Tag Archives: George Staikos

Mint, White BBQ Sauce, & Summer Wine Classes

Magnificent Mint

Spearmint, Wikipedia

In my previous post I talked about lunching at Duke Farms. But I also took a class there, on the magic of mint. Here’s the link to my July 20 Princeton Packet report .

Since those of us who grow mint currently have too much, here are two of my favorite recipes that employ it in abundance (reprinted from that column):

The Foods of Greece by Aglaia Kremezi

1 large cucumber, half-peeled in lengthwise strips to give striped appearance
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper

Wash and dry the cucumber and cut it into very thin crosswise slices. Place the slices in a salad bowl, sprinkling with the feta and mint. In a small bowl whisk the oil and lemon juice with the salt and pepper. Pour over the salad and toss thoroughly. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

La Cucina Siciliana di Gangivecchio by Wanda & Giovanna Tornabene

1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups drained ricotta*
3/4 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup fresh mint, finely chopped, plus 2 sprigs for garnish
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped, plus 2 sprigs for garnish
Salt & freshly ground pepper
1 pound spaghetti
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil. While waiting for the water to boil, heat the olive oil and butter with the garlic cloves in a large skillet over low heat, stirring often. When the garlic cloves begin to turn golden, discard them and stir in the ricotta with a wooden spoon.
2. Add the tomato sauce, chopped mint, and chopped thyme, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Stir 1-1/2 tablespoons of salt into the boiling water and add the spaghetti. Cook until al dente, stirring often.
4. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and add it, 1/4 cup at a time, to the pasta sauce, until the sauce is the desired consistency. Transfer the spaghetti, drained, to a serving bowl. Add 1 cup of the sauce and toss. Pour the remaining sauce over the top and toss well. Garnish the bowl with a little bouquet of fresh mint and thyme sprigs, and serve with Parmesan cheese. Serves 4.

*To drain ricotta: Wrap it in a double thickness of cheesecloth set it over a fine-mesh sieve suspended on the rim of a bowl. Refrigerate overnight and discard the liquid in the bowl.

Alabama White BBQ Sauce?

Just when I think I know all there is to know about regional barbecue styles, I come across this entry on serious eats about Alabama white bbq sauce. I haven’t tried it yet, but I can see how it would be fabulous. If you’re familiar with it, let me hear from you.

summer wine classes in flemington

A set up of Merlot wine tasting

A set up of Merlot wine tasting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If, like me, you’ve already spent all your summer vacation time and are looking for something fun to get you through the slog that is August, wine expert (and all-around nice guy) George Staikos of The Educated Grape has lined up three evening wine classes at 55 Main Restaurant, each featuring 6 wines and 3 dishes. You can sign up for individual sessions at $70 a pop or the series for $180.

Aficionados of Cab won’t want to miss the first one, on 7/31: The Great California Cabernet Vintages of the Last Twelve Years. For complete details on all classes visit The Educated Grape or phone George at 973.699.2199.

A Blind Tasting of NJ Wines & Results of My Llama Meat Experiment


The March issue of NJ Monthly is all about wine. As part of it I was invited to be a judge in and to chronicle a blind tasting of NJ wines. The heady group of experts I was thrown in with were:

*Sue Guerra, marketing director, Gary’s Wine & Marketplace

*Nicholas Harary, chef/co-owner, Restaurant Nicholas (and, btw, former sommelier at Jean Georges)

*Brian Hider, wine director, The Pluckemin Inn

*Tim Hirsch, wine consultant, The Wine Library

*Dr. Gary Pavlis, NJ wine expert & specialist, Rutgers University

*Sharon Sevrens, proprietor, Amanti Vino

*George Staikos, wine consultant, educator & proprietor of The Educated Grape

Click here to find out how we rated 50-plus white, red, and fruit wines submitted by 25 wineries from every corner of the state. The good, the bad, the ugly. And feel free comment here with your own opinion on the state of our state’s wines. Salute!

 As I reported in a previous post, I recently purchased two pounds of ground llama meat from WoodsEdge Wools Farm in Stockton. I cooked it three different ways over three nights, the upshot being that while some experiments worked better than others, I’m happy to make llama meat a part of my life. Why, you ask?

Well, it’s a tasty, lean red meat. As Jim Weaver of Tre Piani had told me, it does indeed resemble pork in texture. But it has its own unique flavor – pronounced but not overpowering, simultaneously tangy and sweet. The first night I made two versions of pan-fried burgers, one with only truffle salt and pepper. It was OK, but when I topped it with First Field Jersey Ketchup, the flavor rounded out beautifully. For the other version I smeared a plain burger (regular salt & pepper) with some herb butter I had left over from a salmon dish the night before. When the butter melted into the cooked burger, it was a match made in heaven.

The next night I created a quick-and-dirty Stroganoff of the llama, sauteed onions and sliced portobello mushrooms, and sour cream. The richness of the sour cream proved a perfect foil; I will never use ground beef for this weeknight go-to dish again.

With the remaining llama I made mini-meat loaves in muffin cups, adding bread crumbs, fresh herbs, minced red onion, an egg, a squirt of lemon juice, and (I’m a bit embarrassed to admit) one finely diced mozzarella stick. This was my least successful dish – bland and a bit dry – although more of that Jersey ketchup helped.

In the end, I realized that any recipe I now have for pork can be substituted with the same cut of llama. (I’m particularly keen to try stew.) Since llama has tons more flavor than most pork, while being leaner, I think it’s a win-win. And here’s a scoop: Plans are in the works at WoodsEdge for offering yak meat by the end of March.