Tag Archives: ChefSteps

“Preppy Cookbook” Recipes; Agricola & Frog & Peach News;Tips for Berries & Oysters

Award-winning North Jersey Chef Keeps the Preppy Flame Alive. Literally.

Christine Nunn, whose previous restaurant, Picnic in Fair Lawn, garnered a rare three-and-a-half stars from me, has given birth not only to a new restaurant, Grange in Westwood, but also to her first book.

In The Preppy Cookbook, subtitled “Classic Recipes for the Modern Prep,” Nunn makes a strong case for the timelessness of the “prep” lifestyle, including the eternal merits of hollandaise, Hellman’s, and hangover hash browns. Alongside classics such as poached salmon and eggs Benedict are thoroughly modern, easy-to-prepare gems. Sara Moulton, a friend and fellow prep, wrote the introduction. The book won’t be released until August 27, but you can pre-order it here on amazon.com.

Preppy Cookbook

I couldn’t hold off sharing Nunn’s seasonal recipes for summer squash salad, savory peach compote, and roasted fruits with honey and walnuts. Find them and more  in my In the Kitchen column from the August 2nd issue of The Princeton Packet, and here:

SUMMER SQUASH SALAD
The Preppy Cookbook
by Christine Nunn

Zest and juice of 2 lemons
1/3 cup vegetable or corn oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
8 small zucchini and yellow squash, about 2 pounds, unpeeled and rinsed well
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 ounces Parmesan cheese

  1. Place lemon juice and oil in a large bowl or blender. Whisk by hand or blend on low speed for 3 minutes, until emulsified. Add the honey, mustard, salt, and black pepper and whisk or blend on low speed until well incorporated. Taste for acidity and seasoning and add more salt and black pepper as needed. Stir in the lemon zest and the pepper flakes.
  2. Using a mandoline or a vegetable peeler, slice thin ribbons of squash into a large bowl. Once there are lots of seeds in the squash and a little flesh, stop and move on to the next squash.
  3. When ready to serve, add the dressing and the pine nuts and toss until evenly coated. Divide evenly among chilled salad plates and, with a vegetable peeler, shave the cheese over the squash.
    Serves 4 as a first course.

SAVORY PEACH COMPOTE
The Preppy Cookbook
by Christine Nunn
Nunn uses this one-step condiment to top breaded pork chops and pork roast.

2 ripe peaches, cut into 1-inch cubes
1-1/2 tablespoons Pommery mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
Serves 4.

ROASTED STONE FRUITS WITH HONEY & WALNUTS
The Preppy Cookbook
by Christine Nunn

8 assorted stone fruits, such as peaches, nectarines, plums, and apricots, halved
4 tablespoons butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/3 cup honey
1 cup dry-roasted walnuts
1 tablespoon fresh cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Arrange the stone fruits, skin side down, in the dish and top with the butter.  Roast for 20 minutes. Remove dish from the oven and stir. Add the honey and stir again. Roast for 5 minutes more, until the fruits are softened and beginning to turn golden. Stir in the walnuts and the pepper. Serve immediately. (Top with ice cream if desired.)
Serves 4.

EAST ENDER COCKTAIL
The Preppy Cookbook
by Christine Nunn
“This refreshing cocktail [comprises] a triple threat of prep. It is named after a section of London (Britain, preppy), made with gin, the prep alcohol of choice, and a hint of mint that is slightly reminiscent of a mint julep (Southern preppy).” – CN

3 slices cucumber, plus one thin peel of cucumber for garnish
6 mint leaves
2 ounces gin
1 ounce fresh lime juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
Ice cubes

Chill 1 old-fashioned glass. In a cocktail shaker, lightly crush the cucumber slices and mint with a muddler. Add the gin, lime juice, simple syrup, and a handful of ice cubes. Shake well. Strain into the chilled glass. Float the cucumber peel on top.
Makes 1 drink.

Agricola Opening for Lunch

This restaurant that has taken Princeton by storm is finally adding lunch hours, starting August 8th (after the restaurant takes a 2-day hiatus). Here’s a taste of what’s on the menu:

Great Road Farms Heirloom Tomato Salad (watermelon, lemon cucumbers, almond hummus)
Cobb Salad (Valley Shepherd blue cheese, grilled chicken, house-cured bacon, avocado, Great Road Farm tomatoes & hard-boiled eggs)
Housemade Veggie Pita (whole grain pita, quinoa, cauliflower, carrot, cucumber, sprouts, eggplant, lemon herb vinaigrette)
The Standby (Cup of tomato soup, grilled house-smoked ham & cheese sandwich)

Josh Thomsen

Josh Thomsen

Josh Thomsen, Agricola’s executive chef, will be cooking at the Beard House this Tuesday night (August 6). Among the hyper-local treats this French Laundry alum will be serving up for his Rustic Farmhouse Feast are Great Road Farm egg custard with sweet corn and summer truffles and Cape May day boat scallops with fingerling potato-bacon cake, shaved apples, fennel, and mustard vinaigrette. www.jamesbeard.


