Saturday, December 29, 2007

Spinach bars

The Recipe:

3 eggs
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup skim milk
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
2 boxes frozen chopped spinach (10 oz. each), defrosted, squeezed dry
1 lb. Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
1 small onion, chopped

Preheat oven to 350. Whisk eggs, milk, salt, baking powder, flour and several grinds of pepper in very large bowl. Add onions, spinach and cheese; mix well with a rubber spatula.

Spray a 9x13" glass baking dish with pan spray. Spread spinach mixture into it. Bake for 40 minutes or until the top is a nice shade of golden brown. Let cool for a minimum of 10 minutes before considering cutting. (I usually cut into 48 squares.)

The Story:

I had something quite like these at an office party many years ago. When I saw the recipe, I was appalled at the amount of butter and fat in it. This version, while still a little heavy with all that cheese, is much lighter. (Really, it is!) You can certainly use low-fat cheese too.

Whenever I make these, they're a hit. They're good hot, warm, or cold out of the fridge. I often wrap 2 or 3 for the kids' lunch bags.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ginger pecans

The Recipe:

5 cups pecan halves
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp water
2 tsp canola oil

Preheat oven to 325. Spread nuts evenly in two half-sheet pans (rimmed cookie sheets) and toast in oven until lightly brown, about 12 minutes, switching the pans halfway through. Meanwhile, combine the sugar, salt and ginger in a small bowl.

Mix the honey, water and oil with a silicone spatula or a wooden spoon in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until it boils. Add the pecans and stir over medium heat until the liquid has evaporated, about 3 or 4 minutes. Pour out into a large bowl and toss with the spiced sugar mixture. Spread out on parchment or silicone pan liners to cool. Try not to eat too many now, they really are better when cool.

The Story:

Easy and tasty; my favorite kind of food. These are a variation on a recipe from Martha Stewart's Hors D'Oeuvres Handbook- a very handy cookbook.

I saved jelly jars all year and have been filling them with these nuts to give away to co-workers and neighbors this holiday season. A nice change of pace from the ubiquitous plate of holiday cookies.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Are you ready for Thanksgiving?

I ordered my turkey and picked up my non-perishables. I have to get my turkey on Tuesday and the perishables on Wednesday. I also have to pick up another bag of stuffing bread, since the Darkman ate one of the ones I bought last week. (Note- dogs should not eat that much bread, especially if you and the dog sleep in the same room. Ugh.)

How are your holiday plans coming?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mincemeat Cake

The Recipe

3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 stick butter (4 oz)
zest of 1 orange or tangerine
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 jar of mincemeat- I use None Such Brandy&Rum

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
2 scant Tbsp. orange or tangerine juice

Spray a Bundt pan with spray oil. Preheat oven to 350.

In medium bowl, whisk flour, powder & soda, and salt. In large mixer bowl, beat butter until light; add zest and sugar, beating until fluffy. Blend in eggs, one at a time. Slowly, add the flour mixture and buttermilk, alternating between the two, beginning and ending with flour. After all flour has been incorporated, beat at least 30 sec. on medium speed. Add 1/2 jar of mincemeat; mix in by hand if using beaters, or on lowest speed if using a paddle on a stand mixer, until incorporated.

Pour about 2/3 of the batter in the Bundt pan and spread evenly. Top batter with remaining mincemeat, then top that with remaining batter. Bake 1 hour and then check; bake until cake tester (toothpick) comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then gently invert cake out onto a rack to finish cooling. Let cool a minimum of 20 more minutes, but an hour is better.

Mix tangerine juice into sifted powdered sugar; drizzle over cake to glaze.

The Story

Several years ago I bought a jar of mincemeat which had a little booklet attached full of recipes. One picture was of a beautiful coffee cake baked in a tube pan, filled with mincemeat and topped with a struesel topping. It looked great and I had all the ingredients, so I decided to make it- only to discover very quickly that there had been a misprint. The picture and the recipe didn't match, and the recipe for the filled cake was nowhere to be found! I've made the coffee cake in the booklet, only to find that the struesel and the mincemeat don't match very well. With that one adjustment in mind, I set out to create a recipe similar to the one that was promised in the photo, and this is the result.

The measurement on the jar of mincemeat is 27 oz. Other brands that are around that amount should substitute well, but None Such is by far my favorite commercial brand. Use what you like. If you make your own- a friend of mine has done this, and it's wonderful- you'll need about 2 1/2 cups, divided evenly.

We've impaitently cut into this cake when it was still pretty hot, and we've regretted it. It really is much better when let to cool for a while.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Perfect Storm for Beer

We are brewin' up a storm of beer and meade right now, but that's not what I'm talking about, unfortunately.

When visiting our Friendly Neighborhood Brew Shop, we got the bad news. There's a worldwide shortage of hops right now. Jo-Ellen of Brewer's Apprentice described it as a "perfect storm" of conditions, and she wasn't kidding:

Panic among some brewers was heightened when a major supplier, Hop Union of Yakima, Wash., suspended sales for two weeks. Bad weather in Europe, as well as poor conditions in the Pacific Northwest, compounded by a devastating warehouse fire last year in Washington and fires at two hop-drying kilns this year, have translated into a 20 percent worldwide shortfall as demand for hoppier styles climbs, said Ian Isherwood, who represents British hop growers. Meanwhile, acreage planted to hops is dwindling.

The homebrew shops are feeling it immediately. Apparently there are limits to the quantity of certain hops, and other hops they simply can't get. There are no replacements available for styles that are unavailable, either- basically, they have to do without.

It gets worse. At the same time this is all happening to hops, malt prices are on the rise:

"A ton of malted barley is over $1,000 now," said Jürgen Knöller, brewmaster at Bayern Brewery in Missoula. "Six months ago, a ton of barley was $460."The giant leap in malted barley prices is due, in large part, to several years of poor harvests, devastating droughts in barley-producing areas such as Australia, and to the fact that despite Montana being one of the best barley-growing regions in North America, barley is a commodity.

It all adds up to beer price increases with shortages of favorite styles. I expect the small craft brewers will have it the worst, because I'm sure the Budwisers and the Coors conglomerates aren't going to have to do without their hop orders- it'll be the little guys who get hit.

My advice for those who love well-crafted beer: stock up now on Hop Devil, 90-Minute IPA, CascaZilla, and all those other seriously hoppy brews; now, while you still can. (Brew your own as soon as possible, too- that's what we're doing!) Then, settle in for a few years of less hoppy styles that cost a couple more bucks a six- and wait out the storm.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Vegetable Dal

The Recipe

1 cup brown lentils (see note)
1 T. canola oil
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. ajwain (very optional)
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 potato, diced
1 small green chile, seeds removed if you prefer
1/4 tsp ground tumeric
a handful (about 2 tbsp.) flaked coconut

Put lentils in small saucepan; cover with water by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook about 30 min, until really tender. Don't bother to drain.

Heat oil in large skillet; add mustard seeds and ajwain, stir a couple of times, then add your onion, carrot, potato and celery. Cook until they start to brown. Add the lentils, tumeric and the chile to the skillet; stir and cook until the dal it the consistency you want, adding water if necessary. Salt at this point, then add the coconut, stir and serve.

