Free The Stone: The Difference Between Clingstone and Freestone Peaches

I’m not sure about you but I count down the days to peach season each year. Something about these sweet, yet tart fruits just screams summertime. So at the first chance I get, I head over D’Amico’s Farm Stand in Closter, New Jersey and buy some fresh peaches. What I love about D’Amico’s is the fact that the owner of this 60-year family-run business, John D’Amico, only sources from small farms within a 200-mile radius of Closter. That means, most of his delicious, freshly picked fruits and vegetables come from south Jersey, which is at the heart of the Garden State. D’Amico’s has clingstone fruit until the summer reaches its apex of heat and then begins offering freestone. So, what’s the difference?

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Clingstone peaches from Southern Jersey at D’Amico’s farm stand in Closter, NJ

At first glance, there is no difference between a clingstone and freestone peach, both fuzzy and reddish-pink on the outside. On the inside, however, is where the difference lies. The best way to figure out if your peaches are clingstone or freestone is by slicing the peach down the middle and pulling it apart. If the pit falls out easily, it is freestone. If not, clingstone.

Clingstone peaches are those that when opened, the pit sticks to the pulpy flesh of the fruit. According to goodhousekeeping.com, these peaches are rarely sold in stores but are used mostly in canned fruit. Depending on the location of the peach farm, harvest season for clingstones can range from mid-May to early August. But use them as long as you can! Their large and juicy peach-ness can be used to make great jellies, jams, purees and fantastic summer dishes.

Freestone peaches, on the other hand, separate easily from the fruit. Although larger and less juicy in texture, they are still undeniably sweet. Again, depending on the grower, freestones can be harvested from mid-June to early October. Generally freestone peaches last later into the season than clingstone peaches. They are perfect for cooking because they slice easily and uniformly, making them well-suited to great pie recipes that will leave your guests’ mouths watering.

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One of the best things about summer is the availability of fresh peaches. So whether you enjoy peaches in purees or in pies, these yummy fruits are the perfect means for sweetening up your summer.

 

-Contributions made by Sam Donsky

Container Herb Gardening With Seasons on the Hudson

I recently visited Seasons on the Hudson in Irvington, NY to participate in a container herb gardening workshop hosted by Gerald Palumbo, owner of Seasons on the Hudson and Seasons, A Floral Studio in Manhattan.

Container herb gardening is easier than I thought. These lovely little eco-systems can be customized to your palate. Love Italian cuisine? Basil, thyme, oregano and rosemary are the herbs for you. These little gardens are convenient and beautiful. Notice how Gerald liked to alternate tall and squat herbs so the containers had a visual appeal with dimension and balance.

Over the years, my containers of herbs have sat on my front steps, making an obstacle course for visitors who gingerly navigated pots teeming with fragrant mint and basil, dill, chive and parsley. My big mistake had been not using pots with irrigation holes at the bottom OR adding a buffering layer of gravel, like Gerald demonstrated, or small stones that I have on hand from terrarium building projects.

Note that Palumbo points out that herb container gardens will not grow beyond their “quarters” like herbs might when planted in the garden. Think about how mint just takes over the garden like ivy does in the yard. With regular pruning and care, these herbs will stay fresh and flavorful all summer long. Some will thrive more in the winter months will plenty of sunlight.

Not only are these beautiful planters great for cooks to use at home, but they also make perfect centerpieces. In fact, Palumbo has found that instead of conventional flower arrangements at weddings, many couples are requesting herb containers that guests can take home after the celebration.

Palumbo sells customized herb garden containers similar to the one we created in the video for $75 at his stores in both Irvington and Manhattan. They can tailor your container garden to your preferences.

Seasons, a Floral Design Studio                                        Seasons on the Hudson

888 8th Avenue                                                                          45 Main Street

New York, NY 10019                                                                 Irvington, NY 10533

phone: 212.586.2257                                                                phone: 914.591.7377

Thanks to Miko, manager of the Irvington shop, for filming this video.

 

Contributions made by Sam Donsky

Hoboken Farms: Small Town Sauce, Big Town Flavor

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Hoboken Farms Big Basil tomato basil sauce

Store-bought sauce can be a pretty contentious subject for fans of sauces with that just-made fresh flavor. I was one of those snobs, always stressing to squish San Marzano tomatoes in the can as a pot of salted water cooked pasta. I’d pull out the woody stems and toss the broken down tomato meat with fresh smashed garlic cloves sizzling in olive oil. That simmering concoction would meld as it cooked, was seasoned with salt and pepper and finished with torn fresh basil leaves and a drizzle of EVOO.

