mint: I hate to see you go!

We started growing mint in our backyard years before the mojito craze began.  Each year, it doubles in size and I am usually left saying to myself, “what do I do with all of this mint?!?”

As it turns out, pick chick just love mojitos!  And nothing is better than making them at home.  Luckily I came across a great little recipe from Marissa at Food in Jars, a wonderful blog that I am totally obsessed with.  Marissa is a pioneer in the home preserving movement and I totally dig her recipes and how-to’s that have helped me throughout the summer.  I would have to say that she is one of my inspirations for this year’s canning craze that attacked my kitchen!

So last night I came across her recipe for Mint Simple Syrup and I had an “ah ha” moment!  That is how I will preserve my mint this season!   Out to the mint field I went and picked some lovely leaves.

I whipped up a batch, it was super simple: 2 cups of water, 2 cups of sugar and a bundle of mint that I washed to remove any dirt.  I used about 12-14 stems with their leaves on them.  See Marissa’s recipe for full details.  The final product was delish all on its own!

But the true test was, how did it taste in a mojito?  For the mojito, I did the following:

fresh mint mojito

ingredients:

1/4 of a lime muddled with 4 mint leaves
6 ice cubes
1 tablespoon of the mint simple syrup
2 oz. of White Rum
3-4 oz. of club soda

instructions:

In a large glass, muddle the lime with the mint leaves.  If the season is over and you have no mint, just mash up the lime to release it’s juices.  Add the ice, the mint simple syrup, the rum, the club soda.  Mix well and serve.  Sprig of mint and slice of lime on top is optional for a nice presentation.  For myself at home, no fancy stuff needed.

Wow! That is all I can say about this mint mojito!  It is super fresh and super minty with the mint-infused simple syrup.  It definitely kicks it up a notch and is a great way to preserve the mint before the chill gets to it! Yummy!

worth the pick?

pick chick says: This was ridiculously good and I don’t think I will make another mojito without it!

pick dude says: I am not a fan of the mojito, beers are my thing, but it did taste very good for the sip that pick chick made me take!

September 30, 2011 at 7:05 pm 1 comment

trenton tomato pie @ de lorenzo’s

trenton tomato pie @ de lorenzo’s

If you hang around central New Jersey long enough, you will hear the locals talk about “tomato pie.”  Some say “tomato pie”, others say “Trenton pie” while other’s specifically say, “Trenton tomato pie.”  So after much asking around, we were told to go to De Lorenzo’s for an authentic Trenton Tomato Pie, aka Pizza.  Now saying you are going to De Lorenzo’s can be tricky because there are 2 of them with 2 different locations for each!  Same family too!

The local story is that the parents, Pasquale and Maria,  came over from Southern Italy in the early 1900’s and opened up the original pizzeria in 1936 at 1007 Hamilton Avenue, Trenton.   Getting a little antsy, one of their 12 children, Chick, decided he wanted a place of his own, so in 1947, he opened his own pizzeria in another section of town at 530 Hudson Street, Trenton.  They were at that location for 62 years and then decided to open another location in Robbinsville, NJ   two years ago.  In this location, they serve salads, have indoor seating, is BYOB and has a restroom!  Yes, the Hudson location does not.

So pick dude and I debated which of the 4 De Lorenzo’s to go to?  We normally opt for the original locales, but I love a good salad, so Chick’s De Lorenzo in Robbinsville (now run by his daughter and grandson), was the winner!

The menu was simple: pizza, salad and a drink.  Really, do you need more??

The salad was nice and simple too.  We shared the mixed greens salad, which has a light vinaigrette with pears and glazed walnuts.  Simple, but fresh.

Then we ordered a pie, aka “a tray” for the Pennsylvanians, with half plain, half with onions and sausage.  The atmosphere was busy, loud and lively.  After a 30 minute wait on a Tuesday night, we had high hopes because we were not expecting a wait on a Tuesday!

Everyone seemed jolly and enjoying themselves.  The wait staff was quick in taking your order and moving around constantly.  It had a NYC feel of quickness and we enjoyed the open pizza kitchen where you could see the pizzas being made.

Our beauty arrived and we were excited!

