Category Archives: Tips

Marinated Roast Sweet & Hot Peppers

Note: For the complete library of At Home blog recipes, see Recipe Index.

Marinated Sweet & Hot Roast Peppers
By mid-summer, sustained heat produces a rainbow of peppers at farm stands and farmers’ markets.  These peppers are transformed by roasting such that when paired with slightly soft grilled bread, they are one of the great pleasures of sitting around with friends and family in summer. When buying peppers, select an assortment of colors — mostly sweet peppers with an occasional hot pepper — enough to keep things interesting and preventing a bland bowl of just sweet peppers.  If using supermarket peppers, select a mix of red, yellow and orange. They are expensive, but worth it. Do not use green bell peppers as their taste is too aggressive and not sweet. For hot peppers, use mildly hot Poblano or Anaheim and Cubanelle. You want substantially more sweet peppers than hot – maybe five to one.

You will definitely need a spring loaded tongs to turn peppers while charring so don’t even try this without them.

Do ahead Marinated peppers will sit happily in your refrigerator for a month.

2 – 2 1/2 pounds assorted sweet and hot peppers, in a volume ratio of 4-5 sweet to 1 hot
1 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
3 ounces olive oil
3/4 teaspoons Salt, Kosher preferred

1. Preheat broiler to high.
2. Place peppers on foil-lined heavy duty rimmed baking sheet. Depending on how many pounds of peppers, a double layer of foil may be useful to protect your pan and make clean-up easier.  Place peppers on sheet and place on shelf closest to flame. Broil until lightly charred, turning peppers as you go to char all over.
3. Remove peppers from oven and immediately transfer to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap to steam peppers. This facilitates peeling peppers.
4. When peppers have cooled enough so they can be handled, place on cutting board. Pull away stem. Peel away skin. Split peppers in half. Remove seeds.
5. When all peppers have been peeled, lay peppers flat. Cut into thin strips. Cut long strips in half.
6. Transfer strips of peppers to bowl. Add garlic, good olive oil and salt.

Yield About 1 1/2 cups

This is a wonderful assortment of peppers purchased at several Philadelphia farmers’ markets. Roasting, peeling and removing seeds is a project made easier if you avoid smaller and long, thin peppers.

Peppers are variable in the time it takes to char and blister so be patient. This is a result of pepper size and how different peppers skin reacts to heat.

Most broilers have two rows of burners down the middle so some peppers will be closer to heat than others. You will need to rotate peppers.

Rotate peppers as you go. As they are round, they may prove slightly stubborn about maintaining the position you want them. As they soften, don’t hesitate to apply a little pressure — squishing them to position them as you need to. Instead of a broiler, you could do lots of peppers at a time over a hot grill. Char peppers over high heat.

Turn as you go. Remove fully charred peppers to bowl and cover. Add more peppers as space allows. Peppers do not have to be fully charred, but can be substantially blistered and you will be able to peel away skin. As peppers heat, the air inside will expand and some peppers will “explode” — simply meaning they will split open. This is fine.

Transfer charred peppers to a bowl and cover so they steam. Steaming helps to remove charred skin. Rather than wrapping and unwrapping with plastic wrap, you can just place a plate on top to “seal” bowl. As peppers char on outside they steam and soften on the inside. Keep both your covered bowl for charred peppers and your un-charred peppers near broiler to make it more convenient to deposit your charred peppers and add un-charred peppers to the tray as you go.

Once all peppers have been charred and steamed in their bowl, it’s time for the somewhat tedious task of peeling and removing seeds. Here’s a set-up to make this task easier. From left to right:
1. Container to discard peel and seeds.
2. Damp cloth to keep area clean. A pastry scraper also helps.
3. Empty bowl for peeled peppers
4. Bowl of charred and steamed peppers.
You will also need a sharp paring knife to scrape away peel and cut strips.

Larger, thicker peppers are easier to peel. You have to be pretty careful with thinner skinned peppers to remove peel and seeds without destroying peppers meaty flesh.

First remove stem and peel from all peppers waiting to remove seeds until all peppers are peeled. You can just pull out the stem or cut away the pepper’s top including stem. Next, split peppers and carefully remove all seeds. As you go, it is useful to continuously wipe your peeling and seeding area clean to prevent pesky peel and seeds from sticking to the peppers you have cleaned. Stack cleaned peppers in bowl.  Take care in handling hot peppers. The volatile oils will sit on your fingers — and counter and cutting surface — and if you touch your eye or other soft membrane it will be painful. If this happens, wash well with soapy water and rinse well.

Once you have peeled all peppers and removed seeds, take one or two peppers at a time, check to be sure that there are not errant seeds sticking to pepper and lay flat on cutting board.

With a sharp knife, cut peppers into strips. If peppers are long, cut strips in half. Long strips of peppers are messier when placing on hors d’oeuvres-sized crostini or grilled grilled bread.

