Famed chef and television host Lidia Bastianich will be at Zallie’s ShopRite of West Deptford to sign her new memoir, “My American Dream: A Life of Love, Family and Food, Lidia’s Celebrate Like an Italian or Lidia’s Favorite Recipes,” which will also be available for purchase.
Bastianich’s pasta sauces will also be available for sampling.
If you attend, be sure to tag your social media photos with #LidiaatShopRite.
45 Parkville Station Rd, West Deptford, New Jersey
Head to Winslow Township where you can relax with friends as you listen to live music at Sharrott Winery. Choose between indoor and outdoor seating while you enjoy wine and food from Sharrott’s wine bar.
Outside food or beverages are not permitted, and seating is first-come, first-serve.
Need some zen this holiday season? Join certified Tea Specialist Deborah Raab of Tea for All for a guided mindfulness workshop. As a part of the Perkins Center’s Tastefully South Jersey workshop series, this class will also cover Wabi Sabi and other principles of the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
Purchase locally made goods for everyone on your shopping list while you listen to music performed by Dave Kelly. Enjoy food from vendors like Mecha Artisan Chocolate, The Baking Harlot, Royal Mile Coffee, & more. Santa will also be stopping by this free event.
“What are THOSE?” my four-year-old son Elliot laughed as I pushed him in a shopping cart through the grocery aisles of the Berlin Wal-Mart last week. I looked where he was pointing.
“I have no idea,” I answered.
“Can we get them?” he asked.
I reached for a plastic package containing a dozen or so golfball-sized fruit that looked like a bunch of sea urchins having bad hair days. “Sweet and juicy!” the package promised.
“Sure…” I said, surprised that Wal-Mart carried such an exotic food. I tossed the package in the cart, and we continued walking. As we shopped, Elliot continued laughing about the “weird things,” as he had dubbed the mysterious produce.
What is Rambutan?
Rambutan is the fruit’s real name, and before that night, I had never encountered them. When we got home, Elliot wanted to try them right away. I opened the package and wondered what to do with them. Do we bite them? Peel them? Cook them? Luckily, the package included directions on how to eat rambutan.
I grabbed a knife from the drawer and sliced the rambutan’s firm, spiky flesh across its hemisphere. Out popped a white, gelatinous, egg-like fruit, which I sliced in half. My knife met resistance as it hit a hard pit in the center of the “egg.” I cut out the seed, hesitated, then popped a piece of the fruit in my mouth.
“Wow, that’s sweet,” I said.
Elliot reached for a piece. He chewed for a moment, paused as I had, then swallowed. “More,” he said. Like most other fruits, the rambutan was a hit with my son.
I had to know more about this strange-looking but pleasant-tasting plant. Later that night I learned that the rambutan is a native Indonesian fruit that grows from trees in tropical Southeast Asia where people enjoy them fresh or canned. In the Malay language, rambut means ‘hairy,’ a fitting name for a fruit covered in hair-like spikes.
According to Wan Yan Ling of Serious Eats, rambutan also grows in “Australia, South America, Africa, and Hawaii.” The label on the package we bought says “Fort Lauderdale,” so I imagine rambutan can grow anywhere with a tropical climate.
In the Phillipines, people roast and eat the rambutan’s seeds. Use caution if you try the seeds, though, as they are reportedly poisonous if consumed raw. High in fat, research suggests rambutan seeds also have the potential to be used for manufacturing fatty products like cocoa butter, soaps, and fuels.
I posted a picture of the fruit on Instagram and asked if anyone else was familiar with it. Amaris Pollock, a freelancer who writes about Philadelphia’s food scene, remarked that the rambutan looked similar to lychee, another Asian fruit. She was right. A quick Google search revealed that rambutan, lychee, longan, and pulasan fruit are all close relatives of one another.
Because of their sweet scent, rambutan trees attract large numbers of stinging fire ants, which can make obtaining the fruit a dangerous endeavor. Bees also love rambutan trees, and they feed on the rambutan and then produce honey.
Rambutan & Health
Rambutan fruit is used to treat fever and other ailments in traditional Malaysian and Indonesian medicine, and recent studies show it may actually possess medicinal benefit. Studies conducted in vitro and on mice suggest that rambutan honey contains antioxidants that can hasten the healing of oral wounds. Another study suggests rambutan’s high antioxidant count may help treat diabetes. It’s worth nothing these studies are small, and I wasn’t able to locate any definitive proof that rambutan offers any health benefits beyond those provided by other fiber-rich fruits.
How to Cook With Rambutan
So if you’re able to find rambutan at your local grocery store, what exactly can you do with it?
