Category Archives: Sauces

Mom smells.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

I knew the smell long before I knew the recipe. Hitting me as I entered the kitchen, it was intoxicating and made my mouth water. It was the smell of sharp, acidic Worcestershire and red wine, the bite of red onion and clove after clove of garlic. Pungent rosemary and the dry, grassy smell of fresh thyme blended with a sweet hint of fresh orange juice.

The skirt steak would spend an afternoon on the counter soaking in the bright, earthy marinade, telegraphing hours ahead the meal that would follow. The minute I smell this combination of flavors, even before seeing it, I am in my Mother’s kitchen, safe and happy at home.

We all have Mom smells – as opposed to Moms who smell – those scents that bring us home. (I know you exactly what you were thinking, ’cause I’m twelve years old too.) Whether its lilac or peonies from the garden, tomato sauce simmering on the stove or steak marinating on the counter, these sense memories are – if you will excuse a moment of sincere sentimentality – like a hug you can access any time. And they are a testament to our mothers who gave us these gifts.

I love you Mom.

Marinated Skirt Steak

Serves 4. To feed more people, buy a bigger steak, or a second steak. Cook this steak to medium or medium-rare. It’s a bit chewy at rare. (And you weren’t even thinking about well, right?)

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup Merlot or other acidic red wine vinegar
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 tbs fresh thyme, separated
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1-1.5 pound skirt steak
  • 2 tbs cup brandy – it’s a steak, use V.S. Courvoisier.
  • 2 tbs chilled butter

Directions:

  • Make the marinade: combine red onion, garlic, Worcestershire, red wine, orange juice, vinegar, bay leaves, 2 tbs thyme and the pepper, in a bowl. Pour over steak in a freezer bag and marinate in the fridge for 4-8 hours.
  • Bring the steak to room temperature for 30 minutes. Remove steak from marinade and pat dry.
  • Grill: prepare a medium-high fire. Sear over direct heat for 3 minutes per side,  and finish the steak off to the side to medium or medium-rare.
  • Stove top: Over med-high heat, warm 1 tbs vegetable oil in a heavy skillet until almost smoking. Sear both sides of steak, about 3 minutes per side. Reduce heat to medium and cook steak to medium or medium-rare.
  • Cover steak with foil and let rest for 10 minutes before carving across the grain.
  • Meanwhile, strain marinade into a skillet, add brandy and bring to a boil. If you cooked the steak on the stove top, reduce the sauce in the same pan, scraping up any brown bits. Reduce liquid to 1/2 cup. Remove from heat and whisk in cold butter.
  • Season to taste and serve over sliced steak.

    Photography by Sam Armocido

    Photography by Sam Armocido

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Sobering.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

My friend Ali and I are both responsible, mature adults. However, for a brief period, before we met our husbands, she and I got together regularly for an after work cocktail or seven. We often ended those less-than-sober nights dining on what we affectionately referred to as “cheap Chinese.”

Several years ago, after a glass of wine, we returned to the scene of youthful excess, excited to once again dine on some of DC’s best Chinese food. It was an epic mistake. Rule #1 of drunken dining: don’t ever go back sober. The food was terrible.

Unfortunately, Chinese food, which can be fresh, bright and rich, often disappoints, salty, fatty and limp. Egg fu yung, is perhaps one of the worst perpetrators,  laden with a corn (starch and syrup) gravy. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Farm fresh eggs and toasted sesame oil makes this Asian omelet rich. Lightly stir-fried cabbage delivers the crisp crunch missing in mung bean sprouts, while Shitake mushrooms provide the umami depth typically derived from MSG. Our gravy, thick with cornstarch is bright with vinegar, soy and homemade stock. So sober up, and get ready for some amazingly good Chinese!

Egg Fu Yung

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

For Omelet:

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 4 tbs peanut oil
  • 2 cups cabbage
  • 1.5 cups Shitake mushrooms, slice thin
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

For Sauce:

  • 2 tbs corn starch
  • 3 tbs soy sauce
  • 2 tbs Sherry Vinegar*
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 1.5 cups vegetable stock or Asian stock

*For a more complex flavor with a hint of sweetness, use 1 tbs Sherry vinegar and 2 tbs of Sapore’s Serrano Chile Honey vinegar.

Directions:

  • Whisk together eggs, sesame oil and green parts of scallions in a large bowl.
  • On medium heat, warm 1 tbs peanut oil in a 12” skillet. Sauté white part of scallions until softened. Add cabbage and stirfry until tender but still firm. Add to egg mixture.
  • Return skillet to heat, add 1 tbs peanut oil and shitake mushrooms, sauté until softened and browning on edges. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. Stir into egg mixture.
  • Heat 2 tbs oil in skillet over medium-low heat. Pour in eggs, cover and cook.
  • While omelet cooks, mix together sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer until thickened. Keep warm.
  • When the top of the omelet is set, loosen the Egg Fu Yung with a rubber spatula, slide onto a platter, and serve with gravy. (Or just eat it right from the pan.)

