Tag Archives: Martha Stewart

NJ Boasts 4 JamesBeard Semifinalists!; Martha Stewart Coming to Bridgewater; Mauritian Fish Curry

2015 James Beard Award Semi-Finalists Announced

These Garden State culinary luminaries are nominees this year – including in two national categories:

For Outstanding Chef (in the U.S.): Maricel Presilla, Cucharamama, Hoboken

For Outstanding Baker (in the U.S.): Marie Jackson, The Flaky Tart, Atlantic Highlands

For Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic: Both Scott Anderson, Elements, Princeton and Joey Baldino, Zeppoli, Collingswood

Congrats & best wishes to them all!
Finalists will be announced on March 24 and the winners named on May 4.
Here’s the complete 2015 list of semifinalists in all categories.

Heads Up Martha Stewart Fans


She’ll be signing copies of her latest book, Clean Slate, on Thursday, February 26 at the Costco in Bridgewater. Ms. S. will be there at 2 pm but only for one hour, so good luck! For event info phone 732.584.1003.

Homemade Fish Curry from the Island of Mauritius (via Northern VA)

Do I hear you saying, “from where?” I explain the where, why, who, what and how below. (This post is excerpted from my In the Kitchen column in the 2/6/15 issue of the Princeton Packet.)

Of the many important things in life that we have little or no control over, our children’s choice of mate has to rank right up there. So my husband Bill and I counted ourselves among the fortunate in this regard when our elder daughter, Alice, married Chris Le last year. He is all anyone could hope for in a son-in-law. But the bonus for me, a food writer, is that Chris hails from a food-obsessed family with an interesting and unusual cultural background.

Alice & Chris Le

Alice & Chris Le

Chris’s father, Thanh Le, emigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam after the war. In Northern Virginia he met his future wife, Marie-Ange So Ting Fong, who was born and raised on the island of Mauritius, which is known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. Situated off the coast of Madagascar, Mauritius is the only place on earth where the dodo lived. In 2010, the New York Times lauded the island’s “perfect year-round climate, talcum-soft sands, [and] crystalline waters.” This tropical paradise is multi-ethnic and multi-lingual. Languages spoken there include Mauritian Creole, French, and English, as well as several Asian tongues.

Chris and his two brothers were raised on dishes that span the Vietnamese, Chinese, and Mauritian repertoire. While his father, Thanh, likes to grill and barbecue, the bulk of the cooking is done by his mother, Marie-Ange, and her mother, Josephine So Ting Fong, who lives with the family part of the year. This past Christmas Eve the Les graciously invited me and Bill to join their extended family for what turned out to be a veritable feast.

Le Family Christmas Eve 2014

Le Family Christmas Eve 2014

I lost count after 15 dishes had hit the table, among them dumplings, egg rolls, Vietnamese grilled beef skewers, noodle dishes, abalone, and pickled eggs. All were terrific, but there was one dish that I couldn’t stop eating: Mauritian fish curry. This turns out to be a deceptively straightforward combination of fried fish with onions, a couple of spices, and a splash of vinegar. It’s a curry in the broader Southeast Asian sense of something having been cooked in spices, which may or may not include curry.

Mauritian Fish Curry

Mauritian Fish Curry

Of course, the first thing I did when I got home was to google recipes for Mauritian fish curry. But the images and recipes that popped up were quite different from what I had enjoyed. The apparently more common version turns out to be a “wet” curry, with the fried fish bathed in sauce, often tomato based. The Les’ is a “dry” curry, its moisture derived mainly from the oil that the fish is fried in. So I asked Ms. Le and her mother for their recipe, which they kindly supplied. (As is typical in recipes handed down in families, no one had ever measured ingredients, let alone recorded it on paper.) The only constants among theirs and the other recipes are onions, garlic, and fish (usually white-fleshed) fried in vegetable or seed oil. Many include – besides the aforementioned tomatoes – fresh ginger, cilantro, and thyme. Some use curry leaves or curry powder, as well as cumin or garam masala.

The Le family recipe contains none of these. Instead, spoonfuls of saffron and mustard seed provide color and flavor. Ms. Le cautions, “I would suggest that you test the recipe and adjust the amounts according to your taste.” She also suggests using your personal favorite fish. For her, that’s thick fillets of boneless tilapia, although her mother prefers tilapia (or other fish) with bones intact, and her husband favors salmon.