The Story

I had intended to make a cabbage dal from a book, but my cabbage had disappeared! I guess it must have been tossed out by accident. Having to improvise, this is what I invented, and it was a hit. You could also probably do this with any other variety of lentil; just adjust the cooking time as needed. We like the dal pretty mushy but not quite pureed, but it's your dinner so make it how you want.

Goes really well with naan or any flatbread. Any good Indian cookbook has recipes to make whole-wheat versions at home. I serve this with an Indian vegetable dish too.

Ajwain is a Pakastani seed which, as Penzey's Spices puts it, helps "temper the effects of a legume-based diet." It's tasty, too. I doubt most folks have it hangin' around the spice cabinet though, and you won't miss it if it's not there. It adds an anise-like flavor and while I've no proof that it aids in, um, the digestion of beans- it doesn't hurt.

I've found plain frozen grated coconut in the Latin section of my grocery store. If you don't have it, the sweetened kind will do; since there's not very much, it adds a negligible amount of sweetness to the dish.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Apple Sauce

The Recipe:

2 1/2 lbs. apples (see The Story for ideas)
1 lemon
1/2 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick or 1/2-2 tsp cinnamon

Peel, core, and chop apples. In non-reactive saucepan, mix the juice of the lemon (about 2 Tbsp) and the sugar with the apples; let sit until they exude at least 1/2 cup of juice, about 20 minutes. Add the cinnamon stick or your desired amount of cinnamon. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove cinnamon stick and let cool. Keeps in the fridge for at least a week.

The Story:

In conversation recently, a friend commented that she didn't know how to make apple sauce. It's the easiest thing; everyone should know how to do it- especially this time of year, when Terhune and Battleview are loaded with fresh local apples.

This is based on Rose Levy Berenbaum's recipe in her book Rose's Celebrations. She likes hers very smooth and does not peel or core the apples first; instead, she uses fewer apples, cooks them longer and then puts the whole thing through a strainer. Not my favorite way, but if it is yours it's certainly easy to do.

Apple choice is pretty wide here. Any good eating or baking apple will do. I often combine types, getting some that do and some that don't hold their shape to create a variety of textures. Also, the more you cook and the smaller the chopped apples are, the softer the sauce will be, so if you like chunky sauce go short in time and big in chopped size. Macoun, Stayman Winesap and Ginger Gold all make a good sauce, especially when mixed together.

Start with less cinnamon than you think you'll want. You can always add more later. Oh, and that stick that you took out? If you'll be making some hot cider in the next day or two, just hang on to it and add it to the mug. (Of course you bought some cider when you went to the farm for the apples!)

A beautiful addition to this is about 1/2 cup dried cranberries, added when the sauce comes up to a boil. They add some color and a little textural interest too.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

It's not too soon to talk turkey

Lee's Turkey Farm is taking orders for Thanksgiving birds.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Current Cookbook Craze: October edition

I borrowed two cookbooks from the library that I love so much, I'm considering buying them:

Fresh Food Fast by Peter Berely: Pretty pictures (just look at the cover!) and complete seasonal menus line up with great food very nicely. So far, I've made a Wild Mushroom Fricassee over Farro (spelt), and a Thai-style Tofu* and Veggies in Coconut broth, both of which were big hits. Am trying a few more this week.

A Beautiful Bowl of Soup by Paulette Mitchell: Once again, I'm swayed by lovely photography. The recipes tend to be very simple and often something you could've come up with if you thought about it long enough, but since they're here and nicely put together, pick up the book. There's a section of cold and dessert soups, neither of which I care for, but the others are lovely. Many are vegan or easily converted, and helpfully noted too.

*I think there's an overreliance on soy foods and soy-based meat replacements in vegetarian cooking, so I rarely cook with them. And, let's face it, even if there wasn't some principle I could fall back on I wouldn't use tofu much anyway, because honestly, I hate tofu. I really do. I've tried it prepared in dozens of ways and the best I can usually say for a tofu recipe is that it didn't make me gag. This dish I actually liked, so that should tell you something about how good this book is.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

I just bought...

Twenty-five pounds of apples in the last three days.

Looks like it's pie time!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Hoofin' a mile

Mea Kaemmerlen had a nice piece in yesterday's paper about farm animals- both the good, homey image we have from childhood and petting zoos, and the abbhoration of the factory farm system. Give it a read.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle The Whole Earth Center Way

Princeton's Whole Earth Center organic grocery store is undergoing a huge expansion. In keeping with their main philosophy, they set a goal for themselves to divert 75% of the project's waste from landfills. So, now that they're almost done, did they make that goal?

They've beat it, and by far. As of now, they've recycled or reused more than 93% of the constrution waste and byproduct.

It's a great little (soon to be bigger) store. I first found out about it as a way to buy local grass-fed beef from Simply Grazin' farms, and now I can't walk out of the store with fewer than three grocery bags full. They have signs over some of their organic produce telling where it's from and miles to market. They have a bakery and a big bulk foods section- bring your own containers and bags, please!

Princeton Business Journal did a big article on them and the expansion this week. Check it out, then check them out: 360 Nassau St. (near the corner of Harrison St.) Princeton.

(Cross-posted at CoNJL)

Monday, September 17, 2007


I added a category of links over there on the right, to Central Jersey farms. Some are organic, some not, some pick-your-own.

If you know of one I should add, please let me know!

Friday, September 7, 2007

How to peel & pit peaches

jayananda asked about this on an older post, so here it is:

Submerge peaches, no more than 3 at a time, in boiling water. Boil for 30 sec- 1min. and remove; let cool. The skin should easily slip right off. Then, to pit: slice around the middle of the peach lengthwise, along that neat little line provided by nature. Twist the peach halves gently; if it's a freestone peach, the halves should easily separate. One half should now be pitless, and the pit can be easily pried off the other half*. If it's a clingstone, you'll have to slice the peachy goodness off of the pit, losing some juice on the way.

This time of year, around here anyway, we mostly get freestone.

(*Note: sometimes, the peach pit decides to split in half, too. Annoying. Just pry it away.)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Michael Jackson has died

No, not that Michael Jackson, the other one:

Mr. Jackson especially loved Belgian brews, which his books “The Great Beers of Belgium” and “The World Guide to Beer” introduced to many export markets, including the United States.
By identifying beers by their flavors and styles, and by pairing them with particular foods and dishes, he also gave impetus to the North American microbrewery movement.
His television documentary series, “The Beer Hunter,” a title that popularized his nickname, was filmed around the world and shown in 15 countries.
Mr. Jackson was a beer critic for more than 30 years, writing in newspapers and gastronomic magazines, holding seminars, giving speeches and appearing on talk shows. His many books about beer and whiskeys were published in 18 languages.

We have his book Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch, and it has always been a useful reference for us. His work in promoting and writing about good beer and whiskies was a strong voice for quality. He will be missed.

(cross-posted at CoNJL)

Friday, August 24, 2007

"Help! My Garden Is Exploding!" Tabbouleh Salad

The Recipe

1 cup bulgur wheat
2 cups water
1 cucumber
3 (large) - 6 (small) tomatoes
handful of chives OR 1/2 bunch scallions
1 can chickpeas, drained
bunch of flat-leaf/Italian parsley
bunch of mint
5 Tbsp. XV olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Bring water to a boil; add bulgur. Bring back up to boil; reduce to low heat and simmer about 10-15 minutes, until water is absorbed and bulgur is tender. Turn out into bowl to cool, occasionally fluffing with a fork.

