Monthly Archives: June 2014

Croatian Summer Heirloom Tomato Tart

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Summertime in Croatia offers long sun-soaked days, balmy temperatures, and a bounty of fresh colorful produce. Tomatoes in particular shine, boasting sweet and mellow flavors, bright colors, and ample health benefits. Lycopene, the tomato’s health claim to fame, helps protect against cancer and cell decay, protects the functions of the heart, and gives the skin a healthy glow. Cooking tomatoes with olive oil, as in this tart, actually bolsters the lycopene and aids in its absorption. Enjoy this summery tomato tart all summer long, either as a simple appetizer on its own, or alongside a green salad and fresh fish as a balanced, deliciously healthy meal.

For the recipe, visit GeoBlue’s Healthy Travel Blog, and Travel Well Worldwide.

Herbed New Potatoes with Gravlax & Lemony Micro-greens {for Swedish Midsommar}

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Midsommar, or the summer solstice, is celebrated every year in Sweden on the longest day of the year. Abundant sunshine, flower garlands, maypoles, and the first picks of produce from the summer season mark the holiday. New potatoes, tiny and tender, abound on midsommar tables, but if you can’t find them, regular small potatoes will suffice. Gravlax, or cured salmon, is rich in heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Eat enough of it and your skin will thank you too- the healthy fats help combat wrinkles and can give you a healthy glow. Serve this dish along side a fresh cucumber salad, and some pickled herring if you dare. Don’t forget to wash it down with a traditional celebratory glass of aquavit, which (in smaller doses) can help aid digestion. Fresh and lightly dressed, this recipe will leave you sprightly enough for a rousing round of Helan Går.

For the recipe, visit GeoBlue’s Healthy Travel Blog or Travel Well Worldwide.

slurp. sip. repeat. at Ani Ramen in Montclair

Vegetarian Ramen & Spicy Miso Ramen

slurp. sip. repeat. That’s the motto at Montclair’s newest restaurant, and one you’ll certainly want to take them up on. At Ani Ramen, recently opened on Bloomfield Ave, just across the street from the Wellmont Theater, waiters deliver big bowls of steaming ramen to eager patrons who line up and down the block in anticipation.

For such a new restaurant, they’ve certainly made a big local impression. Every time I’ve visited, most of the tables have been full, and on a recent Friday night, hopeful diners gathered outside waiting. Fortunately, the crew at Ani Ramenhave their act together, and I’ve never waited long for a table or my meal. With a decidedly cool downtown vibe, you might feel as if you’ve wandered off Bloomfield Ave and found yourself in Williamsburg or the Village.

Once seated at your table, you’ll consider a short but thoughtful menu of shared small plates, salads, and of course, ramen. Standout starters include the show-stopping edamame, charred and seasoned with sea salt and chili powder, the pork buns, topped with cabbage, pickled cucumbers and spicy miso mayo, and the green salad with tangy ginger dressing and crispy tofu. For the main event, you’ll have your pick of six ramen choices, all delicious, all democratically priced at $12, and all made with handmade noodles that’ll make you forget all about those sad styrofoam tubs of “ramen” you subsisted on in college.

Edamame & Yuzu Lemonade.

Though I haven’t had the pleasure of trying all six of the ramen options, I found myself returning to and reordering both the spicy miso ramen and the vegetarian ramen. The spicy miso ramen comes with a rich pork flavored broth, complimented by big juicy slices of pork and more shredded pork tangled in with the noodles. This is definitely a hearty, filling, comforting option, and the spiciness would be great to kick a cold (or a hangover). The vegetarian ramen combines an all vegetable broth with roasted bean sprouts, spinach, mushrooms, and scallions.

As expected, the vegetarian ramen tastes lighter and less fatty than the pork-laced ramen, and the broth brings more delicate flavors to the bowl. The handmade noodles steal the show here and really shine. You can also customize your ramen bowl with a selection of add-ons, ranging from $1-3. Braised pork belly, marinated soft-boiled egg, nori, mushrooms, bamboo, and homemade seasoning oils all found their place in my ramen bowl at one meal or another. To wash it all down, you have your choice of a selection of hot and cold teas, american and Japanese sodas, and my pick, the salty and sweet yuzu lemonade. Even better, since Ani Ramen resides in Montclair, the restaurant is accommodatingly BYOB.

For the full article and photos, visit Devil Gourmet.