Building a pantry.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

My love for cooking began, like so many long relationships, with a heated, passionate affair. I poured through cookbooks, unable to sate my newfound desire. Each new recipe, each new ingredient was a was an adventure I never knew existed. Like many affairs, it was also expensive.

Each new recipe required new oils, new spices. Each bottle of sherry vinegar, jar of cardamom and bag of arborio rice was another dollar (or $11) out of my pinched wallet. My mother, ever practical, suggested cooking with the ingredients I already had. Willful and young, I ignored her.

Eventually, I built a pantry. Using only a tablespoon per dish, that $10 bottle of walnut oil was on handwhen I needed it to toss with arugula and bleu cheese.

Getting a pantry started can seem daunting, and pricey. You can either dip a toe in the water, or jump off the deep end (which is exactly where my mother thought I had gone off). Either way, one day you will open your cupboard, delightfully surprised, and find everything right there.

Curried Fingerling Potatoes

There are a lot of ingredients here. Most of them are spices and they all go in the pan at once, simple and straightforward.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs ghee* or butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic. minced
  • 1 tbs mustard seed
  • 1 tsp cumin seed
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 4 cups quartered fingerling potatoes
  • 4 cups vegetable stock or Indian stock (see below)
  • 4-5 cups loose baby spinach
  • 1 tbs Chile Oil*
  • Sherry vinegar*

*Ghee is Indian clarified butter. Find it with international ingredients or other oils and cooking fats. We opened up our Sapore Oil and Vinegar cupboard, and used Merken Chile oil and Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry vinegar.

Directions:

  • Melt 2 tbs ghee in a 3 quart sauté pan. Add onion and cook until edges brown. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant.
  • Add mustard and cumin seed. Cook for 2 minutes until mustard seeds begin to pop. Add remaining spices and cook for 30 seconds longer.
  • Add potatoes and stir through with spices and onion.
  • Add stock, stir and cover. Cook 15 minutes until the center of the potatoes is still firm when pierced with a knife. Uncover and cook until sauce is reduced to a thin sauce.
  • Add spinach and cover for 2 minutes.
  • Remove top, stir through wilted spinach.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper, chile oil and sherry vinegar.

Indian Stock

This special stock adds additional richness to Indian-flavored dishes. You could also use it for soup with the addition of lightly browned pieces of carrot, potato and chicken.

Ingredients:
2 tbs ghee or butter
1 carrot, roughly chopped
3 ribs celery, roughly chopped
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 leek, roughly chopped
1 cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods
2 whole cloves

Directions:

  • Melt ghee in a stock pot over medium-high heat. Add carrot, celery, onion and leek and cook until browned.
  • Add cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. Cook for 1 minute more and fill with 8 cups water.
  • Simmer for 40 minutes and strain solids reserving stock.

Sounds good on paper.

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Fish tacos

It all begins with a perfect summer day, warm and lightly breezy. The sun is low in the sky, reflecting off your sunglasses as you pull up to the bar for a cheap, watery beer that could not taste better passing over lips still salty from the ocean. The bartender promises great fish tacos and they sound like the perfect filler for a growling stomach, hungry from an afternoon of bodysurfing.

They come out, and with a squeeze of fresh lime you take your first bite.

Eh…the cabbage is dry and flavorless, the lime is too bright and the fish is greasy. On a good day it’s rubbery, on a bad day it’s mush. The mayonnaise mixed with hot sauce and large stems of cilantro do little to add either depth or subtlety. Fortunately, the bar has more beer, enough to drown your dismay.

With the first warm days of spring coming hope renews. This year, fulfill every expectation of spring love. Flavorful cabbage, softened but still crisp, lightly fried fish, flakey and light, bright, citrusy tomatillo salsa and tart, rich avocado crema. This, my friends, is the perfect fresh bite on a warm afternoon.

Grab your sunglasses and ice down the beer. I’ll grab some tortillas and be right over.

Tacos de Pescado

This looks like a lot of steps and ingredients. Let me break it down: you’re marinating fish for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, you throw together a quick salad dressing for the cabbage and mix avocado and lime zest together with Mexican sour cream. If you are making the tomatillo salsa from scratch (trick question, the answer is always “yes”) then you throw those 5 ingredients in a food processor for 30 seconds. Et voilà (that’s Spanish for…oh, never mind) you are ready to fry the fish and eat the best fish tacos you’ve ever tasted!

