Friday, July 10, 2009

Delicious Dinner Party Fun

By Millicent K. Brody

It’s not often that one gets invited to a dinner party on the fifteenth floor of a magnificent apartment overlooking the New York skyline. But there we were, enjoying all of the beautiful treats our friend set out for the occasion. Along with a host of hors d’oeuvres and salad with bleu cheese, candied walnuts, romaine hearts, and marinated, sliced red pears drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette, we dined on filet mignon and baked salmon straight from the friendly butcher and fishmonger at Whole Foods in Edgewater.

My contribution was a casserole of my special, super simple mashed potatoes. Why mashed potatoes? Because they’re always a hit and every now and then you need a dallop of simple comfort food. Regardless of the size of the casserole dish or the number of guests, the bottom is always scraped clean by the end of the meal.

Milli’s Mashed Potatoes for 8

7 large Yukon Gold potatoes
approximately 3/4 pint sour cream
3/4 C. large curd cottage cheese
3 T. unsalted butter
dash Kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
dash of Italian seasoning

In a large pot, boil potatoes until skin cracks or they become soft. Remove.

In a large bowl, mash potatoes, adding 2 T. butter, then slowly adding cottage cheese and finishing with sour cream. Taste, if you wish.

Spoon into round or oblong casserole dish.

Smooth top with sour cream and bits of remaining butter. Once again top with cracked pepper and dash of Italian seasoning

About 20 minutes before serving, turn oven on to broil.

Place the potatoes under the broiler and watch the top become goden brown and crispy.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Weed 'em and Eat

By Judith Garfield

Unlike Mary Louise Parker, I have found no lucrative solution to my weed problem.

My weeds are invasive, hardy, and aggressive. They are impossible to tame and they grow like, well, weeds. They continually spoil the beauty of my wild roses and my red brick pathways, giving me no respite from the backbreaking chore of pulling them up.

Many of us have decided to just give up the fight and refer to our weeds as wildflowers. Others have taken to calling them herbs, chopping and sautéing them with copious amounts of garlic and onions. Before you resort to this culinary tactic, I suggest having a copy of “The Handbook of Edible Weeds” by James A. Duke on hand.

I myself have sworn off weeding since my run in with Poison Ivy last summer. I’m reluctant to touch anything remotely weedy. I subtly ignore S. when he remarks the garden needs weeding. I know eventually he’ll tackle the problem without me since I suspect he still feels guilty about my ordeal.

The only weed I will gladly harvest and can readily identify is mint. Mint is wonderful and so useful. Add it to your lemonade, iced tea or just plain water for a refreshing summer thirst quencher. Innovative cooks can easily whip up tasty recipes for mint pesto and chutney. I made a mint pesto type thing that I spread on a sandwich type thing and it was delicious, but I would hesitate to call it a recipe.

Mint can make even the most loveless dish appear impressive. A few mint leaves added to a plate of nude pasta takes it from dreary to cheery without much effort. Your fruit salad will look positively gourmet with a few sprigs of mint on top.

Sprig is one of those words that good cooks like to throw around. Like a pinch of salt or a dash of vanilla. By casually remarking “I always put a few sprigs of mint on my fruit salad” you will sound like quite the clever cook.

As S. likes to tell me, never underestimate the power of a good condi-mint.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Beach Bound

by Maureen C. Petrosky

Finally, sunshine! I was beginning to think we lived in Seattle with all that rain. It’s no surprise that on the first beach day of the year there was not a spot to spread your blanket at Spring Lake. The 4th of July weekend followed suit as the causeway to Long Beach Island and the Parkway turned into parking lots.

It doesn’t matter if you’re native to New Jersey or a Northeast transplant, everyone has a favorite spot down the shore. True, Jersey beaches don’t boast crystal clear waters or palm trees, but from top to bottom our shore has something for everyone. Romantic B&B’s in Cape May, family fun on the boardwalks of Wildwood and Ocean City, gambling in A.C… and that’s just the southern end of NJ. Every step of the way heading north there’re endless spots to soak in the sun, fish, sail, stroll, and shop…not to mention eat your heart out. So what’s the perfect wine to complement all of our amazing beach spots? Bubbles of course! Bubbly wine makes for more fun at the shore and is a surefire hit whether you’re sipping solo or celebrating summer with friends and family. From easy drinking to pure elegance, here’re three picks to pour at your summer shore spot.

