April 5, 1995 |
A plateful of asparagus makes any meal a special occasion. The tall, slender, regally crowned stalks - almost too decorative to eat - are synonymous with spring; their appearance coincides with the holidays of Passover and Easter. Asparagus is a perennial plant in the lily family. An underground stem, or crown, produces edible shoots for about six weeks each spring. If left alone, the tips sprout into tall, feathery fronds. Backyard gardeners who plant asparagus must have patience, because it requires four years to grow from seed, or two to three years from crowns, before any harvest of substance can be made.
March 29, 1995 |
Asparagus and shiny red new potatoes. Artichokes and tender young greens such as arugula and mache, dandelion and sorrel. Swiss chard. Wild leeks. Rhubarb. Fava beans. Yes, all are harbingers of spring and becoming readily available at local markets. A vegetarian's delight, not to mention a delicious way for all to get the much-needed nutrients these seasonal items bring us. The trick is to not lose the vitamins by overcooking or tossing them down the drain with the cooking water.
May 29, 1994 |
Down along the Delaware River, tucked among the farmland in one of the less populated areas of Gloucester County, a giant thrives. Squatting on 3,000 acres of former tomato, green pepper and asparagus fields in Logan Township is the Pureland Industrial Complex, by far South Jersey's largest industrial park. The number of people working at the complex, about 5,000, is almost equal to the entire population of Logan Township, a sprawling, mainly rural community. The complex has 78 buildings and 9.3 million square feet of space, and its owners plan to keep expanding, up to 20 million square feet within 10 to 20 years.
May 11, 1994 |
Some diners equate asparagus with eating grass. Growing wild, in some parts of the world, it is even used as feed for livestock. Yet, through cultivation and breeding, asparagus has come to be known as the Food of Kings, its shoots and scale-like leaves transformed into the elegant spears prized by gourmets, lauded by poets and immortalized by artists from Manet to Pippin. A genus of the aristocratic lily family, asparagus grows wild in so many places that it's uncertain where it originated.
April 24, 1994 |
Meet Bob Langlois, retired Rutgers University agricultural extension agent - and asparagus wonk. As Gloucester County extension agent from 1962 until his retirement four years ago, Langlois provided information and advice to hundreds of farmers here and in surrounding counties. He served the region's agricultural community so well that he has been honored with a host of awards, including the New Jersey Board of Agriculture Distinguished Service Award, which he received in January.
April 20, 1994 |
A change of seasons and a change of chefs led me back to the Valley Green Inn last week. My last review visit, four years ago, was so disappointing that while I've taken many walks past the 140-year-old inn since then, I felt little inclination to stop for a meal. I chanced it after the arrival of chef William McConnell, late of Philadelphia Fish & Co. Food and service have improved, but the dining experience still doesn't measure up to the inn's lovely sylvan setting. Valley Green's location is quite special.
February 27, 1994 |
Americans are not adventurous seasoners, usually opting for simple salt and pepper, punctuated by an occasional parsley sprig or a blush of paprika. Then there's that big bowl of chili. Fumes of cumin mingle with oregano, cayenne catches the throat, and the slow glow of jalapeno can be felt on the lips. Chili is at once exotic and homey, challenging and comforting. It is a bowl of contradictions, and maybe that's why we can't agree on exactly what it is. We all know that chili is a stew, but what makes up the mix is a matter for perpetual debate.
November 13, 1993 |
GIVING GREEN THUMBS DOWN TO PICKINESS OVER PICKING Welfare recipients beware! When the asparagus gets tender, the Dutch plan to get tough. In the cash-strapped welfare state's first foray into compulsory workfare, the Dutch are planning to offer 650 jobs in next season's asparagus harvest to unemployed citizens. "If people don't take them, their benefits will be cut," said Peter Hermans, who runs the project. "People don't want to be asparagus pickers, because you have to bend down all day, the pay often isn't up to scratch, and you have to get up at dawn," Hermans said.
June 25, 1993 |
No meat, no poultry, no seafood. No eggs or dairy products. No MSG. No smoking. What, then, does Singapore Vegetarian Chinese Restaurant in Chinatown say yes to? Dishes based on fresh and dried vegetables, along with mock meat and seafood dishes made from grains, glutens and soy products. Portions and prices are almost too good to be true: A generous three-course lunch can be had for $5.95; on the regular menu, almost every entree is $7 or less. The blue-and-white dining room is prettier than many in Chinatown, with its faux greenery, pastel tablecloths and fan-folded cloth napkins.
May 16, 1993 |
For many of us, May is a tease. There are wonderful balmy days alternating with chilling rains. And anyone will tell you that it's always wet on the Memorial Day weekend so the outdoor grilling season can't be launched until June. So, when I crave a nice thick steak on the grill this time of year, I improvise indoors. The key is to use a good-quality, ridged, cast-iron pan. It can be preheated to a high enough temperature to instantly sear meat. The ridges on the pan hold the food while helping drain off fat. I cook my Stove-Top Steak simply.