Tag Archives: eastern market

Putting the pumpkin back in pumpkin spice.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

I got riled up the other morning.

This does not happen often. I am typically pretty happy-go-lucky, but Facebook took me over the edge.

It wasn’t a political statement, first-world problems or one of the uglier -isms, no it was pumpkin spice. In  a world where we increasingly vilify real food in favor of weird, processed and extracted things like the powders, bars and Big Macs that are slowly killing us, I hit my wall at this autumn’s onslaught of pumpkin spice.

The aforementioned lattes, scones and pancakes are delicious, I’m sure, but they owe their flavor to pumpkin as much as a green Jolly Rancher gains its tart/sweet bite from apple juice. Rather than stew, I stood up and entered the kitchen, pulling a container of freshly roasted Galeux d’Eysines pumpkin out of the fridge. I combined it with oatmeal and baking spices, two tablespoons of maple sugar and a pinch of salt.

And…? Success! Pumpkin spice that tasted like pumpkin. A breakfast with enough fibre to make every dietary organization in America faint with delight. Most importantly, it was hearty and delicious, the perfect start to a crisp fall or brisk winter day. You could even enjoy it with a latte.

Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal

Serves 4

Fresh pumpkin makes his extra special. Roast a peanut pumpkin, Speckled Hound, Long Island Cheese or Hubbard. Or open up a can. Just make sure there’s real pumpkin.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh pumpkin purée
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 3 tbs maple or brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ginger
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp ground all spice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 cups water

Directions:

  • Mix together all ingredients in a small saucepan.
  • Cook over medium heat, stirring as oatmeal thickens.
  • Cook to desired thickness, remove from heat and serve.
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Tarting up cranberries.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

With all due respect to my Mom’s version of Gram’s stuffing, Auntie’s Rum Chiffon pie and Aunt Jane’s coffeecake, it was Aunt Ali’s cranberry mold that made Thanksgiving dinner exceptional.

The meal, shared at a table that eventually held more than 30 Forgiel aunts, uncles and cousins, along with Auntie and Gram, was certainly delicious. Gram’s stuffing was flavored with giblets and onion, the squash was fresh, the peas and pearl onions frozen, and the potatoes light, full of butter and cream. But even the best Thanksgiving meal can be brought down by a table whose celebration of cranberries extends no further than a can of jelly.

Aunt Ali, my godmother, chopped fresh cranberries, mixed them with earthy walnuts and suspended them in gelatin, set in a Bundt pan mold. The result was tart-sweet and fresh, a welcome break from the rich vegetables, starches and gravy-slathered turkey that crowded the other 95% of our heaped plates.

Every year I celebrate cranberries, sometimes cooked with port and orange zest, other years bright with baking spices, and last year with rich pork belly. This year, however, I was inspired by Renee Shields-Farr at Sapore Oil and Vinegar, who asked, “have you ever tasted a pink peppercorn?” I hadn’t.

Biting in, I first tasted a mix of pear and berries that was reminiscent of sugary breakfast cereal. Then came the peppery bite. So pears and berries it was. I added jelly, rather than pure sugar, to sweeten, and rosemary for balance and depth. It’s different, and it’s good.

As for the can of jelly, I’m sure it will still grace the table for Uncle John and my brother Alec. Thanksgiving, after all, is first and foremost a meal of family traditions.

Cranberry Pear Pink Peppercorn Compote

Makes about 2 cups compote

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz, about 3 cups cranberries
  • 2 large Bosc pears cut in a 1/2” dice
  • 1 cup tart jam like red currant or beach plum*
  • 1 cup apple or pear cider
  • 2 tbs chopped rosemary, separated
  • 1 tbs pink peppercorns, crushed
  • Lemon juice

*My favorite is Sapore’s Cranberry Port jam. If all you have at home is strawberry or raspberry, add a splash of port and a little extra lemon juice to balance the simple sweetness.

Directions:

  • Combine cranberries, pears, Cranberry Port jam and cider in a 2 quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • Cook for 5 minutes until cranberry begin to pop and release liquid.
  • Stir 1 tbs rosemary and pink peppercorns into the saucepan of fruit. Leave uncovered and continue to cook for 20-25 minutes until thickened.
  • Stir in remaining tablespoon of chopped rosemary and season to taste with a fresh squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of salt.
  • If the compote is tarter than you’d like, add 1-2 tbs sugar or honey.

Mom was very, very right.