Remove some of the cucumber seeds. Chop cucumber and tomatoes either fine or medium, as you like it; set aside in a bowl. Finely chop parsley and mint; finely slice scallions or chives (I use a scissors for chives. Makes life easier.) Drain chick peas. Whisk olive oil, lemon juice and cayenne together in small bowl.

By now, the tomatoes and cukes have exuded a lot of juice; drain it off. The bulgur should have cooled, too. Toss all salad ingredients together gently, then pour dressing over and toss lightly again.

Let cool in refrigerator at least one hour before serving. Is good while still a little warmer than fridge temp, but is also fine when cold for lunch tomorrow.

Serves 4-6 as dinner, 8-10 as a side dish.

The Story

This is the first meal I ever made for my husband, who was just some guy I was dating at the time. It worked out great for me! I've changed it over the years, but he still seems to like it.

By "bunch", I mean the approximate amount of parsley sold in a grocery store bundle. If you're inclined to measure, you want at least 1/2 cup of each finely chopped herb; more is good, especially when the mint is taking over because you forgot that you should always plant mint in a pot, not in the ground.

The last time I made this, I used a combo of red and yellow tomatoes, and it looked very pretty. Use what you have. I don't like to peel my cucumbers, but this is up to you. The salad will still have lots of green color without it, if you should feel it necessary to peel.

The chickpeas add a small element of texture as well as nutrition. If you want, a cooked chicken breast can be substituted; chop it up and mix with an extra 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp lemon juice. Keep in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the salad, then toss in at the end. You can skip 'em both and just have a nice side salad.

In my grocery store, bulgur is both with the Latin American foods (Goya brand) and near the rice. You can use couscous if you can't find or don't like bulgur. Personally, I don't like couscous; but as always, it's your dinner and you should enjoy it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Too much of a good thing

The raspberries are back for fall, but I'm throwing out three for every one I pick.


It's been raining for a week. Everything's rotting.

I'm losing tomatoes at the same rate. I rescue them as quickly as I can, but they split quickly in weather like this.

I have plans for the raspberries. Once we have enough saved in the freezer, I want to make a raspberry-ginger mead (technically, a melomel.) I just hope the weather, and an upcoming vacation where I won't be picking for a while, don't ruin that plan.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Grilled Corn Chowder

The Recipe:

5 ears of grilled corn
5 cups chicken or veg. stock
1 lb. red or yukon gold potatoes, cut into medium dice
3 pieces of good smoked bacon
1 med. onion, small dice
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
cream, about 1/4 cup
milk, about 1/4 cup (or, as you may have guessed, 1/2 cup of half-n-half)
S&P to taste

Stand each corn cob on its ends on a cutting board and slice the kernels off; reserve. Simmer corn cobs (yes- I mean the cobs, the middle part you were just going to toss out) in the stock for about 10 min., then remove and discard cobs.

In a separate pot (3 qt. or larger) fry bacon to crisp and then remove to paper towels. Cook onion in rendered bacon fat over med. heat until golden brown, about 5-8 minutes. Add stock & potatoes; bring to boil and cook until potatoes are starting to soften, about 8 minutes. Add reserved corn kernels and bring back up to boil. Remove and puree 2 cups of soup in blender or with boat motor, then add back to pot. Stir well, turn off heat and let sit until boiling stops. Add milk & cream, thyme, crumbled bacon and S&P to taste to soup.

The Story:

Serve with a hunk of good bread and some tomatoes from the garden and you've got a happy, easy dinner.

Just grill extra corn whenever you're going to have it; wrap the extra ears when you're done. 5 ears is approximate; use what you have. Simmering the cobs adds extra corn flavor to the soup. If you forgot to keep the cobs or whatever, don't worry. Also, this works fine with leftover boiled corn, but the grilled corn adds a nice flavor and a touch of color.

Sage could easily substitute for the thyme, but I use sage all summer in bean salads, so it's nice to use a different herb here.

How to grill corn

1. Shuck the corn.

2. Put corn ears directly on grill racks over med-low heat.

3. Turn a little bit every few minutes, and continue until corn is cooked all the way around and has some lovely brown grill marks.

Yes, you can go through the whole rigamarole of soaking the corn in the husk, grilling it, and then shucking it- but for goodness' sake, why? Who needs burned fingertips? The way I do it, you get a different flavor from the corn because of the caramelization of the sugars; a cross between popcorn and sweet corn. 'tis yummy and easy, the way I like food to be.

Butter if you must, but I don't bother with that either. It's nice to enjoy the simple flavor of fresh, in-season grilled corn.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Taste test

A remarkably generous and well-thanked neighbor gave me a box of Harry & David Oregold peaches recently. I've never had an Oregold peach before. During summer in particular, I try to eat locally as much as possible, so I never saw the advantage of an Oregon peach over good ol' South Jersey Peaches. Those Harry & David catalogues make them look and sound like the best fruit ever grown, though, and I've always wondered.

And, for all the advertising and $8.25/lb price tag (before shipping)?

They're good. Maybe a little sweeter and a little prettier than the farmstand ones I get around here, but only a little.

I think I'll stick with Terhune orchards or Battleview.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Healthier Zucchini Bread

The Recipe:

3 eggs
3/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 cups- approx., very approx- shredded zucchini
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350. Coat two loaf pans with spray oil.

Beat eggs until very light and lemon-colored; slowly add sugar and oil. Continue to beat until very light. Mix in zucchini & spices. In separate bowl, whisk flour with baking powder, soda and salt; slowly add to the egg mixture- you may want to do this by hand or get out the pouring shield, as flour will go all over the place. Stir in walnuts; spread batter evenly into loaf pans.

Bake 1 hour and test with toothpick for doneness; if still wet, bake additional 5 min. until done. Makes two big loaves.

The Story:

This isn't Grandma's light and sweet zucchini bread. It's a lot denser and has more squash in it, more fiber and less sugar. It's still absolutely great. The kids love it slathered with cream cheese for breakfast, but I prefer it plain.

I don't often measure the zucchini. I use up whatever I have- I even used a crookneck squash last time because I had it around. If it's a whole lot more than three cups, the bread is heavy and moist; if it's a lot less, it's a bit dry. This time of year, I always seem to have more than three cups...

Get fresh nutmegs. If you have a microplane grater (usually used for zest or Parmesan cheese), you can use it to grate nutmeg. There is no comparison between canned powder nutmeg and freshly grated- fresh is light years ahead. I get mine from Penzeys. It's worth it.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Whole-Wheat Waffles

The Recipe:

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups AP flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
3 1/2 cups milk
2/3 cup canola oil
4 Tbsp. ground flaxseed
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Whisk first six dry ingredients to blend; add all wet ingredients and whisk until almost smooth. Add walunts and stir in at the last minute. Let stand about 10 minutes before using (enough time to get out and heat up the waffle maker.)

Follow your waffle maker's instructions; There's usually less overflow if you spread the batter with a spatula and let it bubble for about 15-20 sec. before closing.

Makes a ton of waffles.

The Story:

These aren't light 'n fluffy; the flax and the whole wheat makes 'em rather dense, but with a lot of flavor.

The healthyish nature of these makes it feel a little silly to cover them with butter and maple syrup, but they are good that way. They're very good with a fruit sauce, sliced strawberries and bananas, or some nice tart apples sauteed in butter with a little sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on them.

