Thursday, April 2, 2009

April Showers Mean the Holidays

By Millicent K. Brody

I’m starting to stress. April showers bring Passover and Easter and millions of dishes, glasses, plates, and silverware. But in spite of all the pots, pans, and hours spent on preparation, I believe holidays are always special. I continually look forward to friends and family gathering to celebrate any occasion.

And like every year, I stress over the one significant question: Should I order out...or do it all myself? And as always, my mother comes to me from the underworld with her usual smirk, and says, “You don’t have to have anyone do for you what you can do for yourself.”

Of course, after doing the holidays, and that includes Christmas, (I love Christmas), I basically have the menus etched inside my brain, but this year I really want to do something a bit different.

Along with brisket, which I prepare with lots of carrots, mushrooms, onions, and potatoes, I decided to ask my cousin Carole for her most delicious vegetable casserole. Next, I begged Rob Russo, who, with his family, owns Girasole in Bound Brook, to share his recipe for herb roasted lamb. What’s for dessert? I’m heading to Swiss Pastry Shoppe in Scotch Plains for an array of their fabulous chocolate covered macaroons. I’ll do a fruit platter, and mix it all up with what else? Ice cream!

Herb Roasted Lamb Tenderloin
Girasole, 502 W. Union Ave. Bound Brook: 732-469-1080
4 lb. New Zealand rack of lamb, trimmed and deboned
2T. Olive Oil
6 Rosemary sprigs
8 Large Thyme Sprigs
8 Large Sage sprigs
1/2 C. finely chopped shallots
2T. finely chopped garlic
3 T. Dijon mustard

1/3 C. dry Vermouth
2 t. Dijon mustard
1 1/3 C. reduced chicken broth
1/2 t. unsalted butter
1 1/2 T/ all purpose flour

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Dry loin of lamb. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Place in flameproof roasting pan and place over burner to brown.

Transfer to larger roasting pan. Add shallots, garlic and 1 T. Oil. Smear over meat. Lay herb sprigs on top of meat. Roast 1 hour

Carole Chopin’s Vegetable Casserole
5 T. butter or light olive oil
1 C. chopped onions
1/2 C. chopped celery
1 1/2 C. grated carrots
2 boxes frozen, chopped, defrosted and drained broccoli
3/4 C. matzoh meal
3 eggs
1/2 C. chopped mushrooms
salt and pepper to taste

Sauté vegetables at least 10 minutes or until soft

Add beaten eggs, matzoh meal, and seasoning

Spray 9x9 square pan. Add vegetable mixture. (Add any left over vegetables lurking in the refrig).

Bake 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Tips for Holiday Food Shopping:
Shop Smart--Read the flyers; Check prices, even at the Big Box stores. For those who are simply crazed and need a helping hand, see Steve Geller, general manager at Livingston Bagel, and order a 5-course Passover Dinner, ($21.95 per person). At Culinary Creations in Hillsborough, buffet packages run from $15.95 per person to $24.95 for a full buffet. All start with garden salad, roasted leg of lamb or turkey, corresponding vegetables, and dessert. Ask for Tim Mason: 908.281.3894.

Burrini’s Old World Market, Sussex Turnpike, Randolph: 973.895.6100.

Livingston Bagel, 37 East. Northfield Rd., Livingston: 973.994.1915

Wegmans: Bridgewater, Cherry Hill, Manalapan, Mt. Laurel, Ocean, Princeton, Woodbridge

Your local Shop Rite, Kings, and Stop & Shop offer savings for Passover and Easter

Swiss Pastry Shoppe, 1711 E. 2nd St., Scotch Plains; 908.322.4751

A Trip to the Shoepermarket, Anyone?

By Judith Garfield

For the loveless cook a trip to the supermarket is alarming.

It triggers the same feeling as when I follow S. into Home Depot. My eyes glaze over and my brain shuts down. I am surrounded by things in which I have no interest.

My goal is to get in and out as quickly as possible. No easy task. Upon entering I become disoriented. I stand frozen. Should I go clockwise or counter? Stay to the perimeter and take short trips only to the necessary areas, or go up and down each aisle?

I am doomed to wander around the aisles for much longer than I thought I would have to, because things have been arbitrarily rearranged. This is a ploy to make us spot new products we wouldn’t ordinarily buy. I have a much better idea. Why not take a cue from Wal-Mart, where you can buy your groceries and….a new pair of shoes. It’s no surprise that in this tough economy Wal-Mart is doing well. Where else can you go to buy ketchup and a cute pair of sling backs?

Even President Obama has given a nod to women’s love of shoes. He jokingly told Michelle she doesn’t need any more shoes. “Why can’t you wear the ones you had on yesterday for the rest of the Presidency?” he asked. Clearly, Michelle would love my idea of a shoepermarket, once she starts grocery shopping again. I am jealous of the first lady right now, because not only does she not have to enter a supermarket for four years, she doesn’t have to cook either. That’s change she can believe in.

Wonder if the White House chef sometimes makes up cute names for his menus, like tonight we will be starting with cream of Barack-ali soup. Our main course, a bonus-less breast of chicken in a savory stock, and for dessert, a creamy strawberry tarp.

