Monday, August 6, 2018

Teriyaki Tofu with Green Bean Ceviche and Tomato Salad

The Riverview Farmers Market is a weekly event that takes place every Sunday in the Heights of Jersey City. It features anywhere from three to five local farmers, an organic meat guy (who I think also serves as the butcher), a honey guy, food trucks, bands, and a bunch of stuff to keep kids occupied. For us home cooks, it also serves as a set palette for what veggies are peaking and which ones are coming into season.
Often, I'll run into neighbors and friends who know of my affinity for cooking veggies and they'll ask what I'm doing with this week's selection.
The truth is, not much, or more accurately, as little as necessary.
I liked the way the green beans, corn, red cabbage, and tomatoes looked this week, so for Sunday night I made a simple tomato salad with olive oil, salt, pepper, and chopped parsley; green bean civiche with toasted sesame seeds and nuts; and teriyaki-marinated tofu. Pictures below:

I am going to try to make this a weekly thing, so until next week...

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Vegetarisches Deutsches Essen? Ja!

It seems that everywhere one looks these days another beer garden is popping up, and personally, I couldn't be happier. Afterall, one of my top three favorite dishes of all time was served at a bar in northern Germany.
It was 2006 and A bunch of family and friends went to the World Cup and spent our first three days in the town of Bad Herrenalb, mostly at a tavern called The Hobbit Hole. The Hobbit Hole was down the cobblestone street, across the park, and over the footbridge (probably built pre-renaissance) from our hotel. It was a dark (yet clean) bar located in an old Tudor-style row house in the center of town. Everything (from what I recall) was cooked and served in cast-iron skillets, directly out of the oven, delivered by a pair of hands in heat-resistant gloves, usually with a smile, definitely with a full stein.
I love the simplicity of traditional German food and this dish was no exception. Roasted cubes of turkey, pepper-blackened halved mushrooms, spatzle (linked for proper pronunciation—one time I actually got yelled at by an old German woman for mispronouncing it), and a silky pan gravy. It was simple, properly seasoned, and went perfectly with beer and soccer, which is probably the main reason I ordered it five out of nine Bad Herrenalb meals. I used to have a good photo of the dish—double paned, one side just served/one side just finished; unfortunately, it was lost to Superstorm Sandy a few years back.
I wanted my wife and son who are strict vegetarians (and good sports for accompanying me to local beer gardens where their selection is minimal at best) to experience legit German food. This is what I came up with: Salted and dehydrated tofu schnitzel served with rosemary-roasted potatoes, a cucumber and dill salad (gurkensalat), and a dollop of lingonberry sauce. I sliced and salted the tofu for a few hours and patted them dry; then an egg wash, a breadcrumb dredging, and directly into the fryer.
The gurkensalat was super easy; mandolin the cucumber (two large), slice the onion (one small), chop the dill (hand-full), and add all to a bowl; then, equal parts olive oil and vinegar (1/3 of a cup) and equal parts salt and sugar (1.5 tsp). Toss and let sit in the refrigerator for about an hour.
The potatoes were par-boiled in salty water for about 10 minutes, tossed in olive oil and herbs and spices and roasted in the oven for 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees, removed from the oven, and tossed in the olive oil/herb/spice mix again. The lingonberry sauce was complements of Ikea. :-)
I made this for the first time two months back, and since then has been recreated-by-request at least a half-dozen times. Now that I think about it, the way my son and wife react to this dish is pretty much the exact way I reacted to the food at Hobbit Hole. Prost!!

Monday, January 16, 2017

9th & Coles and Sicilian Stye Eggplant Parmesan

It dawned on me the other day that it's been just over a year since I started the Meatless Monday event at 9th and Coles Tavern (Jersey City). Looking back, it was a fun idea that helped power through the doldrums of a cold NE winter and allowed me the opportunity to try working as a cook for the first time in many years.
Jersey City Vegetarian: fried goat cheese balls with Sambal mayo
Goat Cheese Balls
Good times, but in all honesty, it went on longer than it should have. The initial plan was to stop the event in the spring, but the thought of cooking farm fresh spring vegetables made the owner and I start thinking big(ger)-picture-farm-to-table-vegetarian-bar-thingy that was never really sorted out properly. Either way, I ended my participation about six months ago when I started editing journal articles again and realized balancing the two was impossible.
Since then, the tavern was sold and has reopened under new ownership (solid F&B veterans from what I hear). I plan on stopping in a for a beer soon to check it out. Best of luck to everyone involved, that place has miles of potential!
Celery Soup w Fried Brussels Sprouts
Personally, I am enjoying cooking for friends and family again and I welcome the occasional invite to cook for a party or special event; but, being a full-time chef is no longer in the cards for me.
I made the following eggplant parmesan recipe for my family, drummer, and guitar player who were recently over one night for a basement recording session.
Start off by peeling the eggplant and slicing it as close to 1/4" as possible. Then, salt the slices and let sit for 1/2 hour to extract the internal water. Pat dry, lightly dredge in egg, flour or breadcrumb, fry, and let the slices rest on a paper towel. (Keep in mind that these are going to go into the oven, so you definitely don't want to overcook.) When the slices are room temp, begin layering: sauce (I will post a recipe for an awesome, simple tomato sauce soon), eggplant, cheese; sauce, eggplant, cheese... When you've used up all the eggplant and are to the rim of the pan, cover and let sit for a 1/2 hour; then bake in the oven at 350° for 25 minutes. Remove cover and bake for another 15 minutes in order to crisp up the top layer of cheese. Let sit for 10 minutes, slice, and serve with a little sauce on the plate and a well-seasoned arugula salad.
Jersey City Vegetarian: tray of eggplant parmJersey City Vegetarian: eggplant parmJersey City Vegetarian: eggplant parm serving