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Zucchini Pappardelle Pasta

Photography by Sam Armocido

When Mom said we were having a vegetable for dinner – say zucchini or green beans – it was, typically, just that. They were steamed, seasoned with salt and pepper, and possibly tossed with fresh herbs, usually parsley or basil from the garden. If Mom felt the rest of the meal was sufficiently healthy, she would add a small pat of butter. This, it turns out, is a fabulous way to serve almost any vegetable.

We should have been less surprised then, I suppose, by the overwhelming success of a recent attempt at zucchini pasta. I think it was the “pasta” that misled us. I mean, I have trouble thinking that sautéed strips of squash are in any way going to deliver the deep satisfaction of semolina spaghetti. I was wrong. (And, because I would never hear the end of it from my husband, let’s keep that little admission just between us.)

The long strips we quickly shaved with a vegetable peeler resembled wide pappardelle noodles. Cooked over low heat to keep the flavor light, we tossed in garlic and a splash of lemon juice, fresh basil and a grating of Parmesan cheese. We then made another batch, arguing that we should probably try adding fresh tomato.

Our third panful confirmed it was actually fine without the tomato, and the fourth we needed for a photograph. We are currently planning future batches to serve under chicken piccata and shrimp scampi.

You know, just to be on the safe side, I going to retract any admission that I was wrong. Let’s simply say my Mom was very, very right.

Zucchini Pappardelle Pasta

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs olive oil – the good stuff!*
  • 2 small zucchini, sliced into thin ribbons
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbs chopped parsley
  • 1 tbs chopped basil
  • 1-2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

*We use Sapore’s Frantoio, a light, buttery Italian oil. (Which you can order online.)

Directions:

  • Warm 1 tbs olive oil over medium heat in a 12” skillet. Add zucchini and sauté, turning often with tongs, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes.
  • Add garlic and cook until zucchini is softened, about 3 minutes longer.
  • In skillet, toss in parsley, basil, lemon juice and remaining 1 tbs olive oil.
  • Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper and serve topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Sweet enough.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

My Babci’s* rhubarb plants grew on the edge of her large garden, near the  maple tree, where we would sit and eat lunch at during the summer. My Mom’s plants sit on the back edge of my parents’s garden near the blueberry bushes. Each June the bright red stalks ripened about the same time we went strawberry picking.

Mom baked pies. My great aunt, Mary, made quick jam with rhubarb and strawberry jello. Babci gave us cups of sugar into which we’d dip the stalks and eat them raw.

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Rhubarb is sharply bitter. Even with sugar it elicits a pucker. Cooked down into a thick, jammy chutney, I could still not imagine it without the balance of brown sugar.

But somehow, in this relish, it works. Balanced against ripe cherries, kept savory with shallot, bright with vinegar and warmed by cardamom it sits perfectly alongside rich meats – pork chops, grilled steaks and wild boar sausages*. You can use the food processor, but we hand chopped it. I like the texture and it keeps the flavors clearer. The extra few minutes in the kitchen provide extra time to chat, listen to music, or just enjoy the warm breeze coming in the window.

*Babci is Polish for grandmother. Wild Boar Sausages are available from Canales Quality Meats at Washington, DC’s Eastern Market.

Rhubarb Cherry Relish

Taste your cherries and your rhubarb. If the cherries don’t have much sugar or the rhubarb is particularly tart, you may need a pinch of sugar.

Makes 1 3/4 cups

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped rhubarb
  • 1 cup pitted and roughly chopped cherries
  • 1/4 cup diced shallot
  • 2 tsp minced basil
  • 1.5 tsp White Balsamic or Ruby Red Grapefruit Vinegar*
  • Cardamom

*A bright, fresh treat from Sapore Oil and Vinegar.

Directions:

  • Mix together rhubarb, cherries and shallot in a food processor.
  • Pulse a few times to desired texture. I prefer mine about the size of a fine dice. Remove to a small mixing bowl.
  • OR – finely hand chop the rhubarb, cherries and shallot and mix together in a small bowl.
  • Mix in basil and Ruby Red Grapefruit Vinegar. Season to taste with a pinch each of cardamom and salt.
  • If you make this ahead of time, check seasoning right before serving. As juices develop you may find you want a pinch more of salt or cardamom or a little more fresh basil.

Red, White and Waldorf.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

“You’ve got to serve something red, white and blue,” says Valerie, a U.S.Department of State employee by day, farmer on nights and weekends (God, I love DC!). We were discussing the catering menu I was planning in celebration of a friend’s recent citizenship.

