Tag Archives: sapore

Richer for it.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

I recently asked the question, “should I use bacon fat?” It was largely rhetorical.

My husband Jason, our friend Sam and I were in the test kitchen working on a recipe for a Brussels sprout slaw. Inspiration had come in the form of Sapore Oil and Vinegar‘s new Harvest Apple vinegar. Expecting apple pie in a bottle, my nose was greeted with something closer to Worcestershire sauce. Though not as savory, the vinegar sang a siren song of Brussels sprouts, sharp, grainy mustard and bacon. It was a song we had heard before.

Around this time last year we answered a similar call. Blanched, shaved sprouts were dressed in a bacon fat, mustard, sherry vinaigrette. This time the results were different. Maybe it was the lower acidity of the Harvest Apple vinegar, or maybe it was the rich, sweet and sour sweet potatoes we had just eaten, but tasted side-by-side, we preferred a light, grassy olive oil over rich, salty bacon fat.

Are we retiring last fall’s bacon fat version? No, with a crisp loaf of bread or a savory celery root soup, the bacon fat version is still our choice. However, sitting amidst a table loaded with stuffing, potatoes, turkey and gravy, the light, bright, more acidic version is a welcome island amidst the starch.

Brussels Sprout Apple-Mustard Slaw

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups Brussels sprouts, bottoms trimmed and halved

For dressing:

  • 1/2 cup diced Pancetta
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/3 cup Autumn Apple Vinegar*
  • 2 tbs sharp, grainy mustard
  • 1/2 cup Frantoio Olive Oil*

*It’s the holidays – treat yourself, and order a couple bottles online at Sapore Oil and Vinegar. If you need a substitute for the Autumn Apple Vinegar, combine 4 tbs Sherry vinegar with 2 tbs cider or apple juice. Frantoio is a light, grassy olive oil. you can sub any good quality oil.

Directions:

  • Blanch Brussels sprouts in salted, boiling water for 1 minute. Remove to ice bath. When cool, drain and pat dry.
  • Sauté pancetta in 1 tbs olive oil over medium heat until crispy. Remove to drain on paper towels. Reserve fat to fry just about anything.
  • Whisk together shallot, Autumn Apple Vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Thinly slice Brussels sprouts and place in a bowl with some extra room.
  • Whisk Frantoio oil into vinegar mixture. Season to taste.
  • Dress brussels sprouts with 1/2 dressing and Pancetta. Let rest 5-10 minutes and season to taste with additional dressing if needed.
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Emotional eating.

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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.

Never give up.

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Sometimes, it takes a little extra effort to get a dish right. We’re gonna eventually get to plum chutney here. Stick with me.

This year at Christmas I wrote on the holiday menu, “I’ve been wanting to make a Bûche de Noël for years. Simple in concept, enchanting in execution, this sponge cake, rolled with buttercream and frosted with ganache, is shaped to look like a log, decorated with meringue mushrooms. That said, I have never made one before. It will be part of the grand adventure of this year’s Christmas dinner. Or, it will fail miserably and I’ll put out a plate of Mom’s cookies. Either way you win.”

The buttercream took me two tries. The cake took three. After the second try my Mom suggested that a plate of cookies would be “just as special,” but I was determined.

What does this have to do with plum chutney? In the test kitchen this week we tried four different versions. There was broad disagreement on a winner, ultimately, because there wasn’t one. I woke up Friday morning determined to get it right. My Saturday morning demos at Eastern Market are a passion and while I don’t want to let “perfect” be the enemy of “good,” just good is never good enough.

After reading another fifteen chutney recipes, a new plan emerged. Ginger and cardamom were replaced by cinnamon and star anise. A different vinegar, Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry, offered more depth, spice and acidity than its predecessors. More sugar brought out the fruit that had been dull in previous attempts.

The extra effort paid off at dinnertime. The chutney paired wonderfully with salt-and-fennel crusted, roast pork tenderloin. Or just spread it with cream cheese on a bagel.

Plum Chutney

My test batch at home included jalapeño but I didn’t see any at the market this week. It tasted great both ways!

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chopped plums, about 6
  • 3/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup diced red onion, about 1 medium
  • 1/2 jalapeño minced
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 star anise pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 cup Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry Vinegar*

*One of my favorites from Sapore, well worth the online order. Can’t wait for it to ship? Try 1/2 white vinegar and 1/2 Sherry vinegar for both high acidity and depth.

Directions:

  • Mix together ingredients in a 3-quart saucepan and cook 30 minutes, until thick and bubbly. The plums will release a lot of liquid. Start heat at medium high and lower as chutney reduces to avoid burning.
  • Remove cinnamon and star anise pods.
  • Cool to room temperature and chill. The chutney will last up to a week in the refrigerator, or can be canned or frozen.

My first cocktail. (Mom is so proud!)

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My mission: create a watermelon martini using Sapore’s new Ruby Red Grapefruit White Balsamic Vinegar as bitters. My thought? “I don’t know the first thing about mixing cocktails, and today’s tipplers have a discerning palate.” My first mistake? Publicly throw down the watermelon martini gauntlet on Facebook.

It turns out the same skill set you use to hone a recipe for farm-fresh produce works pretty well for cocktails. I wanted something that showcased bright, clean, sweet watermelon flavor, like the fruit, not the Jolly Rancher. I wanted cool, herbal notes to ground it and lend some depth.