Mexican cremaMarinade:

  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 jalapeño, minced
  • 2 tbs olive oil or hot chili oil
  • 2 tilapia filets, about 1 pound

Cabbage:

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 cup Sherry vinegar*
  • 1/4 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup good quality olive oil
  • 6 cups shredded napa cabbage

*We love using Sapore’s Serrano Chile Honey Vinegar with this vinaigrette

Avocado Lime Crema:

  • 1/4 cup avocado
  • 1/2 cup Mexican crema or crème fraîche (You can make this. Here’s the recipe. Plan one day ahead)
  • 1/4 tsp lime zest

Fried Fish:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Cayenne or chile powder
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

To assemble:

  • Corn tortillas
  • Tomatillo salsa (Make it from scratch. Here’s the recipe.)Fish tacosDirections:
  • Make the marinade for the fish: Whisk together lime juice, 1/4 cup cilantro, cumin and jalapeño. Whisk in oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Coat tilapia with marinade, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Make the vinaigrette for the cabbage. Chop garlic and sprinkle with a pinch of coarse sea salt. Mash into a paste with the flat side of your knife or tines of a fork.
  • Whisk together garlic paste, coriander, cumin, Sherry or Serrano Honey Vinegar and mustard with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Whisk in oil to form a thick emulsion and dress cabbage heavily. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  • Make the avocado, lime crema: Mash avocado with a pinch of salt. Stir in crema and lime zest. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.
  • Prepare fish for frying: Whisk egg in a medium bowl. In another medium bowl, whisk together flour and cayenne, with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Warm tortillas in a 250 degree oven.
  • Remove fish from marinade, brush off herbs and cut into 1” pieces.
  • Dip fish in egg, then flour. Shake off extra flour and place on a platter.
  • Heat 2 tbs olive oil in a 12” skillet over medium heat. Fry in a single layer, without crowding,turning once. About 5 minutes total per batch. You can cut a piece in half to see if it’s ready. The thin side of the filet will cook faster than the thicker chunks. Remove these from the heat first. Set fried fish on paper towels to drain.
  • Layer each tortilla with cabbage, tomatillo salsa, avocado crema and top with fish. Love your life.

Auténtico Americano.

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Mexican cremaSome things are easier to just buy. I’ve made ketchup and tortilla chips, and read recipes for mustard and Hoisin, but they’re just too much work to regularly make at home. Mayonnaise and salad dressings are not. Nor, I’ve discovered is Mexican crema.

It would be insulting to call crema “Mexican sour cream. More appropriate is a comparison to crème fraîche. Buttery smooth, and elegantly tart, crema is rich and balanced, a perfect compliment to the grassy heat of jalapeño.

After striking out at several Washington, DC grocery stores, I looked up a recipe online. With less than ten minutes of work, and about 24 hours of waiting, I had a full jar ready to use. I’ll never buy it off the shelf again.

Mexican Crema

Apparently, the difference between crema and crème fraîche is the balance of cream and buttermilk, resulting in different thicknesses. Sounds good to me.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cream
  • 2 tsp cultured buttermilk

Directions:

  • Warm cream slightly over low heat, keeping it under 100 degrees. It will still feel cool. 2-3 minutes on low is plenty.
  • Sterilize a container, like a ball jar, by submerging it in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain and dry with a clean towel.
  • Pour cream and buttermilk into the sterilized jar. Stir (with a clean spoon), and lightly cover. Leave out on the counter in a warm room, about 70 degrees, for 12- 18 hours, until the mixture has noticeably thickened.*
  • Refrigerate for another 4 to 6 hours to set, and it’s ready to serve.

*Milk on the counter overnight sounds scary. Here’s my thought: The Mexicans and the French have been thickening cream on the counter for generations. There is no great oral tradition of death from crema. As always, be careful and know your sources – local dairy like Maryland’s Trickling Springs and Ohio’s Snowville creameries are a great place to start.

Paper lanterns.

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TomatilloPhysalis is one of my favorite genera of plants. Not aesthetically or even culinarily, but because of it’s family relations. Physalis philadelphica, also known as the tomatillo, is a close relative of Physalis alkekengi, those bright orange Chinese lantern plants that fill gardens and vases each fall.

“But wait,” you’re thinking, “isn’t the tomatillo related to the tomato?” Well yes, they are both members of the nightshade, or Solanaceae family. However, that makes them about as similar as other Solanaceae including potatoes, eggplants, peppers and even the petunias in your pots.

Now you’re thinking, “who cares?” True, this knowledge won’t impact your ability to make a great salsa. It may, however, make it more fun.