When you are done you have wonderfully naked strips of sweet and hot peppers waiting for their marinade…and a mess of peel and seeds to discard. This is a double batch.

Garlic is the natural compliment to peppers. Patiently chop until garlic is very finely chopped as you don’t want your guests biting into a chunk of garlic. The garlic is not essential, but strongly recommended.

Mix peppers well with garlic, good olive oil and salt. They get better the longer they marinate and will keep in refrigerator for a month. Serve on crostini or grilled bread. See At Home Page 82 for a crostini recipe.

Look tomorrow for instructions on grilling bread

2 Comments

Filed under Recipes, Tips

Tips: Shaving Corn off the Cob

If your use of corn only goes as far as corn-on-the-cob, you’re missing out on one of the great crowd-pleasing ingredients. Removing corn from the cob opens up a world of corn-based dishes ranging from wonderful fresh soups and salads to corn cakes and savory puddings.

A fond and distant childhood memory is when I had new teeth coming in and we were having corn-on-the-cob with dinner. I could not get my new teeth to do the job. So my mother shaved the corn off the cob for me and served my corn in a bowl. Pure and effortless bliss.

To this day corn is on my short list of favorite tastes.  One of my most effective summer diets consisted nearly every night, for weeks on end, of sliced tomatoes and red onion, basil, balsamic vinegar and olive oil, followed by…corn-on-the-cob. At Home includes ten recipes using corn and none are for corn-on-the-cob. One of the great side dishes I ever had in a restaurant was at The Slanted Door in San Francisco — Sautéed Fresh Corn and Chanterelle.

Here’s how to shave corn off the cob:

First blanch corn in lightly salted boiling water for about two to three minutes. How long depends on how fresh and tender the corn.

Stand corn on a steady cutting board with the flat, stem side down so that your corn is stable. Your fingers should be at the top above where you begin shaving. Use a sharp chef’s knife. Cut from top to bottom shaving one lengthwise section at a time. Run the knife parallel to corn as pictured, apply gentle pressure as you shave corn away from cob. Try to get as close to cob as you can while still cutting the kernels and not cutting into the tough cob. Rotate corn and shave away another section. Don’t worry if your sections do not exactly overlap.

Next, with the knife perpendicular to cob, scrape the cob to remove residue corn and flavorful milky liquid. Gather corn into a bowl and you’re ready to enter the world of fresh corn dishes for friends and family…At Home.

At Home blog’s Recipe Index

Leave a comment

Filed under Tips

Cold Lightly Curried Zucchini Soup

For access to all of At Home blog recipes, visit the Recipe Index. Additional cold soup recipes include Cold Corn Soup, Handmade Gazpacho for a Crowd and Cold Cucumber Soup with Dill.

Cold Lightly Curried Zucchini Soup
In summertime, cold soup makes for the perfect lunch along with good bread and cheese and an ideal starter to dinner. Zucchini is plentiful and inexpensive during summer — so much so that its bounty outstrips its uses. Grilling is a simple and excellent use. Ratatouille is a summertime classic, but an ambitious undertaking. The relative blandness of zucchini lends itself to accepting flavors such as the lightly curried accent to this buttermilk enhanced soup. The slight sourness of buttermilk — similar in character to yogurt, adds to the refreshing nature of this soup.

Do Ahead Soup may be made up to five days ahead and refrigerated

1 medium onion, sliced — about 2 cups
2 pounds zucchini, ends trimmed, sliced — about 7-8 cups
1 cup diced celery with leaves plus leaves for garnish
1 cup parsley leaves and stems, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 cup small cubed carrots
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups corn, vegetable or chicken stock (See note.)
2 cups reduced fat buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. In a thick 4 quart pot, heat olive oil over moderate high heat. Add onions and cook until they begin to wilt. Reduce heat to moderate. Add curry powder, stir well and cook for about a minute stirring. Add zucchini, garlic,celery and parsley. Stir well. Cook about 7-8 minutes until unions wilt and zucchini starts to soften.
2. Add stock and cover. Cook another 8-10 minutes until zucchini soft. Off heat and allow to cool.
3. Transfer to blender and blend until smooth. You may need to do this in two batches.
4. Transfer to bowl, add buttermilk, salt and pepper. Chill at three to four hours until very cold.
5. Bring water to boil in small pot and add carrots. Cook about a minute until slightly softened. Strain carrots and run under cold water or transfer to bowl of ice water.
6. Before serving, adjust thickness adding more buttermilk if too thick. Taste for salt and pepper. Remember that as things get colder they can take more salt.
To serve: Place in individual bowls. Place small mound of carrots in middle and smallish pieces of torn celery leaves in a circle.

Yield 2 quarts serving 6-8.

