Friday, September 27, 2013

Braised Endive with Pancetta Recipe

The first local Belgian endives indicate that fall is really here. This hearty, pleasantly bitter leaf lends itself well to rich preparations with bacon, cheese or butter. Here is one fine example:

Braised Endive
2 ounces pancetta or good quality bacon, diced
6 heads endive
Chicken Stock
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup grated raclette or other good Swiss-style cheese (option)

In a large heavy-bottomed skillet, cook the pancetta until fat is rendered and pancetta is crisp. Transfer to a paper towel to drain. Drain the fat and wipe the pan clean.

Trim 6 endives and slice them in half lengthwise. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper.

In the same skillet, heat some butter and brown the cut side of the endives over a high flame. Do this in batches, adding butter each time. The pan will brown, which is fine - just don't allow it to blacken; if it does, wash it out before the next batch.

Place the endives, brown side up, in a gratin dish just large enough to hold them in a single layer and scatter the cooked bacon between them. Pour chicken stock into the dish to a depth of ½ inch. Cover tightly and bake in a preheated 400°F oven for 20 minutes or until quite tender.

Option: uncover and sprinkle cheese on top. Bake, uncovered for 5 minutes or so until the cheese melts. Serve as a side dish or - if using cheese - a vegetarian main course.

Lamb Braised with Jersey Tomatoes and Oak Grove Plantation Polenta Recipe

The Grain Grinder at Oak Grove Plantation 

In beautiful Hunterdon County there is a real plantation. An old gate opens into 160 acres of sprawling farmland that surrounds a big, old plantation house. The farm, Oak Grove Plantation, grows a fantastic diversity of vegetables (more than 250 varieties of tomatoes alone!) and excellent grain products like cornmeal, whole wheat flour, popcorn and wheat berries.

The owners Susan and Ted Blew bought the farm in 1977. According to Susan it was so overgrown you could barely see the house and the fields. They cleaned it up and over years of trial and error learned “exactly what varieties work on our farm and how to get the best of them.” No wonder then that chefs line up for their products, sometimes all the way to their Union Square farm stand in New York City.

You can always find Oak Grove Plantation polenta on Tre Piani’s menu. The heirloom corn is ground on the farm in this funny looking old machine (see picture) and makes exceptionally tasty polenta. Now, as the days get colder, it’s the perfect time for a creamy bowl of polenta, mixed with some fresh kernel of Jersey corn. You can top it simply with Jersey late summer tomatoes and basil, or try a meltingly tender lamb braise.

Creamy Polenta with Jersey Corn Kernels
1 cup polenta
3 cups water (more for a softer polenta)
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons butter or ghee
1 cup fresh corn kernels
Bring water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Stir in salt. Pour in polenta steadily, stirring constantly. Continue to stir until polenta is thickened. It should come away from sides of the pan, and be able to support a spoon. This can take anywhere from 20 to 50 minutes. Stir in the butter and corn. Taste and add salt and butter if needed. Pour polenta onto a wooden cutting board, let stand for a few minutes.

Lamb Braised with Jersey Tomatoes and Pecorino
½ cup olive oil
2 lbs. boneless leg or shoulder of lamb, cut into bite-size cubes
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 very ripe Jersey tomatoes, grated
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup fresh pecorino cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

Season lamb with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or dutch oven. Add the lamb and let it brown all over. With a wooden spoon, scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan (you may need to add a splash of water to the pan to do that).
Add the onion and carrot and continue cooking until the vegetables begin to sweat. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir until paste dissolves. Add 1-1/2 quarts of water and bring to a boil (if you are not using a Dutch oven, transfer the contents into a large ovenproof casserole). Add the potatoes, cover and put into a 350 degree oven for 1-1/2 hours or until the meat is tender and slightly thickened. Remove from the oven and season with parsley, salt and pepper. Serve over polenta and top with grated pecorino cheese.

Oak Grove Plantation
266 Oak Grove Road
Pittstown, NJ 08867-4008
(908) 782-9618

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Local Lunch Box - Ideas and Recipes

Children are back at school and parents are back at work, which means that the brown bag lunch is back, too! Though we would love to welcome you for lunch at Tre Piani, sometimes it is just impossible to leave your desk. We believe, however, that you deserve to eat well-even in your cubicle-so we compiled some tips and recipes for assembling delicious, healthy lunches at home.
Farmers markets are still going on strong and will continue through fall. You can get some great local meats, cheeses, breads and veggies for super sandwiches. Mix up some interesting salads that will hold up, too, like pasta salad with fresh veggies, cheese and olive oil, or quinoa-tzatziki salad (tzatziki is actually better made the day before, which makes it a great brown bag lunch choice).
Try whole-wheat bread from a local small bakery (some loaves are baked in square pans and are perfect for sandwiches). Spread with a nice bean hummus or even roasted garlic instead of mayo. Fresh local apples and pears have just made their annual appearance at the market. Slice them thin and insert into peanut butter sandwiches instead of jam.
For a sweet treat, choose plain organic yogurt - try goat yogurt from our friends at Valley Shepherd Creamery (they sell it at farmers markets and we bet that if you call ahead they will hold some for you). Sweeten it with some local jams or honey, also available at farmers markets. Garnish with apples and pears.
Soup is another great food that kids and grownups love. If you make pureed soups you can even sneak in healthy things-kids won’t even know they’re in the soup!  This time of the year make sungold cherry tomato soup and pack in a thermos. It is naturally creamy and sweet, and tastes great at room temperature.
Here are some recipes to get your creative juices flowing.  

