Earn Turning Point gift cards and other prizes this weekend at the restaurant’s annual fundraiser benefiting pediatric brain cancer research.
South Jersey resident Kortney Rose Gillette lost her battle with brain cancer in 2006. She was nine years old. Just five months prior to her passing, Gillette was a healthy, vivacious youngster with a love for sports, water slides, and laughter.
Through the Kortney Rose Foundation (KRF) – named in her honor – Gillette’s legacy lives on. With a mission to “Help Get Brain Tumors Off Kids’ Minds,” KRF supports much-needed pediatric brain tumor research. Brain tumors are the number one cause of disease-related deaths in children.
For the tenth year in a row, Turning Point has partnered with KRF. Their annual “Great Food for a Great Cause” fundraiser will take place on Saturday, February 23 and Sunday, February 24 between 8 am and 3 pm. Diners who donate to the foundation during the event will receive Turning Point gift cards and other prizes (see list below).
Despite the prevalence of childhood brain cancer, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) allocates only about 4% of its funding toward researching pediatric cancers. Of that 4%, just a tiny percentage is put toward brain tumor research.
KRF works to raise research funds for the Children’s Brain Tumor Tissue Consortium (CBTTC). CBTTC, a collaborative initiative, unites sixteen worldwide research institutions dedicated to pediatric brain cancer research. Locally, CBTTC helps support the Neuro-Oncology Program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).
Recognizing the need for research funding, Turning Point has raised $314,000 for KRF to date. This weekend’s event will take place at sixteen Turning Point locations, a dozen in New Jersey and four in Pennsylvania (see list below).
Donation levels & prizes:
Donate $25 to receive 2 free entrees on your next visit
Donate $50 to receive 4 free entrees on your next visit
Donate $60 to receive 4 free entrees on your next visit plus a Turning Point mug
Donate $100 to receive 8 free entrees on your next visit. The first two $100 donors at each location will also receive a custom doormat.
Chef Chetna Macwan teaches South Jersey residents the art of Indian cooking.
Disclosure: Fork in the Pines was invited to observe one of Chetna Macwan’s classes at Atlantic Cape Community college free of charge.
“I got a noise complaint,” the security guard joked when he walked into our classroom at Atlantic Cape Community College this past Saturday. Six students were gathered to learn the art of Indian cooking from South Jersey Chef Chetna Macwan. I was there to learn and observe.
The guard had never tasted Indian food, but the spicy aroma had enticed him to check out our class.
“It’s REALLY good,” one student told him. “You have to try it.” He conceded and took a bite. One bite led to another. He was glad he stopped by.
When a meal’s aroma can lure someone into a room and convince him to try a new cuisine for the first time, the chef must be good. Better than good. Before I left, I told Macwan that her Indian food was the best I’d ever tasted. I wasn’t buttering her up (pun intended). I was speaking the truth.
As a child, Macwan learned to cook North Indian cuisine from her mother. A no-nonsense instructor, Macwan’s mom ensured her children learned proper cooking techniques, including knife skills. Macwan likened her experience growing up to attending culinary school.
Leading With Dessert: Khajur Burfi
We started with dessert. Macwan taught us to prepare khajur burfi, or Indian almond and date balls. Easy enough for beginner chefs, khajur burfi contains just five ingredients – and no added sugar. The almonds are toasted and combined with cardamom, dates, and ghee, a clarified butter common in Indian recipes.
Cardamom lends the dessert a “soft, sweet flavor with a floral aftertaste,” explains Macwan.
Macwan and another student rolled the mixture into balls and coated each with shredded coconut. Then we got to taste them. The khajur burfi’s buttery, toasted flavor had me reaching for seconds (and, admittedly – thirds).
Modern Techniques With Traditional Roots
Macwan then demonstrated how to make a hariyali marinade. Her sous chef, Juliana Torres, helped prepare the marinade’s ingredients. I noted Torres’s technique of rolling the lemons on the counter before juicing them. The marinade also contained lots of fresh cilantro and mint, which makes it especially well-suited for summer meals. Harilayi is the Hindi word for “greenery,” a reference to its bright green hue.
While Macwan’s recipes are rooted in traditional Indian cuisine, most of them have been modernized. By using a Vitamix blender, Macwan was able to reduce preparation and cooking time without sacrificing flavor. With a blender, home cooks don’t need perfect knife skills either, since all the ingredients are pureed.
Macwan suggested we use a blender at home to prepare the hariyali. Then, we can freeze a large batch and divvy it into small portions inside an ice cube tray. The marinade contains a special spice blend Macwan jokingly dubbed, “Chet’s Chix Mix,” telling us that it’s ideal for quick, weeknight chicken or seafood meals.
We ate the marinade over chicken breast. A versatile blend, Macwan suggested other ways to enjoy it at home. She recommended serving the hariyali with chicken wrapped inside Naan bread and topped with garlic chutney and yogurt.
“You can almost eat it like a gyro,” Macwan elaborates. The marinade also works well with paneer, a popular Indian cheese.