The recipe below is straight from the Le family, with one deviation. Marie-Ange Le and her mother allow the uncooked fish, sprinkled heavily with salt, to sit at room temperature for four hours. (Other Mauritian recipes stipulate one hour.) This helps the fish to crisp up nicely and not fall apart in the pan. But food safety experts advise never to let raw seafood sit out at room temperature, so you can skip that step and either coat the fillets lightly with flour just before frying or simply follow your normal routine for frying fish fillets. The results won’t be the same, but still good.

Elizabeth & Ryan

Elizabeth & Ryan

By the way: There’s another Tanner family wedding approaching. In October our other child, Elizabeth, will marry Ryan Ritterson. Bill and I can hardly believe that we’ve lucked out here, too. Ryan, like Chris, is all we could ask for to ensure our daughter’s happiness. His ancestry, though, is far less exotic. He’s from solid Midwestern stock. I promise not to hold that against him.

Serves 8 to 10

3 pounds thick fish fillets, such as tilapia or salmon, cut into large pieces
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying, such as peanut, soybean, or canola (not olive oil)
6 cloves chopped garlic
1 teaspoon powdered saffron, or 12 strands (1 gram) saffron, crumbled
1-1/2 tablespoons mustard seed
3 tablespoons white vinegar
2 white onions cut in quarters (or eighths, if large) and the slices pulled apart

  1. Wash and pat dry the fish. Salt the fish on both sides, to taste, and deep-fry the fish in oil as you normally do. Remove the fish and set aside, reserving the oil.
  2. In a small bowl mix the saffron with a little warm water.
  3. Heat one cup of the reserved oil and stir-fry the onions and garlic until the onions are soft and translucent but not brown. Add the saffron mixture, the vinegar, and a pinch of salt. Combine and turn off the heat.
  4. Immediately add the mustard seed, then the fried fish and gently combine. Turn the heat back to medium-low and cook only until the mixture is just heated through. (Make sure that you do not overheat the mixture at the end, or the mustard seed will turn bitter.)
  5. If the fish curry is too dry, add more of the reserved frying oil.

My Cookie Wedding Favors; More from Frank Bruni; Riedel Warehouse Sale

My primary contribution to my daughter’s recent wedding was, not surprisingly, food related. Each of 153 guests received a clear, beribboned and be-tagged box containing Mexican wedding cookies I had baked.

My Wedding Cookie Favors

My Wedding Cookie Favors

For inspiration and recipes I turned to two experts: Martha Stewart and Nick Malgieri. I chronicle the ups and downs, ins and outs of pulling this project together here, in the May issue of the Princeton Packet Magazine, which is devoted in its entirety to weddings. (Scroll down to “Good Taste” for my cookie story.)

More of my interview with Frank Bruni, including the reading list for his food writing class @ Princeton

frank bruniI’ve previously linked to my interview with the former NY Times restaurant critic in the May issue of NJ Monthly. Here’s more of our conversation about the food writing course he’s teaching at Princeton University this semester, and why he’s doing it.

Tell me about the sixteen lucky undergrads in your class…
Most of them are upperclassmen. Right now it’s eleven young women and five young men. Forty-eight students applied. They all had to write a letter saying, here’s why I’d like to be in your class. I tried, without over-thinking it, to respect the gender breakdown of the letters.

They also had to submit a sample of their writing, right? So what drew you to these particular students?
A couple of them had taken a foreign affairs writing class last semester with my colleague at the Times [Carol Giacomo]. She brought her class up to The Times Center and had a number of us come talk to them. Some of the kids who applied to this class had been in that session and that was the reason they wanted to take the class. So I let a few of them in on the theory they know what they’re getting. You want everyone to be happy: they had met me, their feeling was positive. Others, it was just the amount of enthusiasm in their letters. Also, some of it was that I didn’t want a class entirely of people who are deep in the weeds of food, entirely of people who cultivate their own organic gardens. I wanted a mix of people who are incredibly food obsessed and people who are really just interested in being better writers and who find the subject of food suitably engaging. That kind of diversity.

Your syllabus lists three books other than your own Born Round: Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals and Nora Ephron’s Heartburn. Why these?
They’re so different from one another. Michael Pollan’s work is such classic kind of expository journalism, written in a very elegant style. Foer’s Eating Animals is written in a completely different and much more gonzo style and it’s about a very particular thing, which is the ethics of eating. And Nora Ephron, again, a completely different style.
It’s just to get different voices in their head. I want them to read a lot. I really think that the easiest way to be a good writer, the best thing is to read. Even at my age I feel that if I’m not reading a lot I’m writing a lot worse. I feel like to make a writing course just writing and writing and writing, it’s a little bit like putting the cart before the horse. It’s one of the concerns I always have about people in high school and college taking a whole bunch of writing courses. So I want to make sure that over the course of the semester they’re also reading.