Note about Corn Stock
Corn produces a simply wonderful sweet stock. Just save the water from cooking your corn on the cob, add back the cobs after shaving away corn (or even after eating — yes, that’s right – the cobs will boil and the stock will be perfectly safe!) and some sliced onion. Simmer for 10-15 minutes and strain. You can boil stock to increase its flavor concentration.

Cold Lightly Curried Zucchini Soup is quite simple to make, cool and refreshing. The buttermilk provides a slight sour undertone, much as yogurt does in the previously featured Cold Cucumber Soup. In fact, you could substitute yogurt for the buttermilk. If you do this, you will need to thin out soup with more stock or water as yogurt is thicker than buttermilk.

Trim the ends from zucchini. Then cut in half lengthwise. Cut slices about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick. You do not have to be precise about the thickness as it all gets pureed.

To make small carrot cubes — or to cube other similar-shaped vegetables — begin with a peeled carrot.

With a sharp knife cutting parallel to cutting surface, cut lengthwise slices.

Cut these slices into long strips and line up the strips.

Cut across the strips and create your small carrot cubes. If you want smaller cubes, cut thinner slices and thinner strips. The cubes will not all be the same size — nor will they truly be “cubes” — but they will be perfect for what you need.

Ready to start cooking. This recipe uses the basic technique for making soups based on vegetable purees. Basically this is a light saute of the primary vegetable — here zucchini — along with aromatics like onion and garlic, seasonings — here curry powder — and preferably a flavored stock, but, in a pinch, water.

There is a recipe for Mastering Vegetable Puree Soups on Page 110-111 of At Home followed by the ingredients for Cream of Brussels Sprouts, Asparagus Soup and Roasted Cauliflower Soup. While, except for Spring-arriving asparagus, these are not warm weather vegetables, I have seen local cauliflower at farm stands and Brussels sprouts will start to arrive while the weather is still warm and they would all make wonderful cold soups.  Purchase At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining – available only online.

Use a thick-bottom pot like this enamel over cast iron. This enables even cooking and prevents scorching. Add the onions to hot olive oil.

Cook until onions begin to wilt and soften – about 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally so onions cook evenly. You do not want onions to brown.

Add curry powder and cook about a minute. This “toasts” the curry, enhances the flavor and removes any rawness. Stir as you do this to prevent scorching.

Add zucchini, garlic, parsley and celery and stir well. Cook for 4-5 minutes until zucchini starts to soften.

Add stock, reduce heat to moderate and cook for 8-10 minutes until zucchini is soft.

Allow to cool before transferring to blender. This is not for culinary purposes as you could puree while hot. It is for safety purposes so you do not run the risk of getting splashed with hot liquid. Blend until very smooth. (Note: This is an incredible blender. Expensive, but worth it.)  Transfer to bowl and add buttermilk, salt and pepper. Allow to chill for at least 3-4 hours until very cold. Before serving, check thickness. It should have the consistency of thick heavy cream — not at all watery. Liquids will naturally thicken as they chill so you may need to thin more. In addition, cold liquids usually need more salt, so taste and adjust, adding more salt if needed.

Quickly blanch carrots in boiling water for about a minute. You want to remove the raw carrot quality while retaining some “bite.”

Strain carrots and run under cold water or place in ice bath to stop cooking and retain texture.

To serve, place in bowl with a small mound of carrots in center and a few pieces of celery leaves scattered around. You have an easy, do ahead and delicious start to a dinner or the centerpiece of a lunch with a tossed salad, some good bread and cheese.

Leave a comment

Filed under Recipes, Tips

Tips: The Right Way to Prepare Lemon Wedges

Lemon wedges benefit from a little tailoring. Here’s how:

Begin with unblemished whole lemons.

Trim away a bit of the top and bottom of lemon.

With a sharp knife, cut in half from “north to south” and not across the “equator” or thick middle.

Cut into wedges. I prefer to cut six generous wedges per lemon rather than eight.

Trim away the white membrane at the top of the wedge.

Using the tip of your knife, pry and poke out as many seeds as you can without cutting the lemons into tatters.

Here are six nicely tailored lemon wedges.

For the At Home blog’s complete recipe index.

1 Comment

Filed under Tips

Grilled Herb-Marinated Turkey “Flank Steak”

Grilled Herb-Marinated Turkey “Flank Steak”

Turkey is overlooked and under-appreciated most of the year. Grilled turkey breast is a simple and ideal addition to your backyard barbecue repertoire.  A boneless turkey breast is too thick to grill. The outside would become dry and charred before the interior cooked through. But by simply slicing a breast into “flank steaks” and giving it a good marinade, the turkey breast becomes both grill-worthy and grill-friendly.

There are several variables in grilling your turkey “flank steak.” These include how hot the grill – it should be medium-hot, and the variable thickness of the breast. It is very helpful to use an instant read thermometer. I live in a Center City Philadelphia apartment and do not have an outdoor grill. But I do have a grill pan and I am always prepared to grill — rain or shine. The photos in this recipe use my grill pan, but apply to your outdoor grill.

