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Chef Vikram Sunderam shares a perfect end-of-winter dish. By Anna Spiegel
Kerala fish curry, similar to the one from chef Vikram Sunderam, makes for a lighter winter comfort dish. Photograph via Wikimedia Commons.

The tail end of winter is tough for cooking. Lingering cold demands comfort food, but we’re feeling bogged down after all those bowls of chili and mac and cheese. A perfect compromise: this spicy fish curry from Rasika toque Vikram Sunderam. The robust flavors prove filling, but fresh fish makes for a lighter meal. The reader who requested the recipe referred to it as “transcendent.”

“The curry, oh goodness, the curry,” writes the reader after sampling it as a Restaurant Week special. “I wanted to drink it, I wanted to bathe in it, I wanted to be it. Such amazing depth and strength—the bright acid of tomatoes, a hint of chili and cumin—while managing to not overwhelm the fish. . . . If you could see about getting a recipe, I would be forever in your debt.”

Hard to argue with that! Note that you’ll need fresh or previously frozen curry leaves for the recipe, which can be found at Indian grocery stores, such as Ginger & Spice Market in Alexandria.

Kerala Fish Curry

Serves four


2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup chopped Spanish onion
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
3 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
1 cup water
1½ cups chopped plum tomatoes
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 sprig fresh curry leaves, available at Indian groceries
30 ounces coconut milk
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
4 skinless filets of grouper or halibut, about two pounds
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro


Cut the grouper filets into smaller pieces (about 2 ounces each) and set aside.

Set a small pan over medium heat and dry-roast the spices for about 2 to 3 minutes, until aromatic. Grind the toasted spices in a coffee grinder. (Powdered spices may be substituted, but don’t roast them.)

Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté until golden brown.

Blend the ginger and garlic with the cup of water, and add the paste to the onions. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes over medium heat, until the raw flavor is gone.

Add the chopped tomatoes along with the turmeric powder and cook until the tomatoes are softened, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Add the curry leaves along with the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Lower the curry to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add the roasted or powdered spices, and then the fish. Cook until the fish is cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Season with salt and garnish with cilantro.

Serve with steamed basmati rice.

Posted at 02:12 PM/ET, 03/07/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Recreate the warming winter dish from G. By Anna Spiegel
Mike Isabella’s lamb chili, served at G, is an addictive winter comfort dish, spiced up with harissa and Sriracha chickpeas.

If there’s one upside to this never-ending winter, it’s digging into warming comfort dishes such as Mike Isabella’s lamb chili. We’ve been addicted since Isabella concocted the recipe for G at the beginning of the season. The restaurant version draws from the whole-animal approach at the adjoining Kapnos, incorporating lamb offal. This home-cook-friendly version simply uses ground lamb but is no less unusual, with the addition of wild rice, chickpeas, and a spicy yogurt-harissa garnish.

G by Mike Isabella’s Lamb Chili

Serves 4 to 6

Prep time: 30 to 40 minutes

Cook time: 50 to 60 minutes

For the chili:

4 slices thick-cut bacon, ¼-inch dice
1 cup Anaheim or poblano peppers, small dice, seeds and stems removed
1 cup celery, small dice
1 cup yellow onion, small dice
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 pound ground lamb
½ cup beer, preferably DC Brau pale ale
1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon cracked white pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground aleppo pepper, or if you can’t find it, an extra ½ teaspoon of cayenne
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon celery seed
¼ teaspoon ground mace or allspice
¾ cup wild rice (uncooked)
¾ cup canned chickpeas, rinsed under hot running water

To garnish:

1 cup Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons harissa paste (available at Whole Foods)
2 tablespoons crushed Sriracha chickpeas (found in Asian markets)
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 chunk of Kefalograviera or pecorino Romano cheese


In a large heavy bottom pot over medium heat, sauté bacon. After about 4 minutes, when it’s halfway cooked, add peppers, celery, onion, and garlic. Stir to coat with bacon fat. Sauté for an additional 3 to 4 minutes or until bacon is fully cooked and onions are translucent.

Add ground lamb to pot and stir to combine. Once meat is browned, add the beer. Scrape to deglaze the bottom of pot to release any brown bits. Add crushed tomatoes, salt, and all the spices. Stir to combine.

Bring the chili to a slight boil, cover with a lid, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

While the chili is simmering, cook rice according to package directions. Also combine yogurt and harissa paste; cover and refrigerate until later use.

Once chili is finished simmering, add cooked rice and chickpeas. Stir to combine, and simmer for an additional 5 minutes, until thick.

