Monthly Archives: April 2014

Butter Lettuce Salad With BBQ Tempeh & Citrus Tahini Dressing

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This salad comes together in a flash, but will have everyone thinking you spent all day in the kitchen. Bright citrus and earthy tahini make for an irresistible dressing that pairs beautifully with the tangy BBQ tempeh. Crisping up the sliced tempeh gives it a deliciously addictive texture, though you could just as easily substitute shrimp or chicken, or whatever protein you have on hand.

While you could use any old tahini, Soom Tahini in particular is one you can feel good about buying and serving. Naturally gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO, and certified kosher, Soom Tahini is also a member of the One Percent for the Planet program. It’s super silky, smooth and creamy texture beats the store brand tahini I’ve been using hands down, and the mild sesame flavor pairs effortlessly with both sweet and savory dishes.

For the recipe, visit MindBodyGreen.

Asana House Juice Bar and Cafe

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Originally opened in 2008 as a yoga studio with a small juice bar in the back, Asana House Juice Bar and Cafe was juicing long before it became mainstream and cool. Debbie, still the founder and owner, says when she opened Asana House, they were one of the only juice bars around. Now, with the yoga studio next-door and the juice bar expanded to include a full menu, Asana House still leads the pack. Their menu is stacked with healthy, made to order, affordable juices and smoothies, and flavorful lunch and brunch options to satisfy both vegans and non-vegans in town.

Greg, who took over as the manager of Asana House in November, expanded the menu to include an all day brunch, seven days a week. From french toast with bananas and cinnamon, to the super popular breakfast burritos (hot sauce and avocado optional), Asana’s has all your brunch cravings covered. Their lunch specials include fresh and bright salads, wraps, and quesadillas, stacked with healthy favorites like avocado, sprouts, and house made hummus. You can even take a container of the hummus home; its deliciously garlicky and creamy, and unlike anything you can find in the supermarket. They also offer two seasonal soups of the day: one hot and one raw, made from a mix of greens, avocado, and their special spice mix. Most menu items have a yoga pose name; a nod to the studio next door.

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Even with this flavorful and curated menu, the fresh pressed juices and smoothies remain Asana House’s biggest draw. They offer ten made to order juice options, all tempting and vividly fresh. The most popular, The All Green, with kale, spinach, celery, cucumber, lemon, apple, and ginger, would be palatable even to the most green-juice adverse skeptic. The All Green and The Soho Beauty, a blend of pineapple, cucumber, celery, lemon, lime, and mint, rank at the top of my list, with the Liver Cleanse, a mix of grapefruit, grapes, lemon, orange, and beet, a close third. Considering Whole Foods charges upwards of $9 for some of their shelf stable juices, paying $6.54 per juice (they’re a good size) at Asana House for a fresh pressed juice makes so much more sense.

For those looking for a serious health boost, Asana House can make you a fresh shot of wheatgrass, or a shot of E3Live Algea with lime and ginger. You’ll have so much energy you might even consider skipping your morning coffee, though you can grab a fresh cup at Asana House if you’re so inclined. If you’re in the market for a cleanse, Asana House will outfit you with a thoughtful and sustaining 1-5 day program with juices, smoothies, and a filling soup.

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With a small staff who seems to know nearly every customer by name, Asana House instantly makes you feel like a welcomed regular. Lots of juice bars give off a pretentious, holier than thou vibe; you won’t find a stitch of that attitude at Asana House. They offer a friendly, unpretentious mix of health food and delicious food, though here you’ll find that they’re one and the same. A place that serves wheatgrass shots alongside quesadillas made with real cheese (if you’re so inclined) is a rare find indeed.

As the weather warms up, Asana House plans to expand their offerings. Their large lot in the back (where you can park for free) will soon be home to live music and outdoor seating, and possibly a smoker. Greg hopes to bring his love of BBQ to Asana House, serving up smokey, delicious dishes through the summer. Equally as exciting is the noodle bar set to open during dinner time hours. Asana House plans to close as usual at 5, then reopen at 6 with made to order ramen noodle bowls. Greg found a local purveyor to supply fresh homemade ramen noodles, which make those sad, dried out packs of ramen look like a different breed altogether.

