Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Eat Slow!

Slow Food Central NJ is once again hosting winter markets. Check out this post on NJ Outdoors for further information: http://njoutdoors.wordpress.com/2010/12/01/eat-slow/

Click image for a larger version.

I can just about guarantee we'll be buying something from Picklelicious on December 18th.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

I made these Jack-O-Latern stuffed peppers for lunch today. Just a quick mix of ground turkey, whole wheat pasta, freshly chopped garlic, mozzarella cheese, and tomato sauce (no sauce for me, thanks). Elizabeth was pretty excited by the Halloween-themed meal.

Have a fun and safe Halloween, everyone!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


We've been getting a watermelon weekly from our CSA share at Honeybrook Organic Farm. They grow not only your standard red watermelons, but also yellow and orange! Our family was quite surprised to see the yellow flesh when they cut into one of the melons we brought over recently.

While a cold slice of watermelon on a hot summer's day is nothing to turn away, I tried to get creative considering how many melons we'd picked up over the last few weeks. First were some simple watermelon and mint popsicles (using ONLY those two ingredients):

Last weekend I decided to make a pair of salads with the red and orange watermelons we had in our fridge. The first was a simple salad of watermelon, blueberry, and mint. Nothing fancy, although I must say it looked quite nice:

Finally, I made another salad using the same two types of watermelon, along with mint, crumbled feta cheese, and diced red onion. All of this was tossed in a dressing of oil, vinegar, and of course salt and pepper. When I read off the ingredient list my family was more than a bit apprehensive. I think they felt obliged to at least try it, though, and everyone placed a small section of watermelon on their plates. About 20 minutes later, the whole bowl was gone! Somehow, someway, the tastes actually work together. The watermelon, the vinegar...don't ask me to explain how.

You can find recipes online for similar salads. I glanced at a recipe and then just adjusted the oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste as I was mixing everything together.

Thanks for reading, everyone! Make sure to get the most out of New Jersey's delicious seasonal ingredients!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Quick Bite: Steak Sandwich

Elizabeth made some delicious steak sandwiches for dinner tonight. I came home to the smoky smell of our barbeque, and found some ciabatta bread crisping up on our deck.

We laid a generous portion of brie on the toasted bread, and topped that with some thinly sliced steak. After adding some caramelized onions, we were ready to dig in! It was a tasty sandwich indeed, with plenty of flavor and texture from all the ingredients. I've really come around on onions - I used to stay away from them at any cost, but now I find myself thinking "You know what this sandwich could use? More caramelized onions!"

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Taco night!

We decided to make some pork tacos and Mexican coleslaw tonight. After getting some cabbage with our CSA share this week, we were reminded that we've been wanting to try to make some of the slaw we had on tacos down in Cape May last spring.

The pork was marinated overnight in a chili-lime rub, and it started cooking in the crock pot this morning with salsa verde and vegetable stock added in. It cooked for about 8 hours on low, and was literally falling apart as we started removing it this evening.

The slaw was simple enough to make:

6 cups thinly chopped cabbage
1.5 cups grated carrots
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

We cooked up some rice and beans as sides, and started piling up the tacos. Some lime squeezed over the top finished them off.

The textures were awesome. Crunchy slaw. Bready tortillas. Mmm. The pork was tender enough, although the flavors weren't really coming through as much as we would have liked. We're definitely going to try and cook it a different way next time. The flavors were still nice, though, and some bites were the perfect blend of pork, cilantro, vinegar, and lime. Certainly not the most offensive thing we've ever made! All in all it was a pretty successful taco, and we've got plenty left for lunch tomorrow - always an added bonus.

The aftermath:

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Jersey Shore BBQ

After spending the morning relaxing on the beach, Elizabeth and I decided to try a new BBQ place in Belmar thanks to the advice of some friends. It's located only a few blocks from the beach - their website can be found here.

As soon as you enter Jersey Shore BBQ you begin taking in the aroma of smoky barbeque. Their pit, "Bessie" is located out back, and the smells of oak, cherry, and other hardwoods fill the air of the small restaurant. The menu covers all of the major BBQ staples, and also offers some pleasant surprises like catfish, homemade salsa, and gulf shrimp.

The staff were very friendly, and after realizing neither of us had ordered mac & cheese as a side, hurried out a small sample of it for us to try. It was some damn good mac & cheese.