My work-life balance wasn’t in sync enough for homemade sauces to be on the menu and I always kept a few jarred options to resort to when the kids were lobbying for lasagna, pasta and a protein or chicken parm. I’d get complaints when I hadn’t sufficiently labored at the stove and produced a luxurious sauce that had flavor rich with the taste and aroma of freshly made tomato and basil sauce with the wonderful texture of those hand-swished tomato chunks. 

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Hoboken Farms sauce comes in three varieties (L to R): Big Red, Big Boss and Big Basil

When the folks at Hoboken Farms asked me to sample their three sauces–Big Red, their marinara sauce; Big Boss, their vodka sauce; and Big Basil, their tomato basil sauce– I agreed without expecting much. I had read the reviews and readied myself to see what all the fuss was about. 

I popped off the lid of the Big Basil sauce and took stock: wonderfully fresh aroma; great texture thanks to meaty tomato chunks; beautifully seasoned and full of fresh taste. These sauces are the real deal. They have the taste you’d expect from a chef that perfected marina, tomato basil and vodka sauces by simply relying on excellent quality ingredients prepared classically with minimal fuss.

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Big Basil sauce served over Tolerant Organic Red Lentil Penne

Here’s how I enjoyed Big Basil over Tolerant Organic Red Lentil Penne: talk about elevating the natural flavor of pasta! Hoboken Farms defies you to sauce your pasta  modestly the way you’d be served them in Italy. I flunked, happily and greedily over-saucing and enjoying every spoonful. 

Other ways I’d serve Hoboken Farms Big Basil or Big Red sauces:

– Spooned over a layer of pesto atop a grilled slice of sourdough or ciabatta

– Layered with plain Greek yogurt for a savory parfait that’s topped with minced celery and parsley for crunch 

– Spooned over zucchini noodles or baked potato

– Blended with summer veggies like squash and kale for a refreshing smoothie or chilled soup

– Stir a cup or more into bean or vegetable soup

– Baked on top of seasoned chicken cutlets or fillets of fish like char

You are only limited by your creativity with Hoboken Farms, a pantry essential for uncompromising sauce enthusiasts. 

Contributions made by Samantha (Sam) Donsky

ShopFreshSeafood.com, Online Seafood Site Hooks You Up (With Fresh Fish Delivered To Your Door)

Home cooks who are seafood fans are faced with the daunting task of discerning just how fresh the fish at their local fishmonger or supermarket is. The solution to that problem is ShopFreshSeafood.com, which takes the guesswork out of fish buying through overnight shipping of freshly caught seafood to customers within one day of harvest.

We visited owner Megan Grippa at the New Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx where ShopFreshSeafood.com is based. Here’s what she had to say.

“With more than fifty years of experience in the seafood business under my family’s belt, my goal in creating ShopFreshSeafood.com was to give consumers access to the freshest fish with a few clicks or phone call,” said Megan Grippa, owner of ShopFreshSeafood.com. “Going online with a business that offers consumers top quality fresh fish with the convenience of next day home delivery was a natural. We are serving the entire US with next day shipping and have found that busy New Yorkers in particular are using us for delivery to their weekend homes and as thank you gifts for hosts when they are guests. We have even had requests for a fish of the month gift package for newlyweds. There’s no beating the flavor, texture, aroma and appearance of freshly caught fish.”

With three varieties of salmon, plus tilapia, bass, lobster, and crab among other offerings, ShopFreshSeafood.com sources directly from its family-operated Universal Seafood at the New Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx, thus avoiding costly middlemen. Universal Seafood is one of the biggest salmon importers on the East Coast.

Grippa’s favorite way to prepare seafood is with multiple family members. “In my large Italian family, there can never be too many cooks in the kitchen,” explained Grippa. “Cooking together is a great way to bond, share a passion for food and its preparation, share family stories and enjoy one of the most basic human pleasures – the savory of good food cooked with love together with family.” Grippa, her father Anthony and Uncle Joe Sr. The Grippa family has roots in Calabria and Sicily, Italy and came to America in the early 1900s.

We spoke with Megan to learn about ShopFreshSeafood and the ins and outs of buying fresh fish and proper handling:

RWAF:  You are a 4th generation fish business owner in a male-dominated industry. What’s that like, considering you were formerly a fashionista in the shoe-buying department at Macy’s and you’re now a fishionista?

