I have been out of the blogging loop for a while. I have been suffering from the winter blues and it is only the first day of winter! I hate the short days and cold weather which leave me a little (or a lot) uninspired... I have been plagued with a number of odd occurrences lately including keys locked in the trunk at a market, my wallet left at Whole Foods, being stuck in an elevator (yes only for a few minutes but long enough for a panic attack!) and a broken computer... Equipped with a new motherboard, two weeks of vacation time, and my wits about me (hopefully) - I'm back.
Last Sunday Matt and I took a ride out to Hunterdon County to visit the new home of Bobolink Dairy. The dairy recently moved from leased land in Vernon, NJ to its permanent home in lovely Milford, NJ. The dairy specializes in artisanal raw-milk cheeses from grass fed cows and freshly baked rustic breads. We attended the "Meat and Greet" which entailed a tour of the dairy and a tasting of cheeses, meats and breads. The tickets were $5 a person and we sampled fabulous products and got to take home a loaf of fresh baked bread - what a bargain! I also learned a lot! Despite the rainy weather and the slip sliding through the mud, we had a great time.
Nina and her husband Jonathan are the owners and they are extremely passionate about their work at the dairy. The quality of their cheeses is attributable to the condition of the cows which live a stress free life out in pastures. The domain of their website is cowsoutside.com - and that is just what you find at the dairy - cows outside. The cows do not receive antibiotics or hormones and eat the grass in the fields, as they should. Jonathan has a long history of making award winning artisanal cheeses. He started out making his cheeses with ordinary milk. Running his own dairy has given him complete control over the quality of the milk and its handling at every point resulting in the best possible cheeses.
If you get the chance, Bobolink is a great place to visit. Their cheeses also can be shipped and would be great for the holidays. They are also at the Union Square Greenmarket in NYC on Fridays. I brought home the Jean-Louis (amazing!) and the world's best cave-ripened cheddar. The breads are also fantastic. We brought home the Rosemary Epi and the Cranberry Walnut. I froze them and have been indulging on delicious hunks warmed in the oven - so good! I grew up in Hunterdon County and it is so nice to see that one of the old farms is being preserved and worked by such nice, passionate people. We are also fortunate that we have some of the world's best cheese right here in NJ.
I have had several requests to review my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Basically the idea behind a CSA is that you team up with a farm before the growing season starts by purchasing a share or perhaps a half share depending on your family size and needs. I purchased a full share for $675 which is a share for 4-6 people. The farmers get some up front cash and a stable customer base, the share purchaser gets boxes of ultra-fresh vegetables throughout the growing season. The purchaser shares in the bounty of the farm but also bear the risks of a potentially bad season. Well the end of the season has arrived and this morning I retrieved my last box from the front porch - *sigh*. Winter is now officially imminently upon us.
While it was a great beach and tourism season here at the Jersey Shore, it was one of the toughest growing seasons in many, many years due to the lack of rain and excessive heat over the summer. The fall brought extremes in temperature between warm and cold. All of these conditions affected the crops and we actually missed two weeks of the CSA (24 weeks instead of 26). Some of the crops were not able to withstand the adverse weather conditions.
I would say that a CSA definitely is not for everyone. You have to know going in that farming is extremely weather dependent. We had our Tuesday night delivery rescheduled for Thursday night a couple of times. It was hard to use all of the fresh vegetables between Friday and the next Tuesday's delivery. Also, you may receive quite a lot of a vegetable that you don't necessarily love or know how to prepare. Think lots of radishes! Well, I made radishes every which way and learned to really like them! Radish greens are fantastic by the way! You also have to know that you can't rely on the box for all of your vegetable needs. You have to supplement from other sources. I wish that salad greens were available for more weeks and I also wished for more fresh herbs. Those were the items that I purchased regularly during the season.
Sometimes I felt that communication from the farm was kind of lacking but their business is farming not PR. There were a couple of instances of computer problems which delayed the receipt of the emailed weekly newsletter. Also since I never have actually seen the farm, I feel like I am missing a connection to it. I think that it would be nice to have a day to visit but again they are farmers not tour guides...
The passion for farming was evident in the quality and freshness of the vegetables. I enjoyed the challenge of finding ways to use certain vegetables. I also tried mizuna and kohlrabi for the first time this year. My particular CSA delivers and they somehow are able to stealth in without making a sound - they must double as Santa's elves! Overall I feel that my investment paid off. When you think of all the ways that you can spend (blow) $28 dollars in a week (which would be even less in a better growing season), isn't a box of fresh organic vegetables for your family a good purchase? Can't a family easily spend that at a fast food restaurant, on a takeout meal, or on a few cocktails? You have to be patient, flexible and creative and you will really enjoy a CSA share. Would I participate in a CSA again? Absolutely!