Mini {vegan} Key Lime Pies

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While not a vegan myself, I do love cooking vegan food from time to time, and appreciate the health and creativity that vegan recipes bring to the table. One of my favorite vegan food writers, Dianne Wenz, posted this no-bake vegan key lime pie on her site Veggie Girl, and I couldn’t resist a healthy twist on one of my favorite summer desserts. Dianne’s key lime pie, served in a pie plate and decorated with raspberries looks gorgeous and impressive. Because of a recent move, I found myself without a pie plate, but found a simple solution that’s perfect for summer picnics and far away BBQs. Mason jars, my kitchen favorite, make the perfect vessel for these little treats, and show off their layers of crust and filling. Perfectly portable, you can just screw on the lids and take these desserts anywhere.

For the key lime pie recipe, visit Dianne’s website Veggie Girl.

A few recipe notes: When I made this recipe, I didn’t have walnuts on hand, and substituted some soaked almonds with good results. I also added 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice to the filling for a smooth, sweet finish. I’d imagine you could make this pie any citrus flavor you like- though it will always read green because of the avocados. Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!

The Boozy Palmer {a grownup twist on the Arnold Palmer}

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Check out my cocktail recipe feature on The Today Show contributor Robyn Moreno’s site!
Everyone loves an Arnold Palmer in the summertime. It’s the perfect refreshing drink to keep you cool when the mercury goes up. If you’re looking to give your Arnold Palmer a little extra kick, try making this souped up version: the Boozy Palmer. Easy, breezy, and oh-so-yummy,  a round of Boozy P’s is ideal for lazy afternoons by the pool (or on the green.)
Serves 1
1. In a glass, muddle 1 slice of lemon with a few mint leaves.
2. Pour in 1/3 cup of lemonade, 1/3 cup of black iced tea, and 1 shot of vodka (or to taste).
3. Add ice to fill the glass, and stir well. Garnish with an extra lemon slice and sprig of mint if desired.
For a fun twist, try substituting peach or jasmine tea for the black tea. You can also swap the plain vodka for flavored vodka, or for an equal amount of sweet tea liquor (like Firefly).
Cheers!!!

BBQ Pulled Pork & Cole Slaw Sliders

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Pulled pork sliders For Father’s Day.

Even if you tried, I doubt you could mess this recipe up- it’s essentially foolproof. All you have to do is trust the recipe, and leave the whole pot alone in the oven until it falls apart. Braising the pork shoulder slowly in the oven turns a very inexpensive cut of meat into something delicious and celebration-worthy that can feed a crowd. For 12 or 13 dollars, you can comfortable feed a group of six, with possible leftovers depending on their appetites. Treat dad to these sliders on Father’s Day, then get ready to make them over and over again all summer long.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 pound boneless pork shoulder (you can use pork butt too- oddly enough it’s also from a similar part of the pig)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large can of diced or chopped tomatoes (usually around 28 oz, don’t worry too much about the exact amount)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce or sriracha
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce (I like a vinegar forward Carolina style sauce here)
  • Slider buns
  • Your favorite cole slaw (try my recipe below, or pick something vinegary to offset the sweet and rich pork)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
  2. In a medium size dutch oven, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Liberally salt and pepper the pork shoulder, then brown it in the pan for 3-4 minutes on each side, being mindful not to burn it.
  3. Add the onion and garlic to the pan, and sauté them in the fat around the pork for a few minutes. Add the can of tomatoes, red wine and hot sauce, give everything a good stir, and cover your pan.
  4. Let the pork braise in the oven for a total of 3-4 hours, until it literally shreds itself and fall apart (you’ll know when its ready!). I find it helpful to flip the pork in the braising liquid every hour or so, letting the fat melt evenly. If needed, add a bit more wine, water, or pureed tomatoes to the pot to keep the liquid level about half way up the side of the pork.
  5. When its ready, shred the pork in the braising liquid, until it all comes together. Add the BBQ sauce to the mix, and stir throughly to combine. Season to taste, adding a bit more salt, pepper, hot sauce, or BBQ sauce depending on your taste.
  6. To serve, toast your slider buns, add a bit of pork and a bit of coleslaw, crack open a cold beer, and enjoy!

My Favorite Coleslaw Recipe:

Using a very sharp knife, thinly shred 1 head of cabbage (white or purple). Add 3-4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 cup mayo or Vegenaise, salt, pepper, and fresh chopped herbs to taste. Stir everything well to combine, and let sit for 10-15 minutes for the flavors to meld.