Tomatillo Salsa

I’ve tried it boiled and roasted, but this simple, fresh salsa is light and easy, citrusy and bright. Peeling a tomatillo involves removing the papery skin and washing them clean, they may still be a little sticky. The glossy green skin gets eaten.

Physalis alkekengiIngredients:

  • 4-6 tomatillos, peeled, washed and cut in quartered
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro – stems and all
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice, about 1 fresh lime
  • 1 jalapeño

Directions:

  • Place tomatillos, garlic, cilantro and lime in the bowl of a food processor.
  • Slice jalapeño in half, and using a teaspoon (eating not measuring) remove the seeds and ribs. Roughly chop and add to food processor. Wash hands with soap and water for 30-60 seconds. Don’t touch your face, anywhere, for the next 10 hours. Wear gloves to bed.*
  • Pulse until finely chopped, but not liquified. Add a tablespoon or two of water to thin, if needed.
  • Eat with tortilla chips or fish tacos.

*In this age of hysteria, I would like to qualify this statement as hyperbole. Chile peppers aren’t that dangerous, but don’t rub your eyes or lick your fingers for a little while.

Todd wants wings.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Two years ago, my husband, Jason, and I were sitting at home watching Food Network. On comes Giada De Laurentiis who announces she’s preparing a Game Day menu for her husband and his buddies. “Todd,” she exclaims, “is going to be thrilled when I substitute his usual game day foods with these healthy alternatives!”

Now, I love Giada, but Jason and I, without speaking a word, exchanged a look that said, Todd and his buddies are going to be pissed when Squid Stew and Swordfish Sandwiches replace chili and sliders.

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Fast forward to last weekend and my live cooking demo at Eastern Market’s Sapore Oil and Vinegar. Reading my Super Bowl Snacks menu filled with roasted, spiced chick peas, orange and rosemary oil marinated olives, and spicy homemade hummus, Jason tells me, “You’ve turned into Giada.”

A compliment under any other circumstances, I knew he wasn’t talking about my figure and that he was right. There was only one solution: we needed wings. These two recipes were designed to showcase two special vinegars available at Sapore, and they are available online. They are sweet and spicy, sticky, rich, tender and moist.

We’ll even cook a few extra for Todd.

Cinnamon Pear Balsamic Honey Wings

This is based on Sapore’s wonderful, seasonal Cinnamon Pear Balsamic Vinegar. Order it online or use the substitutions I suggest below.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup Cinnamon Pear Balsamic Vinegar*
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2” ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed into a paste with salt
  • 1 tsp rosemary, minced
  • 1.5# split chicken wings and drum sticks

*To substitute, add 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup pear nectar and 2 cinnamon sticks to a small saucepan and simmer until liquid is reduced to 1/2 cup.

Directions:

  • Whisk together marinade ingredients. Place wings in a ziplock bag and toss with 1/2 cup of the marinade. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 450.
  • Place wings in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Don’t skip the foil. The sugary marinade will caramelize and make a mess on your unlined sheet pan. Cook for 30 minutes, turning once. If roasting two pans at once, switch positions in the oven at 15 minutes.
  • While wings cook, place remaining sauce in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to medium and let bubble away for 10 minutes until thickened.
  • When wings have cooked for 30 minutes, brush with sauce and return to oven for 5 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and sprinkle lightly with salt.

Serrano Chile Soy Honey Wings

This is based on Sapore’s versatile Serrano Chile Honey Vinegar. The vinegar is made from fermented honey and is wonderful with Asian, African and Asian recipes. Order it online or use the substitutions I suggest below.

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup Serrano Chile Honey Vinegar*
  • 1/4 honey
  • 1/2 inch ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed into a paste
  • 2 tbsp soy
  • 2 tsp Sriracha Thai-style hot sauce(optional)
  • 1.5# split chicken wings and drum sticks
  • 2 tbs toasted sesame seeds

*Try a good quality Sherry vinegar instead of the Serrano Chile Honey and substitute puréed chipotle in adobo for the Sriracha to get some smokey flavor.

Directions:

  • Mix together marinade ingredients. Place wings in a ziplock bag and toss with 1/2 cup of the marinade. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 450.
  • Place wings in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Don’t skip the foil. The sugary marinade will caramelize and make a mess on your unlined sheet pan. Cook for 30 minutes, turning once. If roasting two pans at once, switch positions in the oven at 15 minutes.
  • While wings cook, place remaining sauce in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to medium and let bubble away for 10 minutes until thickened.
  • When wings have cooked for 30 minutes, brush with sauce and return to oven for 5 minutes.
  • Remove wings from oven, brush again with sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds.