Category Archives: Apple

I hate Brussels sprouts.

Standard
Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Every time I cook for an audience, someone leans over the table and whispers in my ear. “I hate Brussels sprouts,” they’ll say, or maybe it’s asparagus, fennel or squash. Then, conspiratorially, they share, “but I love what you just cooked.”

These are my proudest moments. Cooking vegetables crisp-tender, lightly salted with bright vinegar and rich butter, is like a music montage makeover, the equivalent of removing big glasses and drawing the bangs from their shining face.

However, faced with beet greens, I thought I was beaten. The purring I’d hear while rattling off ingredients for my weekly cooking demo – Asian pears, cauliflower and blue oyster mushrooms –  would end in a full glottal stop at the mention of beet greens, grins turning to grimaces.

I moved ahead, inspired. Tender, young, deep crimson Bull’s Blood beet greens were earthy-sweet, reminding me of my Mom’s braised red cabbage. Chopped apple and cider drew out sugars while cinnamon and fresh ginger added bright warmth.

The ultimate test was my friend Michael. Who, after three days of urging, finally, standing at my Eastern Market demo, took a bite. “They’re not bad,” he offered. Then he cleaned his plate.

PS I love Brussels sprouts. A lot.

Cider-braised beet greens

Serves 4-6

IMG_3579-1Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 Honeycrisp apple, diced
  • 1 pound Bull’s Blood or other beet greens, cut in a chiffonade (ribbons)*
  • 2 tbs Autumn Apple or cider vinegar*
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tbs diced fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves

*Grab Bull’s Blood beet greens from Gardener’s Gourmet at Eastern Market – they’re the folks who always have beautiful greens out in fun, metal tubs. Autumn Apple vinegar, from Sapore, is indispensable in my Fall pantry.

Directions:

  • Heat butter and olive oil in a 3-4 quart saucepan over medium low heat. Sauté onion until soft, about 3 min.
  • Add apple, and sauté for 4 minutes.
  • Add beet greens, Autumn Apple vinegar, cider, cinnamon stick and ginger. Cover and cook until beet greens are tender but still firm, about 5 minutes.
  • Uncover and cook until liquid reduces, another 3-5 minutes. The greens will give up a lot of moisture as they wilt.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and additional vinegar as needed.
Advertisements

Trust.

Standard
Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

During my Eastern Market cooking demos, I am often asked, “Do you only cook with organic ingredients?”

The answer? “No.” I prefer organic, but I put my full faith in farmers. The reality is that raising and selecting healthy food is more complicated than a single factor, like organic. There are highly toxic organic pest and disease controls. And who has certified the food to be organic, the USDA? Those standards are too broad to be meaningful, and don’t cover important health and flavor factors like soil nutrition, cultivar selection and harvest and storage practices.

Develop relationships with farmers and their food. Ask them where it was grown*. If it tastes amazing when you bring it home, go back to them and buy more. If you’ve never been to the market before, watch the locals.

At the end of the day, I trust that they are experts in growing healthy and flavorful food. Like electricity or aspirin, some chemical pest and disease controls are okay, used properly. That’s part of the expertise of farming.

My farmers sell me and my family the same food they serve their own families. Their livelihood depends on being able to look me in the eye, confident I will return healthy and happy the following week.

So, when Marvin at Long Meadow Farms told me his Gold Rush apples had stored well over the winter, that they were nice and crisp, despite wrinkled skins, I trusted him. And they were delicious.

*Sometimes I hear people complain that farmers sell produce they didn’t grow themselves. Farmers are often part of local agricultural communities. They have friends and neighbors who grow great food too. Growing everything yourself isn’t a pre-requisite for being a great purveyor of delicious, healthy farm-fresh produce.

Golden Apple Oyster Mushroom Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs butter
  • 2 cups chopped Oyster mushrooms
  • 2 tbs brandy
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/3 cup Blackberry Balsamic or balsamic vinegar*
  • 1/4 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2/3 cup Koroneiko or another high- quality, light, grassy olive oil*
  • 1 pound baby spinach
  • 2 Gold Rush or other golden apples cut in matchsticks

*Blackberry Balsamic vinegar and Koroneiko olive oil are available in Washington, DC or online from Sapore Oil and Vinegar.