My meal, pictured above, is the "Belmar Duo". Two proteins plus two sides and some cornbread. I opted for my two favorites - beef brisket and pulled pork. The brisket had a beautiful smoke ring thanks to hours in the pit, and the smell was heavenly. The sauce on the pulled pork was a little sweet, but the flavors were awesome. Neither meat was the most tender I've had, although the textures were far from offensive. I decided on ranch beans and sweet potato fries for my sides. Both were tasty, although the ranch beans came in a very small plastic cup and only offered a pair of forkfuls.

Elizabeth ordered a catfish po'boy sandwich, which she enjoyed. The fish had a nice flavor, and the coleslaw added a nice crunch to the meal. She loved the cornbread - no surprise there.

This fine establishment probably offers some of the most authentic southern style BBQ you will find in The Garden State. The flavors and aromas were all there, although I'd like to see how the meats and their sauces stack up next time. Prices were reasonable and the portions were modest yet filling. Definitely worth checking out if you're in the area.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Brew Review 1

I decided to splurge a bit and pick us up a couple of beers from the "fancy" section at one of the local liquor stores. One of them was Wells Banana Bread Beer. Yes, this beer is actually brewed with real bananas.

Although I will occasionally eat bananas, I'm not the biggest fan in the world. And usually I stay away from things with banana flavoring - the exception being banana bread. The beer actually surprised me with how little it tasted like bananas, or banana bread. That's not necessarily a bad thing, considering how overly powerful certain beers are with fruits and flavors.

The aroma was what really carried the sense of bananas. It didn't smell overly sweet or fruity, thankfully, and taking in the smell of banana bread while a beer is being raised to your lips is definitely a novel experience. There was an ever-so-slight hint of banana in the aftertaste as well, but it was very subtle. The beer itself was fairly innocuous, although for the price it really doesn't seem worth a second purchase. It was a decent enough lager, but there was really no complexity in flavors outside of the banana aftertaste. I almost wish it had been done with a thicker beer to give it a more comforting, banana bread vibe.

We also finally put up our wall-mounted bottle opener! Elizabeth made sure the previous owner left it behind, and it sure is fun to pop open a cold beer after a long day of work.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Honeybrook Organic Farm

We just found out that we've received a share of Honeybrook's CSA for the 2010 growing season! Community Supported Agriculture is a great way to support local farmers and get wonderful, fresh produce at the same time. You can read more about Honeybrook's program here.

The season officially began this morning with pick-your-own strawberries and fresh herbs! Their website offers a harvest calendar which approximates when certain produce becomes available. You can view it here, and be sure not to skip over the PYO items at the bottom!

Photo by Kim Unertl (c) 2008

We'll have updates after the first pick-ups of the season to let everyone know what we received and what we're making with our fresh produce. There are lots of greens early in the season, so if you have any suggestions or yummy recipes let us know. Thanks!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Ag Field Day / Rutgers Day

On Saturday, April 24th, Rutgers will hold their event-filled day all over their campuses. Head on over to New Jersey Outdoors to read more about the events surrounding the day, including nature hikes at Helyar Woods and Rutgers Gardens.

Of course we'll be talking all about the food! The big lawn on Cook/Douglass campus will once again host the NJ Folk Festival, which is accompanied by a huge food vendor marketplace. In a brilliant tactical maneuver, food trucks will surround the fields with the smells and sounds of deliciousness.

A variety of cultures and cuisines will be represented, including Italian, Greek, Egyptian, Lebanese, and many more! Of course American cuisine will also be prevalent, with all the spring time classics.

Last year during the events we feasted on flavorful pit beef sandwiches with vinegar fries.

For dessert we watched as our strawberry-banana-chocolate crepes were made.

And then we dug in!

There's something for everyone. Go ahead, ask my little sisters Emma and Sarah!

Don't miss out on a great day in central NJ filled with fun and food!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Chicken Tortilla Soup

This was our second time having this version of a southwestern style soup, and we just couldn't deprive our readers any longer! The recipe we started with for this particular soup came from Real Simple, but there are a ton of different variations and you can tweak things here and there to make it your own. For example, we added corn and cheddar cheese (added on top when serving) and ditched the sour cream.

Here's the ingredient list:
  • 1 12-ounce jar salsa verde
  • 3 cups cooked chicken pieces (1 small rotisserie chicken or leftovers)
  • 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • tortilla chips
  • 1 can of corn, drained

Start off by emptying the salsa into a large saucepan. Cook it for 2 minutes over medium-high heat, and then add in the chicken, beans, broth, and cumin. Bring all of that to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook it for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. You can add another cup of chicken broth (4 total) to make the dish soupier, but 3 cups really is plenty. It's not overly thick.

