A Persian Gem Shines in Verona, Plus Favorite Spots and More

Rosie shares restaurant recommendations, a cookbook for newbies and a recipe.

Zaferon (saffron in Persian) has become a favorite of the Safersteins. Along with the attentive waitstaff, friendliness of the eagle-eyed owner, Soody Nelson, and beautifully executed Mediterranean- and Persian-inspired cuisine of executive chef, Luis Ramirez Villarroel, we think that this restaurant is a gem.

A crispy and addictive made in house Persian flatbread (taftoon), which is served hot with herbed butter, was placed on the table when we were seated. Apps included humongous, perfectly cooked  shrimp and chorizo presented on a raft of bread with a lemony, white-wine  sauce. A spoon was requested so that every drop of sauce could be consumed. A picture-perfect composition of thinly sliced roasted beets provided a base for a salad of endive, sunflower seeds, tomatoes and blue cheese enmeshed in a light, blue-cheese dressing. Other appetizers include: soups, salads, tuna tartare, crab cake and flatbreads with toppings such as pear and brie.

A juicy, whole, pan-roasted charred trout—that was falling off the plate—was served with potatoes, carrots, asparagus, cherry tomatoes and a champagne-truffle vinaigrette. Equally enormous was tender saffron-infused braised lamb shank presented with a pureed tomato sauce, dried Persian limes, fava beans and Basmati rice. This was one of the few dishes that showcased Persian cuisine, as was the long cylinder of ground beef and lamb offered with rice and a choice of chutney. We opted for peach-mango, which we thought was too sweet and reminded us of canned fruit cocktail. Apple-cinnamon or citrus-fig chutney may have been a better option.

Zaferon’s lamb

Another colorful entrée worth ordering was a meaty sesame-crusted Ahi tuna served with stir-fried vegetables and whole-wheat linguine, asparagus, scallions, carrots and broccoli tossed in hoisin-cranberry sauce.

Zaferon’s tuna

High-quality, petite layered cakes are brought in and the hazelnut cake with apricot jelly, milk chocolate cream and praline mousse was worth the calories. Natural freshly blended juices, such as Green Medley with kale, spinach, celery and avocado are offered but the Safersteins prefer to BYO wine.

Zaferon is small with about 32 seats and counter seating, which has a partial view of the kitchen. It also gets noisy so if this is a problem dine here early. Stunning large pictures of lilac poppies decorate one wall; tables are bare with cloth napkins.

Open Tuesday through Sunday from 11:30 AM.

Zaferon Grill, 648 Bloomfield Avenue, Verona, 973-433-7533, zaferon.com.

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ROSIE’S SHOUT OUTS

BURG, NEWARK
We are still raving about chef/owner Chris Siversen’s burgers made with a signature blend of chuck, short rib, brisket and a bit of dry-aged beef served on a challah roll. At a recent press tasting, we tried the classic with cheese, lettuce, tomato and special sauce; the MP with Califon tomme cheese, grilled onion, lettuce and special sauce; and the chipotle burger with guacamole, lettuce, green chile relish, tortilla crisps and spicy mayonnaise—and loved them all. And yes, we were stuffed!

Burg’s classic burger

The restaurant has reopened for lunch and dinner after a brief winter hiatus, and, an added plus is that beer and wine are served. But it is not all about beef here as tuna, chicken and veggie burgers as well as non-burger items such as a double-decker grilled cheese, Buffalo style spicy pork riblettes; sweet potato and corn salad, fried pickles, ice cream and a bag of doughnuts are some other menu items. There are 40 seats indoors, plus 100 seats outdoors, fire pits and picnic tables. Ask for their loyalty card: buy five burgers, the sixth one is free. Burg, 55 Park Place, Newark 973-482-2874 burgnj.com

SEOULITE’S RESTAURANT, BERKELEY HEIGHTS
Banchan, small side dishes that start every Korean meal included coleslaw, room temperature hotdogs, which we were told was a Korean favorite, fish cakes, bean sprouts, cucumber slices, seaweed and homemade kimchee. Korean-style, thin-fried pancakes filled with squid, shrimp and scallions—a must-try—was satisfying, as were the crispy Korean fried chicken wings with a sweet and spicy sauce.

Seoulite’s pancake

Entrees included marinated pork belly, kimchee and tofu (Jayuk Dubu Kimchee); beef bibimbob with chile pepper on the side; thinly slice marinated beef (Bul Go Ki); stir-fried vermiceilli noodles (Jap Chae) with vegetables and beef; and our favorite of charred beef ribs (Galbi) in a special house sauce. Service at this small, casual restaurant was attentive with water and tea glasses being constantly refilled. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations not accepted; BYO. Seoulite’s Restaurant, 579 Springfield Avenue Berkeley Heights. 908-665-8998; seouliterestaurant.com

Photos courtesy of Lowell Saferstein

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ROOKIE COOKING
Every Great Cook Has to Start Somewhere
By chef Jim Edwards; photography by Ted Axelrod

I many not be a rookie cook, but I wish I had read Rookie Cooking by chef Jim Edwards before using a mandolin and slicing my finger. If I had, I would have learned that I should wear a cut-resistant glove when using one. This and other helpful information is in Part One—”Setting Up Your Kitchen and Pantry,” of this new book. Part Two includes easy to prepare, go-to dishes, fancier menus and how to use leftovers, and Part Three is on how to step up your skills with information on plating, presentation, table settings and service as well as a chapter on hors d’oeuvres.

For more than 25 years, chef Edwards has made his living as a chef, teacher, food writer, and culinary judge. He previously was the culinary director and head trainer at Chef Central, the culinary superstore in Paramus and was responsible for the Ultimate Chef Bergen County and Ultimate Chef NJ events that were held at the store.

Here is a recipe to try:

Minestrone (Makes 10 Servings)

¼      C. Clarified butter

1       Lg. Carrot, diced

1       Rib of celery, diced

1       Small onion, diced

1       Small zucchini, diced

2       Qt. Chicken stock

1       Russet potato, diced

1       C. Green beans, cut into ½-inch pieces

1       C. Chopped tomato

2       C. Cooked ditalini pasta

2       C. Cooked cannellini beans

2       C. Spinach chiffonade

4       Oz. Pesto (recipe follows)

Heat the butter over medium heat and sweat the carrots, onion and celery until soft. Add the zucchini and cook 1-minute. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook 3-minutes. Add the green beans and cook 3 minutes. Add the tomato and remove from the heat. Meanwhile, place two tablespoons each of pasta, cannellini beans, and spinach and one-half teaspoon of pesto in each bowl. Pour the hot soup into the bowl. Wait 3 minutes and serve. This soup can be prepared as a vegetarian soup by replacing the chicken stock with vegetable stock. For a vegan soup, replace butter with olive oil and leave the cheese out of the pesto.

Pesto

4       Cloves of garlic

1       C. Basil leaves, packed

½      C. Grated parmesan cheese

¼      C. Olive oil

Place the first three ingredients in a small food processor and process until chopped very finely. Slowly add the oil to form the pesto. Add only enough oil to make a paste. Add more oil if necessary.

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