Grapefruit Chermoula Makes an Appearance at the Willowwood Arboretum

Willowwood Arboretum

Willowwood Arboretum: “New Jersey’s most comprehensive and longest continually operating Arboretum”

My Labor Day weekend consisted of traversing from New York City to the beach, from the beach to the suburbs, and from the suburbs to Bear Mountain and back again. Long weekends give one the opportunity to tap into different settings and take advantage of all the offerings that they bestow upon us. The New Jersey suburbs in particular possess this bucolic allure, of which I have not come across in the many places I have explored. Morris County is rife with preserved farmland, an abundance of state and country parks, and perhaps mostly importantly – a tranquil reprieve from the stresses of day-to-day life. My gratitude continues to grow for the place I grew up and only when I am away do I truly appreciate where I come from.

As Thomas Jefferson once said: “No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth”. I concur, Mr. President.

For Sunday brunch, I decided to take my girlfriend to the Willowwood Arboretum in Chester, NJ. Willowwood Arboretum is comprised of over 125 acres of farmland, along with thousands of native and exotic plants, trees, and shrubs. Willowwood is an absolutely picturesque spot for one to roll out a picnic spread. I found that the most unique possession on the property was a Dawn Redwood tree, over 98 feet tall.

Pay them a visit or check out their website at: It was truly a unique visit.

My tendency to arise during the earlier hours of the morning worked in my favor, as I was able to concoct and finish our breakfast spread by 8:29 a.m. The menu consisted primarily of simple items: hard-boiled eggs, berries, grapes, and lemon water in a carafe. To add a touch of complexity to the mix, I topped the avocado with grapefruit chermoula. Chermoula is a Moroccan marinade, commonly utilized with fish, seafood, meat, poultry, and atop vegetables and salads. A wide range of chermoula recipes exist, but all generally consist of citrus juice, oil, herbs, cumin (sometimes coriander), garlic, and salt and pepper. Bon Appétit acquired this recipe from a restaurant in Somerville, MA, named Sarma. Chermoula has all the characteristics of a “well-rounded” condiment and because we had leftover, we used the chermoula as a steak marinade on Labor Day evening. Hell, you could even make a grapefruit chermoula crostini topped with even more herbs and either a soft cheese like goat or a hard cheese like feta. Versatility never tasted this good.

Picnic spread

Grapefruit Chermoula
Recipe from September 2014 issue of Bon Appétit
Yields 1 1/2 cups

1 large shallot, finely chopped
garlic cloves, finely grated
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more
1/2 small preserved lemon, flesh discarded, peel finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. finely grated peeled ginger
2 tsp. harissa paste
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. tomato paste
Freshly ground pepper

Using a sharp knife, cut all peel and white pith from grapefruit; discard. Working over  a medium bowl, cut between membranes to release segments into bowl. Squeeze in juice from membranes as needed to make 2 tbsp. juice; discard membranes and reserve any extra juice for another use. Coarsely chop segments; return to bowl.

Combine shallot, garlic, lemon juice, and 1 tsp. salt in a medium bowl; let stand 10 minutes (this will mellow shallot and garlic). Mix in grapefruit, preserved lemon peel, cilantro, oil, ginger, harissa, cumin, honey, and tomato paste; season with salt and pepper.


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