Shares are limited so now is a good time to contact a CSA in your area if you are interested in joining for next season.
Okay - while this is by no means traditional huevos rancheros since hey there is no ranchero sauce, it is quick, Mexican-inspired and really, really delicious! I cooked the eggs sunny side up in a mild olive oil and put the lid on for the last minute to set the tops a little. I served the eggs generously sprinkled with fresh ground pepper over top of Trader Joe's all-natural Salsa Autentica. It is not chunky or thickened and is the perfect consistency to serve with the eggs. I also turned to Trader Joe's for the black beans on the side. They are already seasoned with onions and peppers and are a really nice and healthy alternative to meat on the side. Vegetarian refried beans would be good as well. A few Garden of Eatin' tortilla chips and some slices of avocado for good measure. Voila! A fast, tasty and healthy weekend breakfast! Oh, and of course the key is farm fresh eggs. Happy Saturday!
Eggplant rollatini - lightly fried, stuffed with creamy cheese, and topped with fresh marinara - oh yeah! Remember in the 1990's when chicken Francaise, penne with vodka sauce, Caesar salad and eggplant rollatini were served at every party? Maybe it was just my area, or my friends but that was party food to me for the better part of a decade. I have lots of happy memories associated with these Italian- American favorites! I love that the eggplant can be made ahead of time and is just delicious reheated. There are lots of versions of eggplant rollatini but this is how I make it:
1 medium eggplant sliced into 1/4 inch lengthwise slices (I leave the skin on)
1 cup of seasoned flour
3 whole eggs plus 1 egg white (reserve egg yolk for filling)
3 tablespoons grated parmesan reggiano
dash of salt and pepper
olive oil for frying
1 cup of fresh ricotta
reserved egg yolk
1/2 cup diced fresh mozzarella
1/3 cup grated parmesan reggiano
dash of fresh nutmeg
dash of salt and pepper
prosciutto di parma (optional)
fresh basil (optional)
Cut off the eggplant top and thinly slice the eggplant lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices. Dredge the slices in flour seasoned with salt and pepper, tapping off excess. Dip in egg batter (eggs, parm., salt and pepper). Fry in hot skillet coated with olive oil over medium to high heat. Make sure that the oil is nice and hot before adding the eggplant or it will be soggy. Also be sure not to crowd the pan. The eggplant will need to be fried in batches - add oil as necessary. The eggplant cooks quickly (about a minute or so per side). Drain eggplant on paper towels.
Mix together the filling ingredients through the nutmeg. Spread an even layer of the filling onto the eggplant slices leaving a little space around the edges. You can add a slice of prosciutto and/or a fresh basil leaf if desired. Roll up the eggplant slice and place in a 9x12 baking pan coated with a little olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Top with your favorite marinara sauce and some extra grated parmesan cheese. I usually make my marinara homemade but I do like Rao's and Silver Palate jarred marinara in a pinch - they are both really good. Enjoy!
Pumpkin time is upon us! A time for family, friends and giving thanks. I was invited by Carmen of Baking is my Zen to participate in a collaborative pumpkin dessert post to celebrate the season. I was happy to join in and hope that you check out all of the delicious pumpkin desserts that the other bloggers posted. Enjoy!
"I got this recipe from Taste of Home and added some extra spices to it. Haven't heard a bad thing about it! Actually, gave it to a friend as a birthday present. And, everyone who tried the cake in his family wrote a note about how much they liked it."
"Remembrances of a fun weekend getaway with college girlfriends"
When looking for the pumpkin recipe that I would contribute, I came across this creamy pumpkin custard with rum-raisin compote described as "the texture is somewhere between a creme brulee and a light and airy cheesecake" - adapted from a Gina DePalma recipe - I was sold!
I am forever looking for creative ideas to use what I have on hand. I had beets and I had shrimp - something told me that the combination would work! I did a little looking around with help from Google and stumbled across a beautiful gingered-beet salad with oranges on the lovely blog Caviar and Codfish which was adapted from Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Gingered-Beet Salad recipe. Since I didn't have any oranges, I sought out the original recipe from the New York Times. Roasted beets, grilled shrimp, ginger, sherry vinegar and chives = delicious! This was our Friday night appetizer and I am still thinking about it!