Wrap leftover waffles or fill a plasticware bin. They are great when popped in the toaster, and keep well at room temperature for a few days.

I have a Belgian waffle maker which I love, but there's no reason you couldn't make these in a regular waffle maker.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Blackwell's Organic

Blackwell's Organic is a frozen desert company based in Red Bank, NJ:

Our products are hand-crafted in small batches using only the highest quality certified organic ingredients and Fair Trade Certified(TM) cocoa and coffee. We use only real fruit and fruit juice. Our gelati and sorbetti are free of preservatives, additives and extracts.

Last time we made to Whole Earth Center, we picked up the Raspberry Sorbetto. It was pure fruit indulgence. It tasted of summer-ripe berries, through and through. The flavor is so very strong that you're satisfied with even a small serving- which is good, since it's rather expensive but worth every penny.

Seek it out. They have a list of locations where their products can be purchased here.

Summer fruit

The last of the early summer raspberries are on the bushes. I've been getting a pint or two every two days for nearly a month, but it's almost over. It's been a very good year for them.
We picked up the first of the summer peaches on Saturday at Terhune orchards. They're cling peaches, which make them a bear to work with, but it's always such a treat to get the first fresh peaches.
Must get to the grocery store today- I need some fresh cream. Also must remember to freeze the ice-cream maker...

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Top Chef without pity

Television Without Pity works over Top Chef.

Warning- only visit when you have some time to sit down and read! I promise, you'll get sucked in just like I did.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Green and White Bean Salad

The Recipe:

1/2 to 3/4 lb. string beans; green, yellow, wax- whatever's fresh
1 can small white beans or cannelini beans, drained
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. XV Olive Oil
1 tsp. brown mustard
8 or 10 fresh sage leaves, shreded or chopped

Blanch string beans in boiling water for 1 min; rinse immediately in cold water. Toss with the drained white beans.

Whisk mustard and vinegar together; whisk in oil slowly to form emusion. Add sage and S&P to taste. Pour over beans and let chill in the fridge at least 1 hour, preferably 2 or 3.

The Story:

I make this all summer, as the bush beans and wax beans pour out of my garden. (Am making it for a picnic tonight, as a matter of fact.) It's easy, and barely needs a recipe, but I like the proportion of vinegar to oil to be higher than a classic vinagrette, so I keep track.

Some people like tomatoes in their bean salad, or some onion. Add what you'd like, but I prefer to leave it pretty simple. The fresh sage shines more that way.

The cut beans will darken at the edges as they sit in the dressing overnight. It's fine to eat that way but much less pretty.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Locally grown

The Times of Trenton food editor Susan Sprauge Yeske had a great article yesterday about Central Jersey farmers markets. She included a list of some local favorites, which I condensed here and added a few:

Trenton Farmers Market, 9 a.m. -6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sundays at 960 Spruce St., Lawrence.
Lawrenceville Farmers Market, Sundays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. in the parking lot of Lawrenceville Fuel, 16 Gordon Ave., Lawrenceville.
West Windsor Community Farmers Market, Saturdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. in the Vaughn Drive lot of Princeton Junction Train Station.
Sergeantsville Farmers Market -- 8:30 a.m.-noon Saturdays on the township green on Route 604 Rosemont-Ringoes Road in Delaware Township
Liberty Village Premium Outlets Farmers Market -- 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays at Liberty Village Shopping Center, off Route 12, Flemington.
Toms River Farmers Market -- Wednesdays, 12-6, Ruddy Park.
Burlington County Farmers Market -- 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays at the former Winner Farm at Hartford and Centerton roads, Moorestown.
Freehold Farmers Market -- 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays at The American Hotel, 18 E. Main St., Freehold.
Hopewell Community Market, 2-7 p.m. Wednesdays near the train station, off Greenwood Avenue in Hopewell Borough.
Montgomery Farmers Market -- 12:30-6:30 p.m. Thursdays beginning June 28 behind the Red Oak Diner at Routes 206 and 518.
Capital City Market -- 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursdays beginning July 12 at East State Street between Warren and Broad streets
Russo's at Buckley Plaza -- 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays, Buckley Plaza, Route 130, Hamilton

Some of these, such as the Trenton Farmer's Market, have rules about only selling what you grow- but there's no guarantee for the rest. There are "farmer's markets" and roadside stands where you can see the employees unloading fruit and veggies out of the same boxes they get at Shop-Rite, so be careful. Don't be afraid to ask where the produce is grown. If you want Jersey Fresh, speak up.

(cross-posted at CoNJL)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Ginger shortcakes with fresh berries

The Recipe:

2 eggs
1 1/3 cup AP flour
2/3 c cake flour
1 T baking powder
¾ t salt
2 T crystallized ginger, chopped finely
3 T sugar
3 oz butter
¾ cup cream
1 T grated fresh ginger (grated on smallest holes of a box grater; avoid adding fibers.)

1 pt. fresh strawberries, sliced, 10 nice ones left in half or whole
1 pt. cream, whipped with 2 T. sugar and 1/4 tsp. vanilla

Hard-boil eggs. Separate whites and yolks.
Preaheat oven to 400.
Whisk dry ingredients together (including crystalized ginger.) Add butter and cut in with pastry cutter or two knives until butter is the size of large peas. Press egg yolks through a strainer and add; cut in, until no longer visible and the butter is the size of regular peas. Mix cream and grated ginger together in separate container; mix liquid into dry ingretients only until moist- do not over mix! Turn out to board; flour if needed. Knead 10-15 times only then pat out to 1/2 inch tall. Cut with 2 in. cutter. On parchment, bake 5 min, then 375 for 10-15 until done. Let cool and split in half.

Assembly: add strawberries and cream to bottom half; close. Put a swirl of cream and nice berry on top.

The Story:

I'm pretty sure it was Shirley Corriher who gave me the idea for the yolks. It gives the biscuits such a lovely color and richness. Between the yolks and the cream, these are seriously rich, dense biscuits- that's why you cut them so small!

The leftover egg whites make a good addition to an egg salad, or are good as a garnish on top of black bean soup. Really. Or feed 'em to the dog, if you have no other ideas; the dog will love you.

I love ginger and berries.

This is great with raspberries, too. Then again, isn't everything great with raspberries?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Fruit Cobbler

The Recipe:

4 Tbsp. butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 t. vanilla (see note)
1 cup flour
summer fruit: strawberries, blueberries, peaches are all favorites

Preheat oven to 350. Line the bottom of 8x8 in. glass baking dish with one layer of chopped/peeled fruit or berries.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in eggs and vanilla, beat until smooth. Beat in flour. Spread batter over fruit; bake one hour or until top is golden and lovely. Let cool a little.

The Story:

This recipe came from my sister's boyfriend's mother back when my sister was in high school. It's typed, with lots of typos, on a sheet of paper that's horribly stained and darn near unreadable now. Those are the best types of recipes, aren't they?

Adding extra vanilla makes it yummier but this is up to you. I like to add a bit more.

Double the batter and make it in a 9x13 for extra. We do this all the time. It's just as good cold as hot.

