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A fiery recipe for your summer repertoire. By Anna Spiegel
Chef Jim Jeffords of Evening Star Cafe and his “throne” hot sauce. Photographs courtesy of Neighborhood Restaurant Group,

Even in the summer heat, there’s nothing like a splash of hot sauce to perk up eggs or barbecue. Instead of reaching for the Tabasco, try this simple recipe from Evening Star Cafe chef Jim Jeffords.

The Georgia-bred toque grows his own peppers on the restaurant’s rooftop garden, including fresnos, datils—which are native to his home state—and cayennes. But no need to grow your own: The formula Jeffords uses is a base, and can accommodate a variety of common fresh peppers, such as milder red fresnos, earthy serranos, and fiery Scotch bonnets. Depending on your heat tolerance, he recommends a 3-2-1-part ratio for the chilies listed above. Mixed with garlic and white vinegar, this is destined to become a go-to condiment that matches the season’s temperatures.

Jim’s Special Throne Sauce

Makes one bottle

4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1½ cups white vinegar, such as Heinz
About 1½ cups mixed fresh peppers, such as red fresno, serrano, and Scotch bonnet, all available at Whole Foods and seasonally at the farmers market (see above for ratios)
1½ tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste

Using gloves, rinse all the peppers thoroughly. Remove the stems and chop into about ¾-inch pieces.

Heat a sauté or cast-iron pan over high heat. Coat it with olive oil. When you see “white smoke” and the pan is very hot, add the peppers. Season them with salt. Let cook for 4 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Once they are slightly charred, cover the peppers with white vinegar. Bring the mixture to a boil, then immediately turn off the heat. Remove from the stove and let cool.

Once cool, place the peppers and vinegar mixture in an airtight container such as a Mason jar or plastic container. Make sure the peppers are covered with vinegar; it may be necessary to add more. Store the peppers at room temperature for one week.

Once the mixture has aged, purée in a blender until smooth. Pass the hot sauce through a sieve or fine strainer.

Store liquid hot sauce in refrigerator for up to two months.

Posted at 11:15 AM/ET, 07/25/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Virgin or boozy, this summer quencher is perfect for your barbecue. By Anna Spiegel

It’s super simple to re-create Taqueria Nacional’s summertime cooler at home. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

“Making an agua fresca can be a really simple affair, especially when you have high-quality fruit,” says Ann Cashion, co-owner of Taqueria Nacional. (She also co-owns and cooks at Capitol Hill seafood favorite Johnny’s Half Shell). So when mixing up drinks for your Fourth of July barbecue, skip the dyed red, white, and blue drinks and go with something naturally festive and fully refreshing: strawberry agua fresca, like the one you’ll find at the newly opened 14th Street taco spot.

At the restaurant, Cashion uses locally grown strawberries for the drink. Since strawberry season is nearing its end, she suggests adding fresh blueberries or raspberries or subbing out the strawberries altogether. If you opt for commercially grown strawberries, Cashion suggests adding more sugar for sweetness, though don’t overdo it—aim for one cup at most.

Another perk of this recipe: You can whip up a pitcher in advance for your party—just keep it chilled—and serve it with booze on the side for a mixed-age crowd. Just add one and a half ounces of your favorite light rum or tequila to your glass and stir for a more potent drink.

Strawberry Agua Fresca

Makes one pitcher

6 pints of ripe strawberries (preferably locally grown), washed, and stems removed
¼ cup sugar, or more to taste
1 cup filtered water, or more to achieve desired consistency
Optional: A bottle of your favorite light rum or tequila

In a blender, purée the strawberries with some sugar and 1 cup of water. Check for sweetness and add more sugar if desired.

Transfer the purée into a larger container and stir in more water until you achieve the consistency and concentration that you want. 

Strain the mixture into a pitcher to remove some of the seeds and chill until ready to serve. 

Posted at 11:30 AM/ET, 07/03/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
From a killer cobbler to Honey Pig’s Korean barbecue, these recipes are destined to become warm-weather favorites. By Jessica Voelker
A great cobbler recipe will serve you all spring and summer long. Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock.

