Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Jim's Roman Holiday Pasta

Try a new way to look at a holiday meal. You’ll get two for the price of one: the festivity of a roast with the familial comfort of pasta.

I love to braise a succulent leg of lamb with aromatic vegetables and serve it over bucatini, those thick spaghetti with a hole running through the center (also called perciatelli). Bucatini are perfect for trapping the delicious braising liquids. Topped with pecorino romano, they make the quintessential Roman-style holiday feast.

½ cup olive oil
2 lbs. boneless lamb leg or shoulder, cubed into bite-size pieces
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 lb. bucatini pasta
¼ cup fresh grated pecorino cheese
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
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. Add the onion and carrot and continue cooking until the vegetables begin to sweat. Add the tomato paste and stir until dissolved. Add two quarts of water and bring to a boil (if you are not using a Dutch oven, transfer the contents into a large oven proof casserole). Cover and put into a 350° oven for 1-1½ hours or until the meat is tender and sauce is slightly thickened.

Remove from the oven and season with parsley, salt and pepper. Serve over freshly cooked bucatini pasta and top with grated pecorino cheese.

Serves 4-6 as an entrée.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Latkes Recipe, Made in New Jersey

Here is an all-New Jersey applesauce recipe for your latkes and beyond, followed by a Mediterranean take on latkes. Happy Hanukkah!

Apple Sauce
4 New Jersey apples
1/2 cup New Jersey cranberries
Water or cranberry juice
¼-½ cup sugar
Lemon juice

Peel, core, and dice apples. Put into saucepan with cranberries and about ¾ cups water or cranberry juice. Add sugar. Boil gently until the apples are soft but not falling apart. Drain liquid. Use potato masher to gently squish apples. Finish with a little lemon juice.

Feta-Spinach Latkes
1 russet potato, coarsly grated
1 Yukon gold potato, coarsly grated
3 handfuls baby spinach, chopped
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
¼ cup minced fresh herbs (dill, mint, and oregano are my favorites to use here)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 scallions, minced
⅓ cup all purpose flour
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Vegetable oil, for frying

In a large bowl, combine potatoes, spinach, feta, herbs, eggs, and scallions. Stir to mix well. Then sprinkle in the flour until it all is incorporated and holding together.

Fill an 8-to-10-inch skillet with ¼-inch deep oil. Heat on a medium-high heat. Place a tablespoon of the mixture in the hot oil and flatten it with the back of the spoon. The oil should reach about half the height of the center of the latke. The edges should be submerged. Repeat until the pan skillet is filled but there is about a ½-inch gap between the latkes.

Cook the latkes until golden brown, about 4-5 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side until golden brown. Transfer to a flat plate lined with paper towels. Serve hot with yogurt sauce (recipe below).

Note: If you are planning to serve the latkes immediately, keep them in one layer until serving (you can place them in a warm-250°-oven). If you are planning to serve them later, cool completely and keep in a tightly covered container in the fridge, layers separated with paper towels. To heat them up, place in one layer on a baking sheet in a 350° oven until warm and crisp.

Yogurt Sauce
When using garlic in raw preparations, you might want to to pound it into a paste rather than chop it. I find it just tastes better that way.

1 clove garlic, peeled
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons chopped mint or parsley
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of half of a large lemon
1 cup whole yogurt
½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Pound the salt and garlic into a paste using a tablespoon (or a mortar and pestle, if you have it). Add the chopped herbs, the olive oil and the lemon juice, and mix.
Just before serving, mix in the yogurt and optional walnuts and correct seasoning with salt and lemon (the flavors should be bright and strong). Serve with the spinach-feta latkes.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Winter Farmers Market in Central New Jersey 

Slow Food Central New Jersey's Eat Slow Farmers Market

In collaboration with the organizers of the West Windsor Community Farmers Market, Slow Food Central New Jersey is proud to announce its tenth season of indoor winter markets. Specifically, the December market will feature holiday food gifts, natural soaps and fiber products for your entire gift giving needs. Enjoy the season’s best local foods.
Here are dates and locations:

Join us for a wide array of locally grown and produced foods including cheese, wine, mushrooms, grass-fed meats, pastured eggs, breads and baked goods, jams, sauces, honey, hard to find local winter produce and much more. Live music.  Join us for this popular event as we connect local farmers, food artisans and clean, fair and good food fans.
$3 suggested donation to benefit the Central New Jersey chapter of Slow Food. Parking is free.
Slow Food USA is working to change the food system through a network of volunteer chapters all over the country. The Central Jersey chapter holds education and awareness events such as potlucks, off-season farmers markets, trainings and workshops.  These farmers markets spread awareness and allow folks to enjoy locally grown and healthful foods while helping to support local farms and food artisans throughout the winter months.
Visit www.slowfoodcentralnj.org or westwindsorfarmersmarket.org for a full list of farms and vendors or call 609-933-4452 for more information.

Monday, July 14, 2014

How to Grill a Peach?

Two of the hallmarks of summer in one recipe:  Peaches and grilling or-simply put- grilled peaches. Add to it some creamy blue cheese, prosciutto and good bread and you got a light and vibrant summer meal.
If you're wondering how to grill a peach, join Jim on his grilling class at Plainsboro Recreation Center on August 21 at 6pm. Sign up here

Local Peaches from Robson's Farm at the Forrestal Village Farmers Market

2 peaches, cut in half and pit removed
1 small red onion, peeled and cut into think slices
4 large slices prosciutto (sliced thicker than usual like bacon)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
6 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups arugula leaves
¼ cup toasted walnut pieces
2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese

Heat the grill. 
Rub cut side of peaches with a little olive oil and put on the grill, cut side down. Cook until the peach chars slightly and then turn on other side until warm through. Repeat with the onions and set aside. 
Heat an oven to 400 degrees. Lay the ham out onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet and bake in preheated oven until slightly crisp, about 5 minutes.
Make a vinaigrette by combining olive oil and balsamic vinegar with salt and whisking until emulsified.
In a bowl, mix the arugula, walnuts, and cheese. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and toss to coat.
To plate: Place the peaches and onions charred side, in a serving bowl. Toss the arugula mixture and place over the peaches. Garnish with the crispy prosciutto and serve immediately..

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Fresh Mozzarella at Home (Recipe)

If you want to surprise your guests with a unique treat that doubles as a conversation piece, look no further than homemade fresh mozzarella.  The return on your time and effort is particularly high here—the warm, milky, slightly sweet cheese is sure to please and amaze. All you need is mozzarella curd, water, salt, and disposable gloves (to protect your hands from the heat).
You may be scratching your head right now, trying to recall the last time you saw fresh mozzarella curd. Indeed not a common sight, but our friends at Fulper Family Creamery carry it. Email them at info@fulperfarms.com to order and plan delivery. For a less local curd try Whole Foods.
Start by working 1 lb of curd at the time. You may have to order a larger amount but it keeps well in the refrigerator. And, no, it doesn't freeze well.
Fresh Mozzarella
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil then take it off the stove. Place the curds in a bowl and pour the hot water on them. Warm the curds, stir slowly as the curds warm, but try not to break them up too much. Put on a double layer of rubber gloves and fold the curds over on themselves a few times, stretching the curds. The curds need to reach 135F in order to stretch properly. Sprinkle the salt over the cheese and squish it with your fingers to incorporate. Using both hands, stretch and fold the curds repeatedly. It will start to tighten, become firm, and take on a glossy sheen. When this happens, you are ready to shape the mozzarella. Make one large ball, or a few smaller balls. Try not to overwork the mozzarella.
Using and Storing Your Mozzarella: The mozzarella is best when used immediately, second best if used within 24 hours, but can be kept refrigerated for a week. To refrigerate, place the mozzarella in a small container. Mix a teaspoon of salt with a cup of cool water mixed with some milk  and pour this over the mozzarella. Cover and refrigerate.

You can buy fresh mozzarella from Tre Piani and Fulper's Family Creamery at the Princeton Forrestal Village Farmers Market. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Blueberry-Maple BBQ Sauce

The timing is perfect. New Jersey Blueberries are making their seasonal debut just in time for 4th of July blueberries pies and...blueberries BBQ sauce. Easy and versatile, it will adorn your 4th of July grilling fare.  Try it with grilled local chicken.

