Tag Archives: Sapore Oil

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.

“I’ll take ‘things you can make from scratch’ please, Alex.”

Standard

It’s not often I pull out a cookbook and follow a recipe step by step. Usually faced with an ingredient or inspiration, I pull book after book off the shelf combing them to profile flavors and techniques before hitting the kitchen to experiment. But recently I was bored.

Armed with thick-cut, bone-in pork chops, the season’s first fresh peaches and young zucchini, I wanted to do more than salt, pepper, olive oil and fresh herbs. I went to my go-to, Chris Schlesinger, the chef of Cambridge, MA East Coast Grill, and he didn’t disappoint. I made his barbecue sauce and marinated, grilled zucchini as written. It was delicious!

No longer bored, I was inspired. The grilled peaches were delicious, but I wanted that peach flavor right on the grilled pork. I started by cooking down fresh peaches into a thick pulp, then deglazed the pan with peach infused vinegar. Cumin, cardamom and dry mustard gave depth, chili powder and fresh ginger heat, and a chili oil delivered smokiness. Glazed grilled pork chops were delicious. as were the Asian Barbecue sausages from Eastern Market’s Canales Meats.

Peach Barbecue Sauce

Rule #1 of barbecue sauce: use it toward the end of your cooking and place your sauced ingredients just to the side, not directly over, the hot coals, so it glazes. Otherwise the sugars will burn. About 2 minutes per side, right at the end.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1/2 Candy Sweet red onion, diced, about 1 cup
  • 2 peaches, diced.
  • 1 tbs minced ginger
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 /2 cup Peach Vinegar*
  • 1 /2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried mustard
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 cup Red Chili Chilean Oil*

*Order these online from DC’s Sapore Oil and Vinegar or substitute with white vinegar and a chopped chipotle chili.

Directions:

  • In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, sauté onion in butter until softened.
  • Add peaches and ginger. Cook until they are soft and mash with a fork. If your pan gets dry add a little water or peach juice to keep peaches from burning.
  • Add all remaining ingredients except Chili oil and simmer for 20 minutes until thickened.
  • Add chili oil and simmer for 2 additional minutes to bring together.
  • Season to taste with additional oil, vinegar or molasses, salt and pepper. You are looking for a nice balance of acidity, sweetness and fruit.
  • Use immediately or store in the fridge. I don’t know how long it will hold. We keep eating all of ours.

Eating salad should be a “want to,” not a “have to.” (Part 1 of 52)

Standard

Remember that point when salad became something you had to choke down with dinner each night because it was good for you? That was when you fell in love with salad dressings: Ranch, Thousand Island and Italian started a habit that lead to more sophisticated dressings like jars of Marie’s Blue Cheese, Judie’s Poppyseed Dressing (and popovers!) and Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette.

These dressings were all good, but it was like doctors treating the symptom while missing the disease. We were covering up for the increasingly tasteless vegetables we were bringing home from the grocery store. No more. Welcome to 52 weeks of holistic healing for your daily meal.

In my entry for a simple vinaigrette, I mention that it is the most asked for recipe I serve in my home, and the variations are without end. Starting this week I am going to blog 52 weeks of recipes that will take the salad from a must eat back to the vaunted want-to-eat status it deserves.

This is the last time you go to the grocery store, pick up a bag of tasteless Romaine hearts and slather them in thick Ranch or Blue Cheese to stop the pain. Today we start with fresh ingredients, make our own dressings and dress our ingredients lightly. Your perfectly dressed salad should glisten lightly with dressing. When you are done serving there should be almost no dressing in the bottom of the bowl.

To good taste and good health (and the occasional wedge of iceberg slathered in Marie’s rich blue cheese).

White Peach and Nectarine Salad with Mesclun Greens

The honey helps bring out the sweetness in the fruit. White peaches and nectarines taste sweeter than their yellow cousins because of lower acidity.

Ingredients:

  • 1 white nectarine, thinly sliced
  • 1 white peach, thinly sliced
  • 4 -6 cups mesclun greens – two big handfuls or so

For dressing:

  • 1/4 cup peach vinegar*
  • 1 tbs chopped tarragon
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1/2 cup mild grassy olive oil like Koroneiko*

*Peach vinegar and Koroneiko olive oil are now available online from Sapore Oil and Vinegar in DC. If you want some quick substitutions to toss this together tonight, use a light white wine vinegar with a good quality olive oil.

Directions:

  • Whisk together vinegar, tarragon, shallot and honey with a pinch of salt and crack or three of pepper.
  • Mix the fruit and greens in a large bowl.
  • Whisk the oil into the dressing in a thin stream until it gets thick and creamy.
  • Taste your dressing with leaf of the greens. Correct seasoning and lightly dress your salad.

