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Month: April 2009

Striper, Drum Seasons Underway

The Charter Fleet at South Jersey Marina is all de-winterized, fired up and ready to go. The Striper and Drum seasons are underway and the trips this week have produced good results. On Thursday April 9th., Big Game brought in 2 Keeper Stripers. The next day, Common Sense and Big Game went out again. This time Big Game had 1 Striper and 1 Drum while Common Sense returned with 3 Stripers.

This is just the beginning of what hopefully will be a banner Spring season.


A Chef’s Last Meal

persnick-bourbon-street“Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.”
-Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Many people often play the “What would you do if you won a million dollars?” game. The culinary version of this old parlor game revolves around the question, “What would you eat for your last meal?” Among my foodie friends and fellow culinarians, the answers run the gamut from the simple, perfect roast chicken and mashed potatoes to the sublime, foie gras and a port older than me. But recently I have started thinking about a variation on the game.

Last month I did the photo shoot for the Spring issue of Cape May Magazine (shameless plug time), and since The Merion Inn was closed for the winter, they reopen the first weekend in April (second shameless plug), the photo shoot was held at the home of a staff member. The hostess invited several other food lovers to partake in the post-photo-shoot feast. That it is when I had a reawakening. As much as I enjoy eating food–after all, my stunning physique is not a result of tofu and wheatgrass–the real joy is in preparing food for other people. Deep down, most chefs are entertainers. Our audience? The palettes of those who dine rather than eat. That is when it came to me, if I could only cook one more meal, what would the components of that meal be?

I thought of my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. What is more appealing to a chef than a feast whose centerpiece is food stuffed with more food and more tastes and textures than should be combined into one meal? Besides, cooking for friends and family at the holidays is really where my passion for food began.

Deciding that Thanksgiving was a cop-out, I started to narrow down what foods and influences have had the most impact on me as a chef and lover of food.

There is one food that would have dominance in my culinary swan song. BACON. The much maligned swine’s cured and smoked belly can be soft, crispy, sweet and, naturally, smoky. Plus, it adds dimension to any course. If you have never experienced bacon ice cream, you are missing out.

In this meal I would pair bacon with oysters and lightly roast them. Serve it with a drizzle of vodka and horseradish crème fraîche and a petite salad of baby arugula and roasted Jersey plum tomatoes.

Another course would pair two of New Jersey’s best ingredients with the most exquisite, but politically incorrect, foie gras. Pan-seared Cape May Scallops with Foie Gras roasted Jersey White Corn Cake and Sherry Vinaigrette. Foie gras and shellfish is the modern chef’s take on the classic Veal Oskar.

I would be remiss if I ignored the city that inspired me to become a chef, New Orleans. I love gumbo, boudin and dirty rice. In the French Quarter red beans and rice are served only on Mondays – going back to the tradition of women in the Storeyville section of the French Quarter (where the N’awlins’ sound originated) who did their laundry on Mondays and served this dish for dinner because it could simmer all day long. This is a dish which satisfies my soul. And every night on Bourbon Street is followed by a morning of beignets and chicory coffee at Café du Monde. But for me, the quintessential N’awlins treat is crawfish étoufée. In my last performance in the kitchen, I would team Crawfish Étoufée with Pan-seared Sweetbreads and Morel Mushrooms.

I am beginning to think my kitchen swan song would be a three-day festival requiring a truckload of Lipitor and a team of cardiologists from Jefferson Medical School. Where do posole and chiles rellenos fit in? Cassoulet? Duck confit? Lamb? I have narrowed the cheese course to twenty and that was painful. Well hopefully I have many more years ahead helming the stove and more chances to add to the courses in my Finale that will be my culinary curriculum Vitae. For now, enjoy Bacon Roasted Oysters, my version of Crawfish Étouffée, Shrimp Remoulade and the dessert that started me on my culinary journey at that fateful breakfast at Brennan’sBananas Foster. Until next month, I leave you with this thought from Brillat-Savarin, “The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a new star.” Bon Appétit.

Crawfish Étouffée

Trinity

  • 1 Cup diced onion
  • 1 Cup diced green pepper
  • 1 Cup diced celery

Spices

  • 2 Tablespoons garlic
  • 2 Teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons paprika
  • 2 Teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 Tablespoon thyme
  • 1 Teaspoon oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon black pepper
  • ½ tsp Zatarain’s® crayfish boil spice
  • ½ Teaspoon cayenne
  • Crystal hot sauce to flavor
  • ½ Cup peanut oil
  • ½ Cup flour
  • 1 Pound crawfish/shrimp
  • 1 Quart stock
  • Salt to taste

In heavy sauce pan, heat peanut oil. Add flour. Cook roux until reddish brown (approximately 35 minutes) stirring with wooden spoon. Add trinity, spices and stock. Whisk vigorously until smooth. Add crawfish. Warm. Serve with rice. Garnish with green onion.