Photo courtesy of New Jersey Department of Agriculture

2 cups  blueberries
11/3  champagne vinegar
3 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar 2 teaspoons  maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Combine blueberries, vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, maple syrup, allspice and cayenne pepper in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes, or until sauce is thick. Let cool and puree in the blender until smooth.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

6 Ways To Eat More Vegetables (With Recipes!)

Tuesday, June 17 is Eat Your Vegetable Day. 
We didn't even know such day existed. We just eat our veggies every day with great delight. When treated right, vegetables can be the extraordinary main event of your meal.
If consuming your recommended two to three cups of vegetables every day feels like a chore, you are yet to tap into the artful, enchanting and exquisite potential of the edible plant. Below, find 6 ways to beautifully rack up those servings of spring vegetables. Enjoy!

And for dessert Beets Bonbon from the ever creative Rose Robson of Robson’s Farm

Sauteed Early Summer Greens
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 lbs tender greens such as chard, spinach, baby kale cut into bite size pieces.
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until beginning to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add greens and toss to coat. Cover and cook until wilted, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add vinegar, salt and crushed red pepper. Toss to coat and serve immediately.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

1 Spice Rub, 1 BBQ Sauce, 1 Amazing Grilling Recipe for Your Dad

As Father's Day approaches, we would like to share a simple yet amazing grilling recipe. It will be sure to make dads and those who are celebrating them very happy.

We use chicken, but the dry rub and BBQ sauce
can also be used on beef, pork, veal, seafood, corn, potatoes, antelope, yak and just about anything else that can be cooked on a grill.

Before you start, here are a few pointers to keep in mind:

  • A dry rub is preferred for longer cooking times because it will not burn quickly. The sugar in the mix will actually caramelize onto the meat.
  • The spice rub recipe is very basic and can be adapted to your taste by using your favorite spices and dried herbs. Feel free to make it spicier, sweeter, saltier, etc.
  • Remember that your grill also acts like an oven when the lid is closed, and that your chicken will cook more thoroughly that way. Meats like steak cook better on high heat with an open lid, which ensures the desirable charring outside and a more rare center (which is why thick steaks are better.)
  • There are no exact cooking times because the size of meats varies, as does the heat of each grill. You just need to watch and learn about the idiosyncrasies of their grill.

Dry rub mix:
4 tbsp. brown sugar
3 tbsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. dry thyme
1 tsp. dry rosemary
Mix the dry spices and herbs together thoroughly. 

BBQ Sauce:
¼ cup cooking oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red pepper, diced
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Up to a week ahead of time, make the simple barbecue sauce. In a saucepan, add the oil, garlic, onion and peppers. Let the mixture cook slowly until the vegetables are soft. Add the brown sugar and let it melt. Add the vinegar, bring to a boil, and season to taste with salt and pepper. This sauce may be pureed if desired.

Simple Barbecued Chicken
1 chicken cut into quarters, bones in
Spice rub
BBQ sauce

Rub the chicken pieces all over with the spice rub; let rest for at least 15 minutes (or as long as overnight). The flavors will permeate deeper the longer the chicken marinates. Preheat your grill on high heat, making sure that the grates are clean. Add the chicken pieces and lower the heat to medium. (Cook for longer at a lower heat to prevent burning.)
Cook the chicken with the lid closed and check it often to make sure it does not burn. You can adjust the heat accordingly, allowing common sense to dictate whether or not the bird is cooking too quickly or too slowly.
When the chicken is less than two minutes away from being fully cooked, baste it with your sauce. Turn once and baste the other side. Serve.

For more grilling recipes and tips, join Jim's grilling class on June 27th. Click here for details.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Crespelles With Local Strawberries + How to Chiffonade Like a Pro

This time of year, when the markets are full of fragrant strawberries just begging for a touch of something rich and creamy, crespelles, Italian crepes with creamy filling and fresh strawberries, are the perfect treats. Everybody loves them as they are, but to make them extra special, and as a nod to the Italian flag, add some basil cut into thin ribbons (this is called chiffonade; see note). And remember: The First Rule of Pancakes applies here, too. The first few crepes may not come out that perfect.

