Culinary Notes: Make room in summer menus for fresh soups and tomato pies

More than any other county fair in New Jersey, the Mercer County 4-H Fair is dedicated to agriculture and food.

This includes 4-H members showing off the animals they’ve raised, local residents competing for blue ribbons for their best cakes, jams, pies and garden vegetables, and homemade ice cream made by Howell Living History Farm.

Pie contests, wagon rides, farm tours, animal shows and dozens of exhibits are planned for the fair, which will take place from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 30 and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, July 31 at Howell Farm in Township of Hopewell. The opening show will be at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Gardeners and home cooks can find categories they can compete in Other categories where they can compete include arts and crafts, photography, clothing, and woodworking.

The fair is an opportunity to showcase the many facets of Howell Farm, which is a living museum and working farm operating as if the clock had been wound back to 1910.

Admission to the fair and parking are free. For more information, see the website above. Visitors can support Rutgers Against Hunger by bringing a free can to donate.

Fair Fishing Festival

Peaches are in the spotlight again for the annual Just Peachy Festival at Terhune Orchards in Lawrence from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, August 6 and 7.

There will be fish food (including ice cream!), festival food, music and activities for kids including a traveling zoo and pony rides.

There will be seating for groups of up to eight people in the cellar where peach wine is among the wines sold.

Timed tickets are $12 for ages 3 and up. For information and tickets see the website and click on the Just Peachy Festival icon.

According to the New Jersey Peach Promotion Council, it’s been a good year for peaches and nectarines with more varieties being grown in the Garden State than ever before. The fishing season continues until September.

The bounty of summer

You can thank all the recent warm weather for the sudden onset of the ever-popular New Jersey tomato season.

Tomatoes and sweetcorn are a highlight of the summer harvest, and plenty of both are available. That means it’s time for gazpacho, fresh salsa, salads and sauces.

Wealth of vegetables include eggplant, cucumber, green beans, broccoli, cabbage, radish, collard greens, peppers, kohlrabi, kale, cauliflower, zucchini, squash yolks, lettuces and much more. Fruits include peaches, nectarines, blueberries, raspberries, plums, a variety of melons, and even apricots, depending on the farm.

A busy boss

Chef Jose Diaz has been busy coming up with new ideas for the Old York Cellars cellar restaurant in Ringoes.

On the weekends this year, he and the winery staff create wine and tapas and wine and chocolate tasting experiences. Its objective is to present the wines created by Old York Cellars and the best way to pair them with food. Each tasting lasts one hour.

For reservations, call 908-284-9463. For more information on the Old York cellars, see

The best gazpacho ever

With hot weather comes cold soups, and gazpacho is the most popular. This recipe for allows you to take advantage of the long tomato season.

  • 2 pounds tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 Persian cucumbers, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan and garnish
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 slices of country bread, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced ​​basil

1. Combine tomatoes, cucumbers, pepper, garlic, vinegar and water in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth, then add the oil and stir to combine. Taste and season with salt, pepper and more vinegar if needed. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, add enough oil to coat the bottom of the skillet. Add bread and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and crispy. Remove from heat, salt and let cool.

3. To serve, divide soup into bowls and garnish with basil, croutons and a drizzle of oil.

Fresh tomato pie

Trenton, and now its suburbs, is famous for its tomato pies, but this recipe for it is very different. It’s a real pie that’s filled with vine-fresh tomatoes.

Not all tomato pies are like those made famous in Trenton. This one is a real pie filled with fresh local

  • 1 pie crust (9 inches)
  • 7 ripe tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 yellow onion
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • ⅓ cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • ⅓ cup grated parmesan
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh oregano

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Bake the pie shell for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.

3. Slice the onion and place it in the bottom of the pie shell. Slice the tomatoes and arrange over the onions. Add black pepper to taste.

4. In a medium bowl, combine the mozzarella, parmesan and mayonnaise. Spread this mixture evenly over the tomatoes.

5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Once cooked, garnish with fresh herbs.

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