Crécy is not French for “carrot.”

Standard

Anything this orange, made with root vegetables, should be served on a crisp fall day – rich and hearty with a crusty bread and some good farm-fresh butter (which I evangelize about here). But this carrot-beet soup is light and fresh, tastes as good cold as it does served hot and is perfect for summer.

Arriving home from a trip to the Market with baby carrots and golden beets, I began searching cookbooks for salads and sautés. Stumbling across a recipe for Potage Crécy first made me think of soup. Crécy, it turns out, is not French for orange root vegetables, but refers to a town known, once-upon-a-time, for growing exceptional carrots. However, there is debate about which of two French towns, one in the south and one in the north, each with Crécy in its name, first served up this light summer soup.

Reading through several recipes, I discovered a basic formula of carrots cooked with onions and stock, puréed and flavored with orange. We added the golden beets, sweet but far less earthy than red ones. I grabbed a bottle of Sapore’s Orange Oil off the shelf and we served up three bowls, each seasoned differently. It was a quick bite after adding turmeric but before adding cumin that was our favorite – although curry was a close second. Served warm, it is light and sweet. Once chilled it is herbal and far more carrot-y. Both are delicious.

Potage Crécy

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1 candy sweet onion, or white onion, diced
  • 4 cups thinly sliced carrots
  • 3 cups diced golden beets
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • 6-8 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 tbs Orange Oil*
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • Sherry vinegar

*If you don’t have Orange Oil, substitute 3 tbs olive oil, and one tablespoon grated orange zest

Directions:

  • Melt butter over medium heat in a 4 quart soup pot. Sauté onions until
  • soft and translucent.
  • Add carrots and beets. Sauté 7-10 minutes until golden on edges. Add ginger after 5 minutes.
  • Add stock and simmer approximately 30 minutes until vegetables can be mashed with a fork.
  • Pass soup through the finest blade of a food mill or purée with a blender. Return to pot.
  • Stir in Orange Oil and simmer an additional 5 minutes to bring flavors together.
  • Remove from heat, let cool slightly, and stir through cream.
  • Add turmeric a little at a time so as to not overpower the carrot flavor.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and sherry vinegar.
  • Serve hot or cold.

Rule 1: No one cooks better than Mom.

Standard

Our weeknight dinners are built around turning the bags of farm-fresh produce we carry home each weekend into new recipes for Saturday morning demos at Washington, DC’s Eastern Market. Recently, our friend Sam has joined us for Thursday night’s six-hour marathon sessions where we finalize Saturday’s menu.

Last week, eying a bag of Agora Farms black-red sweet cherries, he said” My Mom used to make a sweet and sour sauce with cherries and peaches. It started with a can each…”

I know. You’ve got a mental image of a loud record scratch accompanying this look of horror on my face. But you’re wrong. No one cooks better than your Mom. No one. At that goes for each and every one of you.

However, since Sam thought it would be fun to go home for a visit sometime and show Mom a new upscale version of her sweet and sour, cherry-peach chicken, we started experimenting. Sweet and sour dishes hang on the balance of sweet, acidic and salty. We began with shallot and fresh cherries, added brown sugar for sweetness and depth, and rosemary for a savory bite. Peach infused vinegar replaced the canned peaches and orange zest add citrusy brightness. The cherries we had were so sweet, and the the peach vinegar mildly acidic, that we added a splash of sharper vinegar to finish the thick, jammy, sweet and sour cherry chutney. Then we served it over wild boar sausages.

I’m still willing to bet that Sam’s Mom’s is better. After all, Mom’s who cook are nigh invincible in the kitchen. But we had a pretty darn-good meal.

Sweet and Sour Cherry Chutney

Sweet and sour is all about the balance of sugar, salt and vinegar. Taste often as you finish the sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs grape seed or vegetable oil
  • 2 large shallots, diced
  • 4 cups sweet cherries, pitted and quartered
  • 3 tbs brown sugar
  • 1 tbs minced rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp grated orange zest
  •  Peach Vinegar*
  • Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry Vinegar*
*More wonderful vinegars from Sapore Oil and Vinegar on Capitol Hill. You can substitute with any fruit vinegar, just make sure you get enough acidity. We used about 1/4 cup Peach vinegar and reduced it down slightly as the chutney finished cooking. A splash of the Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry vinegar gave us the extra acidity that we needed. Sherry or cider vinegar would be a good substitute.
Directions:
  • In a small sauté pan, warm oil and cook shallots over medium heat until soft, without browning.
  • Increase heat to medium high and add cherries. Sauté 5 minutes until cherries start to soften and liquid begins to evaporate.
  • Reduce heat back down to medium. Add sugar and cook another 5 minutes until chutney starts to become jammy.
  • Add rosemary and orange zest and cook another 5-10 minutes until chutney is thick.
  • Season to taste with salt and vinegar. This sauce is all about balance, so taste after each addition of salt or vinegar. If your fruit vinegar is not acidic enough, add a splash of something a bit sharper. Add more sugar if needed.