The name's clearly wrong: this ain't no cobbler. It's a cake. We've just always called it a cobbler and that's good enough for me. When the berries are fresh or the peaches ripe, we bake this for breakfast on occasional summer weekends because it falls into my "better-than-a-doughnut" theory (Doughnuts are deep-fried cake filled with jelly and covered with icing; if it's healthier than a doughnut, you can have it for breakfast.)

Easy, fast, delicious. What more could you want?

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Buy fresh, help Jersey farmers

Nice article in the Courier-Post this morning about Our Fair State's local produce season: Buy Fresh, Help Farmers.

It's time to go Pick Pick Picking! This morning I have to escort a bundle of young schoolkids to a nearby pick-your-own farm. It's a lot of fun; I went with my older child a few years ago. I know we'll come home with two huge baskets of strawberries... now, should it be cobbler, ice cream or just eat 'em fresh?

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Have yet to go

Has anyone tried Zen Palate in Princeton (or the NYC versions?)

Thursday, May 31, 2007

What are we feeding our kids?

The NY Times has an article today about the ubiquitous Children's Menu that all restaurants seem to have.

I believe there is a whole lot of value to expanding children's tastes while they're young. They get in the habit of trying new foods and new experiences; plus, a variety of foods is much healthier than a constant barage of french fries and pasta.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hazelnut-crusted Chicken strips with Chipotle Honey dipping sauce

The Recipe:

½ cup honey
¼ cup cider vinegar
2 T. Creole or good brown Dijon mustard
1 T. minced chipotle in adobo

Mix in blender. Can be made way, way ahead.

4 chicken breasts, sliced into 5 strips each
3/4 cup. Fine dry bread crumbs
1/3 cup finely chopped toasted hazelnuts
Pinch of dried thyme
3 T. chopped parsley
2 T. olive oil
1/2 cup Orange Juice
S & P
Orange slices for garnish

Add Chicken strips to OJ, let marinate 1 hr or more. Meanwhile, combine all other ingredients except oil. Remove chicken from OJ; toss chicken strips, one at a time, in nut mixture; set aside.
Heat oil in large skillet over med-hi heat. Fry strips in batches, taking care not to overcrowd them, until golden brown on the outside but not burned (they won't cook through but don't worry!) Then Lay out on parchment and bake until done, about 10 more minutes. Serve with sauce.

The Story:

Another kid meal (chicken nuggets and honey mustard sauce) updated for adults. 'tis yummy and can easily be served on a hors d'oeurve buffet or for dinner with a nice salad.

Anthony Bourdain shreds Top Chef

and it ain't pretty.

If you haven't seen his shredding of the Food Network stars, it's here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Stock bases

Do you use a stock base or bullion?

I make my own chicken stock, but not vegetable or beef. I've been using "Better than Bullion" organic brands for both of those. I like the vegetable well enough but it's nothing special. It's much cheaper than buying vegetable stock in cans or boxes (and Swanson- I think it's Swanson- has too much red bell pepper in it.) Next time I place an order I'll try Penzey's veg. base.

Has anyone found success with another brand that they like for vegetable stock?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Apricot Goat Cheese panini

The Recipe:

8 Slices multi-grain bread (cut crusts off)
4 Tbsp. Butter, melted
4 Tbsp. apricot preserves
12 thin slices prosciutto, sliced into ribbons if preferred
4 Tbsp. crumbled goat cheese

Brush one side of each slice of bread with butter. Lay slices out, butter down; spread with apricot preserves. Arrange prosciutto and cheese on half of slices and make sandwiches. Grill on Panini grill or in hot skillets until warmed through and the bread is toasty, a few minutes per side. Cut into 4 triangles per sandwich.

Serve immediately. Makes 16 hors d'oeuvres, or a quick lunch for 4 (add a salad).

The Story:

Grown-up grilled cream cheese 'n jelly. Yum yum.

All amounts are approximate, of course. It's a sandwich, have fun with it.

My sister-in-law gave me the Le Creuset panini grill a couple years back. I didn't really use it much at first, then one day I just started to play around with it- now, I'm so hooked. Other panini fillings we love:
Leftover grilled vegetables with a little goat cheese or fontina and a drizzle of rosemary vinegrette
Sliced turkey, apple slices and grated cheddar cheese

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Truly fresh food

Mother's day weekend means gardening for me. I spent most of Sunday putting in my tomatoes and beans, as well as planting the radish and carrot seeds. The peppers take a long time to get estabished from seed, it seems to me, so I'll have to put them in next weekend.
The perennials have come back in force, however. The raspberries have taken over their alotted spots and are spreading rapidly, as are the blackberries. The strawberries are loaded with li'l green berries too. I picked all the cherries off of the cherry tree, since I just planted it last year; apparently that makes it branch out more and produce more fruit in the future. We'll see.
The herbs on the deck are exploding, too. The chives are in beautiful (edible) flower, see above. The sage, tarragon and thyme all came back as well. The rosemary died over the winter even though I brought it in, so I got a new one for Mother's day. I'll pick up some annual herbs this week to fill in the gaps.
There's nothing like walking outside and picking our food fresh. Deciding what to have for dinner based on what's ripe, or adding a handful of truly fresh herbs to any sauce or dish. Why bother even bringing it inside- sometimes we'll just stand in the garden eating tomatoes or throwing down raspberries with abandon. I know what went into the growing of this stuff; no pesticides, no herbicides, no waxes to keep it looking "fresh".
Not even a farmer's market can equal the taste of growing your own.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Crab Remoulade Mesclun Salad

The Recipe


1 sourdough or french bread baguette, sliced into 30 very thin slices
2 Tbsp. Olive oil
1 Tbsp. Creole seasoning- recipe follows

Drizzle oil over bread slices in bowl, or brush a little onto each slice. Toss bread gently with seasoning, bake at 375 until crisp at the edges, 4-5 minutes.

Creole Seasoning:

4 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. Onion powder
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. Kosher salt
2 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. basil
1 tsp. thyme leaves
1 tsp. white pepper
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. celery seed

Mix thoroughly in small bowl.

Remoulade Sauce:

2 cups mayonnaise
2 tsp. white wine vinegar
2/3 cup creole mustard or good brown mustard
1 1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. finely chopped capers, drained well
2 tsp. prepared horseradish
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper or TT
2/3 cup finely chopped scallions
1/3 cup finely diced celery
3 Tbsp. finely minced red bell pepper
3 Tbsp. minced parsley

Mix everything in bowl. Let sit at least 1 hour or up to one day for flavors to blend.

Salad and final assembly:

3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. White wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. creole mustard
pinch of s & p
1 lb mesclun (baby leaf) salad
20 oz. lump crabmeat, well picked over

Quickly mix dressing ingredients; dress greens lightly. Divide mesclun between 10 cold plates. Mix crabmeat with ½ of remoulade. Top each plate with an even amount. Decoratively drizzle remaining remoulade over edge of plate; add three croutons to each plate.

Serves 10 as a first course or about 5 or 6 as a main dish

The Story

This is nowhere near the pain in the neck to make that it sounds like. And it's good, very good.

The creole seasoning can be made well in advance. It makes much more than you need- which is lucky, because you will end up dreaming about the croutons and making them just for snacks. Trust me, you will, they're that good.

This recipe so easily scales up and down for more or fewer guests. It makes a great main course or as a plated first course.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Calories and farming

Sent in by alert reader *rob: You are what you grow.

After I finish the other reading I'm trying to do, The Omnivore's Dilema just came in on hold from the library.