Linda Pelaschier Mihlebach, a home chef from South Jersey, makes rambutan martinis. Another South Jersey chef specializing in Indian cuisine, Chetna Macwan of the blog Spice Culture says they’re also delicious in “summery fruit salads.”
I love trying new foods, and I was especially glad to find them at a common store like Wal-Mart. In some countries, rambutan is in-season during early winter, which is likely why they had them in stock. And I have to admit: I’m proud of my son’s comfort with unfamiliar foods and his willingness to taste them.
If you know of somewhere else in South Jersey that carries rambutan, please let us know in the comments below.
Here are a few rambutan recipes with serious yum potential:
When media outlets publish articles about restaurants or food events in New Jersey, they usually focus on North Jersey. In some ways, all the attention North Jersey gets is understandable. New Jersey’s northern counties are more populated, and so there are more businesses to cover.
But South Jersey has so much to offer: a rich cultural history, a beautiful landscape, and best of all, a lot of places to get good food – if you know where to look.
That’s why, for my latest article in Jersey Bites, I decided to write about 16 of the best off-the-beaten-path eateries in the South Jersey Pine Barrens. In the future, I’d love to write a sequel to this article, so if you know of any restaurants I didn’t cover here, please let me know in the comments below.
This week I visited Trywith, a new casual Asian restaurant that recently opened in Mount Laurel. Below I offer a quick snapshot of what the new eatery offers diners.
Trywith Cafe and Kitchen recently opened in Mount Laurel’s Village II shopping center where Chulicious used to be.
The cafe serves casual, counter-service-style Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and American cuisine.
Trywith’s menu also includes an assortment of Italian espresso drinks; bubble teas; milk teas; and fruit slushies.
Food is fast and entrees range from $9.50 – $18.95.
Free WiFi is available.
Located in Mount Laurel’s Village II shopping center, Trywith Cafe and Kitchen recently opened in the same building that once housed Chulicious. Trywith serves up Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and American fusion in a casual, counter-service setting.
I visited Trywith with my four-year-old son this past Monday, November 26. We enjoyed spicy kimchi; edamame; steamed buns stuffed with sweet barbecue pork; Japanese pork shumai with soy dipping sauce. I had a cappuccino, and he slurped down half of a mango slushie. (The slushies are very sweet and huge, so the other half is in our freezer for him to enjoy another day.)
To drink, diners can order from a wide selection of Taiwanese-style bubble teas, milk teas, fruit slushies, and Italian espresso drinks.
Appetizers range from $2.50 – 8.00, and entrees range from $9.50 – 18.95 per plate.
The Trywith menu also includes:
Chinese garlic cold cucumbers
Special popcorn chicken
Sichuan mapo tofu over rice (I was told this one is very spicy)
Scrambled eggs with tomatoes
Three colour [sic] friends (okra with sweet peppers)
Chinese scallion pancake
Japanese crispy curry pork chops over rice
…and other Asian fusion dishes
We chowed down everything we ordered, and the steamed buns were particularly soft and delicious. Staff is friendly and welcoming, and the food is fast. Free wi-fi is also available.
Trywith is likely to attract locals looking for fast, low-priced meals during lunch breaks. I imagine Trywith would be a great place to dine if your group includes a mix of people who enjoy spicier, more adventurous options as well as those who like to stick to classics like popcorn chicken and french fries.
Every November, a heap of pretty butternut squashes lie untouched on my kitchen counter like forgotten children. As the seasons’ colors change from autumn orange to holiday red, they sit – ignored – until finally, I toss them into our compost heap.
In a flurry of October excitement, with the fresh outlook that only autumn brings me, I buy the squashes with the best of intentions. In the store gazing at the abundant gourds – so symbolic of fall’s arrival – I envision myself cooking away the weekends without a care in the world: butternut soup, butternut gnocchi, butternut ravioli – the scent of butter and sage wafting through the house, the exotic sounds of Spanish guitar playing over Alexa’s speaker. So much potential.
But each weekend brings a longer to-do list that never makes space for my ambitious from-scratch kitchen plans. After a few rushed dinners, I tire of Instant Pot butternut squash soup. Not knowing what else to make with them, the squashes rot and – with a pang of guilt that reminds me I shouldn’t buy what I can’t use – into the compost I throw them. (Can you tell meal planning and organization aren’t my forte?)
Between grocery store trips and CSA hauls, I’ve had three butternut squashes sitting on my counter for the past couple weeks. This year, though – I was determined to use them. In my quest to waste less, I decided I needed to give butternut squash a makeover and come up with something new to do with them – something new to my family at least. Something fresh. But fast.