Note: If you have extra pork, you can toss it up with some pasta and parmesan cheese for a decadent bowl of deliciousness, or wrap it into a tortilla with some guacamole and salsa.

Recipe adapted from Dinner A Love Story.

 

To view the full post, visit Devil Gourmet. 

Nicaraguan Elotes {roasted corn with cotija cheese & lime}

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Elotes, or grilled corn brushed with mayonnaise and coated in chili powder and cotija cheese, are a popular street food in Nicaragua. Served piping hot off the grill, with fresh lime wedges to squeeze on top, they’re a surprisingly delicious combination of flavors that will instantly become a favorite. The mayo melts into the corn and helps the other ingredients stick.  By roasting the corn in the oven, you keep more of its nutritional value intact, and by judiciously using smaller amounts of mayo and cheese; you can enjoy this super snack without worrying about its adverse effects. These elotes also make a great addition to grilled meats or fish at dinnertime.

For the full post & recipe, visit GeoBlue’s Healthy Travel Blog or Travel Well Worldwide.

Montclair Food & Wine Festival: Aquaculture Seminar

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This past Sunday, I attended the Aquaculture seminar as part of the weekend’s Montclair Food & Wine Festival events. As a recent convert to raw oysters and clams (until a year ago the thought of them disgusted me, now I enjoy them every chance I get) I jumped at the opportunity to learn more about the local sources of my favorite bivalves.

The seminar began with a brief history lesson from Eric Levin, senior editor at NJ Monthly Magazine. He explained how in the 1700s, our very own Hudson River practically teemed with oysters. Where fresh water meets salt water, as in the Hudson River, oysters thrive. Upon discovering how delicious these odd edibles were, locals nearly ate the Hudson River oysters into extinction. Combine this over-consumption with pollution and waste from the growing local industry, and the future of our local east coast oysters grew grim. To counteract this landslide into an oyster-less Hudson, in 1927 the government halted all oyster fishing, making it illegal. While helpful, disease dealt oysters another blow in the 1950s, and the annual harvest radically dropped again.

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Fortunately, the region developed a plan to boost local aquaculture and help the oysters rebound their numbers. Rutgers University in particular helped save the local oysters with its agricultural experiment station. Using Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest, they bred the surviving oysters to be resistant to the MSX disease.

Gef Flimlin, of the Rutgers Cooperative Extension, explained how oysters greatly contribute to the health of the water they grow and live in. Just one fully grown oyster can filter 50 gallons (!) of water per day. And by consuming phytoplankton and algae from the water, oysters cleanse the water even further, making it more hospitable for other water dwellers. Think of what a few thousand oysters can do for the entire local aquaculture.

Unlike all the negatives associated with farmed fish, “farm raised” oysters grow in environments identical to those of their wild counterparts. Shellfish hatcheries simulate natural aquatic conditions, growing the oysters in the same oceans they would naturally grow in, only in more structured growing colonies.

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Matt Gregg, an aquaculture farmer so to speak, believes in encouraging local oysters to help rehabilitate parts of the Jersey Shore, and to give people in New Jersey some homegrown oysters to enjoy and be proud of. He grows oysters in Barnegat Bay, in Mantoloking, NJ at his 40 North Oyster Farm. In a region of the ocean formerly so saturated in algae that no other marine life could live, the whole habitat now thrives. Because of the introduction of these oysters, the algae subsided, bringing back all the fish, turtles, and crabs that formerly lived in the area. Matt explained, “you can take an area with no viable life, introduce oysters, and the whole ecosystem thrives.” This year, Matt will partner with a new restaurant set to open in Jockey Hollow, providing top quality Barnegat Bay oysters for its patrons. With a weekday price of a very affordable $1 an oyster, you can quickly become a patron of local aquaculture.

If you’ve ever eaten oysters, you know they come with all sorts of funny names. Naked Cowboy, French Kiss, Blue Point, Beavertail, Wellfleet,  the list goes on and on. But in truth, all the oysters up and down the east coast are the exact same species. The differences in flavor, texture, appearance, and size all depend on the local aquatic micro-climate. Rather than terroir, the French term to describe the local flavors of wine, think of these oyster flavors as merrior, or of the ocean, Greg, Matt, and Eric all explained. Even local weather patterns can change the flavor of oysters. The same oyster grown in the same estuary will taste differently one season to the next. Even a rain storm can immediately impact the oysters flavor; more rain means less salt in the water, which means a lower salinity in the taste of the oyster, with sweetness overtaking saltiness. The phytoplankton that oysters consume throughout the year also impact their taste, like a cow raised on grass instead of corn.

