Take the challenge!

13 04 2015

New Jersey Conservation Foundation has launched an awesome new “Step Into Nature Challenge”, asking people to set a goal for themselves to get outside more in 2015. Hiking, biking, and species identification categories are available, plus a custom category to create your own goal! For more information and to register, visit http://njconservation.org/StepIntoNatureChallenge.htm

cropped-sunriseduck.jpg

I am challenging myself to photograph 200 different species of native plants and animals in New Jersey this year! What’s your challenge going to be?





21st Great Tomato Tasting

24 08 2011

Rutgers Snyder Research Farm will host the 21st Great Tomato Tasting, with more than 60 varieties of tomatoes, plus apples, peaches, herbs, and honey! There is also a teaching garden to explore and a wagon tour to enjoy. Everything starts on Wednesday, August 31st at 3pm. Click here to find out all the details and RSVP.

(c) Tim Waters 2007





Eat Slow!

1 12 2010

Slow Food Central New Jersey is once again putting on a series of Winter Markets.  Two are coming up very soon, on December 11th and 18th in Princeton and New Brunswick, respectively.  You can check back here to get info on future events (such as the February 6th market).

 

These markets are a great way to continue to buy locally and sustainably throughout the winter.  Many farms in the area are still selling wonderful, tasty produce.  The markets also offer some delicious treats like homemade shortbread, pickles, cheeses, and so on.

 

Click on the image for a larger version.





Summer delicacy: Watermelon!

2 09 2010

The prime season for watermelon in NJ is coming to an end, but there’s still time to enjoy this refreshing treat!  Visit your local farmers market or roadside stand and pick up some for Labor Day Weekend!

Check out this post on Party of Two (a food blog dealing mostly with local restaurants and sustainable agriculture) for some ideas on what to make with your watermelon.  Ideas include easy-to-make popsicles, fruit salads, and a Greek-inspired salad with crumbled feta and red onions!

Watermelon & mint salad





Roasted Eggplant from the Princeton Farmers Market

2 08 2010

Lauren convinced me (with her post about the Red Bank Farm Market) that the best way to get out of my cooking rut this summer – or rather, my complicated inability to “want to find the time to cook” – might be to go out and pick up something new at a farmers market.  As crazy as it may sound, it actually worked!

I visited the Princeton Farmers Market which has relocated this year to 55 Witherspoon Street (right in front of Witherspoon Grill and next to the Princeton Library). Local vendors are at the market from mid June through October from 12:30 to 2:30 every Thursday.

After wandering around for a while, looking at bright and beautiful flowers and tent after tent of produce and prepared foods – getting hungrier and hungrier each minute, I came across a variety of eggplants from J&L Farms.  The way the eggplants vibrantly spilled out of the barrels toward me, I knew right away that they were just the inspiration that I needed to get back into my kitchen.

Locally grown eggplant from J&L Farms.

Eggplant may not seem that “new” or “inspiring” to most of you, but for someone who doesn’t typically like eggplant (me!), it was a food that I had never cooked before.  Besides, the pretty, round eggplant were so different looking, I just had to see what they were all about.  I purchased an eggplant, asked for instructions on the best way to cook it, and went home to try it out.

Aren't they just so pretty?

My instructions for cooking this round eggplant were as follows:  Cut off the top and bottom of the eggplant.  Lay it on its side and cut slices about 1/2 an inch thick.  Marinate and then grill.  It sounded easy enough to me!

Eggplant sliced and ready for the marinade.

For the marinade, I decided to make my own.  (Partly because I didn’t have a pre-made one in the house, and partly because I wanted to use some of the locally grown honey that I bought the same day from Tassot Apiaries, Inc.; see how well Lauren’s trick is working?)

I made the marinade by combining the following ingredients.  (Please keep in mind that all measurements are approximate – inspired or not, I tend to only use exact measurements when baking!)

  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1/4 cup lemon jucie
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 tbs of olive oil
  • 1 tbs local honey
  • few splashes of lite soy sauce (for color, mostly)
  • pinch or so of each: tarragon, dillweed, basil, and black pepper

Ready to sit in the fridge for a few hours.

I let the eggplant marinate for the afternoon (I also added a sliced onion).  Though my instructions were to grill, I didn’t put the eggplant directly on the grill.  (I was a little afraid that the marinade would make the vegetables stick.)  Instead, I lined a tray with aluminum foil and roasted them on the grill that way.  They were absolutely delicious.

Since this was such a success, the next time I’m at a farmers market, I know I’m definitely going to pick out something new to try again!

The final dish of eggplant and onion!

Has anyone else tried Lauren’s trick?  What have you experimented with from a farmers market in your area?

~Melissa





Bean and Veggie Enchiladas with Spicy Local Tomatillo Sauce

19 07 2010

As promised, I have a recipe for you that features one of my recent farmers market finds!  Last week, I picked up some beautiful local tomatillos.  I love to make a big batch of enchiladas to feed a small group, and I usually use a pre-made enchilada sauce.  This time, I decided to make my own with the fresh tomatillos.  This will easily feed 4-5 people. Enjoy!

Bean and Veggie Enchiladas with Spicy Local Tomatillo Sauce

For the  enchilada sauce:
– canola oil spray
– 20 (give or take a few) small tomatillos, whole
– 1 serrano pepper, whole (use 2 if you really like it hot)
– 3 cloves garlic, peeled
– 1 sweet onion, quartered
– 1/2 cup cilantro
– salt and pepper

For the enchilada filling:
– canola oil
– 1 red onion, diced
– 2 bell peppers, diced (I used a red and a green)
– 1 serrano pepper, seeded and minced
– 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
– 2 15 oz. cans beans, rinsed and drained (I used black and pinto)
– 1 6 oz. can chopped green chilies
– 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
– 1 tbsp chili powder
– 1 tbsp cumin
– hot sauce to taste
– salt and pepper
– 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
– 1/2 cup dry brown rice, cooked
– juice of 1 lime

To put everything together:
– 8-10 medium-sized flour tortillas
– 8 oz. pepper jack cheese, grated
– canola oil spray

Steps:
– Preheat the oven broiler.
– Make the enchilada sauce. First, remove the papery husks from the tomatillos and rinse them under cold water.