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I was lucky enough to get a preview of the ramen noodle bowl last week. Made with a fresh miso broth, with chili paste added for heat, a tangle of the freshest ramen noodles I’ve ever had, slivers of baby bok choy, meaty soy soaked mushrooms, sprouts, bamboo shoots, scallions, and a hard-boiled egg, its safe to say the entire bowl was absolutely delicious. Well balanced and unmistakably fresh, the care and thought in each component is unmistakable. My noodle bowl was so substantial that I brought half of it home, and happily enjoyed it cold the next day- still entirely enjoyable. Greg also found a purveyor to supply them with homemade pho noodles, adding a fantastic gluten-free option to the noodle bar.  I know I’ll be first in line when the noodle bar opens in a few weeks.

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UPDATE: The noodle bar, called Slurp, is officially open! Come by Monday-Thursday nights to try out some of these fantastic ramen and pho noodle bowls.

To read the full post, visit Devil Gourmet.

Southwest Grilled Corn Salad with Mexican Green Goddess Dressing

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You’re going to want to put this Mexican green goddess dressing on absolutely everything. Tangy, bright, creamy, and kicky, it hits all the flavor high notes and makes even the simplest dishes taste special.

When served over this springy mix of romaine, pea shoots, and grilled corn, it’s the perfect compliment to any alfresco meal, and ideal for celebrating Cinco de Mayo in a fresh and healthy way. Also try it as a dip for crudités, or as a lighter alternative to hollandaise over eggs and asparagus for Mothers Day.

To view this recipe and many others, visit one of my favorite sites, MindBodyGreen.

Deviled Eggs {revamped with tahini}

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Deviled eggs will grace many Easter tables this weekend, and for good reason. They’re quick and easy to make, seasonal, and everyone loves them.

For an unexpected twist on an old classic, try adding Soom Tahini to your deviled egg mix. It lends a subtle earthy, sesame flavor that pairs beautifully with the creamy yolks and bright lemon. While you could use any old tahini, Soom Tahini in particular is one you can feel good about buying and serving. Naturally gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO, and certified kosher, Soom Tahini is also a member of the One Percent for the Planet program. Its super silky, smooth and creamy texture beats the store brand tahini I’ve been using hands down, and the mild sesame flavor pairs effortlessly with both sweet and savory dishes. Buy a jar for this deviled egg recipe, and I’m sure you’ll find plenty of ways to use what’s leftover.

Serves 6 as an appetizer (you can easily double this recipe)

Total Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise or Vegenaise
  • 1 tablespoon Soom Tahini
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • Herbs, minced, and lemon zest to garnish, optional (try parsley, basil, chervil, or chives)

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, add your eggs, and add enough cold water just to cover the eggs. Heat the pot over high heat, uncovered, and bring it up to a boil. Once your water boils, turn off the heat, cover your pot, and let the eggs cook for exactly 10 minutes.
  2. After 10 minutes, run the eggs under cold water and peel them.
  3. Slice the eggs in half lengthwise, and carefully scoop the yolks out into a bowl.
  4. Add the mayo, Soom Tahini, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt and pepper to the yolks. Using a fork or small whisk, beat the yolk mixture until smooth and creamy. Check your seasonings.
  5. Set the egg whites on a platter, and carefully fill them with the yolk mixture, smoothing as you go. To serve, sprinkle over some lemon zest and fresh herbs.

You can make these ahead of time and keep them in the fridge until just before serving. They’ll keep overnight.

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You can buy Soom Tahini in New Jersey at Big Bear Natural Foods, or online at Amazon.com.

View this recipe on Devil Gourmet. 