From a culinary standpoint, this time of year rules. Great produce floods the market, patios become a second—and far superior—dining room, and invitations to backyard barbecues start showing up in your inbox. To get you inspired, we’ve collected 20 excellent recipes for spring and summer fare, all of it courtesy of Washington restaurants and shops. There are fancy popsicles from Pleasant Pops, amazing grilled chicken from Estadio—even instructions on how to properly booze up a watermelon. It’s all in the service of making this your tastiest spring and summer ever, so go forth and make something wonderful.

Posted at 09:30 AM/ET, 05/07/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Sapore owner Renee Shields Farr shares a favorite warm-weather dish. By Jessica Voelker
Bright pasta primavera will outshine typical potluck dishes. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

May is here, and the weather has finally improved. We’re looking forward to getting into some spring cooking, starting with this colorful pasta primavera from Renee Shields Farr, owner of the Sapore Oil & Vinegar shop in Eastern Market. Made with rainbow-striped bow-tie pasta, it’s a pretty dish to bring to a potluck picnic.

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Posted at 03:05 PM/ET, 05/02/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Wondering what to do with all your extra ingredients? Serve them up in a simple, delicious pie. By Anna Spiegel
Pot pie: A delicious way to use up those Thanksgiving leftovers. Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock.

Seeing as you can order a “Thanksgiving sandwich” at local eateries year-round, consider swapping out the usual stack of leftovers between slices of bread for a dish that’s nearly as simple and far more indulgent: a creamy pot pie that uses leftover veggies and turkey alike. We first heard about this dish from chef Matthew Miller while previewing the newly opened Trademark in Alexandria, and couldn’t resist asking for the recipe.

“It’s as easy as taking yesterday’s dinner, putting it in a pan, and putting pastry on top,” says Miller of the pot pie. The British-born toque suggests using leftover sweet potato and green beans in addition to shredded turkey and gravy, though you can substitute any Thanksgiving vegetables you see fit. And if you’ve managed to sop up all your giblet sauce the day before, don’t worry; just stir in  cup of flour after you’ve sautéed the leeks, garlic, and celery, and then slowly stir in 1¾ cups turkey broth.

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Posted at 11:30 AM/ET, 11/20/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
The Bayou Bakery chef shares his recipe for “Dat-O-Lanterns.” By Anna Spiegel
David Guas’s Dat-O-Lanterns. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

One of the favorite sweets at Bayou Bakery is chef David Guas’s “Dat-O,” an oversize, house-made take on an Oreo that has been on the menu since the Louisiana-style cafe opened. We asked Guas to create a Halloween riff on the sandwich cookie, perfect for parties of all ages or for doling out on the big night.

There’s really no trick to this Halloween treat, which can be made up to four days in advance and sealed at room temperature in an airtight container. To create a “Dat-O-Lantern,” Guas uses a pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter, which you can find in the seasonal section of many markets and gourmet shops. Pro tip: If assembling the cookies gets messy at the end, try creating a makeshift pastry bag with a Ziploc (just spoon in the orange filling and then snip off one corner), and pipe the sweet stuff along the borders and into the center before gently topping the frosting with a second cookie.

This way to cookie goodness.

Posted at 03:40 PM/ET, 10/18/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
Forget the LITs you drank in college. This recipe makes a case for the much-maligned booze bomb. By Anna Spiegel

It's blue, it's powerful, it's delicious: Rachel Sergi's Long Island iced tea. Photograph courtesy of Rachel Sergi.

The Long Island Iced Tea may bring back (hazy) memories of college, but there’s no reason this booze bomb should be relegated to sophomore year. Just ask Jack Rose Dining Saloon cocktail guru and documented LIT aficionado Rachel Sergi.

“I absolutely love them,” says Sergi, whose friend and fellow bartending superstar Gina Chersevani is also a fan. “I love iced tea to begin with, and me and Gina work hard on making cocktails all the time. But every once in a while, we want something that just tastes easy. It’s either a Long Island done properly or nothing.”

