Farmers’ Market

Forget sweaters and changing leaves. Here are ten telltale signs we know it’s fall in DC. Cupcake Challenge 051

1.       Dinner switches from gazpacho to roasted chicken

2.       Mike gets reacquainted with the Big Green Egg

3.       After a summer of crabs at Quarterdeck and Tangier Island, our go-to seafood is oysters at Johnny’s Half Shell and mussels at Granville Moore’s.

4.       Elizabeth starts baking again

5.       Pumpkin beer!

6.       We’re on the hunt for savory recipes starring leeks and butternut squash

7.       We say good-bye to the basil lemontini and hello to the warm duck Rueben at the Poste bar

8.       Too many local apples, not enough apple recipes

Apple Cake 0349.       Kiss the sunglasses good-bye. We go from al fresco dining to cozy lounges and tea houses.

10.    Fall colors bring road trips and local discoveries like Wasmund’s single malt applewood smoked whiskey.

pickles2A few weeks ago, we received a comment from Jack who made a few tweaks to our favorite recipe for homemade half-sour pickles.  His version added onions and turmeric to the mix, which we expected to give the pickles a more pronounced vegetable flavor.  Considering how popular our pickle post has been, we were eager to see how Jack’s variation differed from the original.

We stopped by the H Street FreshFarm Market and made a beeline for Richfield Farms’ stand at the rear of the market.  Their cucumbers have proven to be perfect for pickling in previous efforts, so we wanted to use them again this time.  While we were there, we may have picked up the ingredients for a batch of gazpacho, too…have we mentioned how often we make it in season?

Jack’s recipe and our thoughts after the jump. (more…)

You have to hand it to Bernie Prince, Ann Yonkers and the rest of the team at FreshFarm Markets.  No sooner do they join the ranks of the Twitterati than they hit us with a bombshell:


That’s right…all that speculation and investigatory journalism over the past few weeks was right on the money!

As you might expect, news of this magnitude was immediately echoed by at least seven or eight of our DC food-writer friends.  But we noticed that the official press release (linked through the image above) was missing something – the names of the vendors who would be at the market next Thursday when the “FreshFarm Market, by the White House” opens for the first time.

We reached out to Bernie Prince and she gave us all the exciting details.  Like other FreshFarm Markets, this will be a producers-only market, featuring eighteen familiar vendors on opening day.  As Bernie explained, “We want this to be a market where shoppers can get everything in one place – from milk and meat to bread and vegetables.”

MiriamsShe also pointed out two more aspects of the market that make it an engaged partner with the local community.  As at their Silver Spring and H Street Markets, the FreshFarm Market, by the White House, will offer a “Double Dollars” program that will match the first $25 in Food Stamps, WIC and Senior Nutrition Dollars spent at the market.  The program is funded through grants and private donations.  Additionally, the market will work with Miriam’s Kitchen as a “gleaning partner” to provide fresh food for their outreach efforts to the hungry and homeless of DC.

The news you’ve been waiting for – the 19 producers who will be selling on Vermont Avenue – after the jump. (more…)

canning logoTim Carman at the Washington City Paper tipped us off to Kim O’Donnel’s “Canning Across America” effort with a write-up over at Young & Hungry yesterday evening, and it put us in a thoughtful mood.  Though we don’t have the equipment to do full-on long-term storage canning, we try our best to prolong the flavors of summer here at Capital Spice.

We can’t get enough of our homemade half sour pickles (and apparently neither can you!).   We’ve even tried our hands at quick-pickling a variety of other vegetables to make our our giardiniera-style snacks.  And we’re very popular around the holidays when handing out jars of bourbon-soaked cherries and peaches.  While we may not be raising our tongs in solidarity with canners across the country this weekend, we definitely support the cause.

As much as we might enjoy making smoky, tangy gazpacho (using both heirloom AND hybrid tomatoes from the farmers’ market…Jane Black would be proud), it can get a bit pricey to go around throwing 5 or 6 pounds of tomatoes into the food processor each week when you’re shelling out $3, $4, even $5 per pound.  Thankfully, there’s a way to make your share of season-stretching recipes without breaking the bank – even if you don’t have your own backyard garden or orchard to pick on.  They’re known as “seconds,” but they’re the first thing I go for at the market.

The joy of “secs” after the jump. (more…)

RedApronWashington area farmers’ markets have always offered a wealth of options when you’re looking to pick up fresh produce, local cheeses and even humanely-raised meats.  We’ve even had some vendors take the fruits of others’ labor and turn them into delicious baked goods, soups and gelati.  Anyone who tells you they don’t visit farmers markets because they don’t have time to cook or they want more than just vegetables just isn’t looking hard enough.

Two new vendors who have arrived on the scene this year epitomize the value-added mentality that defines the producer side of “grower/producer only” markets.  Red Apron Butchery, an undertaking by Chef Nathan Anda of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, has emerged as a go-to source for all things cured when it comes to pork and beef.  And Chef Stefano Frigerio’s Copper Pot Food Company is blowing people away with handmade pastas and jams using fresh, local ingredients to create huge flavors.  Here at Capital Spice, we’ve been buying up a variety of products from both of these new ventures over the past few weeks, tasting as we go. 

