Thursday, April 25, 2013

Eat Local Meet Local - a Slow Food Community Potluck

Slow Food Central New Jersey and Elijah’s Promise of New Brunswick are holding their second annual Eat Local Meet Local potluck dinner on Friday, May 3rd, 2013.  The goal is to bring together people from all walks of life to share a meal of delicious, local food. “This is a great way for people to come together to network, learn from one another and work together to build a healthier, stronger food community for all!” says Lisanne Finston, Elijah’s Promise’s Executive Director.
There is also an educational component: “The fast food industry has taught the public to like the taste of junk food,” says Jim Weaver, cofounder and co-leader of Slow Food Central Jersey. “We must collaborate to undo this. Through education, events and community involvement we can retrain people's palates."
Participants are encouraged to bring a dish made of local food (if possible). In addition there will be food from local businesses and farms such as Promise Culinary School, Beechtree FarmTre Piani RestaurantGeorge Street Co-opTula Restaurant and LoungePitspone FarmGreat Road Farm,Griggstown Farm MarketOQ Coffee and more.
The event will take place on Friday, May 3, 2013 from 6:00-8:00 pm at Promise Culinary School. Food will be served buffet-style and there will be informal discussion groups about food, sustainability and food justice. Come, meet new people, enjoy great food and help change the way we eat.
Promise Culinary School, 211 Livingston Ave, New Brunswick
Free, bring a dish to share. Donations are welcome

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Asparagus Season Kick-Off Recipe

It’s that time of the year again: growing season is kicking into gear after a long winter hibernation and local produce is back in our markets and kitchens. Have you noticed that the color of spring is green? Not just the leaves on the tree but also the produce at the markets: leafy greens, green peas, green beans, baby artichokes, and the crown jewel of spring vegetables - asparagus.
Asparagus spears are tender young shoots of a big, claw-shaped perennial that grows into a four-foot-tall fernlike plant. The spears start pushing up out of the ground in spring and are harvested when they are about 12 inches above the ground. You can find imported asparagus year-round but fresh spring asparagus-juicy, snappy and herbaceous-is a special treat of spring.  
When buying make sure that the “crown” is tight and closed and the color bright green. Take a look at the bottom of the spear - it should look freshly-cut and still moist. And after you got local asparagus, kick-off the season with an old favorite.

Fettuccine with Asparagus Sauce

Serves four

1 pound fresh fettuccine
1 bunch asparagus
2 cloves garlic
½ cup cream
1 tbsp. butter
¼ cup olive oil
1 tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
¼ cup freshly grated parmigiano cheese plus enough shaved with a vegetable peeler to
Salt and white pepper to taste

Cut off the tips and the tough ends of the asparagus and reserve the tips. Chop the middle portion of the asparagus. Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottom sauce pot, add the garlic and cook until lightly browned. Add the chopped asparagus. Cook over medium heat with ½ of the salt until tender. Add 1½ cups water and bring to a simmer. Let the mixture reduce by half and add the cream. Reduce by another half. Let the asparagus mixture cool and puree in a blender or use an immersion blender. For optimum results strain this puree to remove any tough parts of the asparagus. Add the puree back into a sauce pan and add the asparagus tips and parsley. Bring to a simmer and cook until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The sauce can be cooled and reserved up to 3 days at this point or kept hot and used immediately.Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dente,about 3 minutes. Strain the pasta and drain completely. Add the pasta to the sauce and stir in the cheese. Portion or plate onto bowls or a platter and garnish with the shaved Parmigiano.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Jim Weaver Named One of the Country’s Top Culinary Talents in Best Chefs America

An update: Jim got this letter from the editors of Best Chefs America describing the elaborate nomination and selection process of the best chefs in America:

The Best Chefs America team has received many email and phone inquiries from chefs over the last two months. In responding to these inquiries, we have noticed the powerful fact that even the most skeptical of chefs become enthusiastic supporters of the Best Chefs America project once they truly understand the integrity and objectivity that characterize our process. We would like to emphasize a few key points that speak to the massive, year-long effort that went into creating our groundbreaking peer-review of chefs.

1. Our staff of 15 full-time analysts conducted one-on-one phone interviews with over 5000 chefs from all over the country to determine who they consider the most talented, exciting chefs in their respective areas. Each interview lasted about 20 minutes and was recorded for accuracy. Our software sorted this information and revealed the names of those chefs mentioned most often in the course of the interviews. These chefs appear in Best Chefs America.

2. The one and only way to appear in Best Chefs America is to receive the requisite number of mentions from chefs interviewed in your area. Chefs cannot buy their way into the book.

3. Of the more than 5000 chefs we interviewed, less than half appear in Best Chefs America 2013. More than half of the chefs who do appear in the book were not interviewed—though we attempted to reach each chef as soon as he or she was first mentioned by a peer.

We encourage you to embrace what you have accomplished. According to other chefs, you are one of the very best.