Sergi’s advice on being certain that a given bar is an LIT-safe space? “Ask if they have sour mix on the gun.” If the answer is yes, you should probably steer clear. Better yet, whip up your own version at home with Sergi’s recipe, which doesn’t stray too far from the common potent mix of vodka, gin, rum, tequila, a sour element, and Coca-Cola. Instead of bottled sour mix, Sergi uses fresh lemon juice and citrusy Bols Blue Curaçao, and swaps out the Coke float for an easy-to-make cola syrup. The best news for your end-of-summer bash: You can brew a big batch in advance (keeping the syrup on the side) and mix to order or let guests pour their own. It should go without saying, this is one powerful concoction—consume accordingly.

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Posted at 12:15 PM/ET, 09/07/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
Bourbon Steak’s upgrade on this frat-house favorite makes for a great picnic trick. By Anna Spiegel

Vodka-infused watermelon at the Lounge at Bourbon Steak. Photograph courtesy of Bourbon Steak.

It’s not likely to show up on the bar menu any time soon, but ask nicely while reserving your table--and at least three days in advance--and Bourbon Steak bartenders might be able to prepare slices of vodka-filled watermelon for you and your dining companions, says head bartender Duane Sylvestre. Sylvestre and his fellow head bartender Jamie MacBain recently served a more refined version of this frat-house favorite during a cocktail class at the bar, and we thought it would make a great centerpiece for a Fourth of July picnic. It works like this: You poke small holes in the melon, allowing its juices to drain, and vodka fills in the liquid space. It takes about three days to fully infuse the fruit—the best way to do it is in the fridge, but if space is an issue, cover your project with foil or plastic wrap and keep it stored in a cool space.

One final word of warning from Sylvestre: “Sometimes the melon tastes like there’s no booze in it at all, until you take a step. Have no more than two slices, and drink water, water, water, with your watermelon.”

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Posted at 11:55 AM/ET, 06/29/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
A simple mixed-berry dessert that’s easy enough for a midweek picnic.
By Anna Spiegel

Red Truck's mixed-berry cobbler. Photographs courtesy of Brian Noyes.

We’re big fans of the desserts owner Brian Noyes turns out at the Red Truck Bakery in Warrenton, Virginia. A day trip to the old Esso station where Noyes bakes fresh pies and moonshine cake is always worth the drive, but seeing as Independence Day falls on a Wednesday this year (lame) we asked him for a quick but delicious cobbler recipe you can make at home.

“My grandmother in North Carolina was always whipping up a dessert with fruit from her garden and whatever was on hand in her pantry,” says Noyes. “I use her rolling pin and mixing bowl in my bakery, and continue her tradition with cobblers every summer.”

There are no real tricks to the dessert—you just need sweet, ripe berries from the market and eight friends to share it with.

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Posted at 02:00 PM/ET, 06/28/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
Chef Marc Vidal shares the simple steps for recreating one of his restaurant’s most popular snacks. By Anna Spiegel
Boqueria's pan con tomate. Photograph courtesy of Boqueria.

Need a signature summer party dish? The versatile Spanish classic pan con tomate—which can be eaten all day, from breakfast into the wee hours—is a cinch to prepare, requiring only ripe, meaty tomatoes, a fresh baguette, and good-quality olive oil.

We’ve been addicted to chef Marc Vidal’s version at Boqueria since the tapas spot opened in March, especially alongside some chilled sangria. Vidal serves marinated olives with the dish but says you can dress it up further with slices of cured meats like chorizo or jamón Serrano, or Spanish cheeses such as Manchego. Your guests can layer them atop the tomàquet spread for a richer snack.

Boqueria’s Pan con Tomate

Serves 10

Ingredients

1 classic French baguette, cut in half lengthwise and each half cut in half on a bias

2 tablespoons tomàquet (recipe below)

1 tablespoon Valderama olive oil or other high-quality olive oil

Pinch Maldon salt or other flaky finishing salt

1 tablespoon marinated olives, such as Amanida cocktail olives, for garnish

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Posted at 09:40 AM/ET, 06/21/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()