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In you’re wondering the best season to enjoy oysters, the old adage holds true. September, October, and November are when oysters reach their plumpest and fullest, before they shutdown their growing for the winter season.

At the seminar, we enjoyed several wines and a sparkling prosecco with our oysters and clams. When selecting a wine to serve with your oysters, chose something with higher salinity, minerality, and acidity, and with low alcohol and a slightly fruit forward taste to compliment the oysters inherent saltiness and sweetness. When eating oysters, keep a few things in mind. To reap the best flavor, slurp your oyster when you tip it back, and chew it slightly to release all of its subtleties. And if you really want to enjoy and appreciate your oysters, don’t drown out their delicate qualities with heaps of cocktail sauce, lemon, and mignonette. Those flavor maskers should only be used when forced to eat sub-standard oysters, none of which come from our local waters.

For the full article, visit Devil Gourmet. 

Kale Salad with Crispy Coconut & Sesame Ponzu Dressing

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Even if you’re a full bandwagon devotee of the now ubiquitous super green kale, I bet you’ve never tasted a kale salad quite like this one before.

Kale and flaked coconut, tossed with bright citrusy ponzu and silky sesame oil are then crisped up in the oven, resulting in a savory-sweet dish that hits all the flavor high notes. Though an unlikely combination, this salad will surely make its way into your cooking repertoire; pairing as easily with healthy hearty grains like quinoa as it does with grilled shrimp or steak. In less time than greasy pricy takeout (20 minutes!) you can have this healthy and crave-worthy salad on your plate.

Serves 2 Generously

Total Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of kale, washed with hard stalks removed, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon ponzu (available bottled in the Asian section of some supermarkets- substitute 1/2 lime juice and 1/2 orange juice if needed)
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
  • Red pepper flakes and black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. On a baking sheet, toss together all your ingredients until well combined, massaging the dressing into the kale as you go.
  3. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, tossing every 5 minutes or so, until the kale is crispy in places.
  4. To serve, you can make it your own and add a bit of your favorite chopped nuts (almonds or cashews work especially well), hemp hearts, even some chopped fresh herbs.

Note: Enjoy warm out of the oven or cold out of the fridge the next day.

Montclair Food & Wine Festival: The Grand Tasting

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This past Saturday I was lucky enough to attend the grand tasting for this year’s Montclair Food & Wine Festival. Now in its second year, the grand tasting took place at the Montclair Art Museum. After walking past a small fleet of white Maserati and Lexus sports cars, guests could take photos on the red carpet before checking in and diving into the seemingly endless food and drink offerings on two floors of the museum. After checking in, I made a beeline for the Fin Raw Bar table, stacked with freshly shucked oysters and clams. At adjacent tables, Fricassee offered up silky pate on toast points, and the Ryland Inn served tiny cups of refreshing watermelon gazpacho.

Downstairs in the main atrium, revelers were greeted with fresh and punchy cocktails by Leaf Organic Vodka, before winding around the dizzying array of tables. Orange + Olive Caterers & Chef’s Table brought a new menu item for the event; a summery and light hamachi ceviche with yuzu, Brick Lane Curry House offered samosa sliders with a selection of sauces, and Tia’s Food of Love put down a spread of gorgeous bites that drew especially thick crowds around their table.

Samba dished up shrimp in a comforting and creamy butternut squash sauce, and Escape served a particularly bracing and vibrant cold asparagus soup with crab and pea shoots. Le Salbuen offered petite salmon cakes with sweet potato and micro greens that looked as beautiful as they were delicious. For a sweet finish, Little Daisy put out an impressive spread of mini confections, and Asalt & Buttery Bake Shop served up a rainbow of gorgeous macaroons that were eaten almost as quickly as they were put out. For cocktails, Upstairs’ Grown Up Lemonade stole the show, steeped with rhubarb for a pleasantly tart finish.

The silent auction, stacked with items donated by Anthropologie, Lululemon, Jersey Artisan Distillery, Samba, Thread, Watchung Booksellers, and many others, benefitted the Center for Feeding and Swallowing at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital. All in all, a gorgeous event, made even lovelier when the retracting roof over the atrium was drawn back, illuminating the guests and table offerings. It’s only fitting that the culinary capital of New Jersey has an event as vibrant and celebratory as the Montclair Food & Wine Festival.

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