are marinated whole cherries (fat, winey, and not too sweet) and dollops of chocolate mousse. The whole thing is covered with supremely fresh whipped cream that’s plastered with thin-sliced almonds. Wowee.

Black Forest Inn exteriorSure, you can get wursts and pretzels and kraut and beers at the Black Forest Inn. And its throwback gemutlichkeit setting isn’t unique. What is hard to come by is the increasingly rare treat of encountering classic haute-German fare.
Black Forest Inn on Urbanspoon

Tis the Season to Dine Well and Do Good

holly sprig clipartLike you, I’m inundated every holiday season with invitations to food and wine events that benefit good causes. With our calendars bulging with seasonal chores, events, and obligations, it’s as hard to choose among them as it is to find the time to attend. Here are some worthy candidates for spending your precious holiday capital:

Thursday, 11/21, Princeton: The 3rd annual Fall Collaborative Feast at elements restaurant. Two things in particular recommend it: it’s turning the spotlight onto those unsung heroes of restaurant kitchens everywhere – the sous chefs – and raising money for D&R Greenway Land Trust. The sous (the plural can’t be souses, that just doesn’t seem right) come from leading NJ restaurants, among them the Ryland Inn, 90 Acres, and elements itself. Details here.

Thursday, 12/5, Red Bank: The culinary coalition Red Bank Flavour is hosting their 2nd annual Holiday Flavour at the Molly Pitcher Inn. 20+ local restaurants are participating in this event, which benefits 3 local nonprofits and includes a chance to win a special multi-course tasting dinner for 2 curated by Tom Colicchio at his Colicchio & Sons restaurant. Details here.

Anytime, Newark: For both of the above events, a portion of the proceeds will go to very worthwhile organizations. But if you want 100% of your largesse to directly benefit those most in need, I urge you to donate to Bring Home Dinner, a simple, successful, hyper-local collaboration each November that aids the families of Newark’s Camden Street School, where more than 90% fall below the poverty line, and where nearly 50% of the children are special needs. Funds raised in November provide each family with $50 worth of local supermarket gift cards to feed their family for the week. For details and to donate, click here.

And Finally: Help for Making it through the Season

Saturday, 11/30: For the 3rd year, American Express is sponsoring Small Business Saturday across the nation. Check your local papers and social media for special deals and events in your area. In Princeton, for example, Catch a Rising Star comedy club is sponsoring an afternoon of holiday shopping, visiting with Santa, and watching a magic show at Forrestal Village. For those who stay for dinner, Tre Piani restaurant is offering one free kid’s meal with the purchase of each adult meal. Details here.

Sunday, 12/8: Slow Food Central NJ’s 9th season (!) of winter farmers markets kicks off at Cherry Grove Farm in Lawrenceville, from 10 am to 2 pm. A full list of vendors will be posted soon at www.slowfoodcentralnj.org.

Thru 12/31: If you find yourself needing a restorative lunch after a day of holiday shopping in the New Brunswick area, you can’t do better than taking advantage of the 20% discount on lunch (as well as on selected beers and wines by the glass) at the Frog & the Peach. If you doubt me, check out their amazing lunch menu.

Afghan in Raritan; Lamb Sliders & Eggplant Recipes; Edible Jersey Wants Your Food Story

3 Olives Mediterranean Restaurant

There’s an awful lot of mediocre Middle Eastern food around, so I took my sweet time getting to this “Afghan fusion” spot on W. Somerset St in Raritan. A real mistake on my part, because not only does 3 Olives, situated in a former dive bar (Mugs Pub), feature impressively fresh, full-flavored versions of hummus, grape leaves, and Greek salad (here dubbed “Mediterranean” salad), it puts an Afghan spin – and to my taste, a superior spin – on them and other dishes, including versions of naan and daal.

