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Aside

New posts are available each week over at www.jonathanbardzik.com. Check out the Asian Pear and Pork dumplings I posted today!

Photography by Matt Hocking.

Photography by Matt Hocking.

I’m moving…

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It’s a little quiet here.

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washington_dc_cooking_demo_party_wedding_gift_teach_shower_annapolis_chef_6Hi. Sorry I haven’t been around lately. I moved. Not too far, just over to http://www.jonathanbardzik.com under the “recipes” tab. Come check me out.

I am truly grateful for each and every one of you who have built the community and traffic on this site. I’d love to have you be a part of the new one. Same bad jokes, same good food. See you there!

Of record.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Five or six years ago, my parents’ newspaper changed, and not for the better. The wonderful, large pages got smaller, and the bylines all read AP. Now, the Associated Press is an important news source, and do a much better job at covering Washington politics and major events around the country then the small writing staff in Springfield, MA, but I miss garden writers gardening in the same weather and soil that I am and reporters intimately knowledgeable of local politics.

The local Gazette and Penny Saver, still employing staff to cover local politics, sports, business and schools, have become local publications of record. While DC’s local paper is a national paper of record, we are also blessed with smaller papers employing writers who are embedded in our city. They cover the issues that impact our neighborhoods and the people who make them special.

Last week, we had the opportunity to host a writer from DC’s Hill Rag at #testkitchen. She joined us as we refined a recipe I had presented at an American University health and wellness event the day before. Annette joined right in helping to taste recipes and suggest ingredients and, as always, many palates make a stronger dish. Look for Annette’s write up in the May issue of the Hill Rag. In the meantime, enjoy this salad, and many thanks to the students, faculty and staff at AU for tasting it last Wednesday afternoon.

Lemongrass Fennel Orange Salad

For dressing:

  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/3 cup Lemongrass or other light, sweet vinegar*
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 2/3 cup Avocado or other neutral flavored oil*

*This is another chance to shop online or in person at Sapore Oil and vinegar. A strong olive oil will overpower these ingredients, so use something neutral like avocado, grapeseed or vegetable oil. For a vinegar, use something light and sweet. Unseasoned rice wine vinegar is easily available. This is also a good opportunity to break out the gift bottle of Pear Chardonnay or other fruit-wine vinegar that’s aging in your pantry.

For salad:

  • 1 head fennel, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries
  • 2 heads butter lettuce, gently chopped in pieces*
  • 1 orange, peeled and sectioned, sliced or chopped

*My big meathooks rough up easily bruised butter lettuce, so I chop mine gently.

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Directions:

  • Make dressing. Whisk together shallot, vinegar and honey with a pinch each of salt and pepper.
  • Whisk in oil in a thin stream to form a creamy emulsion.
  • Toss together fennel, orange and cherries. Lightly dress with 1/4 cup dressing.
  • Lightly dress lettuce with 1/4 cup dressing.
  • Plate lettuce, topped with fennel mixture.

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.

Merry and light.

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Stuffed Cornish Game Hen My 70 year-old Aunt Stephanie joined us for the first Christmas dinner I ever cooked. Mom asked me to keep the menu light. While my youthful, iron-clad stomach couldn’t comprehend too rich a meal, I complied, serving Cornish Game Hen as the main course. Cracking open Cook’s Illustrated’s small, pink cookbook on holiday roasts, I prepared brined, balsamic-glazed hens that were moist and golden brown, filled with a wild rice stuffing.

Having cooked for fifteen on the 23rd, I was faced with a second, smaller Christmas dinner on the 25th. Without a recipe, I wandered bulk product in Whole Foods, picking up Israeli couscous, dried Turkish figs and apricots, and preserved lemons. It was a wonderful balance of sweet and tart, rich with couscous plumped with homemade stock. Drawing upon my stash from Spices, LTD – my spice hook up at North Market in Columbus, OH – their Aqua blend of candied lemon, dill and Sonoma sea salt brightened the flavors and added needed complexity.

Mom was happy, Aunt Stephanie would have been proud, and I hope Christopher Kimball would have been too.

Israeli Couscous stuffed Cornish Game Hen

Cornish Hens brine in only 2-3 hours, so you can start this dish the afternoon before your meal.