I received a big bunch of mustard greens in my CSA box and searched for an interesting way to prepare them. I stumbled across this 5 star Cooking Light recipe with black-eyed peas. I was able to find the black-eyed peas at Whole Foods after striking out at three local supermarkets. It is funny how some foods are so hard to find in certain areas.
I thought that the greens were spectacular. I loved the little bit of heat from the jalapeno, the sweetness of the balsamic, the crunch of the bacon, and the creaminess of the black-eyed peas. Matt thought that the caraway was a little overpowering. I only added 1 1/2 teaspoons instead of 2. Next time I will scale it down to about 1 teaspoon. I should have bought an extra can of black-eyed peas when I was at Whole Foods since this recipe is a keeper. I am hoping for more mustard greens this week! They are such a nutritional powerhouse and are quite delicious too!
2 bacon slices, chopped
12 cups torn mustard greens, stems removed (about 12 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 teaspoons caraway seeds (I suggest only 1 teaspoon)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
1 (16-ounce) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in pan; set bacon aside. Add greens; cook 4 minutes or until wilted. Combine greens, salt, and black pepper in a large bowl, set aside. Add oil to pan. Stir in onions, caraway seeds, garlic, and jalapeño; cook 1 minute. Add peas; cook 1 minute. Stir in vinegar, and bring to a boil. Add pea mixture to greens mixture. Sprinkle with reserved bacon."
I love summer and had a hard time letting go of it this year. Gone are the tomatoes, the fresh corn and the peaches... but I am finally accepting of the fact that fall is here and it sure beats winter. Fall also is just beautiful right here in NJ. The trees have some nice color, the days have been relatively warm and the crisp cool nights are perfect for sleeping. Fall foods tend to be heartier and homier to me than summer foods - a nice change of pace but I have to watch the calories!
Here are some of the fall foods that I have been enjoying...
Thanksgiving Day Sandwich from Hinck's Turkey Farm in Wall, NJ
Fresh roast turkey on a hard roll with stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy - Why wait for Thanksgiving?!
Classic Meatloaf with a brown sugar, ketchup and apple cider vinegar glaze - total comfort food!
Sweet Potato Wedges - Peeled sweet potatoes cut into wedges, tossed with kosher salt, cumin, and a little vegetable oil - baked at 400 degrees on a sheet pan until lightly browned and crispy - Delicious and healthy too!
Rutabaga from the CSA box - delicious simply boiled, mashed with butter, milk, salt and pepper
Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups - salty, sweet and incredibly delicious!
Red Jacket Orchards Apple Cider from New York State - they have been making the cider for 50 years- no wonder it's so good!
Wemrock Orchards Apple Cider Donuts made in Freehold, NJ - donut perfection!
I love pizza - always have, always will! I read an interesting article a while back on Serious Eats which identifies 21 regional pizza styles. I am determined to try them all at some point and this past week I had two.
My daughter Ashley was home on break this week. Yay! The day that I took off from work to spend with her was rainy so we planned on going to one of our very favorite pizza places, DeLorenzo's, and catching a movie. DeLorenzo's serves up the best Trenton tomato pies (one of the 21 regional styles). We had sausage and sweet peppers as the toppings - fantastic! Our waiter Brian was great too! This place is a must try if you are in the area. We saw the movie Catfishwhich is an independent documentary thriller about a young New York City photographer that meets a girl on Facebook. It has a very surprising and disturbing twist in the end. It is definitely worth seeing.
This weekend was parent's weekend at Conn. College. We had a great time visiting with Cailyn ( I still miss her terribly). The weather ended up being just great and the campus is beautiful, especially at this time of year. We took a ride into nearby Mystic and tried New England Greek-style pizza (one of the 21 regional styles) at Angie's. The crust was flaky and buttery, thick, but not at all heavy. It was very different from NJ pizza but also very tasty.
Life has been crazy lately! My brother surprised me recently with the news that he was getting married - in 3 weeks! - in Vegas! I had never been to Las Vegas and honestly never really had the desire to go there. Matt and I booked our flight and headed out on Friday night. We stayed at The Venetian Hotel where the wedding took place. Our suite was really nice and had a great view of the City with the mountains in the background. My brother was in one of the amazing "rock star" suites. We had a great time just hanging out in my brother's suite enjoying plenty of good wine that he brought from California.
We also enjoyed plenty of good food. My two favorite meals while visiting were chicken and waffles from Bouchon and Wagyu steak from Valentino's. Both restaurants were located right in The Venetian Hotel and the food at each was absolutely delicious. Our server at Valentino's was so cute and said "don't worry, all of us foodies take pictures of our food" when I was embarrassed at being caught with my camera out! Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me for the wedding dinner. The cake was from Freed's bakery in Las Vegas and was awesome!
