Sometimes, our name, "Nearly New Yorkers", elicits a raised eyebrow from New Jerseyans. "What's wrong with being just a New Jerseyan?" "Why must you identify with your old state, not your current home?"
The funny thing is that Sydney and I found it a very complimentary name. We love New Jersey. We think the produce and cultural influence on food here is some of the best you can get in this country. Neither of us are from New York, either, though we both lived there for the majority of our adult lives. The reason we are nearly New Yorkers is because it was so formative from a culinary perspective, never mind what happens when you spend your entire twenties and thirties there, marry a New Yorker and give birth to two.
I'm actually a born Ohioan. I moved to NYC at 23, having very little life experience and VERY little culinary experience. Oh, I could cook. But had I ever tasted Thai food or sushi? Nope. Someday I'll write a whole post about regional pizza differences. I ate from food carts, experienced Jewish delis, bagels that didn't come from a supermarket freezer, spices from African countries in "American" dishes, African, Lebanese, Cuban, Thai food. Fine dining? The fanciest I'd had in Ohio was probably the Olive Garden. Yet another post someday might touch on the over-rated aspect of fine dining. After the tasting menu at Per Se, I actually threw up in a cab because there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. That's the last time I was ever tempted to pay three figures for a 12-course meal.
But what I did take away from the sheer excess of dining experience as a New Yorker? The flavors. My mother's food is influenced by her Hungarian mother and grandmother. Onions, garlic, paprika, fresh ingredients. All very good. But when I discovered the exotic flavors of fresh ginger, fermented fish and vegetables, the umami of miso paste, the layers of complexity in za'atar, that is when I became the cook I would be. If I could take two ingredients to a deserted island, they would probably be cumin and miso. If I could have a third it would be ginger.
Sydney and I met and instantly bonded over food. She is from Wyoming. But she cooks like a New Yorker. Like me. I can run two houses down for fish sauce at any given time. When we make our videos for Dreyer Farms, we usually get the list of ingredients no more than a few hours before. As our kids try to pilfer fresh donuts from the farm, we start to look at the ingredients and riff. This week, we knew we had lettuce, radishes, kale and apples. I said, "How about a banh mi wrap? We can quick pickle the radishes. Sydney replied, "Yum! And how about a baked apple with some fresh ginger?" Because she just knows. Spicy, gingery Thai food, followed by a sweet gingery apple, which she then suggested we make drunken with Tomasello wine? "YES!"
This is why we love what we do. The produce is inspiring. And in our hands, which learned to coax flavor one state over, it becomes nearly New York. But just nearly. We love you New Jersey.
Serves 4 -8
- 4 large apples
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/3 c. brown sugar
- 1/2 inch fresh ginger, grated (optional)
- 1/2 cup Tomasello spiced apple wine
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Core apples 3/4 of the way through, leaving a base at the bottom. Nestle whole apples into casserole dish.
- Mix together butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar and fresh ginger, if using.
- Stuff butter and spice mixture into whole apples, leaving a small space at the top.
- Pour 1 T. wine into each apple.
- Place in oven and bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until tender.
- Serve whole or cut each apple in half and top with whip cream and caramel sauce.
- 4 radishes
- 2 carrots, peeled
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 T. sugar
- Put 1 c. of water onto boil.
- Slice radishes and carrots. Place in a mason jar. Top with salt and sugar. Pour 1 cup of boiling of the top. Shake gently and let rest for 30 minutes. Then use to top the Banh Mi Wraps.
Ground Chicken Banh Mi Wraps
- 1 T. olive oil
- 1 cup diced onion
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- large handful cilantro, stems and lower leaves chopped
- 2 lbs. Griggstown Farm ground chicken
- 1 inch ginger, grated
- 1 small bunch kale, chopped
- 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
- radish tops, chopped (optional)
- 1 tsp. fish sauce
- 2 T. soy sauce
- 2 T. hoisin sauce
- 1 large bunch lettuce, leaves washed and separated.
- 2 jalapeños, chopped (optional)
- Heat olive oil. Add onions and garlic. Stir until just wilted. Add chopped cilantro.
- Add ground chicken, stirring until cooked through. Then, add grated ginger.
- Add kale, carrots, and radish tops. Stir to combine and cook until soft.
- Add fish sauce, soy sauce, hoisin sauce. Stir to combine.
- Serve on top of lettuce leaves. Top with remaining cilantro leaves, chopped jalapeños, and quick pickles. Foie Gras too if you are very, very, lucky.