When I was growing up in Rumson there were several rituals that made summer even more wonderful. One started on the last day of school and lasted all summer long–going to the beach. Day in and day out our faithful old station wagon loaded with three, four, five and finally, six kids would head over the Sea Bright Bridge. Just minutes later we would be in the ocean.
We played in the waves for hours on end while our fingers wrinkled and our lips turned blue; swallowing water and eating sand until we became expert and fearless wave riders. Our sandcastles were legendary, fantastic creations with moats and turrets topped with treasures from the sea: fabulous shells, smooth stones and colorful glass we found while exploring what we called crab ponds, low tide havens for the most marvelous creatures.
But sooner or later the day would end and we would reload our sandy feet and sunburned shoulders into our trusty wagon and back over the bridge, we would go. But not always straight home. At least two or three times a week our mother would stay on Ridge Road and drive all the way to Sickles Farm just over the Rumson border in Little Silver.
Seatbelt free (they hadn’t been invented yet I guess) we would literally bounce along the rutted gravel road through the fields and orchards leading to the makeshift farm stand. There were bushels and bushels of freshly picked corn, peaches that melted into your mouth, down your shirt all the way to your toes, and boxes of blueberries that with a splash of lemon and barely a hint of sugar made the world’s most delicious pie.
Fast forward fifty plus years and the old Sickles Farm is no more. Although I will always be nostalgic for the olden days, its successor–Sickles Market–is a year-round enterprise completely in tune to the needs of the modern family. Working mom? Staying at home dad? Just a little kid?
Who does not love having the freshest fruit and veg, the convenience of quality prepared foods, a butcher selling wholesome meat, a separate cheese department plus a great bakery right on the premises? The road may be paved now, and some of the fields sprout townhomes, but the heart of Sickles Farm lives on.
So it is still a long way to go until summer. Not sure what to make for dinner on one of these cold, wintry nights? Pop into Sickles Market and buy a nice hunk of beef, some great fresh veggies, a beautiful loaf of french bread and in a couple of hours you will have a meal fit for a king–or a carload of kids. And don’t forget to pick up a fresh fruit pie for dessert!
The Best Pot Roast
Buy a well marbled four pound-ish chuck roast. Season with salt and pepper, then dredge the whole roast in flour. Brown in an oven proof pan in a few glugs of olive oil. Try not to fuss with it too much–brown means brown–leave it alone turning only once until you have it nicely seared. Remove from pot.
Then add some more olive oil to the pan and basically whatever vegetables, chopped, that you like. I used two leeks, two carrots, two celery stalks, one onion and five cloves of garlic. If you happen to have some pancetta in the fridge dice it and put it in the pot. Cook for about ten minutes until tender and then add 2 cups of decent red wine, a 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes (squish these) and thyme and rosemary and one bay leaf. Put the roast back in and add about one cup of chicken stock so the roast is mostly submerged.
Cook in a 350-degree oven. After three and one-half hours or so partially cook some fresh baby carrots (leave them whole with a bit of green at the top), pearl onions and baby potatoes, then saute in butter until lightly browned. (If you are lazy you can skip both these steps and just toss them in your pot roast adding more liquid if necessary, but it makes a nicer presentation if the veggies look pretty and colorful).
After you do this take the roast out of the oven, skim off as much fat as possible and most of the cooked vegetables (you can transfer to a blender and puree the sauce or just make a slurry with some flour and sauce and thicken it that way). Surround with your beautiful carrots, potatoes, and onions on a large platter and spoon the sauce over it. I like to serve the extra sauce on the side in a gravy boat.
Add a loaf of freshly baked french bread, a tossed salad and a nice bottle of red wine and your meal is complete.
And don’t forget the pie!