MG:  I loved working for Macy’s – I was proud to be a part of that team and its rich history in NYC. And now I’m proud to be a part of my family’s rich history. Americans spend so much of our lives at work – and I now am blessed to work with my family, learn more about seafood than I ever imagined and continue the legacy my family started, but with a new twist in eCommerce. What could be better than that?

RWAF:  What’s a typical day like for you? What time do you wake up and go to sleep?

MG:  Lol – It’s a long day. The market is open from midnight to 8 am. I’m up at 3 checking emails and orders from my phone and I call in what fish I need, this way when I get to the market I know what I have to start with. What came in. what might be in tomorrow. We try very hard to get all orders out with 24 hours. But a lot depends on what is in the Market. We picked species for the website that we have on a very regular basis but sometimes there are still issues you cannot control, weather for instance.   Most of the morning is spent packing boxes and fish. Then I head up to the office to do all the paperwork. At noon it’s time to head back home and from there I handle customer service phone calls and emails. Until it’s time to call it a day, which in the summer is around 9:30. In the winter it’s easier to go to bed earlier.

RWAF:  ShopFreshSeafood.com offers multiple types of salmon. What are the differences between them and what’s your favorite?

MG:  All salmon has omega 3 fatty acids – that is a great reason alone to eat it besides it tastes so good! Omega fatty acids help maintain healthy heart function. Also maintains healthy brain activity. Fresh salmon that is simply prepared is simply unbeatable in terms of flavor, texture and versatility.

RWAF:  What’s the biggest myth about seafood?

MG:  Seafood is difficult to prepare is the biggest myth.  It is so easy to prepare seafood, especially if you have a good, fresh piece of fish. We have lots of easy recipes on our site, www.ShopFreshSeafood.com, but remember, less is more with fish. Let the natural flavors shine through by using simple preparations like grilling with a sprinkling of salt and pepper and squeeze of fresh lemon. Minced herbs and a drizzle of oil are ideal for some fish and other fish welcome an assertive salsa on the side. Our website has several inspirational recipes and tips to check out.

RWAF:  What makes fish smell “fishy?”

MG:  Bacteria is the culprit.  Every food smells with age. Bacteria gets in and decays protein. What about old milk – yuck!  Have you ever smelled old chicken? That’s 10x worse than fish. Fresh fish has very little aroma before and after it’s cooked. The scent is distinctive but good quality, fresh fish does not have an offensive aroma.

RWAF:  Is the smell of old fish a primary reason people don’t want to try or prepare seafood at home or in restaurants?

MG:  I think a good answer to that question is that people should eat at restaurants that smell good when you walk in. Even a seafood restaurant should not have an overpowering seafood smell. At home, people who aren’t buying fresh seafood will experience a strong aroma when handling or after cooking the fish. I wouldn’t eat at a restaurant that had smelly anything. Buying fresh seafood ensures your home will not smell fishy when you prepare the fish promptly after it’s purchased.

RWAF:  What are the biggest mistakes people make when they prepare seafood?

MG:  They overcook it and dry it out. Seafood is the original fast food – it doesn’t take long to cook.

RWAF:  What is your favorite seafood and how do you prepare it? MG:  I like everything we carry. Our Barnegat dry scallops are especially good.  We like to bake them oreganata style, with a little lemon squeezed over.

RWAF:  Will ShopFreshSeafood offer other types of fish and seafood in the future? If so, when and what kind?

MG:  Yes, we are slowly expanding our offerings. I’m working on adding oysters to our offerings next! Check our website regularly for updates and know that we customize orders upon request. We have had customers request our fish of the month club for a bridal gift. We also offer seasonal packages, like our incredible Feast of the Seven Fishes offerings which will be offered during the holiday and are hugely popular. We sell this package in three varieties so people can make as much or little as they like for their entertaining purposes.

RWAF:  Do you plan on expanding your business to Canada and other countries?

MG:  No, not at this time- The US is a big place.

RWAF:  How is your fish packaged to ensure it stays fresh from the time it is packaged to the time it is delivered?

MG:  Our shipping containers are made of Styrofoam and put into a corrugated cardboard box. Reusable Cold packs are included and your order is packed in a 38 degree environment to ensure freshness. We used recycled materials when available

RWAF:  Once a customer receives their order, what is the expected shelf life of the fresh fish?

