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…)

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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…)

canned

“We should totally try to make these at home.”

In a lot of cases, as frustration mounts and the joy of recreating something you’ve loved in a restaurant falls victim to repeat failures, this phrase soon turns into “Whose stupid idea was this anyway?”

But a helping hand from a pro like Alice Waters can go a long way toward preventing such disappointment, as I learned this weekend when raw-materialsI attempted to make pickled vegetables like the ones we enjoyed at The Spotted Pig in New York last month.

While looking for another recipe in Waters’ newest cookbook, The Art of Simple Food, I came across her oh-so-easy directions for making quick-pickled vegetables.  I knew I had to give it a shot, to see if it even came close to the tangy goodness of the green beans, beets and other veggies we had in New York.

Details on produce, prep, pickling and palate after the jump. (more…)

With the premiere of Top Chef’s fifth season a little more than two weeks away,  I really wanted to make it a point to visit season one winner Harold Dieterle’s Perilla while we were in New York over the weekend.  Though I’ve been impressed by individual dishes and the overall level of competition over the subsequent seasons, I feel like we haven’t yet seen a contender who measures up to Harold.  Maybe that’s why he’s the only winner to have seen a restaurant through to opening thus far (the fact that he did so within a year of winning makes it even more impressive).

On a previous visit to New York, we simply ran out of time to check out Perilla.  Thanks to the wonders of weekend brunches and OpenTable, we were able to plan ahead and make sure that we had a chance to visit this time around.

What a great meal!  I know the experts (chief among them Anthony Bourdain in Kitchen Confidential) look down on brunch and predict that you’ll get sub-par food from a kitchen staff that couldn’t care less, but that simply wasn’t the case at Perilla.  And the opportunity to watch the deliveries of fresh fish and produce and the kitchen’s prep work in action gave us a greater appreciation for what goes into Perilla’s dinner service on a busy weekend night.

Our meals, another Bloody Mary, and Harold after the jump. (more…)

When planning our trip to New York recently, Mike and I had one restaurant we absolutely wanted to hit: The Spotted Pig. This cozy gastropub is owned by British chef April Bloomfield and colleagues, serving up seasonal British and Italian food.

You may recognize Chef Bloomfield from a guest judge stint on the finale of Top Chef Season 4 (hint: she’s the lady in this photo montage).  Featured on pretty much a gazillion foodie shows, her insanely popular spot might be the only Michelin starred restaurant that doesn’t require a small bank loan for a meal. The bad news? It doesn’t take reservations. The wait for a table on Friday or Saturday nights is known to be epic. To save time (and maybe a little money), we opted to skip right ahead to Sunday brunch, making The Spotted Pig an exclamation point at the end of our foodie Tour de Gout in New York.

Even if you don’t have the exact address of The Spotted Pig handy, you can spot it on a Sunday morning by two distinct signs: a lush container garden and a hanging pig over the front door. If you arrive much later than the restaurant’s 11 am Sunday opening, you can also spot it by the crowd waiting outside for a table.

The interior of this gastro pub is clearly designed to evoke neighborhood country pubs. With wood paneling, sparingly utilized stained glass windows and embroidered stools, they do the job nicely without veering into cliche territory. The pressed-tin ceilings and exposed brick add to the coziness, giving me one more reason to daydream about living in the West Village so I can become a bar regular here on slushy winter nights.

But this wasn’t a slushy winter night; it was a crisp, sunny fall morning and we were ready for brunch. Let’s get to the food.

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