Directions:

  • Melt butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until softened.
  • Deglaze pan with brandy. Cook until evaporated and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • While mushrooms cook, whisk together shallot, Blackberry Balsamic vinegar, mustard and honey with a pinch each of salt and pepper.
  • When mushrooms finish, whisk oil into vinegar mixture. Taste with spinach and adjust seasoning.
  • Lightly dress spinach and top with mushrooms and apples.

Of patricide and proteins.

Standard

Photography by Sam Armocido

The first time I made this dish I nearly killed my parents.

Zabaglione is simple, in concept. Whisk together 8 egg yolks, 1/3 cup of Marsala wine and 3/4 cups sugar. Place it in a metal bowl, over a pan of simmering water, and whisk until it increases to three times it’s volume and will hold a soft peak. Serve over fresh berries. There, wasn’t that easy?

There are a few finer points. The basic chemistry of this dish relies on whisking egg yolks over the gentle heat of a double boiler, allowing their tightly-coiled proteins to uncoil in long strands. Those strands interlock forming pockets of air. As the air expands and the egg yolks slowly cook, the whisked custard expands in volume creating an airy foam. Et voilà! Zabaglione. (There’s a joke in there somewhere. Linguistic humor is hilarious!)

How can such a simple dish go wrong? Cook the custard over high heat and fail to whisk constantly, allowing the eggs to scramble before the proteins can uncoil and form air pockets. Then, you end up with about 1 cup of custard, barely a few tablespoons per person, of highly concentrated fat, sugar and alcohol. Which is exactly what I served my parents the first time I made it.

Despite several near heart attacks that night, everyone remains healthy to this day and we continue to enjoy much lighter Zabaglione, like this autumnal version I’ll be serving up at Thanksgiving dinner.

Calvados Zabaglione With Apples

Ingredients:

For Zabaglione:
8 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup Calvados

For Apples:
2 apples, cored and thinly sliced
4 tbs butter
1/4 cup maple or brown sugar
1/8 tsp nutmeg, fresh grated
1/4 cup Calvados
2 tbs Cinnamon Pear Balsamic vinegar*

*Sapore’s new winter vinegar. You can substitute a syrupy aged balsamic vinegar and a pinch of cinnamon.

Directions:

Zabaglione:

Whisk together egg yolks, sugar and wine in a metal bowl placed over a saucepan filled with simmering water.
Whisk steadily, keeping water at a simmer, until cooked through, and volume triples. about 5-7 minutes.

Apples:
Melt 2 tbs butter in large sauté pan over medium heat.
Sauté 1/2 apples for five minutes. Remove, add additional tbs butter and sauté remaining apples. Remove from pan.
Add sugar, nutmeg, Calvados, vinegar and remaining butter. Simmer until thick. Add apples and toss to mix.
Serve apples topped with custard.

#testkitchen

Standard

Where do 4-5 new recipes a week come from? It all starts by chatting with the farmers at Eastern Market as soon as I wrap up my Saturday demonstrations. Learning what will be fresh and bountiful the following weekend, I head home, my canvas bag filled with challenges. Some weeks that challenge is a brand new vegetable, or something that has just come into season. Others, it means trying to figure out summer’s fifteenth zucchini recipe.

After four days of pouring through cookbooks, conversations over dinner and internet research, my husband Jason, our friend Sam and I get together every Thursday night for #testkitchen. For five hours we test recipes finishing each one 3-4 different ways to see what flavors work best.

Last Thursday, uninspired by a basket full of apples, I reached out on my Facebook page. Apple butter and maple-mustard vinaigrette had me drooling, but when our friend Joe – a trained chef who can cook like nobody’s business – jumped on a recipe from Rhetta in Utah, we headed to the kitchen. Swapping guanciale for salt pork, and brightening rich, sweet Calvados with bright, complex sherry vinegar we had a winner.

Join #testkitchen every Thursday night starting around 7PM on Twitter and Facebook. We can always use your help!

Rhetta’s Cabbage with Apples

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 lb. guanciale or salt pork, diced
  • 1 tbs mustard seed
  • 1/2 medium onioin, diced
  • 4 cups shredded cabbage
  • 2 apples, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup calvados
  • Sherry vinegar
  • Optional: 2 tbs cream*

*The cream is mellow and rich, but it will cover the apple and cabbage flavors a bit. Either way is delicious!