This recipes uses fresh tarragon. Tarragon has a particular affinity for turkey. But you could really use any fresh herb. You will need about the same amount of other fresh leafy herbs like basil or oregano, a bit less sage as sage is very strong and lots less fresh thyme. There are a dozen marinade recipes in At Home’s Chapter 9 — Easy Entrees: From the Grill and any of these will work. Take care when using a marinade with sugar as the long grilling time needed for the turkey could cause the marinade to burn. Try cooking over a more moderate heat or finish cooking turkey in a 350 degree oven once it is nicely charred on both sides on the grill. At Home also features a recipe for Grilled Turkey “Flank Steak” seasoned with mustard and soy — a Frog Commissary summertime staple — on Page 195.

Turkey also benefits from a condiment. See At Home’s Chapter 9: Cold Sauces & Condiments.

Do ahead You can marinate up to two days in advance. As with most things grilled, it best to eat shortly after removing from the grill and prior to refrigeration.

4 tablespoons chopped garlic
3/4 cup tarragon leaves chopped, about 3 tablespoons for marinade
plus 2 tablespoons to add after slicing
1 lemon plus 6-8 lemon wedges, trimmed
5 tablespoons olive oil
4 pounds boneless turkey breast
1 – 2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1.  With a sharp knife, cut turkey breast in half cutting parallel to cutting surface.  Rinse and pat dry.
2. In a dish large enough to hold breast, combine garlic, 3 tablespoons tarragon and olive oil. Add pieces of breast, one at a time and coat well with marinade. Cover and refrigerate at least two hours but ideally 6-8 hours.
3. Preheat grill of grill pan to medium high.
4.  Remove breasts from marinade, lightly scraping away some of the garlic and tarragon. The breast will take some time to cook and the chopped garlic will burn. Having a bit is fine, but you don’t want your breast covered with charred garlic.
5.  Place breast on grill or in grill pan and cook first side for about 8-10 minutes. Turn and cook until thermometer reads about 155 degrees in thickest part of breast, about another 8-10 minutes.
6. Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing. Cut into about 1/4-inch thick slices against the natural grain of breast.
7. Squeeze lemon over sliced turkey. Add salt and pepper. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons tarragon. Serve with lemon wedges.

Serves 6 -8

If your breast is skin-on, just peel away skin.

You will need a sharp knife. Place breast flat onto cutting surface.

Moving your knife parallel to cutting surface, cut breast in half.

You will have two thinner “steaks.”

One side may naturally break into two pieces. This is fine.

Rinse and pat dry.

Measure tarragon leaves into cup measure. A bit more or less really doesn’t matter much. Chop the tarragon.

Add garlic, chopped tarragon and olive oil to a dish large enough to hold breasts.

Mix well.

Add turkey “steaks” and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and ideally 6-8 hours. It is best not to cook from cold — especially when grilling something thick. By removing turkey from refrigerator and allowing it to reach room temperature, you are getting a head start on cooking by bringing the temperature from the 40 degrees of the refrigerator to the 70 degrees of a room. If you don’t do this, your turkey will require additional cooking time that could cause you to over-cook the outside while waiting for the inside to reach temperature. Ideally, remove from refrigerator three or four hours before grilling.

Pre-heat grill or grill pan over moderate-high heat. Add turkey. These are the two smaller “steaks.” Cook 6-8 minutes.

Turn and cook another 8-10 minutes — depending on level of heat and thickness of “steak.”

This is the larger “steak” cooking. Place thermometer in thickest part to check temperature as you go. The internal temperature of the turkey will continue to rise even after you take it off the heat. The recommended cooking temperature for turkey breast is 165-170 degrees. I find this takes the breast too far and dries it out. Your goal is no pink or just the barest amount of pink when you slice the breast. Removing turkey at about 150-155 degrees should accomplish this. Remember that your “steak” is probably not of equal thickness so it will not all be cooked exactly the same.

Here are the three pieces. Looks pretty good! Any grilled meat will benefit from resting at least 10 minutes before slicing. Slicing too soon causes the natural juices that need to settle in after cooking to drain away. Be patient.

Try to find the direction of the natural grain of the turkey and cut across it rather than parallel.

Here it is on the left, sliced and ready to go. Sprinkle with fresh tarragon, add salt and pepper — after slicing so the salt and pepper can get to the slices, squeeze lemon and serve with lemon wedges.

3 Comments

Filed under Recipes, Tips

On the Road: Farm Stands of Mercer County, NJ

Farm Stands of Mercer County, NJ

The Joy of GPS
Yes, I understand that most people use their GPS to get from A to B. Pity. The true joy of a GPS is its stubborn determination to get you to your destination — regardless of the deviations and detours from its directions. This is very liberating to the intentional meanderer. No longer do you have to worry if the lure of an un-programmed left turn will leave you hopelessly lost — and, God forbid, have to ask for directions. Your GPS cares not. It will simply re-group and provide you with a new path — and never pout or be resentful of your willful disregard of its instructions.