Serve in individual bowls and garnish with crushed Sriracha chickpeas, scallions, freshly grated Kefalograviera cheese, and harrissa yogurt.

Posted at 11:17 AM/ET, 02/25/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Chef John Mooney shares a decadent homemade version of the party staple. By Anna Spiegel

Homemade bean dip: so much better than the jarred stuff. Photograph courtesy of John Mooney.

Bean dip is one of those party staples that’s often purchased premade but is so much better when you start from scratch. Bidwell chef/owner John Mooney started making his version more than ten years ago, inspired by Mexican frijoles borrachos, or drunken beans. Dried pintos are stewed with beer, tomatoes, and chipotle and made into a creamy purée, which he tops with quick-marinated tomatoes and goat cheese.

The dip and chopping can be done in advance; just add the oil and vinegar to the tomatoes right before serving. Meat fans can sauté fresh chorizo and crumble it on top along with the goat cheese for a version like the one you’ll find at Mooney’s Union Market restaurant. Either way, this formula will get you to swear off the jarred stuff for good.

Drunken Bean Dip

Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer


Bean dip

½ medium white onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
½ cup dried pinto beans
1 can ale, such as Pork Slap pale ale
1 pint vegetable stock (or substitute water)
1 teaspoon canned chipotle in adobo pepper
2 whole canned tomatoes
¼ bunch cilantro

Marinated tomato topping

1 whole shallot, thinly sliced
20 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
10 cilantro sprigs
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

To finish

4 ounces goat cheese
2 flatbreads, warm flour tortillas, or corn chips
Salt and pepper to taste

Make the bean dip:

1) Set a large sauce pot over low heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom. Add the onions and garlic and sweat them until translucent.

2) Add beans, beer, stock, chipotle, and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer for 1½ hours, or until beans are soft enough to purée.

3) Remove pot from heat. Add ¼ bunch of cilantro and purée in a blender until smooth. Season with salt and reserve. The bean mixture can be made up to three days in advance.

Make the tomato topping:

In a small mixing bowl add shallots, cherry tomatoes, and cilantro leaves with sherry and extra-virgin olive oil. Season mixture with salt and pepper.

To finish:

Place bean dip in a warm cast-iron skillet and sprinkle with dollops of goat cheese. Top with marinated tomatoes. Serve with points of flatbread, warm flour tortillas, or corn chips.

Posted at 11:24 AM/ET, 01/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Need a decadent brunch dish for a crowd? Try this make-ahead pastry. By Anna Spiegel
This make-ahead French toast is a decadent crowd-pleaser. Photograph courtesy of Blue Duck Tavern.

One of the rules to making any festive gathering less stressful is preparing a dish in advance. Brunch is trickier; many egg dishes and morning sweets tend to be a la minute operations. Thankfully chef Sebastien Archambault was willing to share his popular twist on French toast from Blue Duck Tavern’s menu, no last-minute frying involved.

You’ll need to start two days in advance so that the bread and croissants can sit overnight in crème anglaise (a light vanilla custard), and then chill overnight after baking to fully set. The fruit compote can be made up to a week before. Once your guests arrive, all the legwork is done: just rewarm the French toast and sweet pear-apple mixture, and pour yourself the first mimosa.

Pear and Apple French Toast
Serves 12

Ingredients for the French toast
14 egg yolks
¼ lb sugar
1 pint heavy cream
1 pint milk
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (use seeds only)
½ lb country bread
3 oz plain croissants

Ingredients for the pear and apple garnish
½ lb pears, diced
½ lb apples, diced
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
Salt, to taste

Assemble the French toast
Whisk the first six ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Cut the country bread into 1-inch slices. Leave the croissants whole. Place both the bread and croissants into a large plastic container with a lid. Pour cream mixture over the baked items and stir to coat. Make sure all bread is submerged. Cover and let soak in the refrigerator overnight.

Bake the toast
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Cook in a greased 9-by-13-inch cake pan for two hours. Make sure the center of the bread pudding is set before removing from the oven. There should be no liquid flow when pressed lightly near the center.

Place the cake pan on the counter. Top with a sheet pan or cookie tray and press the toast for one hour. Remove the tray, and let the toast it chill in the fridge overnight.

Make the pear and apple garnish
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, melt the sugar to dark caramel over a medium flame. When the sugar is completely melted, add all remaining ingredients. Do not stir.

When the sugar loosens up, stir and cook until the apples start to look glassy, about eight minutes (the sugar will seize up because you are adding cold ingredients, but it will loosen and melt).