The Editors at Best Chefs America
218 King Street, Suite 200
Charleston, SC 29401

So proud! Jim Weaver has been honored as one of the country’s top culinary talents in the inaugural edition of Best Chefs America. This is the first-ever peer review guide of U.S. chefs, who were chosen after extensive interviews between their fellow chefs and Best Chefs America analysts. Chef Weaver has been showcased in the informative and exquisitely produced 386-page coffee table book that was released on March 1, 2013.

“I am thrilled to be nominated by my peers and included in Best Chefs America,” says Jim, “This recognition is truly an honor and gives me yet another reason to be appreciative of my fellow professionals and chosen profession.”

Best Chefs America is the ultimate chef’s guide to chefs. Analysts conducted more than 5,000 confidential telephone interviews with chefs who were nominated by other chefs, culinary professionals and food enthusiasts across the country. The interviews consisted of a series of proprietary questions, and software was used to aggregate the data.  Chefs earning the highest scores among their peers in their region were included in the guide.

The results were compiled into a 386-page coffee table book, complete with chef listings broken down both geographically and alphabetically. Best Chefs America also features stunning photography and highlights emerging culinary trends and ingredients uncovered during the interviews.  

Best Chefs America costs $75.00 and can be purchased online at

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Stracciatella, The New "It" Food and a Recipe

When you take your first bite of fresh-made stracciatella (pronounced strahtch-ah-TELL-ah), thin strands of fresh mozzarella bathed in cream, you’re transported to a dreamy, milky place.  Hailing from Puglia, stracciatella is the new “it” cheese: one that provides the wow factor of burrata (a ball  of mozzarella stuffed with, well, stracciatella) but with a casual, homey twist. At Tre Piani we make it fresh every day.

You can smear stracciatella on bread and top with some fruity olive oil, fruit preserves or ripe summer tomatoes. When freshly made it is so tender and delicious you’d want to eat it as is with a spoon. It also melts beautifully: perfect for pizza or a standout cheeseburger.

Stracciatella , like so many “slow” foods, was born as a clever way to use leftovers, in this case the odd bits that remain after mozzarella is stretched. Cheesemakers in Puglia used the excess stretching them into long ropes. They then tore those into thin strands and soaked in fresh cream.

Until the new “it” cheese hits the retail shelves you can make it yourself from a ball of fresh mozzarella (see tutorial on how to make stracciatella) or come to Tre Piani to taste it.  Last weekend we served it with kale and pancetta over gnocchi. The stracciatella tamed the kale and pancetta and provided a nice balance to the crunchy nuts. Here is the recipe:

Making Mozzarella at Tre Piani

Potato Gnocchi with Kale, Walnuts, Pancetta and Stracciatella Mozzarella
Jim Weaver
Tre Piani Restaurant
Serves 4

On a busy weeknight you can use high quality frozen gnocchi and fresh ricotta instead of the stracciatella  (make sure to stir the ricotta well for maximum creaminess).

2 large russet potatoes, washed
2 cups all purpose flour
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
1 egg yolk
¼ cup melted butter

4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp crushed pepper flakes
¼ cup pancetta, diced
½ cup walnut pieces
1 medium head of kale, picked, washed and roughly chopped
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup stracciatella mozzarella (good ricotta can be substituted)

Roast the potatoes in a 350 degree oven until fork tender, set aside to cool. When the potatoes are cool cut in half and remove the inside with a spoon and discard the skins. Run the potatoes through a ricer and combine with flour and cheese. Mix until incorporated. Fold in the butter and egg yolk and mix the dough by hand. Be careful not to over mix the dough, stop when it is just smooth. Let the dough rest wrapped in plastic for at least thirty minutes in a cool area or refrigerator.

To cook the gnocchi: Unwrap the dough and put it on a large cutting board or clean counter. Cut off pieces and roll them into long thin cigar shaped pieces, about twelve inches long. Cut each roll into small bite-size pieces and dust them with a little flour to keep them from sticking together. (traditionally each piece is rolled off the back of a fork to give them their authentic shape but they do not need to be). Keep the gnocchi spread out in one layer on a lightly floured pan until ready to use or they can be frozen for up to one week. (If you choose to freeze them, put them in the freezer on the pan in one layer until they are frozen solid. They can then be moved into a ziplock bag or similar until ready to cook. Cook them from frozen).

Put on a pot of lightly salted water to boil while you make the sauce.

For the sauce:
Heat a large saute pan add the oil and the garlic. Let the garlic begin to brown slightly and add the pancetta and pepper. Let it cook over medium heat and stir until the pancetta starts to melt a little. Add the walnuts and cook for another minute. Add the kale and season with sea salt. Cook until the kale is soft and add the gnocchi to it. Make sure the gnocchi are drained well. Toss the ingredients together and divide into serving bowls, top with the stracciatella and serve immediately.