Monthly Archives: June 2012

Better together.

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My parents own a business, Tarnòw Nursery. For most of my life it has dominated their schedules, as a small business often does. They worked most weekends, right up to each holiday, and called in frequently when away on family vacations.

Nine years ago, the summer I moved to DC, I started getting these calls. “Good morning. We’re taking a day (or two) off. We’re sitting at the end of the driveway and trying to decide whether to turn left or right.”

I realized after a few of these calls that the direction truly didn’t matter. Where they were going wasn’t the point. They were off to spend the day together and nothing was more important than that.

Mom and Dad are the model for my relationship with my husband. I have come to realize that what I was witnessing was their feeling that the worst day spent together was better than the best day spent apart. Every moment, good and bad, was improved by each other’s presence in their lives.

Happy Father’s Day Dad. I know you and Mom will enjoy spending today together.

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“I’ll take the light potato salad, please.”

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With each new summer cookout, looms the threat that someone is going to show up with those clear plastic containers from the deli counter of potato salad, macaroni salad and coleslaw. Now, rumor has it that these salads actually  contain potatoes, macaroni and cabbage, but the protective coating of mayonnaise obscures any possible proof.

Okay, that was a bit of hyperbole, but most summer cookouts abound with rich, grilled meats and sauces, toasted buns and baskets of chips and dip. What I want from my salad is something light and bright to balance the plate, and a gloopy heap of mayonnaise just doesn’t cut it. Enter the “French” potato salad.

Like may other American “French” delicacies like fries, toast and dressing, I’m not sure how french this is, but I think they would approve. Boiled potatoes are tossed, still warm, in a sharp, buttery vinaigrette, with garlic or shallots and fresh herbs. They soak up the dressing and releasing the flavorful oils from the greens; exactly what you want sitting next to your burger, hanger steak or chicken thighs, complete with flawless grill marks.

This is a recipe I served at Eastern Market recently, but experiment throughout the summer. Toss with halved cherry tomatoes and basil, use fresh tasting tarragon and shallots, baby arugula or minced red peppers. But please, I’ll take my potato salad without mayonnaise. and I like my burgers rare.

French Potato Salad with Mint and Garlic Scapes

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups small potatoes
  • 3 tbs mint
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped garlic scapes

For dressing:

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup Champagne Mimosa Vinegar*
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup Koroneiko Olive Oil*
*More magical ingredients from Sapore Oil and Vinegar. Champagne or white wine vinegar can replace the Champagne Mimosa. The Koroneiko Olive Oil is Greek. Mild and grassy. Substitute another high-quality olive oil.

Directions:

  • Boil potatoes in salted water until still firm but can be easily pierced through to the center with the tip of a knife. Drain potatoes.
  • Meanwhile, mince garlic and mash it into a paste with coarse sea salt. Whisk with Champagne Mimosa Vinegar. Season with pepper. Set aside.
  • Mix mint and garlic scapes in a salad bowl.
  • Cut warm potatoes in 1” pieces – halved or quartered – and toss with mint and garlic scapes. The heat will release oils in the mint.
  • Whisk oil into vinegar mixture in a steady stream until creamy. Toss with potatoes. Dress lightly so not to overpower the other flavors.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and additional mint.

Until next year.

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Gardeners, cooks and farmers share a unique awareness of the changing of the seasons. Crocus and radishes give way to irises and asparagus. Early summers pinks, blues, English peas and sweet cherries change to late summer yellows and oranges, summer squash, sweet corn and tomatoes.

The seasons are changing right now. Farmers at the Market admonish us to enjoy the spring’s last rhubarb and asparagus, while filling the gap with the year’s first tomatoes and squash, helped along with early season cover. They taste richly of the soil they’re grown in, but not yet sweet from the summer sun.

Seasons of eating start with hunger, built over months of waiting. That first spear of asparagus or first ripe tomato is wonderful eaten raw and fresh. Over a six to eight week season your recipes progress from old favorites to new experiments. Finally, when you think you can’t eat another zucchini or ear of corn, they are gone until next year.

Here, then is a celebration of the passing of asparagus. It’s been a wonderful spring for it, although May’s heat led many farmers to end their harvest earlier than usual. Enjoy this salad, simple and fresh, elegant enough for fine dining, quick enough for a Tuesday supper. Until next year.

Asparagus Mimosa Salad

The name of this salad refers to the similarity in appearance between the grated egg and the foamy yellow/white flowers of the Mimosa tree.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs, hardboiled
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 2-3 radishes, cut in matchsticks
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/4 cup Champagne Mimosa vinegar*
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 3/4 cup Olive oil – the good stuff!
*Another treat from Sapore Oil and Vinegar in DC. You can substitute champagne or a tarragon,white wine vinegar.
Directions:
  • Begin vinaigrette: whisk together shallot, vinegar,mustard, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Peel and finely grate the hardboiled eggs. Set aside. You won’t be able to get the entire egg grated. Pop the larger, leftover pieces in your mouth.
  • For a special presentation, line up your asparagus spears and cut them to fit the plates you will be serving this salad on.
  • Blanch asparagus in a large boiling pot of salted water for approximately 3 minutes, until crisp tender. Shock in an ice bath.
  • Complete vinaigrette by whisking in olive oil in a thin stream. Taste vinaigrette with an asparagus stalk and season to taste with additional salt pepper, oil or vinegar.
  • Place asparagus stalks on individual plates, drizzle with vinaigrette, top with radish and egg.

*Thomas Keller takes the tender ends of the asparagus, left over when you trim the spears to the size of your salad plates, and blanches them for about five minutes. Shock them in an ice bath, then puree them in a blender with a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid, salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. That’s the green sauce you see on the bottom in the photograph.