Learning the Secret to Great Indian Cuisine: Oil & Spice
I was relieved to still have room in my stomach for more food. We still had two dishes to make. Next up was lamb and pea keehma, a ground meat dish that can be eaten with rice or used as a filling for savory Indian pastries called samosas.
As Macwan started to make the kheema, she stressed the importance of frying Indian spices in oil at the start of a recipe. While I’ve made my own version of Indian cuisine at home, I had never added my spices at the beginning as she did. Of everything I learned on Saturday, this technique fascinated me the most.
“Flavoring that oil is really key,” Macwan says. Infusing the spices with the oil ensures a dish with a consistent flavor throughout, as the seasoned oil seeps into every bite.
“Flavoring that oil is really key,” Macwan says.
“Pasta-Style” Basmati Rice With Aromatics
As we cooked, Torres prepared the basmati rice. Macwan had instructed her to cook the rice using a technique she calls “pasta style.” Rather than cooking the rice in a covered pot with a specific ratio of water to rice, Macwan allows her rice to simmer in an uncovered pot filled to the brim with water.
On the top of the water, she adds Indian aromatics like cinnamon sticks, star anise, and cloves. After she checks the rice to ensure its doneness, she removes the aromatics from the pot. (See Macwan’s blog post on “pasta style” rice.)
With the rice ready to be eaten, we started cooking our final dish: chicken makhani. Makhani isthe Indian word for “butter,” appropriately named for the multiple sticks of butter it contains. Traditionally, makhani simmers on low for several hours with tandoori-style meat. This “low and slow” method of cooking allows the ingredients to integrate into one smooth-textured gravy.
But Macwan uses a blender to prepare her makhani, allowing the ingredients to fully combine before being cooked on the stove. By modernizing the dish’s preparation, Macwan reduces the cook time to 34-45 minutes. The shorter cook time makes the recipe much more accessible to novice home chefs like myself.
Chicken Tikha Masala Versus Chicken Makhani: The Distinction
As she cooked, Macwan explained the difference between chicken makhani and another popular Indian dish: chicken tikha masala. Whereas makhani gravy is smooth, tikha masala contains chunks of vegetables like bell pepper and onion. While makhani also contains pepper and onion, all the ingredients are integrated into the gravy. (Macwan joked that makhani is a perfect dish for her young son, who doesn’t like to see any of the vegetables he’s eating.)
Traditional makhani contains yogurt, but Macwan prefers to use heavy cream. The cream mellows the gravy, resulting in a lighter dish. Jaggery, an Indian-style brown sugar with a molasses-like flavor, adds a hint of sweetness to the makhani.
Macwan instructed us to leave some fat on the chicken thighs. The fat flavors the dish and thickens the gravy. I was relieved to hear her say this. I already leave fat on my chicken thighs. Now I have an excuse other than laziness.
Meal Time and Second Dessert
Once we all had a plate of rice, kheema, makhani, and naan bread in front of us, the room grew silent. Everyone ate together, and no one voiced a single complaint. When we were finished, Torres – who is a pastry chef – dished out some of her flan dessert. (Yes, we had two desserts!) The flan was creamy, light, and coated with a sweet, caramelized sauce.
I left inspired to try cooking Macwan’s recipes at home. After smelling the pungent aroma of her spices, I knew I needed to shop for some fresh spices of my own. (Mine have sat in my pantry far too long.)
After purchasing some fresh ingredients – like cloves, star anise, cardamom, and cinnamon sticks, my house filled with the aromatic scent of curry. I haven’t even cooked with them yet. Coming downstairs this morning, my mouth watered just thinking about the makhani I plan to make for dinner tonight.
Chef Macwan’s Upcoming Events
Beginning on March 16, Macwan will be teaching another series of classes called, “Indian Style Breads.” The course, which will also take place at Altantic Cape Community College, will cover flat breads, fried breads, and stuffed breads. The campus is set in a beautiful, heavily forested area of Mays Landing about a half hour from the Jersey Shore. Find out more on their website.
Private Cooking Lessons with Chef Macwan
Macwan also offers private group cooking classes. If you’re looking for a creative gift for the foodie in your life or even a date night idea, contact her to find out more. You can read more about Macwan’s cooking adventures on her blog Spice Culture. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
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.
The Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities presents a series of educational programs that explore issues relating to the Victorian era. This Saturday they will hold the final program of the year.
Cost: $20 per person (includes lunch buffet)
Registration required: (609) 884 – 5404 – I do not know if they still have space at this event.
Do you know the difference between bechamel, veloute, alfredo, and carbonara? Find out here – and learn where to enjoy quality white sauce in South Jersey.
White sauce. Alfredo. Bechamel. What’s the difference?
That’s what I wondered earlier this week.
I had just whipped up a quick dinner for my family. I stirred together some milk, butter, flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg, chopped up some spinach and canned salmon, tossed it all over a box of linguine, and finished off the dish with some freshly grated parmesan.
When my four-year-old son Elliot asked me what our meal was called, I hesitated. I wanted to say “linguine and salmon with bechamel,” but I was unsure.
“Alexa, what’s the difference between bechamel sauce and Alfredo?” I asked.