Ornellaia Vertical Tasting Experience {NJ Food & Wine Festival}

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To say that the Ornellaia vertical tasting experience was a treat would be an understatement. The opportunity to sip and compare bottles from eight different vintages of the Ornellaia vineyard is not one that most people get everyday. Located in Tuscany near the coast, Ornellaia occupies an interesting crossroads between Italian and French wine traditions. In Bolgheri, where Ornellaia Estate resides, the low hilly landscape only a few miles from the sea lends itself more to Mediterranean maritime vegetation than traditional Tuscan grapes. The area was long eschewed by vineyards for this reason, but the discovery that Bordeaux varieties could thrive in this terrain proved pivotal for Ornellaia’s success, starting at its founding in 1981.

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The wine possesses a strong Mediterranean quality, even with French Bordeaux grapes, highlighting Ornellaia’s production philosophy that wines must be the most faithful expression of the terroirs that produce them. Alex Heinz, the Ornellaia winemaker who headed up this tasting, explained that Ornellaia’s location a few miles from the sea helps keep the climate mild and even, and the light reflecting off the sea reflects and helps to ripen the grapes.

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As we walked our way through the different vintages, clear favorites emerged in the audience that often differed from the favorites of the wine makers. Axel astutely reminded us that good vintages are a gift of mother nature, which the wine makers feel they can’t take as much credit for. Tougher vintages, where the climate and weather didn’t lend themselves to easy winemaking, better showcase the wine makers’ skill, and induce more of their pride and favor. Understandably, the wine makers showed favoritism towards the wines they had the most hand in smoothing out and turning into something balanced and drinkable. Axel further explained, “a bad vintage is like a child you’re raising that never reaches his full potential, even after an extended adolescence,” making the parent (or winemaker) all the more proud when their underachiever finally grows into something of merit.

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On the topic of blending, Axel explained that “blending out of grape varieties helps express the best characteristic in the grapes, and helps them adapt to the vintage. The blending carries to catch the best flavor out of each vintage.” The wine makers stated emphatically that blended wines are always superior to single vine wines. They have more depth, flavor, and balance. And though blending is crucial, expertise must be exercised. An art rather than a science, blending, according to Axel, “is not arithmetic. You can lose quality and character with a blend,” making a light and seasoned touch all the more important.

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If you’re a wine collector, Ornellaia is the ideal wine to add to your collection. With aging potential up to thirty years, and even longer potential with the newer vintages, Ornellaia would save beautifully for a special occasion years down the road, if you can avoid the temptation of drinking it straight away. The wine makers explained that young wine highlights the skills of the winemaker, while older aged wine highlights the characteristics of the land and the grape. With an average suggested retail value of $220 in stores, and presumably much more in an NYC restaurant, Ornellaia probably isn’t your go-to bottle for a regular Friday night, but rather an ideal choice to save and celebrate with a few years down the road.

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For the full post and more photos, visit Devil Gourmet. 

Local Craft Cocktails at NJ Food & Wine Festival

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The local craft cocktail event at this years NJ food & wine festival brought together some of the Northeast’s best small batch spirits. Laird’s Apple Jack (NJ), Brooklyn Gin (NY), Bootlegger Vodka (NY) and Widow Jane Bourbon (NY) came together in creative and dangerously delicious cocktails under the expertise of mixologist Christopher James. As the mixologist and bar manager of the Ryland Inn, located in Whitehouse Station, Christopher utilizes local spirits to create unique and inspired cocktails that might just convince you to deviate from your classic G&T habit. Consider these recipes your fast track to elevated cocktails, fit to be enjoyed all spring long (whenever spring finally decides to grace us with its presence).

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  • 2 oz Dutch’s Sugar Wash Moonshine
  • .75 oz Demerara syrup
  • .75 oz lime juice
  • 1 spritz of absinthe from an atomizer
  • 1 dash of bitters (optional)
  1. Shake and strain into a child absinthe rinsed coupé. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Scobeyville Shrub

  • 2 oz Larid’s Applejack
  • 1.5 oz spiced rhubarb shrub syrup
  • .5 oz lemon juice
  • 1 dash Dutch’s Colonial Bitters
  1. Shake and strain into a chilled coupé, garnish with a lemon wheel.