Husked tomatillos

– In a small baking dish, combine the tomatillos, serrano pepper, and garlic. Coat with canola oil spray.
– Broil the tomatillos for about 10 minutes, flipping them around once or twice so they brown all over and soften. Remove and let cool for a few minutes. Remove the top of the serrano pepper, and slice and seed it.
– In a food processor, combine the cooked tomatillos, serrano pepper, garlic, onion, cilantro, and salt and pepper. Blend until smooth, and set aside.

Finished spicy tomatillo enchilada sauce

– Next, get going on the enchilada filling. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add a few teaspoons of canola oil to the skillet, then add the onion, bell peppers, serrano pepper, and garlic to the pan. Cook for 7-8 minutes, stirring, until softened.

Enchilada filling ingredients

– Add the beans, green chilies, tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Stir to combine and cook for another 7-8 minutes until everything is cooked through and the flavors are combined.
– In a large bowl, combine the contents of your skillet with the cilantro, cooked brown rice, and lime juice. Stir to combine.
– Start to assemble your enchiladas. Coat the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish with canola oil spray (you may need an additional small baking dish to fit all the enchiladas!). Pop your tortillas in the microwave for 10-15 seconds to soften them.

Enchilada assembly line

– Lay a tortilla flat on a cutting board. Spoon a few tablespoons of enchilada filling into the middle, and then roll up the tortilla. Place tortilla in your baking dish. After you roll one or two, you’ll figure out how much filling you can fit without it all falling out when you try to roll them up. Repeat this process until you are out of tortillas and filling.
– Sprinkle your grated cheese evenly over the enchiladas. Then, spoon the tomatillo sauce evenly over the top of everything.
– Bake the enchiladas for 25-30 minutes, until hot and bubbly around the outside. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 5 minutes.
– Serve the enchiladas with smashed avocado and additional hot sauce at the table. Enjoy!

Enchiladas, ready to eat!





Scenes from the Red Bank Farmers Market

13 07 2010

One of the things I look forward to most in the summer months is the local farmers market.  There’s just nothing like spending a weekend morning choosing produce to create delicious meals for the week, especially when that produce was picked just days, or even hours, before.  My local farmers market, in Red Bank, has a large number of vendors and a huge weekly turnout.

Red Bank Farmers Market

You can get everything from spring onions to homemade pickles to vegan donuts – and that’s just scratching the surface.  For me, it’s all about the produce.  At the farmers market, there’s no need to assess what is seasonal.  What you see is what is growing now.  Buying seasonal produce that you haven’t seen or cooked with before is also a great way to get out of a cooking rut.  When you have a new ingredient sitting before you, you’re bound to get creative and make something new and different.  So why, besides personal satisfaction, should you patronize your local farmers market?

To Help The Environment

Some grocery stores have really improved their relationships with local farms, and now carry some local products.  However, you still find tons of products, many of which can be grown in your own backyard, shipped from all over.  By shopping at the farmers market, you can be sure far less gas is being used to get your food from farm to you.  Your food is fresher, and you’re helping to reduce unnecessary natural resource consumption.

To Boost The Local Economy

For communities to thrive, it’s important to have a healthy local economy.  The small farms that sell their goods at the farmers market are not huge profitable institutions, but they provide a valuable service to the local community.  By buying their products and supporting them directly, they are able to keep doing what they’re doing and make a living.  Keeping our dollars in our communities creates a stronger tie between us and our local farmers.  As the Garden State, it’s important that these farms are economically sustained.

To Get an Education

Ever wondered what to do with okra or rainbow chard?  Just ask!  Often, the farmers themselves will be at the farmers market, and no one knows the vegetables more intimately than him or her.  Take the time to ask how the vegetables are grown, or what their personal favorite way to prepare them is.  I know I’ve asked a number of times for growing tips for my own backyard garden, and the farmers are always happy to share their knowledge.

To Eat Food at Its Freshest

As mentioned before, produce at the farmers market doesn’t travel far to get to you.  This allows the fruit and vegetables to be at peak freshness when you buy them.  Since the farmers market doesn’t happen everyday, the produce isn’t sitting around in a bin for multiple days waiting for someone to take it, like it might at the regular grocery store.  It’s been harvested very recently, and is going to taste that much better.

Now for today’s haul: beets (with beautiful greens), yellow peaches, blueberries, tomatillos, red potatoes, and scallions.

Fresh produce

I’m already planning a few tasty dishes.  I’ll make a roasted beet and beet greens salad, a batch of bean and vegetable enchiladas smothered with a spicy tomatillo sauce, and a simple peach crisp.  I’ll be back later in the week with one of these recipes, so stay tuned!

A few Monmouth County Farmer’s Markets:

Red Bank Farmer’s Market: Sundays 9am-2pm, mid-May through mid-November, The Galleria parking lot, Red Bank

Asbury Park Farmer’s Market: Saturdays 8am-1pm, mid-June through late October, Main and Sunset Ave., Asbury Park

West End Farmer’s Market: Thursdays 11am-6pm, mid-June through mid-November, 139 Brighton Ave., Long Branch

Downtown Freehold Farmer’s Market: Fridays 11am-3pm, early July through mid-October, Hall of Records, Freehold

-Lauren