Top each bowl with a sprinkling of onions, a dollop of sour cream, or some tortilla chips. We decided to put some shredded cheddar cheese on top as well.

The salsa verde really makes this a unique dish, and you get a bunch of fun textures and flavors with each bite. Careful, though, as you can easily go through an entire bag of tortilla chips while eating dinner. We know from experience.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Quick Bite: The Bent Spoon

Earlier this month we visited The Bent Spoon in Princeton, NJ. After hearing about flavors such as dark chocolate habanero and basil lavender, we decided we just had to see what this artisan ice cream shop had in store.

They offer plenty of sorbets, including passionfruit and blood orange (both delicious), along with a nice variety of homemade ice cream. We opted to try the olive oil and the cardamom ginger. I know what you're thinking - olive oil ice cream? What the...? It worked. The flavors were subtle and the ice cream itself was smooth and creamy almost beyond belief. The cardamom ginger had a more forward flavor but it wasn't overpowering. It was fresh and unique, and the tiny pieces of candied ginger were an added bonus. An unexpected scoop of ice cream, but certainly a pleasant surprise.

The shop makes a new flavor each time one of their current choices runs out, so there's almost always something new to try. Two small scoops will cost you $3.50, so this isn't the most budget-friendly treat, but the taste and unique flavors are worth the splurge. We can't wait to see what they have out the next time we go!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Free Talk 3/22

The Princeton Library will be hosting a free talk and slide-show presentation on March 22nd. The talk, titled "Crops and Culture: The Preservation of Heirloom Varieties" will be presented by Adam Forbes, an accomplished farmer who has started school gardens, organized community gardens, and traveled the world studying seed saving and biodiversity in food crops.

Photo by Alby Headrick (c) 2009

The event begins at 7pm and should be very interesting! Head on over to central NJ's Slow Food site to get all the info you will need.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Quick Bite: Cheeseburger

Elizabeth put her own spin on the cheeseburgers we had at Elevation Burger last month. You can check out that post here. These burgers were 93/7 lean beef, topped with sharp cheddar and caramelized onions. I've been avoiding onions for the last 20 years or so (although my family still talks about how I sat on my great-grandmother's lap and took bites out of whole onions) - but these were delicious. Elizabeth put a little sugar in with the onions as they cooked, and to my surprise the sweetness really worked with the rest of the burger.

We ate them on the freshly baked Ciabatta rolls I purchased earlier in the day, and baked up some tots as a side. A little Sam Adams Noble Pils was the perfect accompaniment to the meal.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

On the horizon...

Here's a few things we've got in store for the blog in the near future...

* Review of Real Jamaican Jerk An' Ting in Somerset, NJ: http://realjamaicanjerk.com/

* Review of On the Bone in Princeton, NJ: http://www.ontheboneprinceton.com/

* We will hopefully be planning our trip to Frederick, MD to visit Volt: http://voltrestaurant.com/

* Plus more homemade dishes, recipes, and photos!

Thanks for reading, everyone!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Fennel and Potato Hash

In the latest issue of Bon Appetit magazine, fennel was highlighted in the "At The Market" section. We've been a bit intrigued by fennel as an ingredient since I made a fennel and citrus salad last year, so I found a recipe that looked right up our alley and planned to make fennel and potato hash one Saturday morning for breakfast.

The recipe:
2 fennel bulbs with fronds
2 tablespoons olive oil
1.5 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into .5 to .75 inch cubes, patted dry
.5 teaspoon fine sea salt
freshly ground pepper
1 garlic clove, chopped
.25 cup coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley

After cutting the fennel up into half-inch pieces, cook it in boiling salted water until it starts to get tender. This should take about 3 minutes. Drain it and set it aside.

Heat up the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, then add the potatoes and cook them until they're golden and crisp, turning often. This should take 20-25 minutes. Then, using a masher (or the top of a meat tenderizer like I did), crush the potatoes in a skillet. Add the fennel, salt, and pepper. Keep cooking until the fennel is golden, which should take another 2 or 3 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and continue to cook for another 2 minutes. Stir in the parsley and the fennel fronds.

Elizabeth jumped at the suggestion to put a fried egg on top of the dish, and I even tried one (usually I'm a strictly scrambled kind of guy).

This was an instant favorite for us. It was a little labor-intensive for a breakfast, but a lot of that time was spent turning the potatoes every few minutes. And man, was it worth it. The potatoes were perfectly cooked - nice and crispy on the outside with a flavorful softness to the inside. I find fennel always adds an unexpectedly welcome flavor to dishes - often I don't expect it to fit in but it always finds a way. For me, the egg kind of put a damper on the textures I was getting from the rest of the dish, but maybe that's from a lifetime of hating on non-scrambled eggs. Elizabeth didn't seem to have a problem with it.

