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.