BresaolaThe verdict in a nutshell?  Wow.  In each case, we’ve found ourselves smiling and shaking our heads as we devour entire packages of bresaola or duck-confit ravioli in one sitting.  If you’ve already tried some of Red Apron’s charcuterie or Copper Pot’s filled pastas, you know exactly what we’re talking about.

If you haven’t tried them yet, read on for descriptions, photos and where to track them down after the jump. (more…)

NoraWhen I set out to duplicate twelve chefs’ recipes over the course of this year, I knew that there were some chefs whose recipes could be attempted year-round and others whose work would fare best in certain seasons (summer and fall, I’m looking at you).  My birthday dinner at Restaurant Nora last year convinced me that Nora Pouillon, the patron saint of the DC organic dining movement, falls squarely into the second category.

And when I flipped through a copy of Cooking with Nora, her groundbreaking cookbook from 1996, I knew I owed it to Chef Pouillon’s recipes to wait until summer to try my hand at her dishes.  Cooking with Nora is not your average recipe collection; rather than grouping dishes by unifying themes (‘desserts,’ for example, or ‘fish’), the chef has opted to provide her readers with recipes arranged into multi-course meals by the season.  She’s practically giving you the blueprint for your very own organic dinner party, with everything from appetizer to entree and accompaniment through to the dessert spelled out.

She also presents her recipes in a narrative fashion, a style I first encountered in Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food.  I find this to be a very natural and useful way of having the author walk me through a dish from beginning to end, and it certainly helps me prepare my mise en place before I get too far ahead of myself.  When you’re trying to execute two or three recipes simultaneously, that kind of preparation in advance can be a lifesaver.

Roasted Red Peppers and Japanese EggplantFor my fifth attempt at recreating a chef’s dishes, I decided to take three recipes from one of Pouillon’s summer menus.  I started with a Jewell Yam Vichysoisse and then followed it up with Grilled Lemon-Marinated Chicken Breasts served alongside Japanese Eggplant and Roasted Red Peppers. 

Walking the Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market, I was pleased – if not especially surprised – to see that all of the main ingredients to Chef Pouillon’s recipes were readily available (seasonality aside, Nora Pouillon is a member of FreshFarm Markets’ board).  It looked like I was well on my way to a fresh, local and seasonal jackpot.

Cold soup, grilled grass-kickin’ chicken and fresh veggies after the jump. (more…)

Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer was the first cookbook I purchased when I decided I was ready to take on more challenging recipes. I was in love with her television show, Nigella, which first showed up on the Style Network. It was the first cooking show I saw that took television cooking away from the live action studio audience and into a beautifully shot, sensually described world. Although the book has fallen out of heavy rotation in favor of seasonal cookbooks (and Mike’s man-crush on Colicchio), it’s still a handy one to kick around. Plus the amazing mint julep peaches alone are worth the purchase price. Seriously. Those are a no-fail summer dessert.

For the June Cookbook Challenge, I grabbed Forever Summer and fell upon the chocolate raspberry pavolova recipe. Perfect! I’d saved the egg whites from the ginger chili creme brulee recipe (which called for 8 egg yolks) which formed the chocolate meringue base of the pavlova. Rather than buy raspberries, I took the opportunity to use up some of our gorgeous, ruby red strawberries from the market. Waste not, want not.

IMG_8189This is a triple threat of a dessert: The chocolate pavolva is crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, a layered chocolatey bomb that only gets better if you use high quality chocolate. Fresh whipped cream is dolloped on top and sprinkled with fresh berries and grated chocolate. Taken together, a bit of the dessert delivers bittersweet, creamy, and tart flavors all at once. It is a lick-your-fingers and clean-your-plate kind of dessert. It also serves about 6, so I recommend making this for a party. Otherwise you’ll find yourself polishing off the entire pavlova on your own. Which might not be the worst thing in the world.

One tip though: the directions indicate that the meringue base should cool in the oven after its cooking time is complete. Be sure to follow this. If taken out of the oven immediately after baking, the meringue will fall into a chocolate pancake. Still delicious, sure, but not as big and fluffy as its meant to be.  

Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova, from Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer Cornbread 083

For the chocolate meringue base:

6 egg whites
1 cup sugar
3 Tb unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 Ts balsalmic or red wine vinegar
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

For the topping
2 ¼ cups heavy cream
1 very full pint of raspberries (or strawberries)
2-3 Tb coarsely grated, bittersweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Beat egg whites until peaks form. Beat in sugar a spoonful at a time until peaks are stiff and shiny. Sprinkle over the cocoa and vinegar and then the chopped chocolate. Gently fold everything until the cocoa is thoroughly mixed in. Mound onto a baking sheet in a fat circle, approximately 9 inches in diameter, smoothing the sides and the top. Place in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 300 F. Cook for about 60 to 75 minutes. When it’s ready it should look crisp around the edges and be dry on top but still have some give to it in the middle. Turn off the oven and open the door slightly, let the meringue disk cool completely.

When you’re ready to serve, invert into a big, flat-bottomed plate. Whisk the cream until thick but still soft and pile it on top of the meringue, then scatter over the raspberries. Coarsely grate the chocolate so that you get curls and sprinkle over the top.

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