“What’s blue besides blueberries,” I thought. “Besides, they’re not locally in season yet.”

So, I settled for red and white, 2/3 of the way there. My homage to the salad Oscar Tschirky created for the Waldorf Hotel would have to make up the balance. Sweet strawberries replaced apple, while crisp fennel stood in for celery. Toasted pepitas lent warmth in place of walnuts and a sweet, light vinaigrette displaced heavier mayonnaise as the dressing.

Add a handful of the June’s first tart-sweet blueberries, and you may just have this season’s superlative summer salad.

Strawberry And Shaved Fennel Salad

Serves 6

Washed StrawberriesFor dressing:

  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/8 tsp dijon mustard
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup White Balsamic or Tropical Spice* vinegar
  • 2/3 cup grape seed, vegetable or Avocado* oil

For salad:

  • 1/2 cup pepitas*
  • 2 cups hulled, sliced strawberries
  • 2 fennel bulbs thinly sliced
  • 1 tbs fennel fronts, finely chopped
  • 2 mint leaves, finely chopped

*We’ve been shopping at Sapore again! A mild tasting oil is important here. Olive oils will overpower the other flavors. Pepitas are raw pumpkin seeds. Smooth and green, you will find them with other packaged nuts, seeds and dried fruits. Substitute toasted sunflower seeds if you can’t find them.

Directions:

  • Combine shallot, sugar, mustard and salt in a bowl with vinegar. Whisk together.
  • Toast pepitas in a small skillet over medium heat, tossing often to prevent burning. Once you hear them start to pop, toast for a minute longer until at least 1/3 of the seeds are browned on 1 side.
  • Combine strawberries, fennel, fennel fronds and mint in a separate bowl. Toss together.
  • Whisk oil into dressing to form a creamy emulsion.
  • Season dressing to taste and toss with salad.
  • Top with toasted pepitas.
  • Can be served alone or over greens like baby spinach or butter lettuce.

Why cook anything else?

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Photography by Sam Armocido

I blame bacon. Amish bacon.

You see, until last week, I was living in a beautiful fantasy world where people came to my Eastern Market demos each week to taste new, farm-fresh, seasonal ingredients. We were learning new foods, new recipes and new techniques together. But it was all a lie.

One of my farmers, Dan, picked up four pounds of bacon during his weekly run into Lancaster County, PA. “Fry it up at the end of your demo,” he asked, so he and his staff could eat it for lunch between slices of bread with fresh baby arugula. I got more attention and more questions during 20 minutes of frying bacon then I had throughout three hours of strawberry soup, spinach salad and fiddlehead ferns. Most of them were, “Is that bacon?”

But, Mom and Dad didn’t raise a quitter. So sorry folks, you’re just going to have to suffer through asparagus soup with mushroom spaetzle this week. As my Dad used to tell me, “People in hell want ice water.” And, apparently, bacon.

Spinach With Spicy Bacon Vinaigrette

This is not the salad to use baby spinach for. The hot vinaigrette will wilt it right down into soup. Buy grown-up spinach with good substance to the leaves. Yum! No Cabernet Sauvignon jam in the fridge, bust out just about any jam with this salad from tart beach plum or cherry to acidic orange marmalade.

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 4 thick slices bacon, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 red onion cut in thin slices
  • 1/4 cup Cabernet Sauvignon or other tart jam
  • 1 tsp grainy mustard
  • 1/4 cup Sherry or Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry Vinegar*
  • Ground Habañero chile or cayenne pepper
  • 1 orange, sectioned
  • 1 pound grown-up Spinach, de-ribbed

*You can find Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry Vinegar at Washington, DC’s Sapore Oil and Vinegar. Stop by or order online. I love it and easily go through a bottle a month.

Directions:

  • Warm oil in a 10” skillet over medium-high heat. Brown bacon and remove with a slotted spoon, leaving behind rendered fat.
  • Add diced onion, reduce heat to medium and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes.
  • Add Cabernet Sauvignon jam and mustard and cook, stirring, until jam liquifies and liquid reduces by half.
  • Add vinegar and whisk until vinaigrette comes together and thickens.
  • Season vinaigrette to taste with salt, pepper and Habañero or other hot chile powder.
  • Toss spinach, sliced onion and oranges with vinaigrette and serve. If you want this to look extra special for guests, dress the onions and orange sections in a separate bowl and plate on top of the dressed spinach.

 

Trust.

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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.