Definitely give this one a try. A nice hearty breakfast with some flavor.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup recipe

Excited to use the new crock pot I gave her for Christmas, Elizabeth set out to make some butternut squash soup last week. This recipe is highly recommended as the two coworkers I shared the leftovers with have been clamoring for it. Here's what you'll need:

2 cups of finely chopped onion
1 butternut squash (about 3 lbs), peeled and cubed
4 cups of chicken broth
1.5 cups apple sauce
1.5 tsp. salt
.25 tsp. ground white pepper
.25 tsp. ground nutmeg
.25 tsp. ground cloves
.25 tsp. curry powder
.25 tsp. ground coriander
.25 tsp. cinnamon

After cooking the onions until they're transparent, toss them into the pot with the squash, chicken broth, applesauce, salt, pepper, nutmeg, cloves, curry powder, coriander, and cinnamon. Cover everything up and cook on low (if your pot has settings) for 4 to 6 hours or until the squash is nice and tender.

Unless you like eating big ol' chunks of squash in your broth, we suggest you place the cubes into the food processor and smooth everything out. Once you've gotten all of the squash, cook the soup for an additional 2 to 4 hours.

The cooking times can definitely vary and we've already discovered that what some recipes call for are either way too long or too short for our pot. If you can, check on your dishes every so often - if you can't, just make sure there's enough liquid so your food doesn't get dried out (not a problem with soup).

We tossed some onion garlic croutons into the soup and went at it. I was a bit nervous that it would be too "vegetably" tasting for my liking, but it ended up being really good. It had a pleasant but not overpowering earthy flavor, and the seasoning was spot on. Plus, it's super healthy! Just don't tell the kids.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

It's all about the burger.

Last week we headed up to Montclair, NJ with Elizabeth's brother Pete and two cousins Adam and Alex. Our mission? Eat burgers. Lots of burgers.

We had heard of both Elevation Burger and SmashBurger in the recent past. The two chains have both opened up one location each (with more on the way) in northern NJ, and we decided it was finally time to try them out. Our first stop was Elevation Burger - the environmentally friendly chain that serves up 100% USDA-certified organic, grass-fed, free-ranged, ground-on-premises beef. They even have a philosophy page so customers can read up on why all of the things mentioned above are not only more healthy but better for the environment. Definitely a concept we can get behind...but would the burgers stack up?

Oh, the burgers stacked up, both metaphorically and literally! Each Elevation Burger comes with two patties, cheese, and your choice of as many of their eleven free toppings (blue cheese is extra) as you want. We decided to go with carmelized onions and pickles, and what a decision it was. Everything tasted great together - the onions added a nice flavor, the pickle added some texture and crunch, and the cheese was just right. Now, what are we forgetting? Ah, the beef! The two burgers were, in a word, awesome. I've read complaints that grass-fed beef doesn't quite measure up in terms of taste thanks to a lower level of intramuscular fat (making it healthier), but we found that couldn't be further from the truth. Toronto-based journalist Mark Schatzker agrees and conducted a blind taste test to prove it - check out his article here. The meat at Elevation Burger was juicy and flavorful and held just the right amount of grease. All in all, a burger that we will be going back to.

Elevation Burger also offers the Vertigo Burger - a stack of anywhere from 3 to 10 patties on a single bun. Adam decided to man up and try the four-patty Vertigo, pictured above. We also tried some fries, which are cooked in 100% olive oil. Again, the healthier option ended up delivering in terms of taste - the fries were nice and thin with a golden-brown finish to them. We washed everything down with two beverages. The first, a chocolate milk shake with black cherries and more chocolate, was delicious. Milkshakes tend to be a little too expensive to justify buying, but we splurged here and it was worth it. The second drink was an iced tea flavored with some odd combination of citrus and spices (was it cinnamon?) - it actually ended up being really interesting and something you won't find in many places.

Elevation Burger was a hit with everyone. Awesome burgers were the focal point, but all of the supporting cast came through and as a whole the meal was really, really good. The staff there was super friendly, and for us, the whole organic grass-fed thing was a big plus too. It was definitely a straight-up burger joint, with metal chairs, tables, and troughs for delivering your meal.

SmashBurger was next up on our burger odyssey. This place was much more restaurant-like, with comfy booths and a menu that offered quite a bit more. Alex ordered up the chili fries (pictured above), but the rest of us went with some combination of burgers and (non-chili) fries.