But I digress. I must prepare myself for a trip to the supermarket. I take my list, get what I need and am about to leave, relieved I have no more decisions to make.

Except one. Paper or plastic?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Quaaludes and Cake

By Maureen C. Petrosky

I am recovering from a birthday party hangover. No, I was not the guest of honor. In fact, I was the host to twelve little pirates and princesses along with their moms, and my two tenacious birthday boys. The day before the party the handyman was here to fix our kitchen table. On his way out he joked, “After tomorrow you’ll need a glass of wine and a quaalude”. I giggled, not realizing he was obviously speaking from experience. After a day of painting fingernails, traipsing through a treasure hunt, a piñata bust, and a serious sugar rush, I was indeed searching for Excedrin and something to sip. My goal was to find a screwcap, as I needed to exert as little energy as possible to enjoy this drink.

In honor of the birthday, I grabbed a bottle of Layer Cake, Primitivo, which turned out to be the perfect pick. Primitivo is the alter ego of Zinfandel. While Zins can be really heavy handed with jammy fruit, Primitivo tends to be leaner. This day in particular was not quite cold enough for my heat to kick on, but I just couldn’t shake a chill. Luckily, this little glass of red did the trick to soothe my nerves and warm my bones. So whether you’re trying to put a silver lining on one of these rainy spring days, or perhaps you’re a teacher whose everyday is like my twins’ birthday, this sip’s for you.

Layer Cake, Primitivo, 2006, $16 The name of this wine mirrors what’s inside the bottle. From its perfume to the palate this wine is layered with yummy flavors like cherries and vanilla cream. Topped with a screwcap, it’s the ideal indulgence after a long hard day.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Shop 'Til You Drop

By Brianne Harrison

It’s no secret that the economy is hitting businesses hard, and small and independent businesses are being hit the hardest. Those trying to make their living in fashion are being dealt a particularly difficult hand: even in the best of times, fashion is one of the most difficult industries to succeed in.

There’s strength in numbers, though, as well as an excellent opportunity for shoppers, and 25 independent and emerging designers from New York and New Jersey are gathering at Creative Conspiracy, a temporary retail space in Montclair, to introduce their collections.

For four days, shoppers can browse men’s and women’s clothes, jewelry, and accessories while also taking advantage of the entertainment and free services being offered. Sip a free mocktail while you shop and enjoy a discounted makeover, a free chair massage, or a free hair styling courtesy of Bangz Salon and Wellness Spa when you get tired.

Creative Conspiracy is a great place to find a perfect Mother’s Day gift or to get a jump start on your holiday shopping. Best of all, you’ll walk away with beautiful items and the satisfaction of knowing you helped a deserving designer who might otherwise not be able to keep doing what they love and do best.

Participating designers include J.B Born, B. Artise Originals, Sandra Baquero, Atlantis Jewelry, Marcelle Decaille, Vernakular, Devils May Care, Issy Salomon, Butter by Keba, A Seat at the Table, Pinnington Bags, Sierra Rising, Guerrilla Soul, Must-Have Accessories, Rhizome Design Concepts, Sohung Designs, Vanessa Ro Designs, Z Chocolate Candy, Amparo3, Park It Guides, NTR Designs, and Gail Toma. The event kicks off with a VIP opening on Thursday, April 16 and runs through Sunday, April 19 at 10 South Park St. in Montclair. To see a preview of the wares being offered, click here. For more information, visit

And the Winner Is…New Jersey!

David Burke Photo courtesy of

By Pat Tanner

You may have read by now that the nominees for - and some winners in non-competitive categories of - this year’s James Beard Awards were announced last week. If so, I hope you took pride in the fact that two of New Jersey’s own have already been named winners and two more Jerseyans are among the nominees in very prestigious categories. Here’s the rundown:

David Burke of David Burke Fromagerie, etc.
The Beard Foundation inducts the crème de la crème of the food and beverage world into its Who’s Who, and this year Jersey boy David Burke is among the chosen, cited for his groundbreaking restaurants, innovative product development (including signature GourmetPops), cookbooks, and long list of culinary accolades.

Mustache Bill’s Diner, Barnegat Light
Each year the Awards committee names as “America’s Classics” five small, regional eateries that have been serving good, down-home fare for generations. Several years back Atlantic City’s favorite sub shop, White House, was one. This year, Bill Smith, the owner of Mustache Bill’s (who, by the way, has never sported a mustache), is being recognized for his 35-plus years of making good food from scratch (!) at his diner.

Maricel Presilla of Cucharamama (and Zafra), Hoboken
Let’s hope the third time’s a charm for this Hoboken restaurateur, who is nominated once again for Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic region. Presilla also happens to be a scholar and world authority on chocolate. Her two restaurants have been very favorably reviewed in the pages of New Jersey Life (oh yes, and elsewhere).

Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune, NYC
No, I am not under the delusion that New Jersey has annexed the East Village, which is home to the restaurant Prune. But owner/chef Gabrielle Hamilton, who is nominated for Best Chef in New York City, grew up in Lambertville and is the daughter of restaurateur Jim Hamilton of Hamilton’s Grill Room.

Winners of the 2009 James Beard Awards will be announced at a ceremony and gala in NYC, open to the public, on May 4th. For ticket information and the full roster of nominees visit