Tag Archives: seasonal

Alice Waters, this combination is divine.

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Corn and Zucchini Pasta’s inclusion in Chez Panisse Vegetables is more of a concept than a recipe. Alice provides ingredients and technique leaving the vagaries of measurements and time to the individual cook. This is recipe trading grandmother style. “What do you mean measurements? You can just feel when you’ve got it right.”

It’s a gift. You learn more in the making than you ever could in rote execution. Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Practice your knife skills. Cut the zucchini down into a 1/4″ dice, approximately the same size as the corn kernels.
  • Fresh pasta isn’t just un-dried. Fresh pasta is traditionally made with eggs and soft wheat “00” flour while dried pasta is made with just hard durum wheat and water. An easy rule of thumb is to use fresh pasta for light dishes and cream sauces. Dried pasta is your choice for heartier sauces like Bolognese and Carbonara.
  • Large pasta is tough to mix with small ingredients. When tossing the corn and zucchini with the fresh fettucini that Alice recommends, you end up with all the veggies in the bottom of the bowl. Orzo is easier to mix through.
  • Butter is a condiment. Add it at the end. Don’t even think of leaving it out. It adds a necessary richness.

Corn And Zucchini Pasta

This tastes just as good hot as it does as a cold pasta salad.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 large candy sweet or yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 jalapeño, minced
  • 2 cups zucchini, finely diced (about 1-2 medium)
  • 2 ears corn, kernels removed
  • 1 cup Orzo, uncooked
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 2-3 tbs chopped cilantro or parsley
  • Champagne Mimosa or Sherry Vinegar

Directions:

  • Bring a 4 qt pot of water to a boil and salt heavily, 2 tbs.
  • Heat olive oil in a 12” sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened.
  • Add garlic and jalapeño and cook 30 seconds until fragrant.
  • Turn up heat to medium high and add zucchini.
  • When you add the zucchini to the pan, add the pasta to boiling water.
  • When zucchini is softened but firm add corn and cook 1 minute.
  • When pasta is still undercooked – firm in the center, strain it, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Add pasta and liquid to vegetables. Cook until water has evaporated.
  • Add cilantro and butter. Season to taste with vinegar, salt and pepper.

Because life should be beautiful.

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Tony, this is for you. No, not for my cousin, Tony, who nearly demanded a standing ovation when he first added lettuce to his tacos (today he has a highly sophisticated palate). This for the Tony who came to dinner two years ago and warily picked up a stuffed, fried zucchini blossom. “It’s a what?!” you asked. “A zucchini flower,” I replied. I think I noticed you scoping out the exits, but you bravely took a bite. I think you enjoyed it.

And how could you not? Zucchini blossoms taste mildly and sweetly of zucchini. Stuffed with a mild goat cheese, fresh herbs, salt and pepper, they are beer battered and fried. Think of it as a zucchini popper! This is Italian bar food, crisp and sprinkled with sharp flakes of sea salt. An indulgence to be sure, but pure gastronomic pleasure!

For those of you worried about a lost generation of zucchini, pinched off the vine at the start of their lives, sleep soundly. We only harvest the male flowers. The female ones go onto produce beautiful summer squashes. We’ll slice, bread and fry those later.

Fried Zucchini Blossoms

The best way to remove food from hot fat is with a spider. Seriously, go into a cooking store and ask for one. They won’t laugh at you. If they do, tell them that your big brother is going to beat them up. Then give me a call.

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil for frying*
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 12 ounce chilled beer or club soda
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 cup mild goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh cream
  • 2-3 tbs fresh herbs – tarragon, mint and parsley are wonderful
  • 24-ish Zucchini blossoms
  • Sea salt

*Look for cooking grade olive oil in the grocery store. I wouldn’t touch it for sautéing, but it’s perfect, and cheaper, for deep frying.

Directions:

  • Heat 2″ oil to 350 degrees in a 6 qt pot. Check temperature with a deep frying or candy thermometer.
  • Mix together goat cheese and enough cream to make it pipeable from a pastry bag. Stir in fresh herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Whisk egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add a pinch of cream of tartar, is needed, to get them started.
  • Using a pastry bag or ziplock bag with a corner cut off, pipe the cheese into the zucchini blossoms. Gently twist the filled flowers closed at the top. This will be immensely frustrating the first time. Forgive your inexperience, drink the rest of the opened beer, and keep going.
  • Mix flour and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk in beer just until smooth. Don’t overwork. Gently fold eggwhites into batter.
  • Roll a few flowers in the batter and gently shake off excess. Place them in the hot oil, being sure not to overcrowd. Cook them until golden, flipping once. Be careful not to burn.
  • Remove them to a plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle with sea salt.
  • Return the oil to 350 and fry the remaining flowers in batches.
  • Eat them while nice and hot. Drink lots of chilled Prosecco. Or rosé. Discuss how fabulous and blessed your life is.

