Tag Archives: West Windsor Farmers Market

Moonshine Goes Legit; Food Writers Speak; A Farmers Market Shows Heart

Are You Ready for Some Moonshine?

I knew that moonshine had gone mainstream, but was nonetheless surprised to find an entire shelf dedicated to more brands than I could easily count when I toured the newest Gary’s Wine & Marketplace, which opened on Route 206 in Hillsborough in June.

Tim Smith, Climax Moonshine

Tim Smith, Climax Moonshine

Moonshine will be in the spotlight at that store and at the Gary’s in Wayne on Saturday, August 29th, when Tim Smith of the Discovery Channel’s “Moonshiners” (shown above – NOT at Gary’s!) will be on hand to sign bottles of his Climax Moonshine, which Huff Post named the best-tasting legal version out there.

Smith will be in Hillsborough from 1 to 3 pm; Wayne from 4 to 6 pm.

I’m told moonshine averages 150 proof; Climax is 90 proof. As for how to drink it, BuzzFeed offers these 19 moonshine concoctions.

And if wine is more your thing, know that Gary’s offers free tastings of at least 8 bottles every day at all of his stores.

Gary's Wine Tasting Dispenser

Gary’s Wine Bar Dispenser

 

Gary's Shelf Tag

Gary’s Shelf Tag

Second Annual Food Writers & Photographers Panel at West Windsor Farmers Market

West Windsor Farmers Market

West Windsor Farmers Market

This event also takes place on Saturday, August 29th, at 11 am (so you can squeeze in both Gary’s & this). I am honored to be a panelist once again. Come out to the market and ask us everything you ever wanted to know about food writing, blogging, and photography. (On that last subject, I’ll be looking for pointers myself.) Here are my impressive fellow panelists:

Justine Ma Justine Ma is a NY Food Editor who has eaten her way around the world. She has cooked alongside top chefs in the James Beard Foundation kitchen and shares local food experiences on her lifestyle blog LittleMissLocal.com.

Katie Parla is a NJ native and Rome-based food and beverage journalist and educator. She is the author of the blog Parla Food parlafood.com and website katieparla.com, the apps Katie Parla’s Rome and Katie Parla’s Istanbul parlafoodltd.com and the Ebook Eating & Drinking in Rome. Her forthcoming cookbook, Tasting Rome, co-authored with Kristina Gill, will be published by Clarkson Potter in early 2016 and is available for pre-order.

Linda Prospero divides her time as a board member for Princeton’s Italian cultural institution, Dorothea’s House, writing her blog, Ciao Chow Linda ciaochowlinda.blogspot.com, co-teaching a memoir-writing workshop, Italy in Other Words and travels to and from Italy.

Clay Williams is a photographer and blogger based in Brooklyn. He has shot assignments for the New York TimesFood Republic and the EdibleCommunities titles, among other publications. Follow his work at ultraclay.com/wordpress.

A Visit to Greenwood Ave. Farmers Market, Trenton

Isles Urban Farmers Sign at Greenwood Ave. Market

Isles Urban Farmers Sign at Greenwood Ave. Market

Sure, Trenton has the venerable Trenton Farmers Market and there’s the Capital City market on Thursdays, but I recently stopped by the fledgling Greenwood Avenue Market because it is doing important work for the local community. Not only does it have terrific produce dispensed by friendly folk, like these from Isles’ non-profit Urban Farmers:

Isles Table at Greenwood Ave. Market

Isles Table at Greenwood Ave. Market

And also bounty from Hillsborough’s Norz Hill Farm (including grass-fed ground beef at $3.99/lb):

Norz Hill Farm Table at Greenwood Ave. Market

Norz Hill Farm Table at Greenwood Ave. Market

but it also provides important services to the local community. It accepts SNAP and WIC vouchers, offers on-site health screenings and physical activities, and dispenses nutritional info, advice, and samples – like these zucchini pasta samples courtesy of Michelle Brill of Rutgers:

Michelle Brill, Rutgers' Family & Community Health Services

Michelle Brill, Rutgers’ Family & Community Health Services

The market is catty-corner to the Trenton train station (you can see the parking deck in the background of the first photo above) and is open Mondays from 2:30 to 6:30 pm. Make it a point to stop by some Monday between now and the end of October to show your support for this important effort.