That’s where this recipe comes in. For the past few years, the now-tattered and food-splattered pages of Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg’s Flavor Bible has given me a lot of creative ideas when I’m not sure what to do with the ingredients in my kitchen. The book includes an alphabetical listing of almost any food you can think of followed by a list of ingredients and flavors that pair well with that food. Page and Dornenburg also suggest “flavor affinities” – triads of fitting ingredients – for each food (think “sage + pasta + walnuts”).
I have no affiliations with the Flavor Bible and did not receive any financial compensation for recommending it. I just honestly LOVE this book and believe it could help anyone who likes to come up with their own recipes. Sometimes if I have a few foods left in the fridge, and I’m not sure what to do with them, I look each one up and see which flavor affinities they share in common, so this book has also helped me waste less.
To come up with this recipe, I used Flavor Bible to research spices and seasonings that butternut squash and cranberries share in common. The result was a delicious blend of fall flavors that my family gobbled up:
Fall Butternut Squash, Kale, and Cranberry Saute with Apple Quinoa
1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium butternut squash, cubed
1 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 apple, diced
5 chicken thighs
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 c fresh cranberries
2 c fresh kale, chopped
1/2 c apple juice
1/4 c water
a handful of fresh sage leaves
1 tsp onion powder
1 tbs curry powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 tbs butter
Instant Pot quinoa ingredients:
1 tbs butter
1 c quinoa, rinsed
1 c apple juice
1/2 c water
2 tsp bouillon powder (or the appropriate amount for 1 c of water, depending on the brand. I used Orrington Farms Broth Base & Seasoning, Chicken Flavored)
Add quinoa ingredients to Instant Pot. Set Instant Pot to ‘manual high pressure’ for 1 minute. Use a 10-minute release. (If you don’t have an Instant Pot, follow stovetop instructions on your quinoa package. Adjust the liquid amount accordingly.)
While quinoa is cooking, add olive oil to a cast iron skillet over medium heat. When pan is hot, add butternut squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is beginning to soften (about 10 minutes).
Add ginger and garlic and cook for an additional minute, stirring to keep the garlic from burning.
Add diced apple and cook for another minute or two. Remove squash mixture from pan and set aside.
Sear chicken thighs until browned on each side, about 4 minutes per side. Add Worcestershire sauce and salt and cook for an additional minute.
Add apple juice and water to pan, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil.
Once mixture comes to a boil, add the black pepper, fresh cranberries, onion powder, curry powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add butternut mixture back to pan.
Simmer for about six minutes, or until butternut squash is tender. Add sage leaves. butter, and kale and simmer until chicken thighs are cooked through to 165 degrees F and kale is wilted.
Dr. J.H. Salisbury declared salisbury steak a health food in a late 19th century book.
A few years later, a woman named Elma Stuart wrote a book extolling the healing powers of Salisbury’s diet recommendations.
Salisbury and Stuart did not believe we should eat salisbury steak with mashed potatoes as we do today, calling them “indigestible.”
When Salisbury and Stuart published their books, German immigrants had already been eating a similar dish for centuries.
During the 1950’s, TV dinners entered the market. One of the most popular TV dinner varieties – sold by Swanson – included salisbury steak with a side of potatoes.
Around the world, people in countries like Japan, Sweden, Russia, and Germany enjoy meat dishes similar to salisbury steak.
To cook salisbury steak, purchase ground beef raised on local farms in South Jersey.
Salisbury steak is surprisingly difficult to find on Jersey restaurant menus, but there are a few restaurants in our area offering the dish.
Dr. James Henry Salisbury
Before ‘low-carb diet’ entered the American vernacular, a physician from New York named Dr. James Henry Salisbury touted the benefits of eating low-fat, protein-rich foods. Salisbury believed the optimal human diet consisted of two parts meat to one part vegetable. Carbohydrate consumption, he argued, was the root cause of afflictions like heart disease, tuberculosis, and even mental illness.
But Salisbury didn’t just eschew bread and pasta. He also vilified vegetables. He even had a term for illness brought on by plant-based diets: vegetable dyspepsia. Salisbury believed we all possess “twenty meat teeth” and only “twelve vegetable teeth,” a finding he viewed as evidence favoring a protein-rich diet. In 1888, he set forth his diet recommendations in his book, The Relation of Alimentation and Disease.