Born Round coverHow do you plan on using Born Round in the course?
I think it would be hard to teach a food writing course and not have a food memoir in there. There were many I considered. The reason I put my own in there was not to sell sixteen copies – I don’t know if they even had to buy any [of these books]. I could have assigned, say, Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones & Butter and because she’s a local person I might be able to get her to come to talk to the class for an hour. But if I’m going to assign a food memoir, why not give them something that as they’re reading it if they have questions about why this approach, why is it done this way, or if they have questions about structure or anything, they have unfettered access to the author. It just made sense.

Will you bring in guest speakers?
Absolutely! For the first half of my next class Melissa Clark, who’s a friend and a good Times food writer, is going to be there. I’ll probably have my friend Kate Krader who’s the restaurant editor for Food & Wine magazine come down. And I’m also going to bring the kids up to the Times to interact with my colleagues.

What made you want to take this on, with all your other responsibilities?
A new experience! You know, when you’ve been in the business as long as I have and you’ve written on deadline as much as I have and you’ve filed as many articles of various kinds, well, if you can find ways to build something novel into your weeks and months, it’s great. And in a corny way I like the idea of teaching. I’m one of those people at work whose friends often ask for advice or to read stuff and I think I’m not horrible at explaining things and critiquing things. I hoped I might actually be useful.

Riedel Warehouse Sale Now through Saturday, in Edison

If you’re a fan of Riedel wine glasses and decanters (count me in), you’ll want to head over to Edison, where their wares are discounted from between 45% and 75% for the next few days.  Details here. A shout out to June Jacobs of Feastivals who alerted me to this event. If you go, I’d love to get a report. btw: The sale includes items from Spiegelau and Nachtmann, too.

Martha Stewart Visit & Contest; Princeton U Grad/Chef

Calling all Martha Stewart Fans

Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not only will she be coming to Barnes & Noble at MarketFair on Route 1 in Princeton on May 2, but the store is also holding a contest whereby you can win a free autographed copy of her new book, Martha’s American Food and be first in line!

Since she’s coming so close to Mother’s Day  (heads up: it’s May 13), the store is picking up on that with a “My Most Martha Mother’s Day Memory” contest. I have no idea what that memory might look like but here’s the deal, straight from the Princeton store and in its entirety:

“To enter, simply send a .jpeg image, reduced for email, and 25 words or less to crm2646@bn.com by April 25. Winner selected by Princeton Barnes & Noble and notified by April 30. The .jpeg images will not be returned and may be used for promotion. Please be sure to have permission of anyone depicted in the photo for its use.”

And here’s the deal on Stewart’s appearance at the store on Wednesday, May 2, at 5 pm: Line pass distribution begins at 1 pm with line formation following at that time. You must buy a copy of her book to be allowed a place in line to meet her and get it autographed.

Princeton University Grad/Chef Returns to Guest-Cook in the Dining Halls

I think it’s rare enough that a PU graduate goes on to become a chef/restaurateur – especially one with a degree in politics – but that is just what Valerie Erwin, class of ’79, has done.

Photo by Nick Barberio

Read all about her stint as visiting chef, her Philly restaurant, Geechee Girl Rice Cafe, and her life path in my latest column in The Princeton Packet. Her terrific recipe for black-eyed peas and rice is included.

Congrats to Donna Wolfe of Hamilton…

…who just minutes ago won $5,000 (plus $3,000 in GE appliances) as one of four finalists in the Pillsbury Bake-Off! Donna won in the Dinner Made Easy category for her Chicken Empanada Cones. There were 10,000 entries in the overall contest this year and she was one of just 100 finalists flown to Florida to compete, and then announced (by Martha Stewart, no less) as one of the final four. Back in Jersey, Donna is a reference library at Mercer County College and president of the Newcomers Club. Well done, Donna!

The winner of the $1 million top prize is from right across the border: Christina Verrelli of Devon, PA won with her recipe in the Sweet Treats category for Pumpkin Ravioli with Salted Caramel Whipped Cream.

Congrats to both ladies!!