Without exception.

Standard

Absolutes are rare in cooking. Once you learn the basics of technique and flavor you can experiment freely – recognizing you’re going to bomb every once in a while and that every truly great dish has been practiced and refined over time. While researching broccoli rabe last week, I discovered an exception to this rule. Every single recipe I read began with blanching and included garlic and red pepper flakes.

Now, I’m sure there’s an exception out there somewhere, but once I spent some time getting to know broccoli rabe, it all made sense. Though it looks like broccoli, broccoli rate is closer in relation to the turnip, another member of the brassica family, which includes cauliflower, cabbage, mustard and kale. It has a sharp bitterness to it which is abated by blanching. The heat of the pepper flakes and richness of lightly browned garlic reveal subtler flavors in the rabe.

While there is no sauce in this pasta, I used a common Italian technique of adding the pasta cooking liquid to the sauté pan, along with slightly undercooked pasta, and letting the dish come together while the liquid is absorbed or evaporates. This leaves the pasta almost as flavorful as the greens.

Broccoli Rabe with Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches broccoli rabe, stems cleaned and peeled, and damaged leaves removed*
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbs red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbs chopped oregano
  • More olive oil – the good stuff!
  • 1 pound dried penne or farfalle
  • Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
*Chop off the bottom 1/2″ of the stems, then peel them. If your rabe is very leafy, remove the leaves, blanch them separately, and add them about 2 minutes after adding the stems so that they do not become over-cooked.

Directions:

  • Blanch broccoli rabe for 1 minute in salted, boiling water and remove to ice bath. When cool, drain.
  • Chop broccoli rabe into 1” pieces.
  • Boil water and start cooking pasta.
  • Heat oil in large sauté pan over medium low heat. Add garlic and cook until starting to light brown. Be careful not to burn.
  • Add pepper flakes, cook for 30 sec.
  • Add broccoli rabe and cook 2-3 minutes until crisp tender.
  • When pasta is almost ready, drain, reserving two cups of liquid.
  • Add pasta and liquid to broccoli rabe. Cook until liquid reduces to coat pasta.
  • Toss with oregano, additional olive oil, cheese, pepper and salt.

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

Standard

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.

Kale is nobody’s favorite food.

Standard

Greens get a bad rap.

People say they are tough and bitter, the leaves big and thick, ruffly and ribbed. Those of us not blessed with a southern upbringing look slightly cross-eyed at slow-cooked, grayish collards and kale, smoky with slab bacon and sharp with vinegar. (They are a taste well worth acquiring.) With today’s busy schedules, cooking greens for hours is, at best, relegated to a Sunday supper.

That’s why I love sautéing them, cooking them quickly. Cut into thin ribbons, they no longer have the mouthfeel of a new-mown lawn. Sweet dried fruit, plumped up in concentrated balsamic vinegar cuts the greens’ bitterness and brightens the flavor – as does a healthy pinch of salt and sugar with each batch you add to the pan.

If you hate kale, or have never tried it; if you’ve read about how healthy it is and thought, “so is tee-totalling, but I’m not about to start that,” this is the time to dig in. Enjoy!

Sautéed Kale With Dried Blueberries

You can substitute dried cherries or cranberries, and any good, aged balsamic vinegar will do, but the combination of dried blueberries from Agora Farms and the richly-flavored blackberry balsamic vinegar from Sapore, is magic.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup dried blueberries*
  • 1/4 cup Blackberry balsamic vinegar*
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 pound kale, cut in thin ribbons
  • 2 tsp sugar

*Though not the time to use your 25-year aged, you can substitute any other balsamic vinegar on your shelf. Other dried fruits like cherries and cranberries are great with this recipe.

Directions:
  • Warm vinegar and blueberries in a small saucepan over medium heat, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add shallot and sauté until softened 2-3 minutes.
  • Turn heat to medium high and add kale in batches. Sprinkle each batch with a pinch of sugar and a pinch of salt. Add more when the previous batch has started to wilt.
  • Toss with blueberries and season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional Blackberry balsamic vinegar.

Putting it together.