Mercer County, New Jersey
Into the hot soup that is our summer of 2010 we drove – across the Burlington Bristol Bridge and north up Rt. 206. Mercer County strides north and east of Philadelphia along the Delaware River in the crux of the elbow that is New Jersey. Compared to my prior destination of South Jersey’s Salem County with its population of about 65,000, Central Jersey’s Mercer County is home to 370,000 people. And with a population density of 1,552 per square mile, it is eight times more dense.

Mercer county has an entirely different feel from the more hard-scrapple South Jersey. Mercer County is home to elite private prep schools and Princeton University as well as numerous multi-national corporate headquarters. While there are pockets of farmland, Mercer County offers little in the way of Salem County’s long isolated country roads. And Mercer county’s roads provide small allowance to drivers going nowhere in particular — slowly. Here, riding lawn mowers that maintain manicured lawns surrounded by painted white fences far out-number farm tractors. Lush, clearly wealthier, and less tranquil, our trip included a mid-afternoon traffic jam through Princeton. No clothes drying on lines in the sun. Pools more likely to be in-ground than above. While there were occasional broad vistas across open fields, more likely those fields have given way to housing developments, garden apartments and country estates. It is of note that while Trenton is the state capital, the governor’s residence is in Princeton.

On the other hand, its farm stands are more fully stocked.

First, Hot Dogs!
A cardinal principle of intentional meandering is to not let your destination deter you from a detour — especially if a hot dog is involved. And so, as we drove north through Burlington County on Route 206, we passed an eye-catching sign on the opposite side of the road. A U-turn brought us to Russ Ayres Hot Dogs, 680, US Rt. 206, Bordentown.

This just goes to show the importance of a good sign. The pastel yellow shack and bold sign were eye-catching and said something good was going on inside.

Guests are greeted by this slightly scary character who is dispensing ketchup as well as mustard despite the store’s admonition that ketchup is just for hamburgers — a product unavailable from Russ Ayres. Russ sells just hot dogs – $2 with the works – onion, sauerkraut and mustard. Bigger appetite? Try the more elaborate chili dogs, cheese dogs and chili-cheese dogs. Get them to go or find a seat at the six person counter. The standard assortment of bottled beverages is available. We went for a pair of hot dogs with the works. After all, this was really a late morning breakfast with a full day ahead of us.

It was in Russ Ayres Hot Dog Stand where we learned that despite our apparent proximity to Philadelphia and the Phillies, the Go Yankees sign declared we had left home and our Phillies behind.

Nestled behind Russ Ayres was Gelato’s, a stand that offered the ideal follow-up to our hot dogs. Think of it as a mini-food court. Christina likened the scene to something you might find along the road in Italy — a notion I thought was quite a stretch. Still, the brace of conical evergreens, red umbrellas and wrought iron tables and chairs provided some distraction from the awning reminiscent of Rita’s Water Ice.

My preference to try their homemade ice cream yielded to Christina’s preference for a black cherry ice layered with soft vanilla ice cream — something that is available at your local Rita’s.

Our GPS setting to avoid highways took us through the streets of Trenton as we headed to our first stop, the Trenton Farmers Market. As we journeyed along we noted a Trenton pierogi shop that we would have visited, but for our recent hot dog detour.

Trenton Farmer’s Market
960 Spruce Street, Trenton
Seemingly out of an era that preceded glizt, the Trenton Farmer’s Market, open daily except Monday, is home to a combination of farmer’s and ethnic stalls with an occasional craft or thrift table – a sort of 1950’s Reading Terminal Market in miniature. As a farmers’ market is a collection of farm stands, it provided a preview of the produce we would find on the road.

A little more research or curiosity would have taken us to the Halo Farm Store — famous for ice cream and dairy products, located just across the parking lot from the Farmers Market.

It’s not the White House, but it does have an East and West wing. Actually, shaped like a cross, there is also an un-named north and south wing. Local farmers truck their produce to their stalls in the Farmers Market.

Jersey is famous for corn and tomatoes. Nearby fresh picked Jersey corn. Despite the searing heat, most Mercer county tomatoes were still a week or so away.

Our July 16th visit was Jersey corn give-away day.

You can buy by the piece, by the pound or by the bushel. Peaches, hot peppers — never sure what to do with an entire bushel of hot peppers — zucchini and cucumbers are in abundance.

And it’s berry season. Not strawberries — they are an earlier season fruit, but lots of blueberries and luscious blackberries — the best of the berries though often needing a touch of sugar to pick them up.

In addition to farm fresh produce, the Trenton Farmers Market is lined with ethnic stands including Pulaski Meats.

And an Italian bakery that reminded Christina of sweets her grandmother baked.