Super Lunch Deal at The Frog & The Peach

Through Labor Day, chef/owner Bruce Lefebvre is offering this spectacular 3-course lunch for only $19 at his popular New Brunswick restaurant:

Frog & Peach: Black Truffle Gnocchi

Frog & Peach: Black Truffle Gnocchi

FIRST COURSE: Heirloom Tomato Salad (House Smoked Berkshire Bacon, Organic Bibb, Spiced Pignoli, Aged Cheddar Emulsion) or Black Truffle Ricotta Gnocchi (Cremini, Buffalo Mozzarella, Basil Pesto)

SECOND COURSE: Pan Roasted Griggstown Chicken (Smoked Pecans, Sweet Potato, Pickled Bell Peppers, Bourbon Pan Sauce) or Grilled New Jersey Monkfish (Gigante Beans, Fennel, Pancetta, Tuscan Kale
Littleneck Clam Red Sauce)

THIRD COURSE: Coconut Semifreddo (Caramel, Chocolate Croquettes) or Valdeon Cheese (Leon, Spain: Cow/Goat Blue, Wrapped in Oak Leaves
Endive Marmalade, Pistachios)

The $19 cost excludes beverages, tax and gratuity. The same menu is offered for dinner at $42. www.frogandthepeach.com

Helpful Tip #1: Keeping Berries Fresher Longer

Photo by George Point

Photo by George Point

The following excellent advice comes directly from the newsletter of the West Windsor Community Farmers Market. Thanks, manager Chris Cirkus and crew!

If you aren’t planning to eat your berries the day you bring them home from the Market, here’s a simple tip that works like a charm to keep them from getting moldy…give them a vinegar bath!

  • 1 TBS organic apple cider vinegar
  • 10 TBS filtered water
  • Fresh berries

Prepare the mixture in a large bowl. Place your berry beauties in the mixture and swirl around. Drain, rinse; although not necessary to rinse as the mixture is so diluted that you can’t taste the vinegar. Place your washed berries in the fridge in a covered container.

The vinegar kills any mold spores and other bacteria that may linger on the surface of the berries. Raspberries will last a week or more. Strawberries go almost two weeks without getting moldy and soft.

Helpful Tip #2: An Easier Way to Shuck Oysters

Courtesy of Tre Piani restaurant

Courtesy of Tre Piani restaurant

I haven’t tried this method yet, but it comes via the innovative, reliable folks at chefsteps.com. I profiled ChefSteps, the free online cooking school from key members of the team behind Modernist Cuisine, a while back at njmonthly.com, and since that time the school has amassed 12,477 students/users. Here’s the step-by-step for oysters.

Interview w/Chris Young of ‘Modernist Cuisine;’ ‘Fresh!’ Pilot; Winter Farmers Market

“Modernist Cuisine” Alumni Create Free Online Culinary School

I recently sat down with Chris Young, the principal co-author with Nathan Myhrvold of the groundbreaking, award-winning Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, when he was in Princeton. Chris YoungHe was here to consult with a major flavor and fragrance company as part of one of his new ventures, Delve Kitchen. But while sipping coffee at Small World on Witherspoon Street, we talked mainly about ChefSteps, the innovative free online culinary school that he and fellow Modernist Cuisine alums Grant Crilly and Ryan Matthew Smith have created.

You can (and should) read my main report about ChefSteps at njmonthly.com. Then follow the link back here for additional fascinating detail, below, on why Young and his collaborators left Nathan Myhrvold and the Modernist Cuisine team behind – he had no involvement, for example, with the follow-up book, Modernist Cuisine at Home, which was published on October 8 – as well as the high-profile geniuses that inspired ChefSteps.

Young on leaving Modernist Cuisine and finding the Gates Foundation and Johnson & Wales:
Modernist Cuisine turned out to be a bigger project than we imagined,” Young says as a bit of an understatement about the six volume, $625 encyclopedia. “The funny thing is that, at the start, Nathan warned me that it probably would not be a fulltime gig.” Myhrvold envisioned a 300-page book describing new cooking technologies like sous vide. “Who knew it would take six years, and thousands of pages? That last year was like the Bataan Death March! For five years that was my life, and they turned out to be even harder than my five years at the Fat Duck,” he says, referring to his work at Heston Blumenthal’s famed restaurant outside of London, where he ran the experimental kitchen. “Then, one year later most people assume you want to write another book. But, to me, I’ve done that. I’ve said almost everything I wanted to say. I needed to step out of the doughnut hole, see what was next.”

