Rat's Restaurant, Zucchini Salad
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My trip to Rat's Restaurant was a lot of fun. On top of really enjoying working with Chef Ed Crochet, the grounds are beautiful. Rat's is set on the Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ. A sculpture and botanical park that encourages people to get outdoors, take in some nature, and some art! Of course all of that fresh air will make you hungry! Enter Rat's.
It's a weird name for a restaurant, I agree. But Chef Crochet explained the history behind it. The property is owned by a member of the Johnson family - THAT Johnson family...of Johnson & Johnson...makers of Band-Aid etc. One of his favorite books was The Wind In The Willows, and the restaurant is named after the character Ratty. The ultimate party boy, always entertaining. From that angle, it makes much more sense as a name for a restaurant.
Set in an old mansion, facing a lake, the restaurant offers indoor and outdoor seating, breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. They even have event space for things like showers, weddings and other private events. Chef Crochet is also in the process of bringing in even more local produce and ingredients to the kitchen. He says NJ has a great food culture - and I agree! I would definitely say Grounds For Sculpture and Rat's make a great family day trip right here in NJ.
Grilled Zuchini Salad, Lemon Ricotta, and Pickled Cherries
4 pc baby green zucchini
4 pc patty pan squash
2 pc 8 ball zucchini
12 pc cherries
1 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 cup ricotta
4 oz high quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
8 pc Squash Blossoms
Zest of 1 Lemon
1 pc Preserved Lemon (either homemade or purchased from a high-end grocer)
Fleur de Sel or other finishing salt
½ bunch of Thai Basil
Cut the baby green zucchini in half long way, cut the patty pan squash in half along the “equator” of the vegetable, and cut the 8 ball zucchini into 8 wedges. Toss the squashes in EVOO, salt and pepper and place cut side down on the grill. For the patty pan and baby green, grill until just marked and remove.
For the 8 ball squash grill on both cut sides to get a mild amount of char.
Remove the stamen of the squash blossoms by gently pulling back the leaves and plucking the stamen with a pair of needle nose pliers or tweezers. Toss in EVOO, salt and pepper and grill just until the flower begins to wilt.
For the ricotta, mix the cheese with 2 oz of EVOO, the lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste
Pit the cherries (this may be done with a cherry pitter, or by hand). Marinate with a generous amount of salt and the red wine vinegar. Do this at least 2 hours before serving, or up to 5 days in advance.
For the preserved lemon, cut the pulp out of the fruit and discard. Reserve the rind and mince.
To plate, spread the ricotta on the bottom of the plate. Naturally scatter the squashes, topping with the cherries and blossoms. Drizzle with remaining EVOO. Finish with the preserved lemon, basil and Fleur de Sel.