A cheese case worthy of sophisticated big cities.

It’s not showy, but it has a gritty authenticity.

A Pennsylvania-Dutch stand sells fried chicken, roast pork and spare ribs — eat in or take-out.

Included among the farm stands and prepared food stalls was a modest table sampling and selling wines from Unionville Vineyards. Unionville Vineyards is located in nearby Ringoes, in north neighboring Hunterdon county. Very drinkable and fairly priced, we bought three bottles: a 2006 Heritage White (mostly semillon grapes), a non-vintage Big Red Fox, mostly syrah grapes and a 2008 Fields of Fire, an attractive dry rose from Pinor Noir grapes.

Nestled in a separate building across from the Framers Market is a fresh fish store called The Crab Shack.

A Saturday’s trip to the Trenton Farmers Market will provide you with everything you need for a delicious low-stress Sunday dinner for friends and family — the freshest of produce, butcher-worthy meats and fresh fish to grill and just-picked fruit and fruit pies for dessert.

Terhune Orchards
330 Cold Soil Road, Princeton
Farm stands exist on many scales. Some are modest mom and pop operations. Mom and pop toil long hours doing the lion’s share of the work. They may get some help from sons and daughters and grandpa and grandma – but they are mostly family affairs. Marketing consists principally of a roadside sign and a kind of “build it and they will come” approach. Others, like Terhune Orchards, are larger in scale with more employed workers and differentiated tasks that include more aggressive marketing.

A pretty as a picture entrance welcomes you.

Terhune has an outpost in the Trenton Farmers Market, a large farm store at the farm — not simply a stand — a substantial website and even publishes a “newspaper” and regular recipes geared to its wide selection of seasonal produce.

There is an area of the store dedicated to organic produce. It lead me to wonder what the opposite of organic produce is…inorganic?

A sign shows the wide variety of fruit and produce that Terhune grows and when it’s available. The red bars indicate when you can pick-your-own at the farm. Pick-your-own was a feature of nearly every farm stand we visited.

Zinnia’s summer rainbow of colors are as much a part of summer’s harvest as peaches and tomatoes.

My goal in visiting farm stands is to find things that I cannot find at my local Whole Foods Market. At Terhune’s, these included fresh currants that I have combined with sugar to create a currant syrup to combine with seltzer for a fresh fruit spritzer.

Petral apples, small sour and green, are Terhune’s first apples of the season. Mine went into a rice salad with almonds and shiso leaves. More about shiso leaves later in the blog.

Since I’m not a baker, I love the sight of fresh-baked fruit pies — baked by someone else.

And it’s impossible to resist a cinnamon and sugar-coated cider doughnut. Well, apparently it is possible as Christina did resist. Maybe it’s just me?

A pair of yellow labs enjoyed their “apple-a-day.”

With the temperature in the mid-90’s, a frozen cider slush was an ideal summer cooler.

Kerr’s Kornstand
317 Pennington Rocky Hill Road, Pennington, NJ
Thanks to the generosity of a friend and former Mercer County denizen, I had already previewed Kerr’s sweet signature corn – dropped of at our apartment two weeks ago. It’s tiny first of the season kernels were now plump with sugar.

Kerr’s stand was modest enclosure supplemented by a farm table.

In addition to their own produce, Kerr’s offered Circle M Peaches from Salem County. Though Salem county is only about 75 miles south, Salem county’s peaches…and tomatoes arrive several weeks earlier than Mercer county’s.

There are scores of tomato varieties. Here are Kerr’s first of the season, called July 4th because they are ready by Independence Day. Kerr’s was also my source of bell zucchini — a fat, round variety. I stuffed these with grape tomatoes and roasted them. Stuffing over-sized zucchini — common as summer progresses — is an excellent way to use large zucchini that have an unappetizing pulpy interior that benefits from being scraped away. A recipe for this will be forthcoming.

Lee Turkey Farm
201 Hickory Corner Road, East Windsor

How did Lee”s Turkey Farm promise of the “sweetest” corn compare to Kerr’s? Despite buying a dozen ears from Kerr’s, I had to add four ears from Lee’s for an at-home “corn tasting.” Unlike Kerr’s white, Lee’s corn is yellow.

Though Lee’s farm goes back six generations, it holds the distinction of establishing New Jersey’s first “pick-your-own” option in 1964.

Ronnie Lee is the sixth generation Lee. He works with his fifth generation dad and seventh generation children. Different farms — especially those that endure for generations — employ different strategies to extend their business and season. For Lee’s. it’s 3000 turkeys! Lee’s sells 90% of its turkeys in November. I suggested to Ronnie that he promote his turkeys for summer grilling. When we provided the food services for Philadelphia’s Mann Center as we did for a decade of summers, turkey “flank steak” was a staple of our Bravo menu. With that, I found my farm stand recipe for this week.

Look for Grilled Marinated Turkey “Flank Steak” with tomorrow’s blog.