Shrimp Remoulade

Dressing

  • 1 Rib celery, chopped
  • 3 Green onions, chopped
  • 2 Cloves garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 2 Tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • 3 Tablespoons horseradish
  • 3 Tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar
  • ½ Lemon, seeded
  • 1 Teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 Egg yolks
  • Salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper to taste
  • Hot sauce to taste

Process all ingredients in food processor until smooth. Add yolks. Drizzle oil in slowly until thick. Pour over cool, cooked shrimp. Marinate 2-3 hours. Serve over lettuce.

Bacon Roasted Oysters

  • 12 Oysters, shucked and in shell (Cape May Salts preferred)
  • 4 Strips bacon cut in thirds

Wrap oysters in bacon. Season with sea salt and cracked pepper. Roast at 450 degrees for  6-8 minutes or until bacon cooks and oysters just start to curl.

Vodka Crème Fraîche

  • 1 Ounce Chopin vodka
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh horseradish root, grated
  • ½ Cup crème fraîche

Marinate grated horseradish root in vodka for 24 hours. Add in crème fraîche. Drizzle lightly over oysters. Serve with Roasted Tomatoes.

Roasted Tomatoes

4 roasted Roma tomatoes tossed with 1 cup baby arugula, 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, juice of one lemon, sea salt and fresh pepper.

Bananas Foster

  • 4 Bananas, halved and quartered
  • ½ Stick butter
  • 1 Cup brown sugar
  • ½ Teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¼ Cup banana liqueur
  • ¼ Cup dark rum

In sauté pan melt butter. Add sugar. Cook until sugar dissolves. Add bananas and banana liqueur. Cook until bananas brown. Flame with rum. Add cinnamon. Serve over vanilla ice cream.


The Hydrangea: A Jewel in the Garden

garden_headerBeautiful, billows of blue from summer to fall pinpoint the hydrangea as an outstanding jewel in the garden. This easy-to-grow plant will thrive in sun or shade as long as it is given enough water. They seem to be everywhere at the shore, and last summer I noticed one garden in Cape May with more than 50 plants, each covered with huge blooms, grown as a garland around both the old Victorian house and the fence. These ice-blue beauties were mostly in the shade, yet were full of flowers.

People are always looking for the longest blooming shrubs as well are for plants that bloom in sun or in shade. Well, this versatile plant is one that really fits the bill. There are so very many hydrangeas that one can plant a nice bed of them for long lasting bloom and color. As the name suggests they do need to be hydrated or watered so it is a good idea to a place soaker hose just under the mulch near thegarden-bluem to keep them well hydrated. This is better than overhead sprinklers as it avoids rusts and diseases on the leaves. Thus cared for, they will bloom for a very long time. In fact those watered and fed will bloom until frost. They come in several colors and shapes and are very popular used in both fresh and dried floral designs and wreaths.

As far back as I can remember bright blue hydrangea was a part of my summers. My grandmother had one right next to her back door and always had a ring or circle of “Easter lilies” around it. Both started to bloom for the Feast of Saint Anthony in June. If you want to grow this large, blue-ball type of bloom, plant Hydrangea macrophylla. Keep in mind the more acid the soil the bluer the blooms. She used to bury rusty nails and tin cans in the soil. Today we use bagged aluminum sulfate to do the same thing. Lime insures a lavender or pink bloom, depending on the cultivar. These love a soil that has had lots of compost added to it to retain frequent soakings.

I also remember the huge plants along the Atlantic City boardwalk in the hotel gardens and all along ocean drive from Ocean City to Cape May. This route has often been called Hydrangea Trail. Cape May is still filled with hydrangea plants. garden-pinkToday people at the shore love these bright summer beauties and enjoy them in many bright colors. The secret, as their name indicates, is to water them well.

There are many kinds of hydrangea besides the colorful blue or pink Hydrangea macrophylla. A favorite in this large family is “All Summer Beauty”– a small plant with rich blue flowers when grown in acid soil. For those who like deep colors, there are rosy red varieties such as Cardinal red and glowing embers.

One of the first groups to bloom is one that the Victorians loved to plant called Hydrangea arborescens. These are native from New York to Iowa and south to Florida and Louisiana. There are many cultivars including the 2000 PHS Gold Medal winner “Annabelle” one of the best white ones. Blooming early in the summer, this one is loved for its huge, puffy, snowy white blooms. Like all other hydrangeas, they can take shade and can be seen growing in the wild in areas of Fairmount Park in Philadelphia.

garden-whiteAnother late spring, white-blooming plant is Climbing Hydrangea or Hydrangea anomala sub.petiolaris. This plant is very hardy and grows in sun or shade. In the right situation it can go 90 feet or more and has the ability to cover structures, rock piles, or walls. A rather showy plant, this beauty also has a light sweet fragrance when in bloom. It decorates porches, arbors and fences that are in the shade.

Next along the bloom calendar is the Oakleaf Hydrangea or Hydrangea quercifolia. A trouble free plant to grow it is a great garden shrub for shade, especially moist shade. White flowers in late June to August sometimes fade to a pink color later in the summer followed by wonderful burgundy fall color. A native plant to the Southeast, this one adapts to many situations and thrives in the Delaware Valley.