Remove from heat and let the mixture cool down to room temperature. Place the mixture (including the juices) in a quart container and store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it. This can be made up to a week in advance.

To serve
Preheat the oven to 350 degree F.

Cut the toast in the middle lengthwise, and then slice into 1-inch pieces. Warm in the oven until heated through.

Meanwhile, re-warm the compote in a sauce pan over medium heat (if the fruit has absorbed all the liquid, add a little apple sauce or apple juice). Top the French toast with the fruit garnish, plus whipped cream and maple syrup if desired.

Posted at 09:04 AM/ET, 12/27/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
A simple sip for the holidays, or everyday. By Anna Spiegel

The classic summery Pimm’s Cup gets a wintery makeover for the holidays. Photograph by Anna Spiegel.

We love a refreshing Pimm’s Cup on warm afternoons, but it’s harder to imagine sipping the citrusy cocktail fireside. That is, until we sampled Adam Bernbach’s cold-weather version at his 14th Street cocktail den, 2 Birds 1 Stone, beneath Doi Moi. Gone are the cucumber slices and ginger ale float that typically accent the classic drink, replaced by more wintery flavors like cinnamon-infused Pimm’s (a type of British liqueur), spicy ginger beer, and a small dose of gin for added warmth.

Note that you’ll have to start one day ahead to infuse the Pimm’s with cinnamon, but like the classic cup, the rest is easy (and easy drinking).

Winter Pimm’s Cup

Makes one cocktail


1 oz. Cinnamon-infused Pimm’s (see recipe below)
1 oz. Ford’s gin, or the more common Beefeater if it’s not available
4 oz. Spicy ginger beer, such as Blenheim brand
A mint sprig and lemon wheel to garnish

For the cinnamon-infused Pimm’s

3 Cinnamon sticks
1 Liter Pimm’s liqueur

Toast the cinnamon in a dry pan over medium heat for a few minutes, until the sticks become aromatic.

Break up the sticks, and soak them overnight in the Pimm’s. Remove the cinnamon.

Make the cocktail

Build the drink over ice in a Collins glass: add the Pimm’s and gin, and then top with the ginger beer. Give the drink a quick stir, and garnish with the mint sprig and lemon wheel.

Posted at 10:51 AM/ET, 12/13/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Chef Barry Koslow melds Jewish tradition with Thanksgiving flavors. By Anna Spiegel

A Hanukkah latke with Thanksgiving flavors from chef Barry Koslow. Photograph courtesy of DGS Delicatessen.

The first night of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving only coincide once every 70,000-odd years, so it’s definitely an occasion worth noting. We asked DGS Delicatessen chef Barry Koslow to concoct a Thanksgivukkah recipe, bringing together flavors from both traditions. The result: sweet potato latkes topped with a savory cranberry condiment, a perfect appetizer or side for your holiday table.

Latkes are simple, recipe-wise, but the trick is keeping them crisp. Make sure you squeeze as much moisture from the potatoes and onions as possible, and pan-fry them in clarified butter, canola oil, or even duck fat for a crackly crust. The DGS team recommends underseasoning the mixture to start, frying up a small test bite, and adjusting to taste. The cranberry mostarda to finish the dish is an easy, chutney-like accent that can be made a week in advance. Latkes aside, you may have just found your new cranberry sauce.

Sweet Potato Latkes With Cranberry Mostarda

Serves 4 as a side dish

For the cranberry mostarda:

½ cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
½ cup diced apple
½ cup dried apricots
¼ cup mustard seeds
¼ teaspoon mustard powder
½ cup water
Pinch of salt
1 cup fresh cranberries

Combine all ingredients except for the cranberries in a small sauce pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

Simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the mustard seeds start to plump up.

Pull the pot off the heat and add the cranberries, gently stirring. Be careful not to pop them.

Pour the mixture into a bowl or jar and chill thoroughly before serving. The mostarda can be kept in the fridge for up to a week.

For the latkes:

1 Idaho potato
1 medium sweet potato
½ medium white onion
2 egg yolks
2 small sage leaves, minced
½ cup clarified butter, canola oil, or duck fat (if you’re going decadent)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using the largest holes of a box grater, grate the sweet potato, Idaho potato, and onion into a mixing bowl.

Squeeze as much water from the mixture as possible and place mixture in a separate bowl. Discard the water.

Add the egg yolks, sage, salt, and pepper to the bowl. Mix all the ingredients until incorporated.

Place a nonstick pan on medium heat and add the clarified butter, oil, or fat.