Greenwood Avenue Farmers Market Sign

Greenwood Avenue Farmers Market Sign

DINING ALONG THE DELAWARE; APPLE PIE: YOU MAKE, I TASTE; PRINCETON RESTAURANT SCENE ABOUT TO GIVE BIRTH TO QUADRUPLETS

Waterside Dining with Exquisite Views

9-24 Cover & Front (1-11).inddAdmittedly, all but 1 of the 5 restaurants I profile in the Fall Dining Issue of US 1 are across the river in PA, but they each come with  great views of Central NJ. And there are some pretty noteworthy eats at, for example:

Charcoal BYOB in Yardley, where 2 young brothers are making waves as far away as Philly with their progressive American cuisine

The Yardley Inn: Just mere feet from Charcoal, updated traditional American fare shines due to the exacting standards of Chef Eben Copple, who deserves more recognition on this side of the river

The Black Bass Hotel: New owners who bought the outdated inn and restaurant upriver in Lumberville at auction a few years ago have given it a new lease on life.

View from The Landing Restaurant, New Hope PA (Pat Tanner)

View from The Landing Restaurant, New Hope PA (Pat Tanner)

Is Your Apple Pie Prize-worthy? I’ll be the Judge of That!

The West Windsor Community Farmers Market is holding a bake-off for home bakers on Saturday, October 11 and I am honored to be a judge, along with pro baker Karen Child (formerly, Village Bakery & Brick Farm Market) and Princeton food writer & restaurant critic Faith Bahadurian.

I make a pretty mean apple pie, myself!

I make a pretty mean apple pie, myself!

Here are the details, straight from the market folks:

Amateur Apple Pie Bake Off Contest –Due to the overwhelming outpouring of peach pies in our August contest, we’ll be hosting an apple pie contest.  Think you make the best apple pie around using NJ apples?  Come show us your stuff!  Pies are due at the market at 10:30am with judging at 11:00am.  First, Second and Third place winners will receive Market Bucks to be used as cash at the farmers market this season.  Amateur bakers only and pre-registration is required.  To register, for more details and rules, please email wwcfm@yahoo.com.

Congratulations to manager Chris Cirkus and everyone at the West Windsor market for being voted NJ’s #1 farmers market for the second year in a row by American Farmland Trust.

Pregnant Princeton Dining Scene Giving Birth This Month

Jammin' Crepes logoJammin’ Crepes: For years, Kim Rizk & company’s inventive sweet and savory crepes have been enjoyed at area farmers markets. Her long-awaited brick-and-mortar spot on Nassau Street has passed its final inspections & will be opening any day now.

Mamoun's Falafel Lamb Sandwich

Mamoun’s Falafel Lamb Sandwich

(UPDATE: MAMOUN’S OPENED ON 10/6/14 – JUST AS INDICATED HERE:)

Mamoun’s Falafel: Rumor has it  (thanks, Mimi O of Princeton Tour Company!) that this NYC chain with outlets in Hoboken & New Brunswick will at long last open its Witherspoon Street digs within hours. Fingers crossed!

 

Seasons 52: This well-regarded small chain that already has a popular Cherry Hill location will open on October 30 at MarketFair Mall (in the  space that had been Barnes & Noble). Seasons 52, self-described as a “fresh grill and wine bar,” changes its menu 4 times a year and sports an extensive wine list that includes 52 wines by the glass.

SweetGrass: The unique, beautiful structure that had been Bell & Whistle (byob) in Hopewell has just reopened with a new name and new chef/owner, Sarah Gresko. She terms her menu “bold American,” but much of it pays homage to her culinary training at Johnson & Wales in Charleston, SC. (Think fried green tomatoes & chicken with andouille cornbread stuffing.)

Sarah Gresko, Owner/Chef SweetGrass, Hopewell NJ

Sarah Gresko, Owner/Chef SweetGrass, Hopewell NJ

 

“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.

A Green Feast Inaugurates Greener NJ Productions

Now that New Jersey has lost its dedicated PBS station – I know, I know, NJTV has taken the place of NJN, but it’s not quite the same now, is it? – a newcomer hopes to fill the gap, at least in part, with TV and web shows dedicated solely to “the greener side of the Garden State.”

That nonprofit entity is Greener New Jersey Productions, spearheaded by JoAnne Ruscio, formerly of NJN. Last week saw the taping of a half-hour pilot for their upcoming series, Fresh!, which will premier in November. A portion of the show was being taped at the West Windsor Farmers Market, and part of it at a dinner at Tre Piani in Princeton’s Forrestal Village. There, chef/owner Jim Weaver created a feast from the bounty of the market’s vendors, including cheese from Cherry Grove, Asian vegetables from Chia Sin, and fruits and vegetables from Stults Farm and Terhune Orchards.

I was fortunate to sit in on the dinner  – while gingerly ducking the cameras – which was enjoyed by about 50 of Greener NJ’s friends and supporters.  Below are a few photos. I’ll report on the air date of the pilot when it is announced.