Alexa replied with some confusing nonsense where she basically repeated my question back to me. (Rest assured: artificial intelligence is not going to take over the world just yet.)
I vowed to do a little research to settle my confusion.
Behold a brief guide to white sauce:
‘White sauce’ is a generic term that can refer to any kind of creamy sauce made from milk, butter, wine, or cheese.
Bechamel’s origins are rooted in political history. In 1533, Catherine de Medici of Italy married a French duke named Henri. When Medici came to France, she brought her Italian chefs with her.
Back in Medici’s homeland, Tuscans had already been eating their own version of white sauce – besciamella – since the Renaissance. No one quite agrees on who exactly invented bechamel, but Medici’s arrival in France paved the way for the sauce.
Bechamel sauce is named for Marquis Louis de Bechamel, a businessman and steward of King Louis XIV. During the 1800’s, a French chef named Marie Antoine-Carême described four French “mother sauces” – including bechamel – in her book Le Guide Culinaire.
Today, cooks make bechamel using a roux of flour and butter to which they add milk, salt, black pepper, and often – nutmeg. (If you’ve only eaten nutmeg is sweet desserts, you need to try it in savory white sauce dishes.)
If you want to make a basic bechamel sauce at home, I recommend using this recipe from Epicurious. I double the recipe, add a pinch of nutmeg to it, and pour it over cooked tortellini or linguine.
If other white sauces are too heavy for you, behold the light, milk-free veloute. The word veloute derives from the French word ‘velour,” a reference to the sauce’s smooth, velvety consistency. Veloute is another of the four original mother sauces Marie Antoine-Careme outlined in the nineteenth century.
Like bechamel, veloute begins with a flour and butter roux. In lieu of milk, clear stock made from unroasted chicken or fish is added, making for a lighter sauce that is then poured over fish or vegetables.
The earliest known mention of carbonara sauce can be found in Richard Hammond’s 1957 book Eating in Italy: a pocket guide to Italian food and restaurants. Many people believe carbonara, which originated in Rome, was introduced to Americans at the end of World War II. American troops stationed in Italy had little to eat. But they added cured pork to dried pasta to create something similar to carbonara sauce.
‘Carbonara’ roughly translates to ‘charcoal burner,’ so another theory holds that carbonara was first created as a dish for Italian coal miners.
However, some historians doubt both theories. No one is entirely sure when carbonara was first created. Today, spaghetti alla carbonara is a popular Italian-American dish made with creamy white sauce, pancetta, egg yolks, and an Italian cheese like pecorino or parmesan.
Alfredo, one of the simplest white sauces, is made from butter and parmesan cheese over fettuccine pasta. Fettucine alfredo is one of the most common dishes you’ll find at American restaurants.
While Americans might consider it a quintessential Italian dish, fettuccine alfredo is not a common sauce in Italy – though it was invented there.
A Roman restauranteur named Alfredo di Lelio first made the dish for his pregnant wife. American actors Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford ate at di Lelio’s Ristorante Alfredo and told their friends back in Hollywood. Celebrities like Sophia Loren and Jimmy Stewart soon came to love fettuccine alfredo, helping to popularize the dish in America.
Where to Find Good Cream-Based Pasta in South Jersey
If you don’t feel like whipping up your own, head out to one of these South Jersey restaurants for quality white sauce.
Ristorante Toscana Fire Grill and Bar (Cherry Hill, New Jersey) – My former workplace held our annual holiday party at Toscana every year. I recall loving their Champagne Pear Sacchetti, which their menu describes as “Toscana’s Speciality.” The sacchetti pasta is stuffed with pears and ricotta and tossed in a rich, creamy walnut-champagne sauce. Yum.
Theresa M. Hinke, a public relations professional, recommends three South Jersey restaurants for quality pasta of any kind:
Allora (Marlton, New Jersey) – Allora’s new “Pasta Your Way” menu includes two different white sauce options: carbonara and truffle cream.
Linda Pelaschier Mihlebach, a home cook and Instagrammer, suggests Filomena Lakeview (Deptford, New Jersey). While not a white sauce fan, “I never had a pasta dish there I didn’t like,” she says. Their menu includes a seafood and tortellini butter sauce.
Mihlebach also enjoys the Bronzino Francese at Chubby’s Steakhouse (Gloucester City, New Jersey) – which is made with butter, lemon, and white wine.
Angel Merrill’s family, which has owned and operated Merrill’s Colonial Inn (Mays Landing, New Jersey) since 1959, has passed down recipes for generations. Their homemade spaghetti with white clam sauce is a customer favorite.
In good conscience, I couldn’t leave Hammonton off this list. Located in the Pine Barrens, Hammonton is home to a large Italian population. I attended high school in Hammonton and have never had bad Italian food there.
While I can’t recall ordering any white sauces, I have always enjoyed Marcello’s (Hammonton, New Jersey) which has been serving up homemade Italian specialties for more than two decades. Marcello’s “Special Sauce” is made with cream, mushrooms, and peas. Their menu also includes carbonara and alfredo sauces.
Where’s your favorite spot in South Jersey for delicious white sauce pasta?