Here is was, the long awaiting Trenton Tomato Pie!

 worth the pick?

pick chick says: Overall, the pie was good and refreshing in a sense.  Crust was very tender and fresh, as were the tomatoes.  I loved the olive oil drizzle on top and the sausage was really delicious. But I missed the cheese.  I am just a cheese girl when it comes to pizza, so this is why I thought it was good, but not excellent for me.  I like the cheese to be abundant however that is just not how a Trenton Pie, by any pizzeria in this area, is.  Thin crust, good tomatoes and an olive oil drizzle is the signature.

pick dude says: At De Lorenzo’s, the sauce was very flavorful and the crust was very thin and crispy.  However I too would have liked more cheese with a little more spice to the sauce to boost the flavor.  So I think Trenton Tomato Pies are just not my thing, however, I can see why people love it. It looked nice, all the ingredients tasted fresh  and it was very simple. Tomato Pie may be one of those things that you love because you grew up with it but when you are not native, it’s just a simple pizza.

the skinny:

dress code: very casual

reservations: not sure if they take them, we assumed there would not be a wait so we didn’t; however if they do, we would recommend making one

atmosphere: new, clean and appealing, but hurried and busy

menu variety: pizza, salad and soda, that is all she wrote here!

service: good but they were always moving around quickly which may make you feel rushed

value for your dollar: our bill was $28 plus tax, for a salad, a large pie with 2 toppings on half and 2 sodas.  An inexpensive dinner for 2 in central jersey.

useful tidbit: if you put toppings on half of the pie, they will charge you for a full pie of toppings, so splurge and put it on the whole pie or skip the toppings.  It is BYOB.

conclusion: It was good, but we like to explore, so next time we will try the original-original on Hamilton Ave and see how that stacks up but we will miss the salad and the restroom if needed!

*as always, our opinions are our own and we are not endorsed or paid by the places we review, nor do we let them know we are reviewing them.  We want them to be unbiased to us so that we can give an honest review to you.

September 28, 2011 at 9:39 am Leave a comment

pesto: roasted red pepper

pesto part 4: roasted red pepper pesto

We end our pesto love with this final version for this season: roasted red peppers pesto.  This is also very simple and add a nice twist to everyday dishes.

I used canned peppers (I was a little tired this weekend and wasn’t up for roasting sadly) but you can certainly roasted your own, about 3 peppers will do.

roasted red pepper pesto

ingredients:

1/2 cup toasted walnuts
2 cloves of garlic
1 jar (12 oz.) of sweet roasted red peppers, drained OR roast 3 large red bell peppers
1 cup of tightly packed basil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (you can also use pecorino romano, or a blend of the two)
1/4 teaspoon pepper (we don’t use salt, we feel there is enough of it in the cheese)
1/2 cup EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)

instructions:

In a dry pan, roast whole walnuts on medium heat on the stove top for a few minutes to release the oils in the nuts.  It provides a bolder flavor.  Toss them often to prevent burning and take off the stove and put onto a paper towel to cool as soon as you smell the aroma of the walnut oil.

Once cooled, add the walnuts to the food processor with your garlic.  Process until it resembles a paste.  Now add your roasted red peppers (drained) and basil.  Mix until it forms a paste.  Add your cheese and pepper and mix slightly.  Give a taste and make adjustments as needed.

Now drizzle in your EVOO slowly until it resembles a more uniform paste.  You can always add more EVOO if needed.  Give a taste, adjust if needed, and that is it!

This recipe makes quite a bit and fills the food processor, so I don’t double it.

yield: 12-16 oz. per batch

shelf life: 3 weeks in the frig, 1 year frozen

We slathered this pesto onto a panini sandwich that we made with fresh mozzarella from Griggstown Farm (an absolute must-have for fresh basil leaves, EVOO & salt+pepper) free-range chicken breasts and some smooth pieces of roast red peppers.  Toasted it on our Griddler and it was a fresh and easy Sunday meal.

worth the pick?

pick chick says: I agree with pick dude, it has a lighter flavor and tastes more like a dip to me rather than a pesto.  So this makes it very versatile and it was really good on that panini!   Yes, for me, any pesto is worth the pick!

pick dude says: Similarly to the Garlic Scape Pesto, the flavor is a bit lighter. However, it has a depth and richness to it, probably due to the carmelization of the sugars and the smoothness of the roasted peppers. Of all of our pestos this year, this is my third favorite pick.

September 2, 2011 at 8:48 am Leave a comment

pesto: garlic scape

pesto part 3: garlic scape pesto

Third in our line-up of our pesto making frenzy is the garlic scape pesto.  This is the top part of the garlic that is usually thrown away.  I have never seen it at a grocery store, but every now and then, it pop up at a farmer’s market.  It has a mild garlic flavor and is inexpensive.  I have to admit though, I love it less for it’s flavor (I prefer the bold garlic flavor of the clove) and more for its visual appeal.  I just love how it looks, how it curves and how it is so simple in its design.