Vegan Haggis?

Sent in by alert reader Nicole, we submit for inspection: Vegan Haggis.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Mushrooms in Princeton

The New Jersey Mycological Association is having a foray to find the morels of spring this Sunday morining at 10AM at the woods of the Institute of Advanced Studies near the Princeton Waterworks. They have experts who can identify different 'shrooms so you don't have to worry about your finds.

I can't go! I'm so upset- I would love to do this. The details and more info are at the link above; make sure to check it out.

(cross-posted at CoNJL)

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Seared Cajun Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Andouie Gravy and Celery Root Mashed Potatoes

The Recipe


6 Tbsp. canola or veg. oil
6 Tbsp. flour
1 cup minced red bell pepper
½ cup minced onion
½ cup minced celery
3 cups chicken stock
4 oz fully cooked Andouie sausage, chopped into ¼ in. dice
pinch cayenne (watch- Andouie may be hot!)
2 Tbsp chopped parsley

Heat oil over med. heat; whisk in flour to form roux; cook over med-low heat to medium brown, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Be very careful not to let it burn. Add vegetables and sauté 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in broth. Add sausage and cayenne; simmer 5 minutes more. Can be set aside at this point until the pork is done. Rewarm and add parsley just before serving.


A 1 ½ lb. celeriac (aka celery root) cut into 1/2 in dice
3 lb. russet potatoes cut into 1 in dice
10 oz butter
4 oz. half and half or buttermilk
Kosher Salt and pepper, TT

Cook celeriac in boiling salted water for 5 min. Then add potatoes, cook until done, about 20 more minutes. Drain, and return to warm pot for 2 min to dry vegetables. Mash until smooth; lightly mix in butter and half and half, S&P to taste.


2 ½ lb. pork tenderloin (at least two)
1 1/2 Tbsp. dried Thyme
1 1/2 Tbsp. ground coriander
1 1/2 Tbsp. cumin
Kosher Salt and cracked Pepper
¼ cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 400. Mix spices; Salt & Pepper the pork. Dredge pork with spices, set aside. Heat oil in oven proof skillets. Sear tenderloins to a good golden brown on all sides, about 5 minutes per side. Put skillets in oven at 400; roast pork until reaches internal 140, about 10 minutes. Let rest while rewarming gravy. Slice thinly, and serve with mashed potatoes and gravy.

Serves 8 as a main course

The Story

You will love this. Oh, yes, you will. We're trying to eat less meat so I haven't made it in a while, and now I'm dreaming of it. Wonder if pork tenderloin is on sale this week...

Be careful- a pork tenderloin is not a pork loin. The tenderloins are often sold in cryovac packages and weigh between 1 and 1 1/2 lbs each. They usually require very little trimming once opened, but if you see any silverskin or fat lumps you should clean it up.

Celeriac (or Celery Root) is a knobby, bumpy root you can find in the produce section. If your supermarket doesn't have it, you can substitute more potatoes. You can lower the fat in the mashed potatoes by using buttermilk instead of the half and half- gives a nice tang to the potatoes.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Organic beef in Central NJ

A couple of years back I read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. I was already shunning McDonald's and trying to avoid fast food, but this- for me and for so many others- was the last straw. The descriptions of the factory farming system was horrifying. As a family now, we try not to eat too much meat, and avoid mass-market beef when cooking at home.

Luckily, in Central Jersey, there's a local organic farm to the rescue.

Simply Grazin' Organic Farm in Skillman offers certified (through Global Organic Alliance) organic beef and chicken. They also raise pork which is on the way to being organic.

Remember those factory farms from the book? How does this compare:

Pastured organic beef and poultry are treated with the utmost respect in a stress-free environment, with absolutely no antibiotics, growth hormones or steroids.
Cattle feed on organically managed fields without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers. They receive absolutely no grain at all. The growth rate is much slower, but well worth the wait. Rotational grazing ensures they have enough pasture throughout the spring, summer and fall. Organic hay is harvested all summer long and stored for their consumption throughout the long winter months.

You can taste the difference. Also, be prepared to pay for the difference; it ain't cheap, but it reflects the true costs of raising a healthy animal and eating quality food. Anyway, since we eat less meat, we can afford better meat.

They have a store at the farm, but I get my beef from Whole Earth Center at 360 Nassau Street in Princeton, where it is sold frozen. It's also sold at great area restaurants, such as Mediterra, Nova Terra, and Rat's.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Shrimp Coconut Curry OR Cauliflower Curry II

The Recipe:

2 tsp. oil
1 tsp. brown mustard seeds
1 med. onion, cut into strips
1/4 tsp. ground fenugreek
3/4 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. curry powder
5 cloves garlic
1 tsp. grated ginger
2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. tumeric
3/4 tsp. salt
1 hot chile pepper, seeded, ribs removed, & diced finely
1 can coconut milk
1 1/2 lb shrimp OR 1 head cauliflower and 1/2 cup frozen peas OR fill-in-your-own

Heat oil in large saucepan over med-hi heat. Add mustard seeds &; onion; saute 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, curry, black pepper, & fenugreek; stir 30 sec. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer for at least 10 minutes to allow flavors to blend, longer if you can.

Shrimp: Bring sauce up to boil; add peeled, deveined shrimp & cook 2 min.

Cauliflower: Bring sauce up to boil; add cauliflower florets. Simmer until cooked through, maybe 5-8 minutes, then throw in the peas for 1 minute.

Serve both options over hot basmati rice. Feeds 4 for dinner with some leftovers for lunch tomorrow. If using just the shrimp, there will be a lot of extra sauce.

The Story:

I've been on an Indian food kick for, oh, maybe two years now. I take out Indian cookbooks from the library obsessively and make all sorts of exotic dishes. I found a recipe for a Shrimp coconut curry in one book, but I didn't have half of the ingredients, so I shut the book and made up my own. This is the result.

Now my husband has decided he's lost his taste for shrimp, but will eat it occasionally. I was going to make this one day with some steamed cauliflower on the side (sprinkled with a little Garam Masala- yum!) but the shrimp was still in the freezer. I asked the family if they'd prefer I try to make the dish with the cauliflower instead of the shrimp and got a resounding "Yes!" So, I rarely make any shrimp any more. I bet this would be good with any good classic Indian combo or mix of vegetables like boiled potatoes, carrots, peas, maybe some spinach- the possiblities are endless.

I tried this with low-fat coconut milk once and it just seemed bland to me, but it's your choice.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Crawfish Pot Pies

The Recipe

2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 cup chopped celery
½ chopped green pepper
½ chopped red pepper
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup oil, + 1 Tbsp.
18oz beer- suggested Abita Bock
8oz crawfish stock
2 lb. crawfish tail meat
2 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. cayenne if desired
1 tsp tobasco
½ tsp. black pepper- or to taste
½ cup chopped scallions, green parts
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
Fresh parsley for garnish, and chopped scallion tops

2 sheets Puff pastry, cut into rounds to fit 10 6oz ramekins
Egg wash (1 whole egg beaten with 1 T. water)

Saute onion, celery, green & red peppers, and garlic in 1 Tbsp. oil until tender. Make a roux with oil and flour; cook to medium dark, stirring constantly over med-low heat, takes about 20 minutes. Add vegetables and half of liquids to roux, stirring constantly. Bring to a simmer and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add remaining liquid and cover; simmer 10 minutes, stir occasionally. Add crawfish, S&P, tobasco, cayenne, scallions and parsley. Check for seasonings.