This time we went separate ways and had our own burgers. I ordered a Mushroom Swiss (pictured above) on an egg bun. The seasoning on the burger was really tasty, but the meat seemed a bit more dense and since this was our second stop I was already started to fill up. Definitely a good burger, though, and the egg bun was actually a pleasant surprise. -E.

I went low profile with my SmashBurger and just put on some cheddar cheese and a few pickles. Put that all on an onion bun, which added a nice flavor to the burger. I definitely appreciated all the options here. The burger itself was definitely seasoned well, but while the meat itself was good I found it to be a little overdone. The thing here is that they "smash" the burgers and seal in the juices. Sounds good in theory, but in practice they ended up smashing a bit too hard (at least on this occasion) - the outside of the burger ended up being a little too crunchy and charred for my liking. It wasn't terribly offensive, though, and I still enjoyed everything. - B.

We both split an order of Sweet Potato Smash Fries, seasoned with rosemary, olive oil, and garlic. There was definitely an awesome rosemary aroma emanating from the fries, but we were in agreement that everything just didn't seem to work together. I'm an absolute fiend for everything sweet potato (-B), but all of the other stuff going on just didn't seem in balance with the flavor of the spuds. We had a few of Pete's regular Smash Fries and found them to work much better with the rosemary and garlic.

A hard night's work, and a lot of burgers smashed. Most of us agreed that the Elevation meal was the winner, even though we didn't set out to make it a night of competition. This most likely won't be our last stop at either place, though, so we'll see who steps up their burger game the next time we're in town.

Suggestions for the next culinary mini-road trip? Tacos, anyone?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Eat Slow!

Please click the flier for a larger version.

Slow Food Central NJ will be putting together another Winter Farmers Market! This time around the event will be held at the D&R Greenway Land Trust in Princeton from 10am-2pm on January 23rd. The list of confirmed vendors will be bringing plenty of local goodies, from vegan treats and organic ghee to honey, cheese, and wine. There will be teas, orchids, ciders, and salsas.

Don't miss out. We attended one of the December markets at Rutgers and came away with moist pumpkin bread and delicious pickles (eaten at separate times). Who knows what we'll end up with this time around?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Egg & three potato sandwich with homemade veggie chips

While browsing through the Top Chef Quickfire Cookbook, a gift from friends Kira and Evan, I came across a recipe for carrot chips. Looked like a pretty fun idea, so I decided to try it out. Why stop at carrots, though? Along with a huge bag of carrots, I picked up a sweet potato, some yucca, and a few beets. I also purchased corn starch, which the recipe called for, however that remained unopened and forgotten about at the end of the day. Oh well.

I sliced the veggies nice and thin using our mandolin and tossed them in some heated canola oil (the recipe calls for either canola or peanut oil). After each batch I would take out the chips and put them in some paper towels to soak up some of the oil.

While looking for taro (I love taro chips but was unable to find any at our local market) I was inspired by some of the various potatoes for sale. I grabbed a few different varieties and decided to make an egg and potato sandwich to go along with the vegetable chips. I've had this type of sandwich once before and it is starchy, carb-heavy goodness. I cut up the potatoes into small pieces and started browning them in a pan. After a few minutes I scrambled up some eggs and poured them in along with the red, white, and purple potatoes.

The sandwich was pretty tasty, although a few of the potatoes were larger than the rest and ended up being a little undercooked. A silly mistake, but a lesson learned. Regardless, the combination of the scrambled eggs and browned potatoes gave a warm, breakfast-y feel and the different colors of the potatoes was a neat visual treat. Most of the chips came out really well. The sweet potato chips were delicious (I'm a sucker for anything sweet potato), and the yucca chips were nice with a little salt and pepper. They ended up being extremely crunchy so if possible slicing them thinner might have been helpful (although I think I used the thinnest mandoline insert). The circular carrot chips were tough to cook and ended up burning really quickly. That may or may not have been the result of forgetting the cornstarch. I'll have to try that one again. Sliced length-ways, though, they ended up being really good. They had a nice sweetness to them, similar to the sweet potato chips. The beets, sadly, were the biggest flop. They just wouldn't cook right, and never ended up being crispy. If sliced too thin, they would wilt and crumble immediately. If sliced too thick, they would retain their shape but end up being mushy and not very chip-like. Oh well.

Definitely a fun meal and probably something we'll try again in the future. It was actually a nice change of pace to be able to walk around the market and form a dish with the ingredients present rather than coming up with a list before you even leave the house.