Form the potato mixture into baseball-size spheres, and gently place in the butter. Flatten them with a spatula into a pancake shape, so they’re about 1⁄8 inch thick.

Brown the latkes for approximately 5 minutes per side. Remove from pan and put on a paper towel to sop up any extra grease.

Finish the latkes for 10 minutes in the oven on a cookie sheet.

Posted at 02:00 PM/ET, 11/20/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Pastry chef Susan Wallace shares one of her favorite fall desserts. By Anna Spiegel
Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Looking for an easy way to spruce up classic pumpkin pie? This recipe from BlackSalt pastry chef Susan Wallace is both impressive and simple—you don’t even need to make a crust from scratch. Simply fill a store-bought shell with spiced pumpkin purée, and top with buttery oatmeal streusel for crunch. (Bonus: It looks pretty, too.)

Pumpkin Streusel Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie (serves 6 to 8)

For the oatmeal streusel:
⅔ cup all-purpose flour
⅔ cup quick oats
⅓ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, chilled, cut into ½-inch cubes and chilled

For the pie and filling:
1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell (Wallace recommends Pillsbury Pet-Ritz deep-dish)
2 eggs, separated
15 ounces canned pumpkin purée (Wallace likes Libby’s brand)
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk, preferably Eagle Brand
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt

Prepare the streusel:

In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and salt.

Work in butter by hand, until butter pieces are pea-size. The mixture should be crumbly. Chill 15 minutes.

Pre-bake the pie shell:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of pie shell and fill with pie weights, beans, or rice to weigh down shell. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove pie weights, beans, or rice.

Finish the pie:

In medium mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks, pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt.

In separate bowl on mixer, whip egg whites until stiff. By hand, whisk the whites into pumpkin mixture. Pour the filling into pre-baked pie shell. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until almost set on top (the pie will be dry but shiny about 1 inch around the center).

Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes. Sprinkle streusel on top, covering pie. Return to the oven and continue baking for 20 to 25 minutes, until topping is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and cool 30 minutes. Chill at least 3 hours or overnight. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

Posted at 10:15 AM/ET, 11/18/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Hearty but elegant and perfect for fall, this is a great dish for holiday entertaining. By Jessica Voelker

Gorgeous, healthy, and delicious: This is the perfect fall salad to start off a dinner party. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

As a food writer, I get the chance to sample a lot of salads. It’s always good to have vinegar-dressed greens on the table when you’re tasting a lot of different—and often heavy—dishes. At a recent meal at J&G Steakhouse, a friend suggested we share this butternut squash starter as a healthy way to begin a meal of many meats. To our surprise, it was our favorite item that evening—with bright acidity from two vinaigrettes bringing out the sweet earthiness of the squash, measured dollops of goat cheese adding a touch of richness, pumpkin seeds lending crunch, and frisée and watercress offsetting the heft of the orange vegetable.

The best news: As the recipe below reveals, the uniquely delicious flavors come from ingenious ingredient combinations rather than time-consuming or challenging techniques.

Watch as it steals the show at your next fall dinner party.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Salad, Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette

Serves 4

For the squash:

1 small butternut squash
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Black pepper
1 small dried red chili, ground
1½ teaspoons coriander seed, crushed

To the rest of the recipe....

Posted at 11:59 AM/ET, 10/21/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Take advantage of peak peach season with these sweet pastries. By Anna Spiegel

Photograph courtesy of NoPa Kitchen + Bar.

If you’ve been to the farmers market lately, you know peach season has hit full stride. Take advantage of the sweet, ripe fruits with a hand pie recipe from NoPa Kitchen + Bar pastry chef Jemil Gadea.

Don’t be intimidated by the recipe’s multiple steps—they yield various rewards. Macerating the peaches makes an abundance of filling, which you can use to top ice cream, mix into smoothies, or even incorporate into a savory dish (peaches and spice-rubbed pork loin comes to mind). The liquid that’s drained from the fruit mixture before you make the pies is also a tasty side product; treat it like peach simple syrup to use in iced tea or cocktails, or reduce it with some fresh raspberries for sauce. Gadea is partial to the stone fruits from Black Rock Orchard, which sets up stalls at local farmers markets like the Penn Quarter FreshFarm Market on Thursday and Dupont on Sunday.

Gadea’s number-one tip for recreating NoPa’s dessert: Don’t overstuff the pies. Filling them beyond capacity will make them leak in the fryer and disintegrate. Serve them with vanilla ice cream for a classic summer treat.

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Posted at 03:08 PM/ET, 08/27/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
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 ()