MG:  Your fresh fish can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. We recommend putting it in the coldest place, usually the crisper. If you want to save it for longer, you can absolutely store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw it in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Do not run the fish under water as that may inadvertently start cooking the fish.

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Canadian salmon packed for delivery

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Megan Grippa placing fresh Barnegat dry scallops into special packaging to maintain proper temperature before fed ex delivery

  Grippa encourages home cooks to enjoy the benefits of preparing fresh caught seafood with the following grilling tips:

  • Try Planking: In the grilling world, “planking” uses aromatic planks of wood, typically cedar or oak, to infuse the protein with a smoky perfume reflecting the wood’s nuances. In between the fish and soaked plank can be a combination of oils, salts, spices or herbs. Start with the basics – salt, pepper, and olive oil – or create a different concoction based on fresh garden herbs like basil, chervil, chives, parsley or dill.
  • Go Fresh: Fresh caught seafood, whether uncooked and cooked, has a soft, delicate aroma. When fish has a strong “fishy” smell, it’s past its prime. Buying direct from fishermen or ShopFreshSeafood.com eliminates any question about freshness.   
  • Add Some Zest:     What goes better with grilled fish than citrus? Lemons, limes, or oranges pair well with fish and grilled fare. Wash lemons and limes, cut into thin slices and place slices on top and underneath fish during grilling, or simply squeeze the juice on after grilling. The bright citrus flavors will add a pleasant lightness and acidic balance to seafood.
  • Eat Dinner on a Stick:       Not only are kabobs convenient for eating and clean up, they allow for endless combinations. For an easy summer staple, sandwich shrimp between summer vegetables (peppers, onions, cherry tomato, mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant) or fruit (nectarine, peach, pineapple are good choices) and place on the grill. Scallops and firmer flesh fish like swordfish and salmon work well for kabob threading.
  • Fish Tacos:  The individual customization of fish taco creation is good for large groups. Grill a few different types of seafood like tilapia and shrimp, put out bowls of toppings (think basil and mint leaves, baby lettuces, pepper strips, guacamole, homemade tartar, tahini etc.) and set out taco shells for a delicious way to please everyone. 

“My family’s long legacy in the seafood industry is too important to not use. I wanted to create something different that would allow me to nurture my love for fish and educating people about fish as a nutritious, delicious and easy to prepare protein. Shopfreshseafood.com makes the best fish available to people with a few clicks or a phone call,” explained Grippa.  I want people to look at fish as an integral part of their diets and the perfect center of family gatherings, like it always has been in our family.”

About ShopFreshSeafood.com

ShopFreshSeafood.com is the premier online source for supremely fresh seafood delivered direct to the consumer within hours of being caught. Operating out of the New Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx, ShopFreshSeafood.com contracts with fishermen using sustainable methods to harvest the most delicious, nutritious seasonal offerings from U.S. and Canadian waters. A family-run business for four generations at the Fulton Fish Market, ShopFreshSeafood.com offers varieties of salmon, scallops, crab, shrimp, and branzini along with lobster. The company offers custom orders for special sizes, cut or species. For more information, seasonal charts, how-to preparation guides and recipes, visit www.ShopFreshSeafood.com.

Call 718-842-8850 to reach ShopFreshSeafood and to place an order. First time online orders receive 10% off.

http://www.shopfreshseafood.com/

Gluten & Allergen Free EXPO in Secaucus – Exhibitor Top Picks

We visited the Meadowlands Expo Center recently for the Gluten & Allergen Free EXPO and came across some note-worthy companies and brands.  With over 150 exhibitors, this Expo was designed as a lifestyle show for those with celiac disease, gluten sensitivities, auto-immune/inflammatory diseases as well as as athletes and the health conscious community.  There was a nut-free section for GF companies that are are dedicated peanut & nut-free facilities.  Classes were offered on GF baking, sugar addiction, eating corn-free and dairy-free and converting gluten recipes into gluten-free recipes.

Highlighted below in short video interviews are some of the most interesting companies/tastiest products we found (in no particular order):

SuperSeedz – from Kathie’s Kitchen, this addicting, delicious line of dry roasted shelled gourmet pumpkin seeds come in a variety of flavors like Coco Joe, Sugar & Cinnamon and a surprisingly good Tomato Italian variety.  I walked away with a couple pouches of Sea Salt and love the fresh taste of this line.