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.

Rule 1: No one cooks better than Mom.

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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.

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

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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.

How do I come up with recipes?

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I am often asked how I come up with the recipes I cook at Eastern Market and publish in this blog. They all start with inspiration – or desperation – figuring out how to feature a seasonal ingredient or use a new product from one of the great shops I work with.

Sometimes it’s easy. I’ll pull a recipe out of my head that I’ve cooked many times, like asparagus soup or zucchini pancakes. Along the way, these recipes get tweaked with new ingredients and new ideas I’ve learned elsewhere.

Other times an idea pops into my head, like last week’s Indian style peas and corn. I’ll flip through cookbooks and search the web to understand the range of ingredients, seasonings and techniques that other people have used, then pull together the ideas that sound the best and start testing the recipe, making changes until I’ve got something I’m proud to serve.

The hardest recipes, and some of my greatest satisfaction, come when I’m stumped. This past week I wanted to work with summer squash. The Saturday before I had sautéed it, tossed with a compound butter. Rather then another variation on sautéed and tossed with herbs, I wanted something really new. I began flipping through cookbooks waiting for a recipe to excite me. I found a squash goulash, 70’s style with ground beef, green peppers and sweet paprika. I removed the beef so the squash could take center stage. Red peppers kept some bitterness without the bite. Red miso and tomato paste added depth, while Spanish paprika or pimentón, brought a bit of heat. Some fresh vegetable stock gave the sauce another layer and I was ready to serve this week’s Summer Squash Goulash. My sincere thanks to Too Many Tomatoes, and my Mom who raised us on its recipes, for the inspiration.

Summer Squash Goulash

Makes 3-4 main course servings unless you eat it at 10:30 at night, in which case two of you will be fighting over the last bowl. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups thinly sliced crimini mushrooms
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 tbs sweet paprika
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 2 tbs red miso paste
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1.5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 cups summer squash thinly sliced in half rounds
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • Sherry Vinegar

Directions:

  • In a sauté pan over medium heat, cook onion in olive oil until softened. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds until fragrant.
  • Add mushrooms and cook until lightly browned on edges.
  • Add pepper, paprika, tomato paste and miso. Cook 1-2 minutes until paprika is fragrant.
  • Stir in tomatoes and cook until softened and water begins to evaporate. Add stock and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
  • Add squash, basil. Cover and cook until squash is softened but still firm.
  • Uncover and let thicken to desired consistency. Season to taste with salt, pepper and vinegar.

In season.

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Growing up, spareribs and artichokes was a special family meal (this explains a lot, I know). You knew it was a what was in store when extra napkins appeared on the table with no silverware for an evening of finger food. Our teeth scraped the flesh off each artichoke leaf in an effort to reach the center, when Dad would ceremoniously scrape the choke from the base, cut it into an even number of pieces, and toss it into the remaining butter and cider vinegar in the dipping bowl. The meal ended with wonderful piles of bones, sucked clean, and spent artichoke leave. It was a feast.

This meal was so special, such an event in our home, that I always wanted it served on my birthday, which is in August. Each year, Mom would remind me that artichokes were only available in spring, and I would be stuck with some less exotic treat like fresh corn on the cob, or the first of Mom’s dill beans (how I suffered).

Growing up, produce was seasonal. Asparagus in spring, strawberries for a few short weeks in June, corn appeared in early August.

In my teens that started to change. These treats were available year round. Suddenly you could serve asparagus on New Year’s Day and eat “fresh” tomatoes in February. By the time I started cooking seriously, in my early twenties, there were only a few vegetables left, like fiddleheads, to truly mark the arrival of each season.

At 30, I moved to Washington, DC and began shopping at Eastern Market, and after a few months realized that my cooking had found a new rhythm. Asparagus appeared in spring with magical, uneven spears, tinged heavily with purple. Six weeks later we enjoyed the last few spears of the season, significantly less tender and sweet, in soup or baked in phyllo with sharp Gruyère. Strawberries came and went quickly. Sour cherries were only available for a week or two – much to the delight of my husband, who lamented pitting them by the pint for pies and sauces. Summer continued with tomatoes and zucchini, the first squash and apples in fall, and late season brassicas: cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

While perpetual abundance is perfect when you desperately need an asparagus fix in the dead of winter, it disrupts the circadian rhythm of our dining table. I have discovered a new joy in waiting for spring’s first scant produce – two to three weeks of spring onions, arugula and radishes. We celebrate the last bowl of asparagus soup on a warm night in May. I marvel each fall when Bob’s vegetable peeler makes short work of the thick skin on a butternut squash.

Happy spring! Celebrate the food on your plate. I’ll see you at the Market.