Standard

At Easter brunch I was speaking with my friend Amy about the live cooking demos I give at Eastern Market each Saturday. She said, “I love it! I always go to my local farmers market and have no idea what to do with the beautiful food there.” I have the same problem.

Each week I talk to the farmers at the Market and ask “what’s going to be at its prime for next weekend?” I head home with bags of food to think and study. I’ll read through recipes in four or five cook books, search on line and wait for inspiration to hit. What flavor combinations sound most exciting with this ingredient? Are there other fresh ingredients I can use? And, what will be relatively quick and easy?

Some weekends, you walk through the market and the produce just speaks to you. Fresh, young, early season arugula that isn’t too peppery yet. The temptation of early season tomatoes that you know could use a little flavor boost, and a wonderful new fresh tomato infused olive oil that I was introduced to by the folks at Sapore, the new olive oil and vinegar store near the Market. The oil takes April tomatoes and makes them taste like July.

Sometimes the ingredients just come together. And it’s truly magic.

Tomato Vinaigrette

The secret to this rich, bright tomatoey dressing is a combination of grated tomato pulp and the fresh tomato infused olive oil from Sapore*.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3-4 large basil leaves, cut in thin ribbons
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup Ripe Tomato infused Olive Oil, or other high quality olive oil

Ingredients:

  • Cut tomato in half, scoop out seeds with your fingers and grate, cut side in, on a box grater. The skin will protect your hand from the sharp grate.
  • Mash together garlic with a pinch of salt using the flat side of the knife or the tines of a fork. Sharp, hard crystals of sea salt help shred the garlic.
  • Whisk together garlic paste, 1/4 – 1/3 cup tomato pulp, basil and vinegar. Season with black pepper.
  • Whisk in olive oil in a thin stream until thick and creamy. Season to taste with salt pepper and more vinegar or oil as desired.

*”You want me to buy an entire bottle of olive oil for one recipe?” Absolutely! First, this dressing is delicious and you’ll make it again and again. Secondly, you’ll want leftover oil to drizzle over your early or late season tomato sauces to give them fresh, summer flavor.

For want of cauliflower

Standard

Cauliflower, cheddar cheese soup is really hard to make without cauliflower. I discovered this essential truth last Saturday when I arrived at Eastern Market for my cooking demos and there was no cauliflower in sight. Plan B? Curried zucchini soup. My Mom has a great recipe for this.

She, however, was not there, soooooo I made it up on the spot. Once the vegetable stock was done, the soup was ready in twenty minutes. Perfect timing for a quick weeknight dinner – or you can tell your weekend dinner guests that you slaved over the stove for hours. They’ll never know.

A couple notes: First, potatoes thicken the soup without the addition of cream. Calories saved here mean an extra glass of wine with dinner. Second, make your own stock. If you’ve got the time, chicken stock is awesome here. If not, you can have a vegetable stock ready in 30-45 minutes. If you use store bought, ALWAYS go with low sodium. It gives you better control over the amount of salt.

Honestly, I’m not remotely worried about your health here. The soup will be inedibly salty before you hit an unhealthy level. The problem is that your stock will condense a bit as your soup cooks and you can easily end up with soup that tastes way too salty.

Curried Zucchini Soup

Ingredients:
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 medium yukon gold potatoes, diced
  • 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock (see recipe below)
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 tbs curry powder
  • 1-2 tbs butter
  • 1 lemon
Directions:
  • Heat olive oil in a 4 qt sauce pot over medium-low heat. Add potato and onion, sauté until onion softens. About 5 minutes.
  • Add 1 cup stock and stew onions and potato for an additional 5 minutes.
  • Add remaining stock and cook until potato is soft 15-20 minutes.
  • Add zucchini and curry powder. Cook for 3-5 minutes until soup is fragrant and zucchini is cooked through but still fresh.
  • Season to taste. Start with salt and pepper. A tablespoon or two of butter and a good squeeze of lemon juice make the soup rich and the flavor bright. If you use chicken stock instead of vegetable stock you will probably get away with less butter.
  • Run this through a food mill, or pulse it a few times in your food process or blender. A little texture is nice. Don’t over process.
Vegetable stock: Place 12 cups water in a 6 qt stock pot. Roughly chop 1 large onion, 1 large carrot and 2 celery stalks. Add to pot along with 2 bay leaves, 8-10 celery stems, 2 sprigs of thyme, and 8-10 black pepper corns. If you have leek greens or parsnips sitting around add those as well. (No peppers or cabbage. Yuck!) Simmer partially covered for 30-45 minutes and strain. Season a quarter cup with a little salt and pepper. If the stock is bland, reduce the stock by boiling down to 8 cups. (Just guess. No one actually measures boiling stock to get an exact measurement.)