Friday, May 29, 2015

Octopus Stew, Italian Style, With Jersey Ripe Tomaoes

Jim went to Italy to discover new menu ideas "Words and pictures can't describe it," he says. Come visit us soon to see how this inspiration materializes on our plates.

Among many other things, he had a deliciously tender octopus stewed with white wine and tomatoes.  It's fabulous any time of year. Make it now or wait for sun-ripe Jersey tomatoes.

Octopus requires long, slow simmering. To shorten it, use baby octopus (available at many Asian or Spanish markets).

1 lb baby octopus, cleaned, head removed (keep the heads)
6 tablespoons olive oil
Five cloves finely chopped garlic
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes or peeled, chopped ripe Jersey tomatoes
1 cup white wine
2 tablespoons brown sugar (depends on the tomato's acidity)
5 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
5 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
One teaspoon chile pepper flakes
2 tablespoons capers (optional)
Salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the octopus, return to a boil and cook for 1-2 minutes. Discard the water. Pat the octopus and squeeze it dry with a paper towel.

Cut the octopus into pieces. Saute in olive oil over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and saute until fragrant (another minute or so).

Pour the white wine into the pot and bring to a boil. Let it cook down for 3-4 minutes while stirring. Add the tomatoes and chile flakes, stir well,  and return to a simmer.

Add a good pinch of salt and the brown sugar. Mix well, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes add the capers, half the dill, and half the parsley. Check the octopus. The small ones may be tender in just 30 minutes. A full-size octopus will need another 20-45 minutes. (How to check for doneness? Either insert a knife and remove without effort or taste. It's done when it doesn't taste chewy).

Seven or ten minutes before the octopus is done, uncover the pot and turn the heat up a notch to concentrate the sauce.  If the octopus tastes great, remove it at this point and cook sauce alone.

Just before serving, add the remaining dill and parsley and black pepper. Savor hot or at room temperature with pasta or bread.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Mimosa Bar, DIY

Mimosa Bar at Tre Piani. Juices are made at the restaurant's Farm to Bar kitchen

Cool, carbonated drinks by the grill say “summer.” In the trendy spirit of DIY, consider setting up a mimosa bar on your Memorial Day gathering. It’s super easy—all you need is a few different fruit juices, a couple bottles of champagne or prosecco, and some fresh fruit for garnishing.

Here's what you need to do (10 minutes, tops):

Pour juices into clear bottles. Since we're talking champagne, I'd get some high-quality juices or, better yet, make my own with a juicer. Make labels for each kind (a good way to keep the kids busy!).

Open up a couple of chilled bottles of champagne and prosecco and set them next to the fruit juices on ice. Assign someone to keep an eye on the bottles and open a couple of the time.

Invite your guests to pour themselves equal parts champagne and fruit juice. Offer fruit slices for garnishes. That’s it!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Tuna Tartare, Basil Oil, and #trepiani (recipe)

People love food, and they love Instagram. Therefore, every month we choose one of our customers' food photos (they must be hashtagged #trepiani, #food, and #newjerseyfood) and the talented photographer gets a gift card to Tre Piani. Plus, we’ll share the recipe with you.

April’s winner was a photograph of our tuna tartare taken by Gabrielle Dragan of Skillman, NJ (bellow). Here is the recipe.

Tuna Tartare
1 pound sushi-grade yellowfin tuna
Grated fresh ginger from about 1/2-inch knob
Three tablespoons light olive oil
Three tablespoons chopped parsley
One teaspoon minced jalapeño (or to taste)
One teaspoon toasted black and white sesame seeds
One tablespoon finely chopped chives
One teaspoon soy sauce
1½ tablespoons lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
One handful arugula leaves
Pickled onions (recipe follows)
1/4 cup basil oil (recipe follows)
1/4 cup wasabi aioli (recipe follows)

Dice the tuna into ⅛-inch cubes (you’ll need a very sharp knife). In a large bowl, combine the tuna with the ginger, oil, parsley, jalapeño, sesame seeds, chives, soy sauce, and lemon juice. Mix gently and season with salt and pepper.

Place one ½-inch and two ¼-inch round molds or biscuit cutters in the center of a salad plate. Fill the molds with tuna tartare and press gently. Lift and repeat with the remaining tartare.

Dress the arugula with a squeeze of lemon, some salt, and olive oil and top each mold with a few leaves. Top the arugula with pickled onions. Drizzle the basil oil and wasabi aioli around each tartare. Serve immediately with crostini.

Pickled Onions
One medium firm red onion
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
Five black peppercorns
Five allspice berries
One sprig of thyme
Special equipment: a clean jar or container to store the onions

Bring 3 cups of water to boil. Peel and slice the onion into about ¼-inch half-moons.