Centerpiece created by Kim Clearwater

Among the guests: daughters of WW Farmers Market manager Chris Cirkus

Local salumi was one of the cocktail hour hors d’oeuvre, which also featured Cherry Grove brie with warm Asian pear relish, Stults Farm potato tartare, and Mangalitsa pork  lardo bruschetta

Chef/owner Jim Weaver of Tre Piani

A familiar face to Tre Piani regulars: Maitre d’ Giancarlo Squitieri

Colorful salad course of Chia Sin roasted Japanese eggplant, tomato, roasted peppers, pickled cabbage, and cilantro with red beet vinaigrette

The guests a tavola

Lobster Bake in Princeton; Philly Restaurant Recommendation; Old-Fashioned Tomato Soup Recipe

$19.82 Lobster Bake to Celebrate Nassau Street Seafood‘s 1982 Founding

Princeton’s foremost fishmonger is hitting the big three-oh and to mark the occasion owner Jack Morrison and crew are holding an outdoor lobster bake at the Nassau Street store on Saturday, September 8, from noon to 4 pm.

Colin Rooney. Nassau Street Seafood

There’ll be live music by Pi Fight, family activities, and trivia, but the centerpiece will be the lobster bake, which includes a one-and-a-quarter pound lobster, Jersey corn, steamed potatoes, coleslaw, drink and dessert. 1982 was a good year, and $19.82 is a great price. Just show up at the appointed time at 256 Nassau Street.

While we’re on the subject of seafood….

I Had a Terrific Meal at Philly’s The Farm and Fisherman

One of my best meals of the summer was at this very personal 30-seat byob on Pine Street. So many restaurants tout “farm to table” but this one, by the husband and wife team of Josh & Colleen Lawler, is the real deal. Every dish is bright, light yet satisfying, and most of all inventive, with unexpected combinations that work. Some prime examples:

Grilled Sicilian eggplant with blueberries, pistachios, burrata, golden raisins, tomato confit.

Bloody beet steak with yogurt, pan drippings, aged balsamic, amaranth.

Marlin with cherry tomatoes, anise hyssop, red grapes, purslane, cucumber.

Next time I hope to try Chicken Its & Bits: terrine, cockscomb, liver, oyster, concord grape. Yowza! The Lawlers have a pretty impressive pedigree: she was sous chef at Picholine and he chef de cuisine at Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

Local Girl Scout Troop Takes on Sustainability & I Get a Free Cookbook

If you stopped by the West Windsor Farmers Market on some Saturdays in August you would have come across a table of Girl Scouts with a sign offering FREE COOKBOOK. Well, that’s a siren song I never resist, and what I found impressed me. The cookbook – a glassine folder of 25 recipes – was but one result of their journey towards earning the Girl Scout Gold Award.

Under the guidance of Lynn Mahmood and Angie Crichton of Princeton Junction, co-leaders of Troop 70676, seven of the troops, all incoming high school juniors this fall, had tackled the “Sow What?” project. Each of the girls had visited a local farmers market and then together toured Cherry Grove Organic Farm in Lawrenceville. They also calculated the food miles of popular supermarket items and the resulting carbon footprint.

Scout Lauren McTigue took on the task of developing the cookbook. She elected to focus on recipes for apples, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, raspberries, and tomatoes, and uncovered a series, new to me, of charming recipe booklets with “Old” or “Old-Fashioned” in their titles. All are by J.S. Collester, a historian at Indiana University. Among the 30 titles Collester produced through Bear Wallow Books are, besides those that focus on each of the above ingredients, those for pumpkin, cheese, candy, bread, bread puddings, and honey-maple syrup-sorghum. Others offer traditional Shaker, pioneer, fishing village, and Native American recipes. All are charming, inexpensive, and available through small distributors like AbeBooks.com and Kauffmansfruitfarm.com.

When I came across the old-timey tomato soup recipe in the Scout’s folder, it made me realize that although I use fresh Jersey tomatoes all the time to make gazpacho and cooked and uncooked tomato sauces, I had never thought to make homemade American-style tomato soup. My family loves Campbell’s so, I thought, why bother?  Well, because this simple recipe is a taste revelation – not to mention lower in sodium and, as Troop 70676 would point out, food miles/carbon footprint.

OLD FARM-STYLE TOMATO SOUP
Slightly adapted from “Old-Fashioned Tomato Recipes” by J.S. Collester (Bear Wallow 2000)

8 to 10 firm ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
Fresh chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)

Combine tomatoes, onion, celery, green pepper, and bay leaf in a soup kettle and cook, stirring frequently, until celery is tender. Push mixture through a sieve or food mill and return to kettle. Make a paste of the flour and butter and stir it into the cooking tomato liquid. Add remaining ingredients and cook over low heat, stirring frequently for 15 to 20 minutes. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley, if desired. Makes 3 cups.

(Reprinted in part from the August 31, 2012 edition of The Princeton Packet)