The Red Bank Farmers Market

 My favorite thing on Sundays, after the NY Times and Keith’s traditional English breakfast with eggs, fresh bangers (sausage to the uninitiated) from Sickles and toast (I leave all the Heinz baked beans in tomato sauce for Keith), is the Red Bank Farmers Market.

 A hop, skip and a jump from our store at the intersection of West Front Street and Shrewsbury Avenue, in the parking lot behind the Galleria, is where you get the best and freshest fruits and veggies from a variety of local suppliers.  This is what fresh direct means, from the farm to your table.  And when Sunday rolls around it is always exciting to see what new treats are in store.

 Because they start slow.  Some herbs and lettuces in early spring, next comes the asparagus, some squash and now suddenly, it is in full swing, with nearly every fruit and vegetable you can imagine.  It is a great place to schmooze with friends you haven’t seen for a while.   And if, unlike us,  you have not been properly fed there are some fabulous breakfast options starting with our neighbor Adam’s vegan legend, The Cinnamon Snail…

 Or for you gourmands out there, there is that only in NJ classic, the Pork Roll truck!

 Although I managed to resist the pork roll,  I could not resist the eggplant, so guess what we’re having for dinner tonight?

Eggplant Parmigiana

This recipe is adapted from one in Mario Batali’s  Molto Italiano; heaven forbid I ever follow a recipe exactly.  But I love Mario for figuring out a way to make this dish without having to fry, or even better–batter the eggplant.  Even if you are willing to take on the calories, who wants to spend a 100 degree day with the air-conditioning cranked up so you can sweat for a good half hour or so over a hot frying pan?  And then you still have to hang around for another half hour while it bakes.

 And don’t sweat that whole pre-salting thing either–it just takes up another half hour, uses more dishes and I can never taste any difference.  Just start with the freshest eggplant you can buy.  Don’t use the baby ones–go for a nice mid-sizer with some heft and slice it into  a little less than 1/2 inch rounds.  Put the slices on a lightly olive-oiled baking sheet, add salt and pepper to taste and bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for ten minutes or so.  Keep an eye on them–you want them cooked through with some color–but not burned.

 And that’s it.  Make stacks, with a cheese layer in between the slices–I like to use a mixture of goat cheese and fresh mozzarella because I think the mozzarella is a little bland.  Top with your favorite tomato sauce and some grated parmesan and cook for twenty minutes in a 350 degree oven.  Garnish with fresh basil if you’ve got some on hand and serve with a fabulous salad, and a warm loaf of that great Italian bread from those guys in the far corner at the Farmers Market and enjoy.

Buon Appetito!

The Maine Thing

Fish Taco recipe

Part of the reason why we are such happy empty nesters is when we sold our house and moved to an apartment above our store, we also bought a little place on a little lake in Maine, seven hours and 5000 light years away from NJ. There the air is always fresh, albeit slightly redolent of pine needles, and when the sun shines the sky is always a brilliant blue.

Mostly we like to be outside.  Hiking, sailing, kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming, or just sitting on the dock reading a book.  But when the weather is not cooperating then we do another favorite thing which is messing about with the house. It’s a former camp, which to the uninitiated means a no-frills hut for hunters and fishermen, but fortunately, over the years, it has acquired what I consider to be the essential amenities of a home: indoor plumbing, electricity, heat and hot water.

However, our most favorite thing of all, and perhaps the one thing you can do in Maine at any time of the year–in any kind of weather–and that is eat, dine, nosh, you name it, we do it!  In fact we time our journeys so that after a quick six am-ish pitstop for a bagel and a cup of joe to go from The Coffee Corral in Red Bank, we are in Maine just in time for lunch at Day’s Crabmeat and Lobster Pound and Take Out, a type of restaurant we don’t have in our neck of New Jersey any more.

It’s the kind of place where you order at the window, then wait for your number to be called, and in just ten minutes or so you have the freshest fried haddock sandwich or crab or lobster roll you’ve ever eaten in your life.   Seating is out back at picnic tables, each with its own million dollar view.  Trust me, you will never wait in line at Red’s Eats again.

After Day’s it is just a hop, skip and a jump to our Maine cottage. But first we stop at the Fisherman’s Catch and Seafood Market in Damariscotta and pick up some crabmeat and fresh fish fillets.  (The lobster comes later in the week!)

   

 (I swear this guy in line ahead of me was Al Pacino but I was too afraid to ask!)

      In the summer, especially when the weather is delightful, time becomes of the essence so we rush to get the boats in the water and have a quick sail, or kayak or fiddle with the latest toy, the paddle board, because before you know it–it’s dinner time.  And that often means fish tacos.

Fish Tacos

I’ve been a fan of fish tacos ever since our friend, Doug Douty, of Lusty Lobster in Highlands, NJ  fame discovered them on a fishing trip to Mexico. He came back raving about how great these tacos were and even better, really easy to make: just flour tortillas, the freshest of fish and a crunch of slaw tossed down with a cold one. He had me by the time he got to the slaw–never even mind the beer.

Since then I’ve made them fried, and broiled and baked in the oven, breaded, blackened, sauced and unsauced and finally I  decided my favorite way to make fish tacos is the easiest.

First, to make cleanup a breeze, use one of those disposable aluminum pans you can buy at the grocery store.  Melt a little butter and lightly coat whatever boneless fish fillet you like–trust me you can use anything–even bluefish, and put it in the pan.  Spice the fillets up with whatever is on hand: some chili powder, paprika, some crushed red pepper, a little salt or Old Bay and let it hang in the fridge for a while.

Then make the slaw—once again I’ve made a hundred different versions and find the simplest tastes just as good as more complicated recipes with a ton of steps and ingredients.  Just grate or finely slice up some red cabbage. It has to be red cabbage; green does not work. Add some sliced, chopped or grated red onion, and if you like, a carrot and/or some chopped up hot peppers can go into the mix too. Then toss with a slurry you’ve made of about 1/3 rice wine vinegar to 2/3 mayonnaise and a pinch of sugar.  Put in the fridge and get yourself a glass of wine or a beer.

All that’s left to do is cook the fish and that just means you get someone else to put the pan on a hot grill until done—usually, it takes about ten minutes. Place your flour tortillas in foil on the unheated part of the grill so they warm up as the fish cooks.  (The fish can also be cooked in the oven at 425 degrees for about the same amount of time as on the grill.) The fish is done when it flakes.

The fish goes on the hot tortilla, top with the slaw, and serve with a wedge of lime.  If you want to get fancy put half an avocado on a hunk of lettuce to fill up the plate, grab another beer or glass of white wine and enjoy.