Directions:

  • In a large skillet over medium heat, lightly brown guanciale, rendering the fat.
  • Add mustard seeds and cook about 1 minute until they begin to pop.
  • Add onion to pan and sauté until softened. If the guanciale has released less than 2tbs fat, make up the difference with olive oil.
  • Add cabbage and cook 3-5 minutes, turning frequently with tongs, until slightly softened and edges begin to brown.
  • Add apple and cook, again turning frequently, until cabbage and apples are soft, about 10 -12 min longer.
  • Pour Calvados in to the hot pan and scrape up any brown bits.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper* and sherry vinegar. Add cream and cook 30 seconds until thickened if desired.

*Columbus, OH fans, I have a special treat for you. I made this for a dinner party Sunday and seasoned it with Whisky-brined Smoked Black Peppercorns from Spices Ltd. at North Market. Run don’t walk to pick some up and say hi to Ben while you are there (I’m sure he can tell you who at the Market has guanciale.

It’s still more fun than work.

Standard

There’s a picture of my parents at a cider pressing party in the early 70’s. They look impossibly hip, my Dad in his thick rimmed glasses and thick, curly hair, my Mom in a fabulous sweater, her hair nearly white-blonde. It’s New England in the fall, the press is a large wooden barrel and they could be in any fashion editorial today.

I grew up in New England where the scent of apples defined fall as much as the shuffling of crisp leaves was its soundtrack. We ate crisp McIntosh apples daily. Less frequently we enjoyed cider donuts, apple crisp, baked apples and fresh cider. Apple sauce was homemade, pink from the skins and warm from the stove. It was always made with a food mill, with children doing most of the work.

What sounds downright pastoral today was just life, growing up. I wish I had treasured it a bit more, but I’m grateful for having been blessed with the opportunity to take it for granted. It makes the fresh sauce I cook at home that much more special. And using the food mill is still more fun than work.

Homemade applesauce

The mix of apples you use will determine the sweetness or tartness of the sauce. I prefer about 1/3 tart to 2/3 sweet. Try different mixes to find what you like. Ask your local farmer for advice.

Ingredients:

  • 4 Honeycrisp apples
  • 3 tart apples, like Pound
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • Nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon
  • Lemon juice
  • Honey

*Do yourself a favor and buy a food mill just for this! It keeps the skins behind and you don’t have to peel any apples. Plus your sauce will be beautifully pink!

Directions:

  • Core apples. Don’t bother peeling them. Cut them into 8 pieces each.
  • Place apples and cider in a 4 qt saucepan, cover and simmer over medium heat for 10-15 min until really soft.
  • Run apples through a food mill.
  • Return sauce to saucepan and season with 1/8 tsp each of nutmeg, cardamom and cinnamon.
  • Cook over low heat for five more minutes to develop flavors.
  • Add honey or lemon juice as needed.

Emotional eating.

Standard

My birthday is not complete without a lemon cake. My Mom made them for me when I was young. Cliff Hunter baked his lemon pound cake for my birthday in 2005, and my husband Jason bakes them each year now, often with homemade lemon curd.

Each of us has strict rules of flavor for Thanksgiving’s stuffing and mashed potatoes, green bean casseroles and Acorn squash based on the dishes that came from our mothers’, grandmothers’, and aunts’ kitchens.

For some of us it’s not summer until we bite into the first ripe tomato or ear of fresh corn. Others can’t imagine New Years without braised greens and black-eyed peas. Christmas would not be complete for me without Polish pierogi filled with cabbage, potato and cheese, or prunes.

All food tastes better with emotion. Think beyond fear, pain and stress. That’s just Twinkies and pizza good. It’s joy, peace, love and hope that elevate fine foods, however simple, from delicious to memorable. And it is those foods that we enshrine in tradition.

Golden Honeycrisp Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 Honeycrisp apples, cut in matchsticks
  • 1 golden beet, cut into slivers

For dressing:

  • 1 shallot
  • 3 tbs goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup Serrano Chile Honey vinegar*
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 cup Arbequina olive oil*
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp mint, chopped

*Serrano Chile Honey Vinegar is a new favorite from Sapore Oil and Vinegar near Eastern Market in DC. The vinegar is actually fermented honey. You can substitute Sherry or Cider vinegar. Arbequina is a grassy, Spanish olive oil. Substitute any good quality olive oil.

Directions:

  • Make dressing: whisk together shallot, cheese, vinegar and cumin, a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Whisk in olive oil in a thin stream and season to taste with honey and mint.
  • Toss together apples and beets. Toss with dressing.
  • This salad is definitely better dressed lightly.