In the same container you’ll be using to store the onions, combine sugar, salt, vinegar, peppercorns, allspice, and thyme. Stir to dissolve. Place the onions in the sieve and place the sieve in the sink. Slowly pour the boiling water over the onions and let them wilt as they drain.

Add the onions to the jar and stir gently to mingle evenly with the flavorings.

The onions are ready in about 30 minutes, and they get even better after a few hours. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Basil Oil
2 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves
3/4 cup olive oil

Blanch the basil in a saucepan of boiling water for ten seconds. Drain and immediately rinse under cold water. Pat dry with tea towels or paper towels. Transfer to blender. Add oil, salt, and pepper and process until smooth. Cover and chill, but let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before using.

Wasabi Aioli
¼ cup mayonnaise (homemade is the best)
Two teaspoons wasabi powder
One tablespoon lime juice
½ teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon minced fresh ginger

Combine all ingredients and correct seasoning.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Bread, Vegetables, Seafood Panzanella Recipe

It's Good Friday. Let's make some seafood. Here is Jim's award-winning Panzanella Salad.

Serves two

8 Little Neck Clams
4 large Sea Scallops
3 oz. Calamari
3 oz. Monkfish
½ cup large diced Jersey tomato
½ cucumber julienne (matchstick size) or preferably cut on a mandolin to resemble spaghetti
¼ fennel bulb julienne (reserve a few fronds for garnish)
4 basil leaves roughly chopped
3-4 whole basil leaves for garnish
1 scallion cut on the bias into thin slices (reserve the green top for garnish)
½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced
½ tsp. Sea Salt
3-4 whole basil leaves for garnish
1 scallion cut on the bias into thin slices (reserve the green top for garnish)
½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced
½ tsp. Sea Salt
Black Pepper to taste
1 cup water
3 tsp. Lemon Juice
1 large baguette
Black Pepper to taste
1 cup water
3 tsp. Lemon Juice
1 large baguette

For the bread:
Remove the crust from the bread and cut into1/2 inch cubes. Lightly toast the bread in a 350 degree oven and set aside. You will need about a ½ cup of toasted bread cubes for the recipe. The rest of the bread can be used for the optional garnish described below if desired.

For the vegetables:
Cut the tomato into large dice. Dice the cucumber and fennel into matchstick size pieces (julienne). Slice the garlic cloves. Cut the scallions into small slices on the bias. Roughly chop the basil (chiffonade). Reserve some scallion tops and fennel fronds for garnish. Keep all of this chilled until ready to use.

For the seafood:
Skin the monkfish and cut into bite size pieces.
Rinse the clams off any sand.
Peel the abductor muscle from the sides of the sea scallops.
Peel and clean the squid, pull the tentacles and all that are attached from out of the tube. Cut the tentacles off just above from where they start and discard the beak and eyes. Also remove the tough clear membrane from within the tube and discard. Slice the squid into ¼ inch rings.
Keep all of the seafood well chilled until ready to prepare.
Heat a large frying pan and add the olive oil. Season the scallops and monkfish with salt and pepper and sear them until browned on the outside, remove from the oil and reserve on a plate on the side. Add the garlic and let brown slightly, add the calamari and give a quick toss. Next add the clams and the water, season lightly with salt and pepper. Cover until the clams begin to open and then return the scallops and monkfish to the pan. Cook covered until all the clams open. Try adding more water if clams do not open after 1- 2 minutes and adjust liquid to assure you have about a ½ cup of liquid left when the dish is finished. Discard any unopened clams.

To assemble: Put the cut vegetables into a large bowl with the basil and season with salt and pepper. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vegetables. Just before serving toss in the hot seafood and half of the cooking liquid. Portion onto plates, garnish with the scallion sprigs and fennel fronds and pour the remaining seafood broth around each plate. Serve immediately.

Optional garnish:
Make toasted bread ring molds by taking a large baguette and slicing it lengthwise into ¼ inch slices. Grease metal ring molds with olive oil and wrap the bread around them. Tie with kitchen string and bake until golden brown in a hot 350 degree oven. Remove from the oven, let cool, remove the string and carefully remove the bread from the molds. You can put these in the center of your plate and fill with some of the salad for a dramatic presentation. Also garnish with the fennel fronds, scallion top, and fresh basil leaves

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Secrets Farmers (and chefs) Wish You Knew

Are farmers the new chefs?

When we read "Secrets Farmers Wish You Knew" we could relate to every single word.

The story features Rose Robson. Rose is a talented young farmer and our neighbor at the Forrestal Village Farmers Market (her mom is in the picture at their farmers market stand).

Here are some quotes we liked most:

"I wish people knew that there's a difference between fast food and good food."

"I wish people knew that supporting local farmers helps protect [their] own health."

"I wish consumers knew how long it takes to produce the food."