Stult’s Farm
62 John White Road, Cranberry

From the road, Stult’s Farm Stand looks as though a tornado had picked up a Lancaster county PA Dutch farm and plopped it down in Mercer county. This was primarily the result of the distinctive black carriages that marked the entrance to the stand.

Stult’s primary commitment was clearly to the Pick-Your-Own set. For those less intrepid, the pickings were slimmer and for us included just a few soil-covered onions that turned out to be a sweet addition to a weekend cucumber salad. (I’m still trying to use up Mr. Tkrach’s cucumbers. Thirty eight down, two — the one’s that got buried in my produce bin — to go.)

Many years ago, the great retailer and founder of Crate & Barrel, Gordon Segal taught me that the key to merchandising is massing and simplicity. (At Home book owners see page 363.) While the produce in the fields may have been outstanding, the produce displayed on the tables got the simplicity part but was missing the massing. Here’s Christina — not fully satisfied with Stult’s.

Z Food Farm
3501 Princeton Pike, Lawrence Township
Z Food Farms has a small stand at my neighborhood Rittenhouse Square Saturday Farmers’ Market. I like it because they have produce that I don’t see at other stands. A few weeks ago it was tiny yellow wax beans — similar to haricot vert, and kohlrabi — a crisp cabbage-tasting vegetable perfect for a simple summer’s crudite. This past weekend I bought shiso leaves. Shiso is a leaf typically used to garnish sushi — usually bright green, heart shaped, with lots of little spikes around the edges. (If you should be lucky to get a shiso leaf with your sushi, wrap it around some shredded daikon — another familiar garnish, and dip it into your soy-wasabi. Yum.) It is one of my favorite flavors and a leaf rarely seen in markets. My first encounter with shiso was many years ago at Omen — a Japanese restaurant in Soho — that’s still around and still wonderful. A meal at Omen would not be complete without a bowl of shiso rice, steamed white rice scented with the distinctive anise flavor of the leaf.

Over several weeks of visiting their stand on the Square, I learned from mom and dad “Z,” who manned the stand, that their son’s farm was in its first year. I decided that it should be included on my Mercer county tour. Though our GPS insisted that we had arrived at our entered address, Z Farm Foods was nowhere to be found. Undaunted, we circled back and forth until we discovered a sign-less location with nothing for sale. It was not until this past Saturday, when we reported our attempted visit to mom and dad, that we learned that for now, Z Farm Foods only operates it farm stand on Wednesday afternoons. But, a new walk-in refrigerator is due this week that will enable Z Farm Foods to expand its farm stand hours.

This past Saturday I did buy some of Z’s garlic that I used – thin slivered and not chopped — in my “What to do when you buy too many small tomatoes” Sauce. Z’s garlic is seen here curing at the farm. It’s a lot of garlic. But mom and dad say it will all be gone by fall.

Little Acres Farm
238 Federal City Road, Pennington, NJ

Little Acres was a modest and unassuming stand befitting it’s name.

Half a watermelon — from Salem county and a local cantaloupe were added to our produce haul. In years past I despaired of local cantaloupes — always finding them tasteless and mealy. But I have had repeated good luck this year including at Little Acres.

Along the road there were occasional no-name stands.

Here down a narrow road.

And the occasional unmanned stand operating on the honor system.

As our day stretched into early evening and our car packed with produce, we decided it was too late and we were too tired to head home for dinner. Instead, we headed for Lambertville, NJ — along the Delaware just north of Mercer county in Hunterdon county. There we met an old fellow restaurateur — Reed from Astral Plane, who was holding down the floor at the Hamilton Grill. Astral Plane, long a fixture on the 1700 block of Lombard Street and a veteran of the first Philadelphia restaurant renaissance, opened just a few months after Frog in 1973 and provided years of warm welcomes and fine dining — thanks to Reed.

The Hamilton Grill is a BYO so be sure to stop at the Unionville Vineyards table at the Trenton Farmers Market. We were very glad we did as dinner without wine after such a nice day would have been a disappointment.

Tip: Of course our white wine was not chilled — having been a passenger in our car for hours. The waiter stuck our wine in the freezer to get it chilled. FYI: The fastest was to chill a bottle of wine is to place it in an ice bath in an ice bucket — lots of ice plus enough water to surround the bottle fully, and then add lots of salt – regular table salt is fine — to create a brine — just like the old-fashioned way of making ice cream. The salt hastens the melting of the ice which has the effect of rapidly chilling the wine.

I’m like the kid in the candy store – except my candy is farm stand produce. Here is our day’s haul.

From left to right: Grape tomatoes, radishes, Lee’s yellow corn hidden under the radishes, currants, watermelon, nectarines, doughnut peaches, bell zucchini, Lee’s boneless turkey breast, cantaloupe, onions, more grape tomatoes, Petral apples, Kerr’s white corn, and just off camera, Kerr’s 4th of July tomatoes. In the background, partially consumed Unionville Vineyard wines. All Jersey Fresh!