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Tofu in a Lemon, Butter, Capers Sauce. Not Your Typical Scampi

When I was younger my family would bounce back-and-forth between the beach and our home up north. It's one of the perks to growing up in New Jersey—the mountains, the farms, the beach, the ski slopes, and NYC are no more than a short drive or train ride away, creating unlimited day trips and culinary experiences.

Before I write the next part, I want to say that raising a vegetarian son is easy. At three-and-a-half he understands why he doesn't eat animals and, to be honest, he wouldn't have it any other way. But there are moments (some very strong moments) usually triggered by a whiff of a classic, beach-related flavor combination that I get the urge to give him a cherrystone clam drenched in butter, garlic, and parsley or a perfectly steamed oyster with just a little vinegar and horseradish or a delicately fried jumbo shrimp tossed in butter and Old Bay, all sensory reminders of good times spent down the shore. And, whether it be my parent's cozy little bungalow with all the windows open and the grill roaring; the Crab's Claw, situated right between the Atlantic Ocean and the Barnegat Bay (a wonderful smelling, salty crosswind included at no charge); or sitting with my grandmother at the "old person's bar" on Seaside Heights Boardwalk eating fried clams and cocktail sauce; the smell of beer + saltwater + seafood will be forever embedded into my innermost psyche, triggering memories of a youth well-spent surfing, fishing, crabbing, and cooking.

I saw an image of a shrimp scampi dish in a friend's FB feed so I decided to try to recreate it substituting lightly roasted tofu for shrimp. I drenched it in butter, olive oil, onions, capers, lemon, garlic, and a little white wine. I served it with a nice loaf of crusty bread and well seasoned blanched asparagus covered in micro-planed Parmesan cheese. We ate this outside and drank a slightly chilled rosé (not my son)—the perfect combination for the saltiness of this caper-heavy dish. 

I'm happy to say that it took care of the craving, the boy (and the girl) loved it, and the best part (as far they're both concerned) nothing had to perish in the process. Feel free to email me for the recipe. Till next time…

Tofu Scampi, capers, lemon, butter, white wine
 blanched asparagus with parmesan cheese

Monday, May 16, 2016

Sometimes It's All About Family (And Farmer's Markets)

This weekend not only brought beautiful sunshine to the Heights of Jersey City but also the season's first farmer's market. Every year the market brings together our ever-increasing population of families, artists, hipsters, local vendors, and farmers to a park that shows off quite possibly the best view of NYC.
And let us not forget the beautiful ingredients that the farmers bring. Although the selection this early in the year is limited, there is still great eating to be had. Beets, asparagus, green beans, and some early hothouse tomatoes were the primary selection, and I opted for all of the above. I figured I would make some homemade veggie burgers with the beats and some fresh black beans that earlier that morning had come off of the stove. While prepping the beets I accidentally came across a new snack from a part of the beet I usually reserve for stock or compost--the stems. After removing the leaves for sautéing, my 3.5-year-old picked up one of the chewy/fibrous stems, bit into it and said: "Daddy, these stems taste good!" Taking it from his hand, I tried it as well, and he was absolutely correct--they were juicy and sweet, and with an olive oil drizzle, a little salt and pepper, and a quick sweet chili aioli (Vegenaise, fresh garlic, lemon juice, and insert hot sauce) we had our appetizer.
It was then on to a bowl of fresh asparagus with Israeli garlic couscous. I blanched the asparagus in salted water and gave them a quick saute in olive oil and red wine vinegar.  After the saute, I tossed them in the couscous with some fresh chives from my garden and the second course was complete.
It was then onto the homemade veggie burgers. I don't want to give too much away, but the way I cook them, they come out perfectly "medium rare."
I'm really looking forward to documenting what I make out of this year's spring/summer's veggie selection and sharing the images, processes, and recipes with all of you.
It should be noted that towards the end of August I will not only be a shopper at the Riverview farmer's market, but I will also be doing a vegetarian cooking demonstration. See you then, if not before.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A New Veggie-centric Bar Menu at 9C

Good morning, it's been a while.