What I didn't do in Vegas - gamble, see a show, or go to a nightclub... I really am not a Las Vegas person but I am glad that I went just this once. I have never seen my brother happier. I also now know why Las Vegas is called "Sin City"!
La Bistecca: Australian “Wagyu” Flat Iron Steaks Tagliata Served with Arugola Salad and Sautéed Zucchini
Whole Young Chicken Cooked Under a Brick Served with Spinach Risotto (Matt's dinner)
In the past two weeks I've been to Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Las Vegas. I am glad to be home! My daughters are also both home for the weekend, so I am happy as can be. I have missed checking out my favorite blogs. I promise to visit next week!
One of my very favorite and super fast weeknight dinners is Grilled Shrimp with Feta, Cilantro and Lime as adapted from Bon Appetit. I guarantee that you will love this quick dish! I marinated a pound of peeled and deveined shrimp in 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup of lime juice, 3 cloves of crushed garlic and 1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro. I sliced one red onion, spooned a little of the marinade from the shrimp overtop and sauteed until softened. I removed the onions and coarsely chopped them. Next, I added the shrimp to the hot pan used for the onions and cook until just done, reserving the marinade. I combined the shrimp with the red onions, cooked orzo, a chopped tomato (I used an orange heirloom), a nice hunk of imported Greek feta (crumbled). I brought the remaining marinade to a quick boil, removed the garlic, and poured it over the shrimp, gave it a toss, and added some extra chopped cilantro. Oh my was this good! This was on the table in less than 30 minutes. The original recipe calls for grilling, more olive oil, and no tomato - it was raining so no grill for me! I could go for this again tonight - yes it was that good!
I am going to miss summer's bounty! I have been enjoying tons of fresh, local produce and although it is officially fall, I don't want to say goodbye just yet. This week we received watermelon in our CSA box and I finally made Nigella Lawson's Watermelon, Feta and Black Olive Salad which I have vowed to make for quite a while. I was sure that I would love it since I am an olive and feta freak. Kalamata olives, imported Greek feta, watermelon and red onions from my CSA box and some fresh mint from the mint fairy at work combined with parsley, lime juice, olive oil and fresh black pepper - perfect combination! Some kind person leaves cups of fresh mint in the kitchen at my office - I am not sure who it is but I appreciate it! WOW - this salad sure did not disappoint. It was just delicious - so refreshing and flavorful!
Happy fall everyone! I am heading to CT to visit my baby. I can't believe that I haven't seen her since August!
Method: Peel and halve the red onion and cut into very fine half-moons and put in a small bowl to steep with the lime juice, to bring out the transparent pinkness in the onions and diminish their rasp.
Two limes’ worth should do it, but you can find the fruits disappointingly dried up and barren when you cut them in half, in which case add more.
Remove the rind and pips from the watermelon, and cut into approximately 4cm triangular chunks, if that makes sense (maths is not my strong point).
Cut the feta into similar sized pieces and put them both into a large, wide shallow bowl.
Tear off sprigs of parsley so that it is used like a salad leaf, rather than a garnish, and add to the bowl along with the chopped mint.
Tip the now glowingly puce onions, along with their pink juices over the salad in the bowl, add the oil and olives, then using your hands toss the salad very gently so that the feta and melon don’t lose their shape.
Add a good grinding of black pepper and taste to see whether the dressing needs more lime.
Fall is right around the corner but I am still hanging on dearly to summer. I saw this recipe in an email newsletter that I received from a NJ farm and just had to make it. This soup is great for the transition from summer to fall foods. It has lots of fresh summer ingredients (corn, tomatoes, peppers, and basil) which are lovely in a warming soup - perfect for the cool nights that we have had lately. Delicious!
Celebration Corn-Tomato Soup from the Griggstown Quail Farm and Market newsletter. The recipe is courtesy of Amy Cotler, farm and food activist, and author of the The Locavore Way.
I do love the warm days and cool nights at this time of year and the return of some favorites - Mallomars and Honeycrisp apples! Have a great weekend!
I have been blessed with tons of eggplant in my CSA box- which fortunately I love. I already have posted six different ways that I prepare eggplant and I really wanted to find new ways to enjoy an old favorite. This is what I came up with:
Lilli's Eggplant Roll-ups courtesy of Ciao Chow Linda - wow was this good! Thanks Linda!
Eggplant Caviar courtesy of Michael Symon. What a healthy and delicious snack - I gobbled up the whole bowl!