“I was offered to jump onto a Gates Foundation project having to do with improving the milk supply in sub-Saharan Africa. So Nathan said OK, you have a lot to offer. And I helped re-form the project. Oftentimes these kinds of projects apply a first-world solution to a third-world problem. They’re two very different worlds. The business model I developed is currently being implemented in field trials in Kenya, and I’m very hopeful that it can help break the poverty cycle.”

“Just as I came off that project last fall, I had started one overhauling the curriculum at Johnson & Wales, which I’m still doing. Many culinary schools are interested in incorporating Modernist Cuisine into their curriculum. I liked the Johnson & Wales model, which unlike others, is not to fly me in to teach an expensive class. We all realized that the only way to make this scalable is not to each students, but to train the faculty. So I basically ran a boot camp. I trained half the faculty (and interacted with 1,000 students). So here’s the Johnson & Wales faculty, some of whom had been chefs for thirty years, acting like kids again! It had an impact. But I’m thinking, culinary school training professional chefs is big, but it’s still a subset of an already small world. Most people do not want to become professional chefs and there are many working professional chefs who will never go to culinary school. How to make a broader impact?  I reasoned that rather than another big book, I wanted something more collaborative and engaging – like the way it is when you work in restaurants.”

“Grant Crilly had also left Nathan, and had participated with me in the Johnson & Wales project. Ryan Smith had left, too. He had established a very lucrative photography business. The three of us, we’re friends and in January of this year we found ourselves asking, what do we want to do? From January through March, we were scratching around. We had straightforward consulting contracts, and those provided our only cash flow. We had no wealthy individual behind us.”

Young on the conception of an online culinary school:
Young mentions as a model and inspiration Sebastian Thrun, a professor of artificial intelligence at Stanford and a Google vice president. “Two years ago, Thrun offered his a.i. class at Stanford free online. A couple thousand enrolled within a day! Eventually 125,000 enrolled, and 20 percent completed it all, taking the quizzes and tests. Stanford agreed to give them all a Stanford certificate of completion.” After that, Thun established his free online university, Udacity. “This was a huge influence. We thought that we ought to be able to do the same thing with cooking. You need a way of engaging, like Udacity. You still need step-by-step instructions and photos, but also video. Unlike with a book, if it takes 20 photos to show a step, that’s OK. If it needs a movie, OK, we can do that.”

One that’s free…
Another influence is Gabe Newell, the video game software genius. “We asked ourselves, how do you charge for this?” Newell has said that monetization is the root of all evil. In the video game world the most successful are those that switch to free-to-play, but with added value. Twenty percent of players will spend more on the value-added stuff than if you charged a fee to pay. So, free-to-play equals free-to-learn.” Young mentions the ill-fated attempt of the New York Times to charge for online content. “We figure if we charge, that’s wrong for two reasons: One, it doesn’t work. And two, you’re competing with [the free content on] YouTube. So fine, all the fundamentals are free. Our users will vote, will tell us what is of value to them, what recipes they want to see, what structure works best for them…”

…and someday soon, open-sourced and self-policing
Once the idea of a free online culinary school was validated, Young addressed the problem of keeping its integrity. He spoke about this problem with Matt Mullenweg of the open-sourced WordPress, whom he invited into the Delve Kitchen to help process a whole pig. “He had ideas on incentivizing and self-policing, and how that works.”

The future of ChefSteps
“What feels wonderful is that it’s truly a grassroots effort. It takes a lot of volunteers, a lot of support. A lot of new content is coming!” The team has lined up a number of guest presenters for the winter. “The point is it’s not just what we want to teach. For example, I am lucky to work with an amazing knife forger, who knows a huge amount. You’ll never see him on Food Network, and most likely you’ll never see a book from him. We can provide a platform for people like him, give him a voice. These people have been an unexpected bonus and a profound inspiration. A big part of our job is curating. Eventually, the hope is, if we can get ChefSteps to where, say, Wikipedia is, maybe someday some  phenomenal contributor can teach their own class.”

To read more about Chris Young’s work at Johnson & Wales University, click here.
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Watch the Pilot for Greener NJ’s ‘Fresh!’

Fresh PilotI was lucky enough to sit in on the dinner produced for and seen in this pilot, which features folks from Cherry Grove Farm, Terhune Orchards, Stults Farm, Chia-Sin Farms, the West Windsor Farmers Market, and Tre Piani restaurant. Check out the first episode here.


Slow Food Central New Jersey
’s Eighth Season of “Eat Slow” Winter Farmers Markets Kick off December 15 at Cherry Grove Farm

The Lawrenceville farm’s outdoor event barn will be the place to get the farm’s own famed cheeses as well as locally produced breads, baked goods, fresh produce, jams, wine, mushrooms, and more, from 11am-3pm. “Dress warm,” the organizers advise.