Friday, May 24, 2013

Grilling Grass (Fed) in Central Jersey + A Recipe

Grass-fed meat from local farm is not only delicious but also very nutritious. This grilling season, why not giving it a try?
Richly flavored, grass-fed beef cooks a bit differently than corn-fed beef. It is lower in fat with a firmer texture. To get the most out of it be sure to grill it medium-rare and be careful not to overcook. Also give it a good olive oil brush before you grill. If you like your beef well-done, choose a different cooking method, one that involves slow cooking and a lot of liquid, such as braising. Pastured chicken and pork should be cooked all the way, just like conventional ones.

Check out some of our favorite places to buy local meat that was raised grazing grass.

Mallery Grazin’ Meats Butcher Shop: An old-world style butcher shop that cuts and grinds your meats to order. It features local grass-fed beef, chicken and pork products from the owners’ farm, Simply Grazin’ in Skillman. They also offer a nice selection of vegetables and other local foods.

Cherry Grove Farm: Sausages from the farm’s whey-fed berkshire pork are second to none. The farm also carries other pork cuts as well as grass-fed lamb and beef. While you’re at it grab some of their grass-fed award-nominated cheeses to pass around. Call ahead for availability.

Beech Tree Farm: Exceptional succulent beef from lush grass pastures, lovingly tended by Lucia and Charlie Huebner in Hopewell, NJ. They also also sell chicken, pork and eggs seasonally. If you call ahead they can bring your order to a farmers market they participate in. Contact the farm for more information.

Griggstown Quail Farm and Market: Full-flavored pastured chicken and quail are available at the farm’s store in Princeton. They also sell those fruit and pot pies Griggstown is famous for. Get some extra chicken and make this wonderfully seasonal dish, featured in Locavore Adventures!
Micro greens are available locally at Blue Moon Acres farm.

Galantine of Griggstown Farm Chicken with Spring Vegetables and Micro-Beet salad
1 whole chicken
1 bunch asparagus, tough ends cut off, blanched until barely cooked and chilled immediately in ice water
2 cups fresh spinach washed and rough chopped
¼ cup morel mushrooms, chopped
½ cup toasted and roughly chopped hazelnuts
¼ cup sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 cup white wine
1 shallot
2 tsp. tarragon dry or fresh chopped
salt and white pepper to taste

For the salad
1 tbsp. whole grain mustard
2 tbsp. sherry vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground pepper
Sea salt
6 oz. micro beet greens if available, or other baby greens

For the poaching liquid
3 cups chicken broth
1 leek, split
2 bay leaves
2 cloves

Carefully remove the skin from the chicken in one piece by first cutting along the backbone and then running your fingers between the skin and the meat. You will need to use a small knife to cut through the wing and leg areas.
Remove the breast meat in one piece and set aside. Remove the rest of the meat and save the bones for stock (you can make the stock for the poaching liquid from them). Slice the breast meat into thin scaloppine. Grind or pulse in the food processor the rest of the meat. Keep all the processed parts refrigerated until the rest of the ingredients are prepared.
Combine the wine, shallot and tarragon in a saucepan and reduce until almost completely evaporated.
Place all of the chicken meat (except the breast) in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until ground. Add the shallot and tarragon reduction and season with salt and pepper, pulse again until well mixed. Remove the contents to a large bowl.
Add the vegetables and nuts and mix well.
Lay out a large piece of cheesecloth and then lay out the chicken skin (feather side down) in one piece. Place the slices of chicken breast in one layer leaving about one inch around the edges. Using a rubber spatula, spread the chicken and vegetable mixture on chicken breast in an even layer about ½ inch thick.
Carefully roll the chicken up in the cheesecloth to form a large cylinder. Tie the roll on each end and in several places along the length, not too tightly. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
Place the stock and seasonings into a pot large enough to hold the roll and bring to a simmer. Add the chicken and poach over low heat for about 30 minutes. Remove and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. You can keep the stock for another use.
When well-chilled remove the string and the cheesecloth. Slice into ¼ round slices and arrange on a platter.
Whisk together all of the salad ingredients except the greens. When well-incorporated add the greens and serve atop the galantine.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Capture the Romance of the Sea and the Allure of a Full Moon in a...Crab

For locavores, food marks the passing of time and the changing of the seasons.
This time of year, soft shell crab from the central Atlantic coast and most famously the Chesapeake Bay is the ultimate marker. In fact, you can mark the exact first day of soft shell crab season. Starting in May and throughout the summer, the blue crab abandons its shell and starts to form a new one, making its sweet, briny, delicious meat immediately accessible. Legend has it that crabs, like the ocean, are influenced by the phases of the moon. In their natural environment, crabs begin shedding their outgrown shells on the first full moon of May. At this point, the whole thing is edible, and the combination of tenderness and crunch of the very new shell makes it a delight.

Right now, soft shell crabs are still very young and tender. A cast iron pan set on the hot grill is, therefore, a great way to cook them and kickstart the season (both grilling season and soft shell crab season). Heat it up and then sear the crabs with butter, salt and pepper. Baste with a drizzle of melted butter seasoned with some lemon zest. Do not overcook-when the crabs plump up and become firm, they are done. This should take about eight minutes.