"Yes, the prices may be higher...but knowing that the product is the most natural food your family can consume, it's worth it!"

Amen and amen.

Read the whole article here.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

A True Local Winter Treasure

Today is the day for Slow Food Central New Jersey Farmer Market
at Tre Piani. Stop by from 10-2 today for local goodness and live jazz. 

On your way there, we got you some heart-warming recipes from this blog. Or here is a new one, filled with true local winter treasure: mushrooms.

The sweetness of root vegetables is a great match for the earthy wild flavor of the mushrooms. I use mushroom stock to intensify the mushrooms’ flavor.
1 parsnip, peeled
1 small celery root (celeriac) peeled and cut into large chunks
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lb. mixed exotic mushrooms + at least 1 cup maitake, brushed clean and cut into large chunks
1/2 cup white wine or dry sherry
2 medium potatoes, diced
5 cups mushroom broth (see recipe below)
½ cup pearled barley, rinsed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Grated lemon zest
Chopped parsley and chives
1 cup sour cream or thick yogurt

Pulse parsnip, celeriac, and carrots in a food processor until chopped or use a box grater (fine holes).
In a stock pot, sauté onion in oil until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and sauté 2-3 minutes.
Add mushrooms (fresh and re-hydrated) to the pot and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper
Add the chopped vegetable mixture and sauté for 2-3 minutes.
Add the wine and let it boil down for a couple of minutes.
Add mushroom broth. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Add barley and potatoes and return to a boil.
Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, skimming the foam from time to time.
Leave covered for 15 minutes before serving or refrigerate overnight.
Serve hot with a generous dollop of sour cream or thick yogurt.

Mushroom Broth
3 ounces dried mushrooms (like chanterelle, cremini, morel-whatever you like)
Soak dried mushrooms in 5 cups hot water until soft (no more than 20 minutes).
Remove mushrooms from the soaking liquid with a slotted spoon, reserving the liquid.
Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve, leaving any dirt behind.  Slice the mushrooms and combine  with the fresh mushrooms.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Chicken Soup Recipe Goes Italian

Chicken Soup Made Italian

What could be better than steaming bowl of chicken soup on a cold day? A steaming bowl of chicken soup-with an Italian twist, of course!

Start with a really good chicken broth (tips below) and then add some chopped greens (preferably escarole), white beans, pasta, shredded chicken, even some chopped tomatoes. Oh, and don’t forget to top it all with some shaves of good parmigiano reggiano.

Here are some ground rules, followed by a recipe.

Use a whole chicken: Each partbreast, legs, wings and backcontributes to the well-roundedness, freshness, and richness of the flavor.

Consider using chicken stock as a base:  The result is a more intense flavor.

Add the right amount of water: That is, the exact level of the chicken and vegetables. No more and no less.

Keep it at a simmer: Flavors need to leach out and mingle slowly and gently. Rapid boiling just ruins it. More importantly, it cause the protein in the meat and vegetables to break and make the soup cloudy. This is especially critical if you are using a marrow bone.

Chicken Soup
4 quarts water or chicken stock
1 large cut-up chicken, traditionally stewing or large roaster, but a good organic chicken will do (try to get the biggest one you can)
Marrow bones
3 whole onions, halved, unpeeled
2 parsnips, peeled and left whole
5 stalks celery and their leaves
1 rutabaga, peeled and quartered
1 large turnip, peeled and quartered
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
1 tablespoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Put the water and the chicken in a large pot and bring the water to a boil. Immediately turn down the heat and bring to a simmer. Skim off the froth.
Add the chicken, marrow bones, onions, parsnips, celery, rutabaga, turnip, and carrots. Cover and simmer for 2½ hours, skimming frequently the solids that float to the surface. Stay in the kitchen and hover over the soup. It should never boil. You want to see a very slow, lazy bubbling.
When done let cool a bit. Strain, pressing the vegetables and chicken down lightly to release flavorful juices. Discard the vegetables and reserve the chicken. Strain the liquid again through a double layer of cheesecloth. Adjust  the seasoning to taste and let cool.
Refrigerate the liquid to solidify the fat. When the fat solidifies, remove it from the soup.
Remove the skin and bones from the chicken and cut the meat into bite-size chunks.

To Italianize it:
1 cup shredded chicken
2 cups escarole, or other sturdy greens, shredded
One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Good olive oil for shaving
1/2 cup chopped high quality Italian canned tomatoes (option)
A nice chunk of parmigiano reggiano for “shaving”  

Bring the soup back to a boil. Drop the chicken into the boiling soup and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the greens and beans and simmer until wilted, 5 minutes longer. Divide into individual bowls, drizzle with good olive oil and, using a vegetable peeler, shave on some parmesan. Serve immediately, passing extra cheese at the table.

Many thanks to Nirit Yadin,, for her help