The garlic scape recipe is simple, you just replace your garlic cloves with the garlic scapes.  3 scapes = 1 clove.  You use the entire scape.

garlic scape pesto

ingredients:

1/2 cup toasted walnuts
6-9 garlic scapes (depends on how garlicy you like it!) cut into 1 inch pieces
3 cups of tightly packed basil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (you can also use pecorino romano, or a blend of the two)
1/4 teaspoon pepper (we don’t use salt, we feel there is enough of it in the cheese)
3/4 cup EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)

instructions:

In a dry pan, roast whole walnuts on medium heat on the stove top for a few minutes to release the oils in the nuts.  It provides a bolder flavor.  Toss them often to prevent burning and take off the stove and put onto a paper towel to cool as soon as you smell the aroma of the walnut oil.

Once cooled, add the walnuts to the food processor with your garlic scapes.  Process until it resembles a paste.  You have to pulse more than usual with the garlic scapes because they are somewhat fibrous.  Before you move onto the next step, make sure they are grounded down well into a paste.  Now add your basil and mix until it forms a paste.  Add your cheese and pepper and mix slightly.  Give a taste and make adjustments as needed.

Now drizzle in your EVOO slowly until it resembles a more uniform paste.  You can always add more EVOO if needed.  Give a taste, adjust if needed, and that is it!

You can definitely double this recipe if you are so inclined.

yield: 10-12 oz. per batch

shelf life: 3 weeks in the frig, 1 year frozen

worth the pick?

pick chick says: I have to admit, I love these more as a decorative “flower” arrangement on my table than in my pesto.  Don’t get me wrong, the pesto is good, light and has more texture to it, however, I miss the bold garlic flavor and just love how these look before they are chopped up into a paste!  Of all of of the pestos, this one is my least favorite.

pick dude says: I like this pesto but it does not have as full a flavor as the traditional basil pesto. It’s lighter in mouth-feel as well. If you don’t like the full flavor of a traditional pesto, this version may be right up your alley. I picked this as my least favorite of all of the pestos, but not because it wasn’t very good but due to my pickiness and obsession with pesto.

August 31, 2011 at 10:17 am Leave a comment

pesto: sundried tomato

pesto part 2: sun-dried tomato

In our pesto making madness, we posted earlier on traditional and purple pesto.  Now for something more complex in taste, but so simple to make!  We made sun-dried tomato pesto.

This recipe is super easy.  No nuts and no added EVOO.  You can also use your own sun-dried tomatoes or buy them dried without the oil and add in about 1/2 cup of EVOO.

sun-dried tomato pesto

ingredients:

1 jar (8 oz.) of sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 cup of tightly packed basil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (you can also use pecorino romano, or a blend of the two)
1/4 teaspoon pepper (we don’t use salt, we feel there is enough of it in the cheese)

instructions:

Put all of the ingredients in a food processor except the parm cheese.   Process until it resembles a paste.  Add the parm cheese and pulse slightly to mix and that is it!   Give a taste and make adjustments as needed.  You can double this recipe if you would like to have some to freeze.

I doubled the batch, reused the jar the tomatoes came in for my container for the refrigerator and froze the rest in the ice cube trays.

yield: 10-12 oz. per batch

shelf life: 3 weeks in the frig, 1 year frozen

We then added it to some pasta shells with some EVOO drizzled and julianned basil.  If you want more of a sauce, reserve some of the pasta water and mix that with the pesto to create a sauce and then pour over your pasta.

It is also delicious on toasted baguette with a fresh mozzarella topper or a pesto panini sandwich!  Yum!

Next post: Garlic Scape Pesto!

worth the pick?

pick chick says: On some days, I like this pesto better than the traditional green pesto.  It is very tomato-ey and is a more delicate flavor than its green cousin.  It is more refined in some ways and I will make this version every year!

pick dude says: Of all of the pestos, this is my second favorite, next to the traditional pesto.  It has a very rich, tomato flavor, which I love. I think all pesto is good on a roasted chicken sandwich but this one in particular really makes a grilled chicken breast sandwich yummy and worth being my second place pesto.

August 24, 2011 at 3:01 pm Leave a comment

pesto: traditional and purple

Basil grows fantastically well in New Jersey.  Almost every farm stand has it in abundance.  One of my favorite places to pick some up is at Griggstown Farm Market just outside of Princeton, NJ.  Their basil is fresh, flavorful and has a beautiful aroma.  In my opinion, basil has the absolute best aroma of all of the herbs.  I just love smelling it as it circulates the air in my car on the way home!

Basil is very versatile and can be used in many dishes, however pick dude LOVES pesto right out of the jar!  So every year I make a bunch to satisfy his cravings now and freeze enough to get him through the winter.  I made 5 different styles this year and cooked up some great dishes with them!  This week, I will share them all!

Green basil is most traditional, but you can also buy spicy basil, purple basil and thai basil.  I chose traditional green (at the top of the plate in the above image) and purple (at the bottom) for this round of pesto making.   I used the same recipe for both.