The most important thing with soft shell crabs, of course, is that they be utterly fresh. Plan ahead and talk to a fish merchant you trust. You must buy them the day you eat them (and while you’re at it, ask the fish guy to clean them for you). To select the tastiest, use your nose. When fresh, they smell clean and astringent. They begin to deteriorate rapidly, so keep them on ice. Cook them within 24 hours.
Serve with local grilled asparagus and a glass of a crisp white to capture the romance of the sea and the allure of a full moon in spring.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Asparagus Risotto alla Milanese Recipe

Risotto alla Milanese is a perfect springtime dish. It really flatters green early spring produce. The creamy texture and bright saffron color form a perfect backdrop for green spring vegetables such as peas and asparagus.

This week was a big week for spring asparagus. Fresh, juicy with a green “mineral” flavor. Also this week, we fielded an SOS call from a Princeton woman. She had 15 guests at home for a pre-Mother’s Day luncheon and no food. We quickly put together a “take away” lunch: vegetable antipasti, risotto Milanese with spring asparagus, flounder in beurre blanc and a cappuccino cheese cake.

Lunch was a great success and all the ladies asked for the risotto recipe. So here it is, use it with asparagus or green peas. Happy Mother’s Day!!

Read more about asparagus and get an old-favorite asparagus recipe here.

Risotto alla Milanese with  Asparagus
2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
1-1/2 cups white wine
2 large pinches of saffron
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
3-4 cups chicken stock; water; or a vegetarian stock made of carrots, celery, onions and spring vegetables, kept on a simmer
1/2 to 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 bunch fresh local asparagus, crowns separated from stems, stems cut into ½ inch pieces
Keep the crowns of the asparagus and the stems separate. Blanch stems and then crowns. drain well and set aside (see note below).
Heat the wine until warm and add the saffron. Let steep for a about 10 minutes (the saffron will leach out its color).
Finely chop onion. In a 2-1/2 to 3-quart heavy saucepan cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened.
Add rice, stirring to coat with butter.
Add saffron wine and cook, stirring constantly and keeping at a simmer, until absorbed.
Continue cooking at a simmer and adding broth about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next.
Cook until rice is tender and creamy-looking but still al dente at the cebter, about 18 minutes total. (There may be broth mixture left over.)
Stir in Parmesan, blanched asparagus stems, remaining tablespoon butter, and salt and pepper to taste and cook over low heat until heated through, about 3 minutes.
Divide into individual plates and top with the blanched asparagus tops.

To Blanch Spring Vegetables:
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Prepare a colander and a large bowl filled with ice water. The idea is to cool the vegetables quickly. Boil the vegetables for a minute or two, drain in the colander and then immediately transfer to ice water. Cool in ice for a minute or so and drain.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Give Kale a Massage

Kale is very much in vogue these days.
We truly hope this trend will last. Not only does kale have incredible health benefits it is also, given little special care, utterly delicious. And there’s more: kale is locavore’s best friend. It has a long season that allows you to enjoy locally grown food after local growing season is officially over. The season starts now, takes a little break during the summer, comes back in the fall and stays through December (even January).
You can cook it, of course, add it to shakes and smoothies and even - as our friends at The Bent Spoon do sometimes - make kale ice cream. But one of the best ways to use kale is in salads. Yes, this tough leafy green is just stellar when softened a little and dressed with simple yet potent flavors.
The secret to a wonderful kale salad is a little surprising: give it a massage. Yes, seriously. Grab bunches of it in both hands and squeeze. Then rub them together. And repeat. It's almost like kneading bread. Do it a couple of minutes and you'll be amazed at the difference. That tough cellulose structure breaks down and those leaves that once seemed so coarse and fibrous turn bright green and silky. The flavor changes as well. That pronounced bitterness mellows, revealing depths of sweet green flavor.
When you buy kale at the farmers market, you might be overwhelmed by the number of varieties available. The good news is they all work equally well for salads. Provided, of course, that you bought fresh, brightly colored leaves and you gave them a good massage.
Having said that, this time of the year kale is still very young and very tender so you may not have to massage it. Give a bite and decide! But as the temperatures rise kale matures and gets tougher and then in need for a massage.
To celebrate the season, here is Jim’s kale recipe, Use it on baby kale (as in the picture) or on mature massaged kale.
Kale Salad Cacio e Pepe
"Cacio e Pepe" means "cheese and pepper" in Italian. As the name suggests, the ingredients of the salad are very simple and include only black pepper, lemon and Pecorino Romano cheese. Cacio e pepe is typically made with pasta but Jim has found that the sweet and bitter flavors of the kale, the saltiness of the cheese and the slight acidity of the lemon make a perfectly balanced salad.
Serves 4-6

1 head kale, tough stems removed, massaged. Alternately you can use 5 large handfuls of baby kale leaves, washed and cut into bite-size pieces
½ cup good quality (preferably homemade) croutons
½ cup grated pecorino romano cheese

4 egg yolks from very fresh, local eggs
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp. fine sea salt

Put the greens and croutons in a large mixing bowl.

Put the egg yolks in a mixing bowl and whisk until thick and pale in color. Very slowly
drizzle the olive oil in while still mixing. An extra set of hands is helpful here. When the
dressing is emulsified add the lemon juice, pepper and salt. Taste for seasoning and add a
little more lemon or water if it is too thick.

Mix the kale with the dressing and ½ the cheese. Garnish with the remaining cheese and
serve immediately. The dressing can be made a couple days ahead and refrigerated until
ready to use. Any variety of kale will work.