Fresh pressed watermelon juice was the place to start. Gin gave it herbal depth as did basil simple syrup, whose sugar brought out the sweetness in the fruit. The Ruby Red Grapefruit vinegar lent that certain je ne sais quoi – depth, brightness? A squeeze of lime made it pop.

I’m no mixologist, but I’ve got a new favorite cocktail, at least for the next few weeks.

The Mid-Summer Ruby

Ingredients for one cocktail:

  • 3 ounces fresh pressed watermelon juice (see below)
  • 1 ounce smooth gin – use Bombay and save the Beefeater for a great gin and tonic!
  • 1/4 ounce basil simple syrup (see below)
  • 1/2 tablespoon Ruby Red Grapefruit Vinegar*
  • lime round to garnish

*You can find Ruby Red Grapefruit Vinegar at Sapore – order it online – or look for grapefruit bitters at your local specialty liquor store.

Directions:

  • In a cocktail shaker with ice, add watermelon juice, gin, simple syrup and vinegar. Shake and strain in to a martini glass or a lowball with ice. Garnish with a lime round. Squeeze over the cocktail before drinking.

Watermelon juice and simple syrup:

  • Watermelon juice can be made by pressing cubed watermelon through a food mill and then straining it through cheese cloth. Or, you can purée it in a blender, strain it through a sieve and then strain again through cheese cloth.
  • Make the basil simple syrup by stirring together 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water over medium high heat. Let cook until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, and add 1 packed cup whole basil leaves. Let steep for 15-20 minutes and strain to remove solids.

I’m bringing salad back (Part 2 of 52)

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Raw kale is a current darling of the food scene, and kale salads have appeared on hip restaurant menus across the country. Why? Well, it’s good for you. It’s also fairly inexpensive and counter-intuitive. Hey, who doesn’t love a counter-intuitive vegetable?

Here’s the problem. It’s still kale. No matter how freshly-picked those leaves are, they are still tough and still a little bitter. One solution the food hipsters have identified is to massage your kale. Now, while I love my veggies, that’s a lot of affection just to get a salad on the table.

Here’s my solution: make a fresh, bright vinaigrette with just a pinch of sugar to offset the bitterness. Chop the kale thin –  chiffonade – and let it rest for 5 minutes after you dress it to wilt the greens slightly. That’s a salad you can love.

*As some of my demo audience noted last Saturday, this vinaigrette was closely inspired by a recent tropical cucumber salad. The good news? That bottle of tropical spice vinegar can do double duty!

Kale With Tropical Cucumber Vinaigrette

This vinaigrette would also be great over a piece of grilled fish like tilapia or over mesclun greens.

Ingredients:

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/3 cup Tropical Spice Vinegar*
  • 1/2 cup seeded, minced cucumber
  • 1 tbs cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs mint, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup Lime Oil*
  • Sugar
  • 1/2 pound kale, ribbed and thinly sliced
*No lime oil tropical spice vinegar? You can order them online from DC’s Sapore or sub a good quality white vinegar and olive oil with 1/4 tsp lime zest and a splash of tabasco for heat.

Directions:

  • Mash garlic into a paste with 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt using the back of your knife or a mortar and pestle.
  • Whisk together garlic paste, vinegar, cucumber and herbs. Let dressing rest for at least 5 minutes for cucumbers to soften and flavors to blend.
  • Whisk in olive oil. Season to taste with sugar, salt and pepper. Correct vinegar and oil balance with kale.
  • Dress kale and let rest for 5 minutes to soften.

Vegetables aren’t candy.

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You know when parents talk about sneaking vegetables into their kids food? None of us really believe that it works, right? Vegetable strips are not “french fries,” shredded vegetable patties aren’t “burgers,” and raisins may be sweet, but nature’s candy is a bridge too far.

Zucchini, however, is a different animal altogether. Put it in cookies, pancakes, bread and pizza, and I’ll gladly be fooled any day of the week. It was my Mom’s recipe for zucchini pizza – where shredded zucchini mixed with a little cheese, flour and egg forms the crust – that inspired me.

This meatloaf does everything that “sneaking-in-veggies” recipes are supposed to. It turns a pound of ground beef into eight, hearty servings, each of which has almost half a cup of zucchini. Replacing the usual tomato paste with a homemade tomato jam sneaks half a tomato in there t0o, along with an amazing amount of flavor. All these veggies lighten the meat loaf so it feels summery, not dense and wintry.

Zucchini Meat Loaf

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 pound pancetta, diced or bacon*
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 4 tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry Vinegar**
  • 2 medium or 4 small zucchini shredded, about 3.5 cups
  • 1 pound ground beef, not lean
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbs chopped basil
  • 1.5 cups Parmesan cheese
*Pancetta is salt cured, not smoked. If you use bacon you can simmer it for a couple minutes first to remove some of the smoky flavor.
**Another magic vinegar from Sapore. If you need a substitute, use a nice, acidic Sherry vinegar.

Directions:

  • Make the tomato jam.: Over medium heat sauté pancetta in one tbs olive oil until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.
  • Add onion. Cook until soft. Add garlic. Cook 1 min until fragrant.
  • Add tomato and cook until thick and jammy. Add a little water when pan gets dry. Deglaze pan with vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Mix the warm jam with the rest of the ingredients, reserved pancetta and salt and pepper.
  • Fry a small patty of the mixture then season to taste adding additional salt, pepper, cheese or vinegar as needed.
  • Press into a 9” square baking dish or form into a loaf on a baking pan. Bake at 325 for about an hour.
  • Let rest 10 minutes tented with foil and serve.

Crécy is not French for “carrot.”

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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.