Pesto recipes are very forgiving.  You can play around and still end up with a great tasting product in the end.  I usually start with this recipe and tweak and taste as I go.

Traditional Pesto

1 cup walnuts (we use walnuts because they are less expensive than pine nuts, which is the “traditional” nut for pesto)
4 cloves of garlic (we love garlic so we use 4 cloves for a strong garlic flavor), 2 cloves is the average
3 cups of tightly packed basil (you can really get creative here.  You can substitute the basil with cilantro, parsley, even arugula or do a mix!)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (you can also use pecorino romano, or a blend of the two)
1/4 teaspoon pepper (we don’t use salt, we feel there is enough of it in the cheese)
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

Instructions:

In a dry pan, roast whole walnuts on medium heat on the stove top for a few minutes to release the oils in the nuts.  It provides a bolder flavor.  Toss them often to prevent burning and take off the stove and put onto a paper towel to cool as soon as you smell the aroma of the walnut oil.

Once cooled, add the walnuts to the food processor with your garlic.  Process until it resembles a paste.  Now add your basil (or other herbs) and mix.  It will start to form a ball that rolls around the machine.  Add your cheese and pepper and mix slightly.  Give a taste and make adjustments as needed.

Now drizzle in your EVOO slowly until the ball goes away and it resembles a more uniform paste.  You can always add more EVOO if needed.  Give a taste, adjust if needed, and that is it!  So simple and so delicious!

On the left is the purple basil and green basil on the right.  The green pesto is your traditional pesto in flavor.  The purple pesto gives it a milder basil flavor that has some nuttiness in the background.  It is a softer basil pesto.

The recipe makes enough to fill one 1/2 pint canning jar and to freeze some.  I find the best way to freeze pesto is in ice cube trays.  Just put the pesto in each cavity and pop in the freezer for 1/2 day.  Then pop them out with the help of a butter knife and freeze in storage containers or freezer bags.  This makes it so much easier to use in the future in these individual sizes.

You will see I also made some sun-dried tomato pesto this day that I froze.  That will be the next post!

worth the pick?

pick chick says: Totally worth it!  I make this pick at least 4 times during the season.  I make and freeze as much pesto as possible because it is so versatile and yummy.  Basil, I heart your lushish flavor and addictive aroma!

pick dude says: I love the full basil flavor of traditional pesto. This one was made with walnuts. If you aren’t a pesto junkie like me, you’ll never notice the difference. It’s very strong tasting and smelling and which I think makes pesto, pesto! I love the dark, rich green color and the fragrance of the basil. That being said, it differs from the pesto made with pignoli (aka pine nuts) in smoothness. The walnuts seem to have less fat and therefore it’s not as creamy-smooth as one made with pignoli.  However, I just love pesto, it is one of my favorites and is a great pick!

August 23, 2011 at 8:13 am Leave a comment

triple berry+apricot jam

Our original mission at Styer’s Orchard was to pick some peaches.  To our delight, we found the lemon cucumbers and some cute little apricots!    They were so adorable, we had to pick them!

After blanching, peeling, cutting and chopping, we just didn’t have enough to make 6 or 7 half pints, like I had hoped.

So I looked in the freezer for something else to blend them with and I had some strawberries, blackberries and blueberries frozen from last year’s picking season.  I let them defrost on their own and then gave them a slight mash.

Added the apricots…

This left me with 6 cups of mashed fruits.  I like this amount because it yields about 6-8 of the 1/2 pint jars.  That is enough to get us through to next season and to have some to give away.

I put it on the stove with 3 Tbl. of no/low sugar pectin and 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice.  Stirred.  Brought it to a hard rolling boil, added 3 cups of sugar and stirred again.  Waited for another hard boil and then let it boil hard for 1 minute.  Tested the gel set on my freezer plate, all was good, took it off the stove and waited 5 minutes to then ladle into hot jars.  Put on the lids and rings, processed in a water bath canner for 10 minutes and then removed.

Let them rest for a day on a towel and then dive into their yummy goodness!

worth the pick?

pick chick says: This was a lovely jam.  It had a bunch of flavor and a beautiful dark color.  I have to say though that those little cute apricots got lost in the mix.  They are so delicate that the powerful berries took over.  This is definitely worth another pick, but if you are really looking for the apricot flavor, I would stick to a straight up apricot jam or blend it with only one other berry or fruit, not three!

pick dude says:  When I fist tasted this jam, I knew it was the most flavorful jams I’ve tasted this season. I found myself eating it right out of the jar.  It was like candy. It’s color, a reddish dark purple, looked awesome in the strained greek yogurt that I put the jams in. The swirls it made were beautiful. I kept saying to myself, “who would want to waste this on bread?!” Triple Berry was a home run!

August 11, 2011 at 8:31 am 1 comment

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