They’re Back!
It’s Pimientos de Padron season. These amazing peppers, that I first discovered in Madrid a few years ago, are available in the United States for a short summer season.

I bought mine via the internet from La Tienda, the site that specializes in Spanish and Latin foods. Here’s the link to last summer’s blog about these little devils along with a recipe. I strongly suggest ordering a pound or two – a pound will easily serve four, buying some very good bread, lots of beer, some excellent cheese and watermelon and inviting friends and family over for an easy dinner they will not forget. An alternative to cold beer is iced sangria. See At Home page 51 for my Sangria recipe.

Pimientos de Padron were the centerpiece of a recent dinner at home with Christina and Noah — along with Turkey “Flank Steak” and Roasted Grape Tomato Stuffed Zucchini.

Upcoming recipes from this week’s harvest:
Grilled Turkey “Flank Steak” – tomorrow
Roasted Grape Tomato Stuffed Bell Zucchini – soon
“What to do with too many grape tomatoes” Quick Tomato Sauce – soon

Next weekOn the Road: Farm Stands of Chester County, PA
Next week I head south and west of Philadelphia. I hope sharing these experiences encourages you to take to the road to visit farm stands or, at least, to visit your local farmers market and enjoy this bountiful harvest with friends and family…At Home.

Reminder that all of At Home’s blog recipes are available on the blog site — accessed through the recipe index.

Please pass along to others who you think would enjoy going along On the Road.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

2 Comments

Filed under On the Road, Tips

Grilled Lemons and Happy July 4th…At Home

Here’s wishing you a Happy July 4th weekend and hoping you spend it in a backyard with friends and family.

Grilled Lemons
Grilling lemons is simple to do. Grilling provides the tart lemon with a sweet counterpoint — the result of caramelization from the grilling. They are the perfect compliment to grilled shrimp, salmon, chicken or lamb.

I did this in my kitchen for this post. It works just fine in a stovetop grill pan as well as on a backyard grill. You will need just lemons and olive oil. Start by trimming the ends from the whole lemon to create a small flat surface so the lemon will sit securely rater than rocking that would result from a rounded end. Next, cut the lemons in half across the “equator.” With the point of a knife, poke out any obvious seeds. Brush exposed surface of lemon lightly with olive oil. (You can use the tip of your finger to save washing a brush. It’s easier to wash a finger tip.) Place lemon on grill over moderate heat and cook for two to four minutes — depending on how hot your “moderate” grill is — and remove.

Here are the grilled lemons, good lookin’ and ready to squeeze.  At Home has a very strong grill chapter that provides easy alternatives to burgers and hot dogs. See Grilled Lemongrass Chicken with Caramelized Limes — an alternative to the lemons featured here — on Page 191 or the Charred Chicken Paillards with Citrus-Cilantro Salad on Page 192 — one of my favorite recipes.

Second Annual Chestnut Hill Book Festival

Another wonderful Pascal Lemaitre illustration from At Home. Pascal is visiting from Brussels and plans to join me on Saturday, July 10th at the Laurel Gardens as part of the Second Annual Book Festival.

An Invitation for one of my backyard burgers on the 4th
If you find yourself on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on the 4th, for the afternoon festival or evening concert and fireworks, I’ll be at Frog Burger — our own backyard burger stand on the front lawn of The Franklin Institute.

By the way, At Home is for sale at Frog Burger. In addition to being available online, At Home is also is also available at Coopermarket in Merion where I am sure Beth is cooking up wonderful July 4th food for you to serve at home — as well as the Joseph Fox Bookstore on Sansom Street. At Home makes for the perfect gift for your host or hostess.

Next Week
As the second installment of my summer farm stand series, I will take you along on my drive through the back roads of Salem County, NJ. I look forward to introducing you to Mr. Tkach — pictured below — who began his work as a five-year-old at the family farm stand seventy-five years ago. The farm stand has been serving customers since 1928! Mr. Tkach shares his recollection of going with his father each day to retrieve the garbage to feed their pigs from the German prisoner of war camp across the road. At farm stands it’s often the farmer that leaves you with the lingering “taste.”

I couldn’t resist a giant $3 basket of kirby cukes and huge $1.50 bunch of dill seed from Tkach’s. Lots of pickles are in my future. But I’ve already did a cucumber recipe so, as of now, I plan to share a recipe using the ripe Jersey cling peaches I bought — a Peach Butter scented with Ginger and Lemongrass.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

Postcript: Mark Bitman’s 101 Reasons to Light the Grill
Wednesday’s New York Times Food Section featured Mark Bitman’s great list of 101 things to do on your grill. Here’s the link.

2 Comments

Filed under At Home News, Entertaining at Home, Events, Memories, Recipes, Tips