Ladle evenly into individual serving ramekins. Cover with rounds of puff pastry. Cut decorative slits into center, add pretty cutouts made from the scraps if desired, and brush with egg wash. Bake at 375 until golden, 30-40 min. Serve each ramekin on a plate; Scatter parsley and green onions on plates for garnish.

Serves 10

The Story

I made up a whole menu in cooking school of New Orleans-themed dishes; this is the first course of that menu.

Whaddya mean, you don't just have crawfish stock hanging around? :) If you have to buy whole crawfish, the 3 lb. bag, save the shells after you pull the tail meat. Simmer the shells for 20-30 min. in water to cover, then strain. Or, skip it and use chicken stock, it'll be just fine.

I took this to a Mardi Gras party once, so I made it in one large dish instead of individual ramekins. It didn't work well at all, because the puff pastry shrank terribly and was hard to serve. If you want to make it as a main course, change the puff to a biscuit crust- maybe a cornmeal biscuit, yum- and eliminate the egg wash. Change the baking time as needed.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Whole-wheat pizza crust

The Recipe:

10 oz. AP flour (All-Purpose)
8 oz. whole wheat flour
2 tsp. instant yeast
1 1/3 cup warm water, 100-110 degrees
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. Kosher salt

Mix the flours, yeast, water, & oil in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Knead for 5 minutes. Cover the mixer bowl with a wet towel and let rest 5-10 minutes. Add the rest of the salt and continue kneading until dough is stretchy and finished, at least another 5 minutes, adding more flour by the Tablespoonful if needed.

Put dough in clean, oiled bowl and turn the dough to oil the top. Cover securely and let rise 1 hour 15 min. or so, until doubled.

Preheat a pizza or bread stone at 500 for at least 20 minutes, preferably 30 or more. Get the oven good-n-hot.

Turn out the dough, deflate by kneading for about a minute, and divide into 3 equal pieces. Roll out the dough, top & bake one at a time for about 10 minutes directly on the stone; you can slide it onto the stone with a bread paddle if you have one or a no-sided cookie sheet, making sure either one is well floured so it doesn't stick.

Toppings are up to you, but the basics are:
2 cans tomato sauce heated with 1 tsp dried basil and 1 tsp oregano for a very simple pizza sauce
12 oz mozarella cheese (4 oz for each pizza) or more if you want
My favorites: roasted red pepper strips, thin slices of fresh garlic, kalamata olives (cut in quarters,) maybe some cooked Italian sausage cut into slices. Once I did a combo of mozarella, fontina and parmesan cheese; it was a big hit.

Makes 3 12-inch pizzas; enough for 4 people with maybe a little leftovers.

The Story:

I was looking for years for a decent whole wheat pizza crust; I finally gave up and made up my own. (Going to baking school finally paid off!) It's not so whole-wheaty as to be tough, but it's not a very thin-crust pizza. Even if you roll it out very thinly, it'll contract on you when you put it on the paddle, so I top the pizzas on the well-floured paddle just before I slide them into the oven.

Obviously I have a bread paddle and stone, but I'm sure you could bake this whole wheat crust in the same way you'd use any other crust if you don't have those tools. If you bake a lot, get a good scale for weighing flour; it's so much more accurate than cup measures.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Nicole's Ravioli

The Recipe:

SoyBoy brand tofu ravioli or regular fresh or frozen ravioli, cook to package directions, in a separate pan, saute ½ c of pine nuts/pignoli with approx. 3 Tablespoons pumpkin oil (Wegman’s is one brand, adds a unique nutty flavor) or olive oil, 1 – 2 crushed garlic cloves and ¼ c. chopped fresh rosemary until pine nuts are browned. You could throw in a veggie like broccoli crowns, chopped spinach, or zucchini. Add salt and pepper, toss on pasta.

The Story:

My dear friend, the artist Nicole Maynard, sent this to me to include here. We're going to visit her this weekend, so I wanted to put it up here in her honor. Per Nicole: "This is quick, yummy, and appears impressively gourmet. I made it for a friend who then made it for her husband and it has risen to a regular position in their rotation of dinner ideas."

I bet it would be pretty with spinach and red pepper strips as the veggie, maybe some fresh basil if in season.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Spices & Herbs

Supermarkets are convenient, abundant and quick.

Their spices, however, aren't my favorite. Often, they're old, of poor quality, and tasteless.

Several years ago, I found Penzey's and never looked back. The quality of spices and dried herbs is so superior to what I was used to using that I was flabergasted.

Now, I keep a list on my fridge. When I run low on a spice or dried herb (but well before I run out) I add it to the list; then when I have 4 or more things, I place the order.

*BTW, they didn't pay me a dime for this; I'm pitching for them because I use their products and love the stuff.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Spanish Tuna

The Recipe:

4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 1/2 cups olive salad from the deli, including 1 pepperoncini and some roasted red pepper if possible
1 28oz can Muir Glen Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 1lb. tuna steak, or more if you want more than 4 oz portions
1 (or more) tangerines or Spanish clementines
Roasted potatoes

Save dressing from olive salad; chop up olives and any peppers. Heat a saute pan or wide saucepan; add olive salad dressing and saute garlic slices & thyme for 1 minute. Add olives, peppers & tomatoes. Bring to a boil & reduce to simmer, simmer 20 minutes. At the last minute, zest one tangerine on a box grater or a plane grater and add zest to olive sauce. Separate the clementines or tangerines into sections as garnish.

Meanwhile, salt & pepper then pan-sear or grill tuna steaks to your liking, mine is 4 min. per side in a hot pan. Let rest for a few minutes, then slice and serve with olive sauce over the top and the tangerine sections on the side.

Makes dinner for 4 with extra sauce; you could increase the tuna if you want to stretch it to 6. Demands a lightly-dressed salad to go with it.

If you roasted some potatoes, they go great with the olive sauce too. 1 1/2 lbs potatoes, scrubbed but unpeeled & cut into wedges; toss with olive oil, garlic powder, paprika (smoked if you got!), thyme & salt. Roast at 400 for 30 minutes.

The Story:

A friend brought olive salad to a party at my house but there was a bunch leftover. I made this up out of my head to use it up. Halfway through dinner I jumped up and tried to write down exactly what I'd done, it was so good.

If your grocery has an olive bar, that's a good choice to make your olive salad. A combination of black and green is nice, but make sure you have a lot of green olives.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Happy Easter

Jersey Blogs was kind enough to link to me here yesterday, so HI! to all the new folks visiting. I have to say, in my own defense, that Meatballs El Rancho is not my best culinary effort for visitors to see. Honestly, I went to cooking school and know my way around a kitchen- the food here gets higher end, I promise. Please also check out the Cauliflower Curry, or any of the other cool recipes I have posted/will post.

What're you having for Easter Dinner? I roast a leg of lamb- Epicurious Recipe here- and some new potatoes. Also, many breads, matzoh (kept separately of course), asparagus with mushrooms, carrots, and a smoked fish, beet, fennel & arugula salad for a first course. No heavy, creamy sauces or gravy; I kind of like to keep it light for a springy meal.