How do I come up with recipes?

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I am often asked how I come up with the recipes I cook at Eastern Market and publish in this blog. They all start with inspiration – or desperation – figuring out how to feature a seasonal ingredient or use a new product from one of the great shops I work with.

Sometimes it’s easy. I’ll pull a recipe out of my head that I’ve cooked many times, like asparagus soup or zucchini pancakes. Along the way, these recipes get tweaked with new ingredients and new ideas I’ve learned elsewhere.

Other times an idea pops into my head, like last week’s Indian style peas and corn. I’ll flip through cookbooks and search the web to understand the range of ingredients, seasonings and techniques that other people have used, then pull together the ideas that sound the best and start testing the recipe, making changes until I’ve got something I’m proud to serve.

The hardest recipes, and some of my greatest satisfaction, come when I’m stumped. This past week I wanted to work with summer squash. The Saturday before I had sautéed it, tossed with a compound butter. Rather then another variation on sautéed and tossed with herbs, I wanted something really new. I began flipping through cookbooks waiting for a recipe to excite me. I found a squash goulash, 70’s style with ground beef, green peppers and sweet paprika. I removed the beef so the squash could take center stage. Red peppers kept some bitterness without the bite. Red miso and tomato paste added depth, while Spanish paprika or pimentón, brought a bit of heat. Some fresh vegetable stock gave the sauce another layer and I was ready to serve this week’s Summer Squash Goulash. My sincere thanks to Too Many Tomatoes, and my Mom who raised us on its recipes, for the inspiration.

Summer Squash Goulash

Makes 3-4 main course servings unless you eat it at 10:30 at night, in which case two of you will be fighting over the last bowl. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups thinly sliced crimini mushrooms
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 tbs sweet paprika
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 2 tbs red miso paste
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1.5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 cups summer squash thinly sliced in half rounds
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • Sherry Vinegar

Directions:

  • In a sauté pan over medium heat, cook onion in olive oil until softened. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds until fragrant.
  • Add mushrooms and cook until lightly browned on edges.
  • Add pepper, paprika, tomato paste and miso. Cook 1-2 minutes until paprika is fragrant.
  • Stir in tomatoes and cook until softened and water begins to evaporate. Add stock and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
  • Add squash, basil. Cover and cook until squash is softened but still firm.
  • Uncover and let thicken to desired consistency. Season to taste with salt, pepper and vinegar.

The most valuable recipe I know.

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This recipe is gold. I use it more often than any other recipe I know. It is the most requested recipe by people who eat with us in our home. I make it year round and it is incredibly simple.

This is the recipe for a vinaigrette. It was taught to me by a dear friend and I can hear him telling it to me every time I make it.

A vinaigrette has three basic components: something onion-y – usually shallot or garlic, something acidic – vinegar or citrus juice, and something fatty – think oil or bacon fat. Add salt and pepper, fresh herbs, a bit of dijon mustard if you like, and you’ve got a vinaigrette.

The magic of a vinaigrette is in the emulsion. Your 8th grade science teacher is judging you right now. An emulsion is when you take two liquids that don’t get along and force them to spend some time together. To make an emulsion of oil and vinegar, you whisk them together, breaking the vinegar into small droplets which are surrounded by oil. When you taste a vinaigrette you enjoy the soft, buttery mouthfeel of oil and the wonderful balance of fat and acidity without the sharp sting of vinegar on your tongue.

Let’s talk about dressing your salad. When you hit the grocery store and grab those Romaine hearts, stop by the dressing aisle and grab the biggest bottle of Ranch or Blue Cheese that you can find. Trust me, you don’t want to taste that lettuce. When you grab farm fresh vegetables at the farm market, you want to taste them in balance with your vinaigrette. Dress your salad lightly. A perfectly dressed salad should glisten with vinaigrette and there should be almost none left in the bottom of the bowl when you are done serving.

Make a vinaigrette today. Dress fresh lettuce, arugula or spinach. Sub it in for mayonnaise in your potato salad, or over fresh steamed or sautéed vegetables. Use it to marinade vegetables for the grill. Use it in good health. And enjoy, let it make each simple meal you make – even lunch at the office – a celebration of how special each moment of your life can be.

For Sean Holland.

Vinaigrette

Ingredients:


Use the best ingredients you can find: farm fresh greens, well-balanced vinegars and high quality olive oil.

  • 2-3 tbs minced shallot or 1 large clove garlic
  • 
Salt
  • Vinegar or lemon juice
  • Dijon mustard
  • Pepper
  • Herbs
  • Olive oil – the good stuff!

The options are limitless. Have fun, be creative and taste often! Think about your ingredients. If you are serving peppery arugula, a low acidity oil with a buttery olive oil is perfect. For sweet summer tomatoes use garlic paste, a grassy Spanish or Greek oil and a complex, aged balsamic vinegar. 

Directions:

  • If using garlic, mince it, then mash it into a paste with a pinch of coarse sea salt. If using shallot, add to a bowl with a pinch of salt.
  • Chop herbs, if using, finely and add to bowl.
  • Add a grind or four of black pepper, 1/4 tsp mustard and 1/4 cup of vinegar to the bowl with the garlic or shallot.
  • Let sit while you make the rest of your meal to let the flavors blend.
  • Right before serving, whisk in 1/2 cup oil.
  • Dip a leaf of your greens in the dressing, taste and correct seasoning and balance of acid/oil.
  • Dress lightly.

The classic ratio for a vinaigrette is 1 part vinegar to 3 parts olive oil. I like mine a little more acidic.