Barefoot on the Beach- Barefoot Bubbly $11
You can pick between sparkling Pinot Grigio, White Zinfandel, or my fave of the bunch –Chardonnay. They are all easy drinking and light and perfect to sip when squishing sand between your toes.

Barefoot in the Back Yard- Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Minis $10/each
Go casual but in serious style with either the mini Bruts or Rose, or, for more fun, serve both at your next backyard bash.

Barefoot Contessa- Veuve Clicquot, Rose Champagne, $70
Rich and elegant, this classic rose Champagne is perfect for toasting on deck or for swirling at a swanky soiree at the bayside compound.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A New Vision of Home

image courtesy of

By Brianne Harrison

With the rise of oil prices and increasing concern about the environment, Smart Growth (and its sidekick, Urban Revitalization) has become a new focus for politicians, builders, and urban planners. Smart Growth aims to contain sprawl and its attendant traffic problems by building smarter—focusing development of homes and businesses around transit hubs and moving back toward the early-century model of building around town squares rather than scattering homes around car-dependent suburbia.

Old cities, which, naturally, were densely built near transit, are prime targets for Smart Growth, and northern New Jersey cities such as Newark (yes, Newark), Hoboken, and Jersey City have reaped the benefits. Jersey City in particular has gone through a major renaissance, and now architecture students are trying to take Jersey City’s heart--Journal Square—into a new, more environmentally conscious period.
In (Re) Centering: New Visions for Journal Square, architecture students from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture display their urban housing proposals for Journal Square. The designs aim to be both global and local, focusing on fitting into Journal Square itself while also addressing wider concerns, such as minimizing commuting times, the importance of home, and environmentalism. The show grew out of a recent course at the Architecture School, which explored new ways to make housing affordable and keep it connected to the many resources of an urban area. The exhibition is thought provoking and will have you thinking about housing and Jersey City in a whole new way.

(Re) Centering: New Visions for Journal Square runs through August 22 at the Jersey City Museum, 350 Montgomery St., Jersey City, 201.413.0303,

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fancy Food Show 2009

By Pat Tanner

You might think that in this struggling economy the Fancy Food Show would be not as well attended as in years past. Yet the 25,000 food professionals who showed up at the Javits Center at the end of June represented an increase. The reason? Treats like cheeses, chocolates, confections, and savory snacks are small indulgences that help us get through tough times. In that light, I pass along a few of my favorite finds.

Edward’s Surryano Ham. You’ve read about it in the New York Times, and if you’re a customer of Heritage Foods USA you’ve been tempted to buy it. Sure, it has all the sustainable bona fides, but the number one reason to buy it is the sumptuous, not-too-salty taste and silky, melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Effie’s Homemade Oatcakes. The company pushes these crackers/biscuits/cookies as ideal accompaniments to farmstead cheeses, but I can’t stop eating them unadorned. Available at Whole Foods.

Tastybaby Frozen Organic Baby Food. I wish I still had little mouths to feed because if the banana-and-mango is any indication, I’d load up on these portable, re-sealable, single serving goodies. Available at Whole Foods.
LeGrand Pestos and Tapenades. Maison LeGrand’s cold-processed sauces are delicious and fresh tasting, but beyond that they come conveniently packaged in stand-up plastic (but recyclable) pouches that sport re-sealable caps. They’re available at Whole Foods, Zabar’s, and online.

Savannah Bee Honey Grilling Sauce. Honeys – single-flower, infused with other flavors, or still in the comb – continue to grow in popularity, but I noticed a new twist: honey grilling sauces, such as this one by my favorite honey source.

Muirhead of Ringoes. This NJ producer of fruit butters, chutneys, mustards, and salad dressings grew out of the erstwhile restaurant of that name that was opened by Doris and Ed Simpson in 1974. This year the company introduced Roasted Rhubarb Compote, which is good enough to convert even the rhubarb reticent. There was a unique and touching feature at the Muirhead booth: Ed Simpson passed away last summer and, as a tribute, Doris and daughter Barbara exhibited the cherry-condition 1930 Chevy Sedan that Ed had worked on restoring.