“21″ Punch

  • 2 oz Bootlegger Vodka
  • 1.5 oz grapefruit juice
  • .75 oz lime juice
  • .75 oz simple syrup
  • 6-8 sprigs fresh mint
  • 2 dashes Dutch’s Colonial Bitters
  1. Lightly muddle the mint with the grapefruit juice, lime juice, simple syrup, and bitters.
  2. Add vodka, shake and double strain over fresh ice in a Collins glass. Top with soda.
  3. Garnish with half-moon of grapefruit and a mint sprig.

All recipes created by Chris James- Mixologist & Bar Manager, The Ryland Inn

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Cypriot Grain Salad with Lemony Yogurt & Pomegranate

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Local food in Cyprus draws inspiration and flavors from all around the Mediterranean. Greek, Turkish, Italian, French, and Middle Eastern influences all contribute to Cypriot cuisine. Meze, a spread of small dishes, is a popular way to dine in Cyprus, and this grain salad makes a perfect base to build your meze around. Freekeh, an ancient grain with a similar texture and taste to bulgur, has nearly four times the fiber of similar grains, and ample amounts of vegetarian protein. Nuts and lentils also boast healthy amounts of vegetarian protein, making this salad an excellent filling option if you’re avoiding the gyros and kebabs so prevalent in Cyprus. The tart pomegranate seeds, tangy yogurt, and citrusy lemon give this salad a bright, summery flavor that’s delicious on its own, or as an accompaniment for grilled seafood or meat.

DSC_0952For the recipe, visit GeoBlue’s Healthy Travel Blog, or their site Travel Well Worldwide.

 

Classic vs. Contemporary Napa Styles {NJ Food & Wine Festival}

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In a sea of mass-produced wines, thoughtless blends, and plastic corks, many wine connoisseurs stick with wineries they trust to adhere to the classic, tried and true style of winemaking. In this seminar at the NJ Food & Wine FestivalStag’s Leap winemaker Christopher Paubert lead a tasting of classic California varietals and back vintages, which we tasted alongside the wines of second generation winemaker Josh Phelps from his winery Taken.

What I thought would evolve into a two-sided discussion about the merits of classic vs. contemporary winemaking practices took an entirely different shape. Christopher and Josh, representing the classic and the contemporary, respectively, seemed to borrow the best and most beneficial practices from traditional and more modern winemaking, blending the old and the new as it suited their wines to bring out the best in each varietal.

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Christopher articulated,”the new trend is what it was fifty years ago,” meaning that new wineries have wised up and look to their predecessors for guidance and tradition. He also conceded that Stag’s Leap, and many more classic wineries, now blend science and technology with tradition, resulting in a more dependable crop of grapes year after year. Forty years ago, sugar and acidity were the only benchmark for making a good wine. Today, Stag’s Leap measures the tannins of the wines each day, and checks temperature and the levels of oxygen to pinpoint when the wine reaches its zenith. Today, winemaking is a more vineyard based profession, with less time spent in the cellar and more spend outside tending to and monitoring the vines as they grow.

Sustainability is another point where classic and contemporary winemaking borrow from each other to the benefit of both. Technology, used judiciously, allows for the use of less chemicals and fertilizers. Traditional farming practices, where different crops are planted and grown to enrich the soil and deter pests, also keeps chemicals to a minimum.

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As for wine styles, Josh expressed his hope that “the sweet, over the top California style is phasing out,” in favor of more balanced wines. Both wine makers also commented on the trend of fermenting wine in cement tanks. Is it a game changer? Probably not. Both Josh and Christopher ferment their wines in stainless steel tanks, before aging them in oak barrels. They both use mostly French oak, but play with small amounts of American and Hungarian oak in smaller batches, when trying to create a spicy or smokey flavor.

DSC_0952For the full post, and details on the specific wines we tasted, visit Devil Gourmet.