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!


Friday, February 19, 2016

It's Already Friday, But I've Been Thinking About Monday Since Tuesday

It's already Friday, but I've been thinking about Monday since Tuesday and I'm pretty sure we're ready to go. This week I'm delving deeper into the use of spice to liven things up a bit. Spring is right around the corner and with it brings new ingredients from the farm. But for now, beets, carrots, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and rutabaga (if anyone can email or message me good rutabaga ideas, I would be extremely grateful!), in all their wonderful rooty goodness are the colors of my pallet. And when I say "spice" I'm referring to depth, not necessarily heat.

The first course will be a beet and veggie-ball stew—a take on a traditional Iraqi-Jewish dish—deep spices, but more savory than hot. The second course will actually be a little spicy, a Moroccan carrot salad. The heat is such that it enhances the dish without overpowering it. Third course, a traditional Patatas Bravas, something i've been making a lot lately at Raval, and truth be told, the amazing farm potatoes should be highlighted at least once each menu. This will be served with some sort of aioli that hasn't been chosen yet—I want it to be different, but still keep Spanish roots. The fourth course will be a Kentucky-fried portabella mushroom served with sautéed spinach and (quite possibly) the best peanut sauce I have ever had. This is the first dish that Buddi (the other cook who's with me Mondays) has contributed and it's everything you could possibly imagine it being—a sweet-smokey-roasted-salty peanut puree with a touch of heat from toasted red chili pepper flakes.

It's finally going to be nice, so come out and shake some of that winter off, with some hearty vegetarian food! See you there.

Some pictures of last week's menu and one dish that is surely on the horizon in the next month or so below.

**It should be noted that we now offer everything à la carte as an additional option to the tasting menu.

Jersey City Vegetarian Meatless Monday Menu for 2.22.2016 9th & Coles Tavern

Warm beet and arugula salad with crumbled, toasted pecans
Bbq tofu and cabbage tempura with a peanut sauce

And coming this spring, my son's favorite: "Remi's" Ratatouille:

"Remi's" Ratatouille

Monday, February 15, 2016

Meatless Monday, 9th & Coles Tavern, February 15th 2016

This week's menu is a combination of some bar-food ideas mixed with dead-of-winter, root-vegetable and bean soothing goodness. A nice pink lentil soup with either fried Brussels sprouts or an Italian Gremolata will start things out. This will be followed by a warm beet, caramelized red onion, and spinach salad that will be tossed in an orange-tarragon vinaigrette. Third, fried BBQ tofu served on a bed of cabbage tempura, topped with a home-made peanut sauce. The 4th course will be veggie sliders, dressed with sun-choked cherry tomatoes, bread and butter pickles, and a white pepper aioli (vegan)…actually, now that I think about it, the entire meal is vegan…. But don't let the "V-word" scare you, this food is rich, super filling, and plenty flavorful! Each one can be made à la carte as well. Hope to see you there.


And from last week: Spanish cous-cous stuffed onion on top of a red onion and pigeon pea relish:

Monday, February 8, 2016

Meatless Monday, 9th & Coles Tavern, February 8th, 2016

As of late I've been running the kitchen a couple nights a week at Raval, a very "vibey" Spanish tapas place on Newark Ave. in Jersey City. It's not a vegetarian spot, but they do have have great vegetarian options. Because of this I have not had the time to post any good prep photos; but worry-ye-not, prep is being done and this week's menu is easily one of the best. I am going over to 9C in a little bit to start, so i will post photos as I go. Menu below.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Meatless Monday, February 1st, 2016. Food as Good as La Liga.

My good friend Tom is celebrating his 50th birthday in Madrid starting this weekend. In honor of this occasion (and the fact that starting Sunday I will be plying my trade a couple days a week in a really cool tapas restaurant downtown) this week's menu will be a vegetarian take on a few Spanish tapas. I'm also going to do a bowl of Tossed Chick Pea and Brussels Sprouts and the Orange-Tarragon Carrots--I'm really enjoying the way the toasted pecans work with the vinaigrette. It's going to be warm and drizzly (warm being the focus) on Monday, but I hope to see you there! (Edit: Oops, almost forgot to post the menu...)


And a couple photos of dishes coming out the kitchen last week:

Broccoli & Cheese Toast
Fave Cicoria

Friday, January 22, 2016

Meatless Monday January 25th: We Will (Not) Be Snowed In?

Pretty harsh weather predicted for this weekend, but hopefully it will clear up enough by Monday to open 9C (Edit: It is, come on down!) This is easily one of my favorite menus since starting this job/blog. The Puree of Fava Bean and sautéed greens is old-school Italian and it's amazing! The entree?: PASTA...I can seriously eat pasta for every meal for the rest of my existence and be perfectly happy. Menu and a shot of the Fava dish (Edit: and a couple others) below.

(Update) A few more photos of today's menu:

Paprika Broccoli and Cheese Toast
Poached Carrots

I could take an IV of this dressing, goes with the carrots