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.