Eggplant and Tomato Sandwich with Garlic-Thyme Mayo courtesy of Curtis Aikens - Now that's a good sandwich!
The secret to any egg dish is good eggs! We have been buying ours from a local farm in Howell, NJ (Squankum Brook Farm on Victory Rd.) and they are so good! This is the same farm that I blogged about with the great "on your honor" cart. Supermarket eggs cannot compare and with the latest salmonella scare - no thank you!
Sometimes the simpler a meal, the more spectacular. Take for example, fried eggs. How could something so ordinary be worthy of posting about? Well in this case it is all about the method and freshness of the eggs. Add a 1/4 cup of good extra virgin olive oil to a pan and heat. When the pan is nice and hot, add an egg. Spoon the excess oil in the pan over top of the egg to cook the yolk. Continue spooning the oil over top until the egg is cooked to your liking. I like the white to be a little crispy and the yolk to just begin to set. Trust me this is so good!!
I served the eggs with a piece of toasted Italian bread rubbed with a garlic clove and drizzled with olive oil, a few Kalamata olives, and fresh tomatoes with feta. The tomatoes were sliced and topped with feta, oregano and olive oil - heated in the microwave for a minute (idea found here). Delicious!
Note the bright orange yolks - perfect for dipping!
Well, to be honest, this doesn't look that appetizing -but looks can be deceiving! This quick dinner was inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe for Crispy and Sticky Chicken Thighs with Squashed New Potatoes and Tomatoes. I scaled down the amount of chicken to 4 pieces and didn't have cherry tomatoes or new potatoes so I used what I had on hand. The recipe also called for boneless chicken. The recipe was very adaptable and the flavors were fantastic! My husband loved it so much that I decided that I must post it regardless of the poor photo. I loved the simple bright flavors of this dish. Arugula tossed with olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper was the perfect complement to the chicken and vegetables.
I only had medium sized red potatoes, so I quartered them and boiled until softened in salted water. I also had bone in chicken thighs, which I seasoned with salt and pepper. I browned the chicken in a non-stick skillet with a little olive oil while the potatoes were cooking. I also took two medium sized tomatoes which I boiled for about a minute and peeled once they cooled. The cooked potatoes, peeled tomatoes (squashed), and browned chicken were all combined on a baking sheet and drizzled with a good amount of extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and fresh thyme leaves. The sheet pan went into a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes. "Set it and forget it," a la Ron Popeil. Such simple flavors but truly delicious. Lovely!
Ahhhh... Labor Day Weekend, the signal that summer is winding down but rest assured I will be holding on to the season as long as possible. In NJ, the weather is just gorgeous in September - warm days and cool nights. Here at the Shore, the crowds subside, and the locals really get to enjoy what the area has to offer. We still have lots of delicious fresh summer produce available and my beloved NJ tomatoes. This weekend we enjoyed some good old classics and made use of the grill and the picture perfect weather for dining al fresco.
I can't believe that my daughters went to college just last weekend - it feels like at least a month has gone by. I am still struggling to get used to how quiet the house is and I just plain miss them! On the bright side, I won't have to fill out all of those back to school forms or attend back to school night - I'm really trying to see the bright side here!
Happy Labor Day!
Cheddar and Horseradish Burgers (horesradish, worcestershire, salt, pepper) with caramelized red onions served on an English Muffin - unbelievably good!
Grilled Strip Steaks with caramelized onions, thyme, and balsamic vinegar - I don't eat steaks often but boy does a good steak taste delicious every so often!
Fresh NJ Corn served with cayenne and lime - delicious and low calorie.
Homemade roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella, NJ tomato and basil served with crusty Italian bread, good olive oil and good balsamic - I can make a meal of this alone!
The classic 1970's shrimp cocktail but I roasted the shrimp instead of boiling and added a bit of sriracha to the cocktail sauce - fantastic!
Grilled Double Eggplant Pizza - I call this "double eggplant" because I added roasted eggplant to my marinara and then topped the pizza with white eggplant slices - delicious!
I was born and raised in NJ, first in Hunterdon County, later relocating to Monmouth County, and finally I am in Northern Ocean County. I work In Middlesex County and went to college in Mercer County. Whew... Therefore, I have knowledge of much of the Garden State. I am passionate about food; especially local foods. I have been addicted to farm markets since I was very young. I have a great husband and two of the best daughters anyone could wish for. NJ is an epicurean's delight! I would love your comments and questions.
One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating. ~Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright, Pavarotti, My Own Story