Last to bloom is the Hydrangea paniculata. One of its best cultivars is called P. G. for Paniculata grandiflora. This one is often quite a pendant tree, with blooms at times touching the ground. It starts in mid-July with a greenish booms that turn snowy white and then a pale mauve. They last well into late garden-arrangementfall if they are not picked to dry sooner. Limelight and Little lamb are cultivars that add a great deal of variety to the hydrangea garden.

Although all hydrangeas are valued as a dried flower, these dry best. They only need to be hung in an airy, dry spot. The blue and pink ones and early white need to be dehydrated in silica gel in order to dry realistically. All look beautiful in arrangements and wreaths.

All hydrangeas, both the native non-natives do very well in the Delaware Valley. All like shade, but will grow in the sun if given plenty of water. Most like acid soil, with the blue ones becoming more intense when grown in a highly acidic spot. So, if you love showy blooms all summer and like to cut dramatic blooms for a vase indoors, plant hydrangeas now. If you plant some hydrangea now, they will be well established for summer’s bloom time.

Join Lorraine at the nursery for herb classes, plant talks and many other garden and floral classes. www.Tripleoaks.com. Herb Festival weekend May 30 and 31, 2009 free to the public! Herbal presentations and garden tours both days!


Hot Dogs & Soda for Cape May Point

Hot dogs, sodas and bicycles are coming to Cape May Point State Park this summer. For the first time in itscmp-hotdogs 38 year history, Cape May Point State Park is advertising for vendors – one for a mobile food concession and another for bicycle rental.

Communications coordinator for the NJ Division of Parks and Forestry, Dana Loschiavo, confirmed that a notice was placed on the New Jersey Parks’ newly launched website, www.njparksandforests.org Wednesday, March 25 seeking “new business opportunities” for two venues – a mobile food cart and bicycle rental – for Cape May Point State Park.

Although other state parks do have concessionaires, up until now Cape May Point State Park has been vendor free. Loschiavo conceded that economics was part of the decision, but the move was also motivated “basically, by word-of-mouth” from visitors and reports from park superintendents who are frequently asked where they can buy a drink or a snack. “It’s not that the park is remote,” said Loschiavo, “but there is not a lot of food or restaurants unless go you into the towns of Cape May cmp-deckor West Cape May and many also said, ‘I don’t feel like walking or riding a bike all the way to the Point from Cape May.’ ”

A press release issued from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) states that the DEP is offering opportunities for businesses to operate concessions in many of New Jersey’s state parks, forests and recreation areas. Acting Commissioner Mark N. Mauriello is quoted as saying, “There’s no better time than right now to embrace these opportunities to become a concessionaire. Not only is it a chance to launch a rewarding and lucrative business, concessions add something extra special to the experiences millions enjoy in New Jersey’s parks and other recreation areas,” Commissioner Mauriello said. “What’s more, we’re always cmp-beachinterested in exploring new ideas for business opportunities and partnerships.”

According to the press release, the DEP’s State Park Service is seeking proposals from private and nonprofit sectors to operate 23 concessions throughout the state parks, forests, recreation areas and marinas, beginning Memorial Day weekend. Business opportunities range from food services to boat and bicycle rentals.

Concession opportunities are available through a public bidding process. Bids will be accepted until April 29 at 10 a.m. Businesses or individuals interested in submitting bids must first pre-qualify. Prequalification applications must be received by April 17 at 11 a.m.

The State Park Service currently manages some 40 seasonal concessions that generate $1.3 million annually. Cape May Point State Park encompasses 190 acres of the state’s most renowned migration habitats.

cmp-governor

Governor Jon Corzine

In an exclusive Cape May Magazine interview, Governor Jon Corzine was asked about the effect the new concessionaire policy would have on the environment  at the migratory park. “It depends,” said the governor, “on the specifics of the concession that they’re doing. I don’t want to speak to it until I know the facts. If you’re going to be putting neon signs outside next to a trailer selling hot dogs, [that’s a problem]. I think there is a way of having concessions that are very unobtrusive that are really supportive of a visit to one of our open spaces and beaches.”

When asked if this new policy is a reflection of proposed budget cuts, Governor Corzine said, “We’re trying to do everything we can to maintain our parks. It’s tight budgets. We’re not putting any more money in and there are been some increases in fees to allow us to have resources. By the way, that seems reasonable since they have not stayed up with inflation over the years. On the other hand, we’re trying to make them affordable so that people can use our parks and beaches. As you know we have this beach badge controversy up and down the Jersey shore which is really a local issue [Cape May charges for in-season beach access. Wildwood, for example, does not.] as opposed to a state issue. cmp-telescopeEveryone is pressed for resources. You can’t fill a $7 billion hole without making some tough choices.”

Loschiavo said the continuation of the vendors or the addition of more “novelty” vendors will be reevaluated on a yearly basis.

Asked to comment on the new additions, Don Feriday, director of birding programs for the New Jersey Audubon Society, said “We really have no comment. It is something that is done in other state parks and as long as the additions have no negative ecological impact, and I don’t see that happening with what they propose to do with Cape May Point State Park, we really don’t have any reason to comment on it.”

He added that, from a birder’s perspective, “biking is a great way to go birding and has far less carbon imprint than driving around Cape May Point in a car.”