Everybody Eats – this Brooklyn-based bakery at 294 Third Avenue is owned by Pedro Aroba and Bruce Bassman and produces excellent bread, rolls, bagels, desserts and sweets, even pasta.  The bread products are best served warm or gently toasted.  Pedro sliced samples handily with a meat cleaver (no kidding and not a statement about the texture of the bread) while Bruce loaded thin slices into a warming oven, admonishing visitors to their table to not eat any samples that hadn’t been toasted first.  Once properly heated and spread with Irish butter that they supplied, sales briskly mounted. The products can all be frozen, thawed and re-frozen without losing their integrity.  They won’t last that long in my home though.  The texture is wheat-like and the flavor robust and satisfying.

Bread Empire Gluten Free Breads – gluten-free breads inspired by the traditional breads of South America, Bread Empire Gluten Free Breads have a crispy exterior and a warm, doughy center. Dominic and Paolo offered a robust sampling of warm dinner rolls infused with just the right amount of olive oil.

King Arthur Flour – a long-time, major player in specialty flours, was serving up samples of GF coffee cake made with their new GF All-Purpose flour blend.  This trusted name would be ideal as a go-to product for bakers looking to swap out their AP gluten flours with a quality blend.  For those wanting to mix their own blends, check out Silvana Nardone’s cook book and her website Silvana’s Kitchen which has a great recipe using very specific brands and blends of tapioca flour, potato starch, Xanthan gum and other ingredients.

Hail Merry – based out of Dallas, TX Hail Merry offers a variety of desserts, each celebrating a carefully selected raw plant based oil. I came away with with the most delicious macaroons that were promptly enjoyed.

Luce’s Gluten Free Artisan Breads – launched in 2012, Luce’s Gluten Free Artisan Breads are reminiscent of what bread should be. Their Bold Buckwheat Premium bread is a perfect blend of hand-ground buckwheat meal, pumpkin and chia seeds.

Deya’s Gluten-Free Flour – these flours are tailor-made for specific baking needs.  Each flour has a 1-to-1 ratio to wheat flour.  Deya’s offers Cake Flour, Bread Flour and Sauce Flour.

Feel Good Foods – ‘don’t worry, eat happy’ is the motto of this gluten-free food company offering the world’s first gluten-free and dairy-free Asian Dumplings and Egg Rolls.  The Egg Rolls were great.

Gluten Free Oats – created by a family of Celiacs, Gluten Free Oats have made it their mission to create products that those who eat gluten-free, can trust.  Gluten Free Oats offers a wide variety of granolas and rolled oats that are sure to amp up any breakfast.

Welcome to Redhead With A Fork!

Thank you for visiting Redhead With A Fork, a blog dedicated to adventures in eating, cooking, lifestyle and consumerism.  Here you’ll find musings about dining out, cooking, nifty products, noteworthy places and programs and other things I stumble upon that I’d like to share.  I am a mother of three, feeding two teenage girls and a 10 year old boy, all great eaters and very opinionated.  By (week)day I run the boutique public relations agency I founded, tending to clients in and beyond the Garden State.  But from the moment I enter my home in the early evening, I tie on an apron and (often wearily) plot and prepare dinner. With homework overseen from afar at my stove post, I, like millions of other mothers and fathers, wear multiple hats.  We have a core rotation of favorite dinner mainstays, which I’ll be sharing, and I often experiment with new recipes and twists on classics.

I cook simple preparations that are going to be enjoyed.  I aim for healthy and for the most part, succeed.  We are omnivores.  My older daughter Isabel is the most finicky of my kids, telling me she no longer eats chicken at dinner when she subsists on grilled chicken wraps for lunch.  Cooking for kids can be among life’s least rewarding experiences at times.  But on those occasions when everyone is happily eating around the table and the kids are getting along, I know that I am blessed and feel so appreciative of life, family and the dinner gathering.

Because my time is limited on evenings and weekends (homework, kids’ sports events, spending time with my kids, food shopping, yoga, dog walking and the occasional round of golf), I will focus here on things that I think and hope will be of value to you.  Things as mundane as good organizing tools for the kitchen or a nifty shortcut to a satisfying weeknight meal will be presented.

I welcome hearing from you.  If you wish to submit a review idea, please email me at heidi@redheadwithafork.com.  Thank you for reading this blog and sharing it with others you think may enjoy.

Love,

Heidi, Redhead With A Fork