On March 21st I mentioned that I had some news relating to this blog and working at 9th & Coles Tavern. Well, just over three weeks ago I started to help launch (under the radar and without sounding the trumpets and rallying the troops) a new, primarily vegetarian bar menu.

Some images of the food we've been doing below.

Jersey City vegetarian pierogi
Jersey City vegetarian curry fries
Curry Fries
Jersey City Vegetarian Hummus

Jersey City vegetarian fried Brussels sprouts and chickpeas
Fried Brussels Sprouts and Chick Peas Tossed in Honey and Lemon Juice

Jersey City Vegetarian Buffalo Tofu
Obligatory Buffalo tofu

Black Bean Soup with Cilantro Salsa Verde and Sour Cream

Veggie Quesadilla
Salsa Verde and Homemade Hot Sauce
Jersey City Vegetarian Vegan Chocolate Brownies
Vegan Chocolate Brownies

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Meatless Monday, 9th & Coles Tavern, March 28, 2016

This week's menu at 9C is a cross between dishes I have been making for a long time and ones that I recently started experimenting with. The classics are arugula salad with lemon vinaigrette and Parmesan (sans cheese, if you want it vegan) and the collard green blunts, both dishes I have been making/eating for quite some time. The experimental ones are squash mash with mushrooms and the ever-evolving homemade seitan wings. I think I may have nailed the wing recipe down finally. Hope to see you there.

Tonight's menu:

Seitan wing production:


Collard green blunts:

Jersey City Vegetarian: Collard Green Blunts

Monday, March 21, 2016

Meatless Monday, 9th & Coles Tavern, March 21st, 2016

Good morning, apologies for the short post, but I'm been busy prepping for tonight's service (trying to come up with a good batter for the cabbage—I'm thinking something Guinness-based). I have some big news coming that I will blog about soon! Tonight's menu below:

Monday, March 14, 2016

Meatless Monday, 9th & Coles Tavern, March 14th, 2016

I've been getting a lot of emails lately asking about the menu and whether meatless Monday (MM) is happening "this week." Let me say that MM will always be happening at 9th & Coles Tavern as long as I am there, and hopefully beyond. I do need to adjust my schedule a bit so that I am posting the menu sooner than the day of…

This week, in honor of St. Patrick, we will be serving an Irish themed menu. Not all the dishes are Irish per say, but they all incorporate some aspects of Irish cuisine. For example, the first course is a vegetarian Caesar salad, which obviously is not Irish, but the soda bread croutons are and I think they'll compliment the Romaine and creamy dressing nicely. The second course will be a creamy fava bean hummus, a dish I've been working on for a few weeks now. It's a take on a traditional Italian fave cicoria (see the image to the left) and it will be served this with some seasoned, homemade potato chips. Next up is a take on fish and chips, only we will be subbing tofu for fish. Now I know some people just do not like tofu—they don't even like the idea of it—but I was messing around with this dish last night and you're gonna have to trust me on this, it's good! :-) Especially when it's drizzled with a semisweet malt vinegar reduction. The potatoes are directly from the farm and they pretty much speak for themselves. They'll be tossed with chopped parsley and lemon zest—a flavor combo that's becoming increasingly prominent in 9C's kitchen. The final course is a Lager Stew, and according to my history folder, it's a take on this Vegetarian Times dish, only I'll be using the root veggies we have and it'll be served with pearled Israeli couscous. Actual menu below, see you tonight!

Monday, February 29, 2016

Meatless Monday, 9th & Coles Tavern, February 29, 2016

I'm about to head over to the restaurant in order to start prepping for tonight's meal. It should be a good one! In the walk-in, there are some ripe delicata squash that I plan on turning into a creamy soup, topped with a piece of garlic toast and some toasted pumpkin seeds. The second course will be deep fried Brussels sprouts and chickpeas tossed in chives, sesame seeds, and a little bit of honey, giving them a savory/sweet flavor (some customers refer to them as "9C Crack"). The third course will be roasted-root-vegetable tacos served with some traditional red cabbage slaw and an amazing salsa verde, made by my colleague who will joining me in the kitchen, Felicito. Finally, a bowl of pasta with olives, capers, spinach, and Parmesan tossed in a homemade broth and olive oil—a "white puttanesca" if you will.

It is possible to get individual items or you can just get the entire tasting for 30 bucks. See you there!