Hummus with naan at 3 Olives
Hummus with naan at 3 Olives

3 Olives is surprising in other ways: cloth napkins, full liquor license, and stylish tableware, like that shown above. All in a dark, old-fashioned wood-paneled, commercial-carpeted setting. Adding to its appeal is its friendly, easygoing owner, Arina Zafar, who served as hostess and order-taker on our noontime visit.

eggplant and 3 olives 005

At lunch, full meals run about $8 and include complimentary house-made naan with two dips (yogurt with cilantro and garlicky vinaigrette with red pepper, above) and  soup (lentil, on our visit) or a mini-version of the full-size Mediterranean salad, below. Notice that the red pepper vinaigrette comes on the side.

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All the Afghan dishes we tried were standouts. Fried leek dumplings called aushak topped with homemade yogurt and meat sauce; a stew of spinach and meltingly soft boneless lamb chunks (sabzi chalaw); and the vegetarian sampler, with its choice of 3 stews/purees. I chose eggplant, lentil, and pumpkin. Each had back notes of slow-cooked onions, ripe tomatoes, and its own warm spices.

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What’s not shown above is the accompanying basmati rice, which blew me away. It’s perfection – tender but not mushy, each grain separate and fluffy, wearing a light sheen of what I suspect is ghee. But more than that, the rice itself is stunningly flavorful. As we were leaving, I overheard Ms. Zafar telling another table that she and her husband, Kris, who is the chef, travel to northern Virginia every couple of months to buy the rice, which she described as “three times above regular basmati.” I concur.
3 Olives Mediterranean Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

attention sign

attention sign (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Attention home bakers: What took me to the Raritan area was a visit to Candyland Crafts on W. Main Street in Somerville. Despite its name, it’s also a baking supply paradise, with an immense selection of commercial-grade bakeware, tools, packaging materials, and professional ingredients (e.g., large bags of pre-made royal icing waiting for water). Prices are closer to wholesale than to retail.

Me & Main Street Bistro: An Ongoing Affair

eggplant and 3 olives 004I had no idea when I was randomly searching the internet for a recipe for eggplant rollatini that I would confront my past – and not even recognize it. The upshot? My  In the Kitchen column in the October 25th edition of The Princeton Packet, with the story behind how Princeton’s Main Street Bistro became one of Bon Appetit magazines Great Neighborhood Restaurants. Here are the related recipes: my adaptation of that rollatini dish and Main Street’s popular lamb sliders.

MAIN STREET BISTRO’S EGGPLANT ROLLATINI
www.epicurious.com

Nonstick olive oil spray
All purpose flour
4 large eggs, beaten to blend
3-1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French bread
2-2/3 cups grated Parmesan cheese (about 8 ounces)
18 1/4- to 1/3-inch-thick lengthwise eggplant slices (from 2 medium)
3 cups (packed) coarsely grated whole-milk mozzarella cheese (about 12 ounces)
1-1/4 cups ricotta cheese (preferably whole-milk)
3/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
3 cups purchased marinara sauce

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 3 baking sheets and one 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish with nonstick spray. Place flour in one wide shallow bowl, eggs in second bowl, and breadcrumbs mixed with 1 cup Parmesan cheese in another. Sprinkle each eggplant slice with salt and pepper. Coat each slice with flour, then beaten egg, and finally breadcrumb mixture. Arrange eggplant slices in single layer on prepared sheets. Bake eggplant in batches until coating is golden, turning after 15 minutes, about 30 minutes total. Cool on sheets.
  2. Mix mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, basil, and 1 cup Parmesan cheese in medium bowl. Season filling with salt and pepper. Divide filling among eggplant slices (about 3 tablespoons per slice); spread evenly. Starting at 1 short end, roll up eggplant slices, enclosing filling. Arrange rolls, seam side down, in prepared baking dish. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spoon marinara sauce over rolls; sprinkle with remaining 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake uncovered until rollatini are heated through and mozzarella cheese melts, about 30 minutes.
    Makes 6 main-course servings.

LORI MARSHALL’S LAMB LOAF/SLIDERS/GYROS

1 pound ground lamb
1 pound mix of ground veal, pork, and/or beef (all beef can be substituted)
2 cloves garlic
3/4 cup finely chopped white or yellow onion
1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon (rounded) marjoram
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend 1 minute. Form into slider patties or pack into two loaf pans. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

For loaf pans, preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 50 to 60 minutes. Drain fat from pans. For sliders, sauté in olive oil for 3 minutes on each side.

To assemble sliders: Place a slider on a mini-pita, or use circle cookie cutter to form mini-pitas from full size. Add tzatziki (recipe follows) and cucumber slices as desired.

To assemble gyros: Slice the lamb loaf lengthwise about 1/8″ thick and sauté in olive oil to a crispy brown.  Serve with tzatziki (recipe follows), warm pita, chopped tomato, and shredded lettuce.

Makes 20 to 24 patties for sliders. Each loaf makes 4 to 5 servings as gyros (each gyro containing 4 to 5 slices).

MAIN STREET BISTRO TZATZIKI
Chef Nick Schiano

1 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and grated
1 teaspoon lemon juice, plus more to taste
1teaspoon minced garlic
Several pinches salt, plus more to taste

  1. Place yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined strainer set over a bowl and drain for 2 hours.
  2. Toss cucumber with salt and drain for 2 hours.
  3. Mix lemon juice and garlic with yogurt and cucumber. Taste and add additional lemon juice and salt if needed.
    Makes 1 cup.

Edible Jersey Wants You!

Edible jersey cover fall 13For the second time in its history Edible Jersey magazine is soliciting everyone for 150-word stories about our favorite food experiences – people, places, memories, etc. – for a feature they’re calling “Edible Life.” This is the second time they’re doing this. (The first time around, I contributed my first food memory: eating a fig which my elderly Italian neighbor had plucked from his tree and handed through the wire fence that separated our backyards in Newark’s Central Ward.) Here, in their own words, is what the magazine is looking for:

“In 150 words or less, tell us about one of your food-related favorites: the roadside hole-in the wall with incredible food, the teapot your grandmother gave you, the farm stand you’ve visited every summer since you were 3, the best spot for Jamaican food in NJ, your favorite cooking spice, the best meal you ever had, the kitchen utensil or appliance you can’t live without, your favorite diner, your favorite summer produce, a treasured cookbook, your favorite bartender, your favorite farmers’ market, the cooking class that made a difference …. You get the idea.”

Send your submission to info@ediblejersey.com and include “Edible Life” in the title. You are welcome to submit more than one favorite. Be sure to include your name, phone number and town. (And please do adhere to the 150 word limit.) All selected “Edible Life” submissions will be notified prior to publication and the writer’s name, business/restaurant (if relevant) and town will be included with printed selections. Deadline to submit is November 8, 2013.

Fall Festival in Princeton (with recipes); Epicurean Palette Report

Witherspoon Grill’s Upcoming Harvest & Music Festival Hits Me Where I Live (literally and figuratively)

I like nothing better than when several local businesses and organizations team up for a family-friendly event that benefits a worthy area non-profit. If it also combines good food, drink, music, and fun activities in an outdoor setting during my favorite season and in my hometown, well so much the better.

These elements and more will come together on Sunday, Oct. 13, at this all-day festival to be held on Hinds Community Plaza – downtown Princeton’s popular gathering spot adjacent to the library on Witherspoon Street. A portion of the day’s proceeds will benefit the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen. Get the details in my Princeton Packet column, right here.

And here are the associated recipes for crab cakes, uber-restorative “green monster” juice, and chocolate crepes with chocolate chip ricotta filling (restorative in their own way).

WITHERSPOON GRILL’S CRAB CAKES

1 pound crabmeat
1 tablespoon chopped green onions or scallions
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon horseradish
1 tablespoon Creole mustard (such as Zatarain’s)
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs

In a large bowl, mix together onions, mayonnaise, lemon juice, horseradish, mustard, Creole mustard and Old Bay seasoning. Carefully fold in (by hand) the crab meat, until thoroughly combined. Add bread crumbs and gently mix until fully incorporated. Form into 4 or 5 patties. Broil or pan-sear until golden brown.
Makes 4 to 5 patties.

TICO’S EATERY & JUICE BAR “GREEN MONSTER JUICE”

3 large leaves organic kale
3 handfuls organic baby spinach
4 stalks celery
1 small organic cucumber
1 inch organic ginger
1 medium lemon, rind removed
1 medium granny smith apple

Put all ingredients through a juicer or a press.
Makes 1 serving.

BUTTON’S CREPERIE CHOCOLATE CREPES WITH CHOCOLATE CHIP RICOTTA FILLING

For the filling:
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup ricotta cheese
2/3 cup of semisweet mini chocolate chips
For the chocolate crepes:
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup water
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar, for sprinkling
Semi-sweet mini chocolate chips, for sprinkling

  1. For the crepe: In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine all the crepe ingredients and process for 10 to 15 seconds. Scrape down the sides and process again for another 5 seconds. Transfer the mix to a medium size bowl, cover, and chill for 1 hour.
  2. For the filling: In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer set at high to beat the heavy cream and sugar until a soft peak forms. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and beat in the ricotta cheese until well blended. Using a spatula, add the chocolate chips. Cover and chill.
  3. To assemble: Heat a crepe pan or small skillet over medium-high heat and lightly butter or grease. Pour about 3 tablespoons of batter while tilting to coat the bottom evenly. Cook for about 1 minute, or until the crepe is slightly browned, and then begin to gently pull the edge of the crepe away from the pan. Flip to cook the other side for 15 to 30 seconds. Transfer the crepe to a plate and continue making crepes one at a time.
  4. For each crepe, scoop 1/4 cup of the ricotta filling down the middle and fold. Top with powdered sugar and a sprinkling of mini chocolate chips. (Serving suggestion: Feel free to add fresh fruit on top.)
    Makes 4 to 6 large crepes.

Epicurean Palette 2013

Well this is certainly a first for me. While I thoroughly enjoyed eating my way through this, the 13th annual food and wine event at Grounds for Sculpture this past Sunday, it turns out that of the many photos I took, not one of them is of food! Below are some of the, um, other delights I relished.

Here’s Jeffrey Karlovitch of The Lost Distillery, who divides his time between Scotland and NJ:

Lost Distillery

Lost Distillery

The Lost Distillery states it mission thus: “In the last century, almost one hundred of Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries have been closed or destroyed. This accounts for nearly half of all distilleries that have ever existed in Scotland. Global economic downturn, over-production, world wars and prohibition have all contributed to the loss of so many distilleries. As a result of all of these factors, many unique and venerable brands have been lost to the world. Until Now.” Yep, they buy up old casks of single malts and blend them (with the help of a Scotch ‘archivist’) to approximate what they may have tasted like. Here are its first 2 whiskies, Auchnagie and Stratheden:

Lost Distillery Scotches

Lost Distillery Scotches

The photo below of the Peacock Inn table was almost about the food, although once owner Barry Sussman (in pinstripes) told me that chef Manuel Perez (center) and pastry chef Cindy Lukens (left) were recently married, it became all about the love.

Peacock Inn Crew

Peacock Inn Crew

When I saw that the folks at The Ship Inn in Milford had created a brew using Tassot Apiaries honey, I had to try the ESB (extra special bitter). It did not disappoint:

Ship Inn Killer Bee Bitter

Ship Inn Killer Bee Bitter

If you’ve ever roamed Ground For Sculpture’s 42 lush acres while viewing its 270 contemporary sculptures, you’ve undoubtedly encountered one of its flock of wandering mascots:

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But this year there were other colorful additions. Namely, live artists working throughout the park, like GFS sculptor Michael Gyampo (at the rear, in white shirt):

Michael Gyampo at work

Michael Gyampo at work

Can you spot the non-living (sculptural) revelers among the living ones enjoying music at the gazebo?

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Here they are, on the left:

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And just to keep things interesting, there were 2 beautiful young women who dressed up as the park’s sculptures, just for the hell of it. Here’s one in her finery:

??????????When I told her that I was delighted that the folks at GFS had come up with this idea, she told me that she (and her friend, not pictured) were simply guests, not affiliated with the park, and that they had designed and sewn their costumes on their own. I thought they were putting me on, so didn’t get their names. If this is you, please contact me so I can give you credit!

 

Why I Dislike Paella (includes a delicious recipe); Where I Dined in San Francisco (part 1); Nominate Your Favorite Green Restaurant

In my 8/30 In the Kitchen column in the Princeton Packet, I (a) confess that I have always been disappointed by paella (even in Spain), (b) tell where it is I finally encountered a version I can get behind (hint: Princeton), and (c) share a recipe for same.

My Paella

My Paella

Click here and all will be revealed. And here’s the recipe:

VEGETARIAN PAELLA
Courtesy of Spain GourmeTour magazine, via
www.tienda.com  (Directions adapted and expanded)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 roasted piquillo peppers, coarsely chopped if whole
1 large Bermuda or Vidalia onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1-1/2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika (Pimenton de la Vera)
5 to 10 strands of saffron
1 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into large cubes
4 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1-1/2 cups short-grain Spanish rice, such as bomba or calasparra
3 cups vegetable stock, heated and kept warm
Finely minced parsley
Lemon wedges

  1. In a 13-inch paella pan heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the piquillo peppers, onion, and bell peppers. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the onion is translucent (but not browned).
  2. Add the garlic, smoked paprika, saffron, zucchini, and tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a simmer, and simmer for 10 minutes more.
  3. Stir in the rice and warmed stock, raise the heat, and bring to a boil. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper if needed. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until most of the stock is absorbed. While paella is simmering, heat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Cover pan with aluminum foil, place in heated oven and bake for 10 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed.
  5. To serve, sprinkle with parsley and decorate with lemon wedges.
    Serves 4.

Wonderfully Funky Thai Meal in Berkeley

Actually, the meal itself wasn’t funky, but the setting delightfully so. Berkeley Thai Temple Brunch (or Lunch), as it is colloquially tagged, takes place from 10 am to 1 pm every Sunday in the backyard of the Wat Mongkolratanaram Buddhist temple, which is located in a residential area of South Berkeley.

Front of temple. Brunch is outdoors, in back

Front of temple. Brunch is outdoors, in back

The fare, made by temple volunteers, consists of familiar Thai restaurant dishes like pad Thai; red, yellow, and green curries; beef noodle soup, fried chicken, tofu, etc. All are more akin to homemade than commercial, and are uncommonly fresh, delicious, and inexpensive.

Which is why folks line up well in advance of the 10 am start and why the 200 seats at plastic picnic tables and metal folding chairs fill up fast.

The system is quirky. The Religious do not handle money, so you trade in your cash (credit cards not accepted) for silver-colored tokens worth $1 each. Our group of 4 bought $40 worth and wound up not using them all. (You can trade them in for a refund or donate the surplus to the temple.)

You stand in one of several lines – long, but they move quickly and are made up of friendly, laid-back folk (this is Berkeley after all) – and order from what is almost too many options, including many vegetarian ones. They allow mixing and matching, so we shared one plate loaded with Panang curry, chicken with cashews, and mixed vegetables, and another divided between pad Thai, yellow chicken curry, and pork. Here are massive Vietnamese-style summer rolls filled with tons of fresh mint, shrimp, and shredded carrot:

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We topped our meal off with not-to-be-missed mango sticky rice (with coconut custard and both white and purple rice) and Thai iced coffee and iced tea.

Wat Mongkolratanaram on Urbanspoon

Nature Conservancy‘s “Nature’s Plate” Restaurant Contest Comes to the Garden State

Which restaurant do you consider to be our state’s greenest, most eco-friendly dining destination? With the tastiest, most health-conscious food? The Nature Conservancy is betting that it’s one that uses fresh, locally grown and raised ingredients from our state’s fields, pastures, orchards, vineyards, and waterways.

From September 3rd through the 16th, you can nominate your choice. Voting begins on October 1, and winners in 19 states will be announced on October 17.

The NJ “Nature’s Plate” winning eatery will be promoted to Nature Conservancy members throughout the state and nation, and will receive an award plaque, public relations support, and more. And one lucky voter in the finalist round will be picked at random to receive a $100 gift certificate to the winning restaurant. That could be you! To nominate your favorite, visit www.nature.org/naturesplateNJ