Today, most people wouldn’t put the terms ‘ Salisbury steak’ and ‘health food’ in the same sentence. But, as part of his crusade against all-things-carb, Salisbury popularized the comfort food we all know today as Salisbury steak. (Notice I didn’t say invented the salisbury steak, as the dish had already been eaten around the world for centuries. More on that later.) Above all things edible, Salisbury thought beef singularly nutritious for the human body. In fact, he argued we could all stay healthy by consuming salisbury steak three times a day.
No arguments here.
Elma Stuart and the Healing Powers of Beef
In 1895, a woman named Elma Stuart published a book called, What Must I Do to Get Well? And How Can I Stay So? which advocated in favor of Salisbury’s diet recommendations.(I imagine Salisbury and Stuart as the nineteenth-century equivalent to quacks who, during late-night television infomercials, get rich by convincing desperate consumers they hold the secret cure to all that ails us.)
The recipes in Stuart’s book are divided into multiple parts. First, she offers advice “for the sick” who are already suffering. She then lists some recipes “for the seedy,” a term that referred not to trashy, bedbug-ridden motels, but to people who were “hovering on the borderland” of health and illness. Finally, Stuart addresses those who are already well and want to remain that way.
The beef recipes in Stuart’s book specify guidelines for selecting and preparing the beef used to cook Salisbury steak. Beef should be free of fat. The cow should be between the ages of four and six years when slaughtered. “Butter, pepper, salt, and mustard” should not be added until after the beef has finished cooking. Finally, the sick person can eat the beef “with a tea-spoon in his right hand and a dessert fork in his left!”
Potatoes as a Salisbury Side
Neither Salisbury nor Stuart recommend we eat salisbury steak over mashed potatoes as most people do today. In fact, Stuart calls out mashed potatoes as one of the “foolishest” menu items a person could eat – dubbing them one of the “vain imaginings that have deluded mankind” – a pretty extreme stance to have about a mashed potato. Instead, she argues, we should eat baked potatoes because they are cooked more thoroughly and are therefore more “digestible.”
TV Dinners and Salisbury Steak
So how did our modern take on salisbury steak – rich in buttery, flour-thickened gravy and served over mashed potatoes – ever enter American kitchens? Likely, this recipe change happened when the “TV dinner” was popularized in American culture around the 1950’s. In fact, one of Swanson’s first TV dinners included Salisbury steak. Potatoes were, and remain, a cheap, easy-to-make, filling commodity. (Plus – as we all know – they’re delicious with ground beef and gravy.)
Before Salisbury and Stuart
While Salisbury and Stuart may have been the first to popularize the supposed health benefits of minced steak, they weren’t the first to introduce the dish to America – or to the world. We also have German immigrants to thank for our modern conception of salisbury steak. By the time Salisbury published his book, Germans had already been eating a similar dish called Hamburg steak – often cooked with breadcrumbs and onion – for centuries. During the 1700’s, sailors from Germany introduced Hamburg steak to Americans at their bustling New York port.
‘Salisbury’ Steak Around the World
Today, Americans aren’t the only ones who cook up salisbury-esque steak. The Japanese enjoy hambagu, a meat and gravy dish made from minced beef and pork. Swedes make pannbiff seasoned with allspice and ginger. And Russians have buttery pozharsky, which is made from ground chicken in place of beef.
Salisbury Steak Recipe
On busy weeknights, I like to whip up salisbury steak in a cast-iron skillet with a side of buttery mashed potatoes from our Instant Pot. I toss a bag of steamable frozen peas in the microwave and spoon the steak gravy over top. Easy-peasy.
Finally, if you don’t feel like cooking at all, here are a couple South Jersey restaurants that offer Salisbury steak on their menus. I wasn’t expecting to have difficulty finding local diners that serve Salisbury steak, but the dish is surprisingly rare on Jersey menus.
Maybe time for a Make Salisbury Steak Cool Again campaign?
Every year, shoppers come together to kick off their holiday shopping while supporting local businesses. Small Business Saturday, which takes place the Saturday after Thanksgiving, began as an American Express campaign that quickly gained nationwide support.
Step away from your smartphone and resist the urge to order everything from Amazon. If you’re brave enough to bear the arctic chill in South Jersey’s air, shop small at local stores. While you’re at it, grab a bite to eat from your favorite area restaurants.
Below are just a few Small Business Saturday foodie deals in South Jersey for this Saturday, November 24.
If you know of any I missed, please comment below and I will add them when I get a free moment. I will personally be shopping in downtown Mount Holly today, which is home to a vibrant arts district (Mill Race Village Shops) and one of my favorite cozy coffee shops (Breaking Grounds).
Rancocas Woods is also hosting their Made and Found Market this Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm. While I couldn’t find any specific information about food vendors, in previous years their market has included a couple of unique food trucks.