Ingredients:

Stuffed Cornish Game Hen with Aqua SaltFor hens:

  • 4 cornish game hens
  • 2-3 cups coarse Kosher salt
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tbs cold butter

For stuffing:

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous
  • 4 cups homemade vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup diced, dried turkish figs
  • 1/4 cup diced, dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup diced preserved lemon
  • 1/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley
  • cayenne pepper
  • Aqua salt blend or coarse sea salt

Directions:

Brine Cornish Game Hens:

  • In a cooler or large pot, dissolve 2 cups salt in 2 gallons of water. Rinse hens thoroughly inside and out, under cold running water. Submerge in brine. As needed, add additional water and salt to cover. Add 6 cups of ice and set aside for 2-3 hours in the refrigerator or on the patio if you’re lucky enough to be spending the winter somewhere cold.

Make couscous stuffing:

  • While the hens brine, prepare the stuffing. Warm the oil over medium-low heat in a large sauté pan (use one that has a lid).
  • Add the onions and sauté until softened and translucent, 5-8 minutes. Add the turmeric, cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg, along with the dry couscous. Cook for five minutes until couscous is lightly toasted.
  • Add stock and turn heat to medium high. Bring the stock to a boil, cover and reduce to low. Let cook for 10-15 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed.
  • Transfer couscous to a microwave safe bowl. Stir in chopped fruit and parsley. Season to taste with a pinch of cayenne pepper, black pepper and Aqua salt blend or coarse sea salt.

Cook Cornish Game Hens:

  • Remove hens from brine, rinse inside and out with cold water, and pat dry. Prick skin all over with the tip of a paring knife.
  • Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Whisk together balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Set aside.
  • Microwave stuffing until very hot. Fill the cavity with stuffing and secure the skin flap with trussing skewers and tie together the legs. You can secure the wings to the body with more string, but that seems like a lot of work and doesn’t make a huge difference with so small a bird.
  • Scatter onion, carrot, thyme and bay leaves in the bottom of a roasting pan. Place hens, breast side down and wings out, on top of a roasting rack set in the pan.
  • Roast 1: Roast hens, for 25 minutes, on a rack set in the middle of the oven.
  • Roast 2: Remove pan from oven, turn hens breast side up and legs out. Whisk vinegar and oil, and brush birds with the mix. Add two cups of stock to the bottom of the pan and return to the oven for 15 minutes.
  • Roast 3: Remove hens from oven and baste again with oil and vinegar mix. Return to oven a final time and roast until both stuffing and thigh register 165 on an instant read thermometer. Remove hens from oven and place on a serving platter. Tent with foil and let rest for 10 minutes.

Make pan sauce:

  • Meanwhile, place roasting pan on stove top and reduce pan juices to 3/4 cup. Strain juices into a small sauté pan and discard solids. Add white wine and any juices that have accumulated under the resting hens.
  • Reduce liquid to 3/4 cups, remove from heat and whisk in the cold butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve alongside hens.

#testkitchen

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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.

A dish best served cold.

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Cold soups always seem like a special indulgence. It’s like getting to eat dessert before dinner. As a kid, when I first discovered  these blends of fruit and yogurt at Judie’s restaurant, I loved the sugary sweet flavors of blueberry and strawberry in a barely thinned soup (served alongside my popover with apple butter). Cooking in my twenties, I discovered the purées in Silver Palate and Moosewood cookbooks that put fresh fruit center stage.

When I went to develop this recipe for fresh plum soup I wanted something that walked that edge of savory. Let’s leave dessert for the end of the meal. Fresh stewed plums and ginger delivered strong but tart fruit flavors. Red wine gave depth, sweet honey brought out the plums and buttermilk added richness. When our tasting team asked if this was going to be called “plum and honey soup,” we dialed back the distinct floral flavors of the honey with a light, fruit vinegar.

Serve chilled as the perfect start to a light summer meal or ahead of rich, smoky, grilled meats.

Ruby Plum Soup

Ingredients:

  • 6 plums, pitted and diced
  • 1 tbs finely minced ginger
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tbs honey
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup Ruby Red Grapefruit Vinegar*

*Brand new at Sapore in DC. Substitute a fruit infused white wine vinegar or a splash of champagne vinegar, which is more acidic.

Directions:

  • Place plums in a saucepan and cook over medium heat for five minutes.
  • Add wine. Cover and cook for five minutes more.
  • Remove from stove and let cool to room temperature.
  • Pass half the cooked plums through a food mill or processor. Add to a bowl with the remaining stewed plums and stir together.
  • Add honey and buttermilk.
  • Season to taste with vinegar. add half of it at first and add more as needed.
  • Chill and serve.