Happy Easter Weekend. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate and make it feel like a spring holiday.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Meatballs El Rancho

The Recipe:

1 lb. ground beef
1/4 cup Penzey's Taco Seasoning Mix OR 1 packet Taco seasoning
2 cans Campbell's Beef gravy
1 Tbsp. minced dried onions
1 can LeSeur baby carrots, well drained
3 slices American cheese, cut on a diagonal
Egg noodles

Mix taco seasoning into ground beef and shape into small meatballs. Heat skillet over med-high heat; brown meatballs on all sides. (Depending on the amount of fat in your ground beef, this shouldn't be a problem to not add oil, but if you want to, lightly oil the skillet first.) Drain any fat. Add the cans of gravy and the minced dried onions. Bring up to a boil and reduce to a simmer; cook maybe 10 minutes so the meatballs are cooked through.

While you're doing this is a good time to bring the water for the noodles up to a boil. Once you've added your noodles, you've got 6-8 minutes, and it's time to move back to the meatballs.

Add the drained carrots to the gravy. Stir, then push the meatballs out toward the outside of the skillet. Put the cheese on top of the gravy around the outside, cover and let melt on the lowest possible heat while your noodles finish. Serve over noodles.

Makes dinner for 4.

The Story:

This is even less healthy than the Candied Corned Beef, if that's possible. We make it very, very rarely. Between the saturated fat and the salt, don't eat this very often but enjoy it when you do. I guess you could make yourself feel better by having a big ol' salad with it, if you must.

Meatballs El Rancho is as kid-friendly as a meal gets. My kids routinely ask for it for their birthday dinners. It's such comfort food and is one of the few happy food memories I have of growing up.

This one is an old family recipe completely corrupted from an old 1960's pamphlet for new wives. The pamplet even says "Yesterday a bride, today a homemaker!" My parents were able to take this recipe and remove all of the fresh vegetables from it, thus rendering it easier and less healthy. But, boy, is it tasty.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Supporting Local, Sustainable Agriculture in Central Jersey

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Washingtons Crossing is having a forum tonight to "introduce the public to area growers of organic foods and farmers engaged in other environmentally sustainable techniques," (according to a Trentonian article that I couldn't find online.) Called "Supporting Local, Sustainable Agriculture," the forum will include Honey Brook Organic Farm in Pennington as well as a grass-fed beef farm, an organic dairy from Pennsylvania, and a community supported agriculture program.

(Cross-posted at The Center of NJ Life)

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Cauliflower Curry

The Recipe:

1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp tumeric
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup red lentils
1 head of cauliflower
1/2 can Muir Glen Fire Roasted Diced tomatoes (or your favorite, of course)
1 hot pepper
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 Tbsp. whole cumin seeds OR 2 tsp. ground
1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
Basmati rice or long grain if it's all you have

Heat 1 Tbsp oil in 3 qt or larger pan over med-hi heat; add onion. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes or until beginning to brown. Add curry & tumeric; stir for 10 sec. then add 2 cups of water and the lentils. Bring to a boil, cover & simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the cauliflower into florets & chop up your chile pepper, removing the seeds & ribs unless you want a really hot curry. (Now's a good time to start your basmati rice too- probably cook about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of it.)

After the 15 minutes, add the cauliflower, chile and tomatoes to lentils. Bring back up to a boil, turn to med-low, cover and cook about 8-10 minutes or until the cauliflower is how you like it- don't overcook.

Heat the last 2 Tbsp. of oil in a small skillet over med-high heat. Add the whole cumin seeds if using; stir 10 sec, then add the ginger & garlic. Cook 1 min, stirring a lot, then toss in the cayenne, stir once, and immediately add mixture to the curry. Stir in, add the lemon juice and the cilantro. Taste for salt and serve over your hot rice.

Makes dinner for 4.

The Story:

We're trying to eat less meat, and this is one of the easy and delicious dishes we've found to meet that goal. We have it so often that the kids occasionally ask for a break from it.

Watch the heat level if you're serving to delicate pallettes.

I've used different lentils occasionally, such as urad dal, and it works fine but is a little different. Use what you want.

This is based on one I found online a long time ago, but I changed it so drastically it's a completely different dish now. Recipes are sometimes just a starting point.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Black Bean Salad

The Recipe:

1 can black beans, drained & rinsed- save the can as a measuring device
1 red pepper, diced small
3 or 4 scallions, sliced very thinly, white and as much green as is good
1 can (see? I told you to save the can to measure!) frozen corn kernels, defrosted or not
1 jalapeno, seeded & ribs removed, minced finely
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped finely, or to taste
juice of 1 lime
2 T. olive oil or corn oil
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. cumin

Lightly mix the beans, red pepper, jalapeno, cilantro and the frozen corn kernels in a lidded bowl. Whisk the lime juice, oil and spices; pour dressing over the salad, toss lightly. Let sit 1 hour in the fridge for flavors to meld and corn to defrost.

Makes enough for a side dish for 4 with leftovers for lunch, or a meal for 3. Easily doubled for a crowd.

The Story:

I made this up as a side dish years ago and we just love it. Very summery and really colorful. It's great as something to take to a picnic or a potluck, so you know there'll be something healthy.

If you don't like cilantro or you have to use up some leftover, whatever amount you want is fine, of course. It's your food and you get to play with it.

This will get progressively spicier as it sits; leftovers eaten as lunch the next day will be too hot for the kids.

Alice's Spicy Baked Corned Beef

The Recipe:

4 lb. Boneless corn beef
1 Tbsp. pickling spices
1 carrot
1 stalk of celery
1 onion, quartered

Add all ingredients to pot. Simmer 3 hours. Preheat oven to 350. Remove corned beef (but leave liquid in pot), trim off as much fat as you want. Put corned beef in a 9x9 glass baking dish.

Mix together:

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. mustard (don't bother w/dijon, brown mustard works fine)

Spread on top of corned beef. Pour

1/2 cup sweet pickle juice (or fruit juice, or half dill pickle juice and half canned fruit syrup)

into the pan. Bake for 1 hour, basting every 10 minutes with the liquid in the pan.

While the corned beef is baking, scoop the spent vegetables & spices out of the pot on the stove and throw them away. Bring it up to a boil; then add as many as you want of the following at the appropriate times to get them done like you like:

potatoes, unpeeled, preferably red skinned & cut in half- 30-20 minutes cooking, depending on size
carrots, cut into 1 inch lengths- 15 minutes cooking time
cabbage, cut into quarters, 10-15 minutes cooking time

The Story:

This is my family's recipe and evokes memories of Sunday dinners of long ago. I researched it for a class in cooking school, only to find out that instead of it being a good Irish Corn Beef recipe, its origins are Jewish and it most likely came from a magazine. Oh, well.

It's about as unhealthy as food can get- candied, salted commercially-produced beef- so don't eat it often, but enjoy it when you do. It's lick-the-cutting board good.


Hi, I'm Sharon GR, and this is my food blog.

My reason for starting this blog is that I've got several recipes that I promised someone or other that I'd share with them, and I haven't done so yet. Probably the most efficient way of disseminating information is to post it here, and that way anyone can use it.

I'm not sure how much I'll be updating this, since I already write my own regular blog The Center of NJ Life, as well as occasionally contribute to Blue Jersey and Blanton's and Ashtons. But it'll be fun, for you hopefully as much as for me.