Celebrating the foods of the Garden State

Celebrating the foods of the Garden State

The tomato sauce recipe calls for enough garlic to kill a person.

John Holl’s collection of New Jersey favorites includes recipes from friends
and family, from fine dining restaurants and casinos, from diners and delis,
from farmers’ markets and boardwalk stands. The pasta sauce is a weeknight
recipe from his mother-in-law, Teresa Darcy of Edison. Despite a seeming
abundance of garlic (start with 15 cloves and go from there), it’s a simple
tomato sauce that comes together in minutes, and, Holl says, is surprisingly
light and sweet.

Author John Holl, whose writing generally focuses on beer, lives in Jersey City.  

By day, Holl is a beer editor, a journalist who has spent the past decade focusing on craft brews. He’s written a few beer books, but his most recent work, “Dishing Up New Jersey, 150 Recipes from the Garden State” (Storey Publishing, 228 pp., $19.95 paperback), celebrates the foods of the Garden State. The book is a broad and diverse collection, with recipes from all 21
counties, featuring Jersey produce (blueberries, tomatoes, cranberries) and highlighting many cultural favorites, including stuffed cabbage, soda bread,
chicken liver paté.

“Dishing Up New Jersey” also includes recipes for Holl’s favorite iconic Jersey foods. One is the Jersey Sloppy Joe. In fact, if you were a visitor to the state, Holl would take you first (and last) to Town Hall Deli in South Orange for the classic sandwich, served there since 1935.

Holl ticks off the sandwich’s attributes: the layering; the textures; the crunch from the coleslaw; the sweetness of the Russian dressing; the thin slices of rye
bread (soft and yielding and with crusts cut off); the fact that it’s a triple
decker cut into squares, carefully constructed so you get all the flavors in each
bite.

Holl lives in Jersey City now, but still stops in to the deli as often as he can.
Maybe more than he should, he says. “You really feel like you’re getting ahold
of something.”

In “Dishing Up New Jersey,” find recipes from the author’s friends and family, from fine dining restaurants and casinos, from diners and delis, and from farmers’ markets and boardwalk stands.  

At home, Holl rarely plans out menus, following instead his family’s from-scratch cooking style, which always began with the same strategy: start with an onion. A sautéed onion, after all, goes with most anything you find in the fridge or the pantry, whatever else is needed can be picked up quickly at a nearby bodega. Recipe-testing for the book, however, required a different approach. Baking is regimented. Chocolate requires following the rules.

Holl hopes the book also will push readers outside their comfort zones. Why go to the same spot each weekend, for example, when the greatest Portuguese food in the United States is a short drive away?

“Dishing Up New Jersey” was released in the spring — and the gift of the book tour has been the swapping of stories with other New Jersey families, the sharing of traditions, memories.

Outside the state, when he travels for his work on the beer industry, folks are always surprised at how amazing New Jersey is. It’s not news to us. “We
know. We live here.”

As a Jersey reporter, Holl loved best the surprise of getting lost while on the road, turning left when he should have turned right — the discovery. “You never know what’s going to be around the next corner,” he says. “The adventure and the trip are worth it every time.”

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Published at Tue, 01 Nov 2016 12:00:00 +0000