Note: To make chiffonade: stack about five leaves of basil into a neat pile. With practice, you’ll be able to handle more at a time. Roll the leaves lengthwise into a fairly tight cigar shape. Use your sharpest knife to slice across the cigar into thin ribbons. Fluff the chiffonade with your fingertips to separate the ribbons. Serve, if you want with some homemade strawberry jam.

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup melted butter
¼ cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
3 cups milk
Additional melted butter as needed
In a mixing bowl combine the flour and sugar. Whisk the eggs and milk and fold in gradually using a rubber spatula, adding more milk if needed to help thin out the batter. The consistency should be just slightly thicker than that of heavy cream. Fold in the melted butter. Let it rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour to settle.
Heat a wide, shallow non-stick pan over medium heat and add about a tablespoon of the melted butter. Swirl it around to cover the entire surface of the pan. The pan is hot enough when the butter begins to sizzle.
Ladle about two ounces of the crepe batter and cover the bottom of the pan. When it is ready to turn the batter will not have any liquid left on top. Cook for about a minute, turn, and cook for another thirty seconds. Remove and let cool at room temperature. You can stack the crepes as you go.
Cannoli Filling:
Ricotta cheese
Mascarpone cheese
Granulated sugar
Combine the ricotta cheese and mascarpone cheese and mix with a rubber spatula. Add sugar and cinnamon to taste.
Plate Set-up:
Fresh sliced local strawberries
2 tsp confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp fresh basil cut into thin ribbons (chiffonade)

Fill the center of the crepe with the cannoli filling and roll. Spoon the strawberries over the crepe and dust with confectioner’s sugar and a few ribbons of basil. Fold the crepe over the filling and serve.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Lamb Lettuce Two Ways

Local spring greens are here. Crisp, vibrant, and utterly delicious.

We've just come across a nifty gardening trick to keep the bugs from the lettuce. It included a tip on cleaning the lettuce, but no recipes. So I decided to step in and offer some recipes.

The greens recipes below suit many greens but I want to highlight a less popular yet delicious - lamb lettuce (aka Mâche or corn salad).

In my humble opinion, lamb lettuce bears no resemblance to lamb but some say the name comes from the lettuce's resemblance to lamb's tongue. So be it.

The dark leaves are long and spoon-shaped and have a distinctive, tangy flavor. It is used raw in salads as well as steamed and served as a vegetable.

The season is starting now and you can find lamb lettuce at farmer’s markets and good produce sections. Choose dark, narrow leaves that are springy and unwilted. Store in an airtight plastic bag in the fridge and use quickly because it doesn't hold well. Use as a main ingredient in salads or cooked and served as a side vegetable.

Wilted Lamb Lettuce with Shallot Vinaigrette
You can substitute with spinach or baby kale.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 pounds triple washed lamb lettuce

For vinaigrette:
1 small shallot, chopped
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon zest
4 ounces Cherry Grove Farm Buttercup Brie, thinly sliced

Make vinaigrette:
Combine the shallots, salt, and vinegar and mix well and macerate for about 30 minutes. Stir in the honey and gradually add the oil, stirring to emulsify the vinaigrette. Taste and correct seasoning.

Saute lettuce
Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add oil and garlic. Saute garlic in oil for 2 or 3 minutes. Add lamb lettuce to the pan in stages. Fill the pan with leaves and turn leaves in warm oil until they wilt. Add more leaves to the skillet and repeat the process until all of the lamb lettuce is incorporated. Season the wilted greens with salt and pepper. Serve warm with vinaigrette as a side dish, or top with local brie and serve with some crusty bread as a light satisfying meal.

Assemble the salad:
In a bowl, toss the greens with some vinaigrette to coat, arrange on four serving plates. . Sprinkle some lemon zest. Arrange the cheese over the greens. Drizzle some more vinaigrette. Serve immediately with some crusty bread.

Lamb Lettuce Salad with Mango and Hazelnuts
Catch the end of mango season.

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 ripe mangoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 cups lamb lettuce or arugula
1 cup toasted hazelnuts broken into pieces
1/2 cup crispy bacon bits, heated just before serving.

Combine olive oil and balsamic vinegar with salt and whisk until emulsified. In a bowl, mix the lamb lettuce and walnuts. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and toss to coat.
Place the mango on a platter. Toss the leaves with vinaigrette and place over the peaches. Garnish with the crispy bacon and serve immediately.