If anyone has any doubts that Princeton and its surrounding municipalities are a core constituency for support of local farms and the restaurants that serve their food, they need only read chef Jim Weaver’s new book to be convinced.
Weaver, who owns and is executive chef at Tre Piani at Forrestal Village, recently published his first book, “Locavore Adventures: One Chef’s Slow Food Journey” with Rivergate Books, an imprint of Rutgers University Press. In it he tells the story of how he became a co-founder of Slow Food Central New Jersey and the many chefs, farmers and other people he has come to know in his search for quality local food grown using sustainable practices.
Familiar local names that jump out at the reader include Gary Giberson, executive of dining at the Lawrenceville School; Pegi Ballister-Howells, former marketing consultant for the New Jersey Farm Bureau and co-founder of the local Slow Food chapter; Pat Tanner, food writer and restaurant critic; George Rude, owner of Griggstown Quail Farm; Mikey Azzara, founder and owner of Zone 7, which sources locally grown foods for area restaurants; Gabrielle Carbone and Matthew Errico, owners of Bent Spoon; and Will Mooney, chef and owner of the Brothers Moon restaurant.
The book takes the reader along on his journey to many local and regional food purveyors, then offers the background stories behind them. Weaver’s regional travels include Viking Village, the center of New Jersey’s fishing industry (he has a special love for Delaware Bay oysters) and Sullivan County, N.Y., where he talks about the often controversial foie gras.
Weaver was asked to write the book by Rutgers University Press, which decided it was time to cover the local Slow Food movement and that Weaver was the one who could best tell the story. The book is at the same time personal professional, with many anecdotes as well as a knowledgeable view of New Jersey’s local food industry.
The book is for sale at area bookstores and online booksellers. Weaver also sells autographed copies at his restaurant.
Included in the book are 40 recipes utilizing New Jersey ingredients, many from Weaver and some from other New Jersey chefs. Here is one from the author:
Baked Eggplant and Goat Cheese Fondue
Makes about 2 cups
4 cloves garlic
½ cup extra-virgin garlic oil
1 large eggplant
6 ounces fresh goat cheese
4 leaves basil, julienne cut
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup grated Manchego, parmesan, or other sharp grating cheese
¼ cup fresh diced tomato
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel the garlic cloves, leaving them whole. Pour the olive oil into a small, ovenproof pan, add the garlic and cover with a lid or aluminum foil. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the cloves are soft and golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside. (You can roast garlic up to a week ahead of time, and you can reuse the oil to season your favorite dish or drizzle over bread, grilled meats or seafood.)
Slice the eggplant in half lengthwise, place it flesh-side-down on a lightly oiled pan, and roast until soft, about 30 minutes. Let the eggplant cool to room temperature, then scoop out the flesh and put it into the bowl of a food processor, discarding the skin. Add the roasted garlic, goat cheese, eggs, salt, pepper, basil and half of the parmesan. Pulse in the food processor until the mixture is barely pureed.
Put the pureed mixture into an ovenproof crock and top it with the diced tomatoes and remaining parmesan. Bake at 350 degrees until the puree is bubbling hot, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately with pita chips to dip.