Carrot Curls With White Bean Hummus
Also makes a nice party presentation
1 carrot, peeled
3 tablespoons white bean hummus dip (see recipe)
Place the carrot on a cutting board, and using a vegetable peeler, press hard as you peel long, thin strands of carrot. (Pressing hard will help the strands curl.) Pack dip in a small container and take along with carrot curls.
White Bean Hummus
2 cups home-cooked or 1 16-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3 roasted garlic clove (see recipe)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Combine first four ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Drizzle in the olive oil throughout.

Sungold Tomatoes Soup

Intensely flavored sungold tomatoes are available at farmers markets. If you’re using other kind of tomatoes you may need to add a splash of balsamic vinegar and a little sugar to intensify the tomato flavor.
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large white onion, diced
3 cloves roasted garlic (see recipe)
2 cups low-salt chicken broth, homemade vegetarian broth, or water
4 pints sungold tomatoes
1 sprig fresh thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil, chives, or dill, or a mixture of all three (omit if sending it with your child to school)
In a nonreactive 5- to 6-quart heavy pot, heat the oil and butter over medium-low heat until the butter melts. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft but not browned, about 8 minutes.
Add the broth, tomatoes, sugar, thyme, and 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat while stirring. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes.
Discard the thyme sprig. Let cool briefly and then purée in two or three batches in a blender or food processor. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with the herbs.

Popped Quinoa With Tzatziki and Chickpeas

Pack 1 cup quinoa with 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas and some vegetables in a container. Top with 1/4 cup tzatziki sauce or bring the sauce with you in a separate container.

Double or triple the recipe and serve for dinner on a weeknight. Make sure the kids hear the popping sounds, they make the quinoa sound tasty.
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
1 cup quinoa
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1-1/2 cups broth or water
Heat olive oil or butter in a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Add quinoa and salt and stir to coat with oil. Keep stirring until you hear “popping” sounds (just like popcorn) and the quinoa emanates nutty aromas. Add water or broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer approx. 20-25 minutes until all water is absorbed and quinoa is slightly "puffed.” Take off the heat, fluff with a fork, cover and let sit for 5 minutes. To intensify the nutty flavor, you can stir in some good butter (preferably from grass-fed cows).

1 large zucchini or other summer squash, scraped but not peeled
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups (450 gr) Greek yogurt
1/3 cup chopped dill and fresh mint, mixed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Shred zucchini with the large holes of a box grater. Mix the the zucchini in a strainer with the salt, and let them stand for about 30 minutes, shaking and turning them a few times to encourage them to expel their water.
After they’ve drained, squeeze the shredded zucchini in a dishtowel to get out most of the excess liquid, and transfer to a large bowl.
Mix zucchini with the garlic, yogurt, herbs, and olive oil, and taste, adding more salt if desired. Depending on the brand of yogurt, you might want to add a squirt of fresh lemon juice or a little sour cream if you want it more tangy and or rich.

Roasted Garlic
It’s creamy, it’s aromatic, and your co-workers will thank you for the lack of a garlicky aroma. Add to sauces and dressing or even use as a spread. 3 large heads garlic, cut horizontally in half
3 cups extra virgin olive oil
4 sprigs thyme
1-1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cut off the top of the garlic heads. Put them in a small casserole or ovenproof pot and pour the olive oil over them. Add the thyme and pepper. Cover with a lid or foil and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the garlic is soft.
Cubicle Meal Salad With Local Cherry Tomatoes
We can’t get enough of those cherry tomatoes. Here they are combined with beans and shredded local chicken breast (you can get some from Griggstown Poultry Farm) to make a hearty salad that will keep you going until dinner.
1 16-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups local cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cooked chicken breast, diced
1 tablespoon aged sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup excellent olive oil
1 cup baby arugula leaves, packed separately

In a large bowl, combine white beans, tomatoes and chicken. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard and a little salt and pepper. Add the oil, whisking constantly so that the dressing emulsifies and thickens. Season to taste.
Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Pack a serving into a plastic container. Take the arugula along and mix it in just before eating.