In an effort to take advantage of the relatively mild weather before the inevitable cold spell comes (though the winter wonderland decorations already bedazzling just about every outdoor space have me believing that it’s already here), I’ve been booking my weekends with just about every outdoor activity possible. From long walks and wineries to old college town tailgating and, just last weekend, to the delightfully food-oriented Emporiyum.
Essentially a pop-up market, Emporiyum set up shop at Union Market in DC and about 100 chefs, creatives and artisanal food-makers brought their beautiful and delicious creations for all to eat, drink, and purchase. With free samples at almost every stall, my friends and I spent a good two hours meandering through every inch of the space, robotically reaching out to try everything presented to us. Scattered amongst some more well-known purveyors like Shake Shack and Route 11 chips, it was actually the tiny food businesses, the ones really experimenting with their subjects of choice, that impressed me the most. A crowd favorite was Buredo, the sushi burrito sensation that’s taking DC by storm (and yes, it is as good as it looks). I also ended up walking away with cod brew coffee aged in whiskey barrels from Vigilante Coffee, spicy maple syrup from Mixed Made, a smoked cinnamon ice cream from Little Baby’s Ice Cream, and some rye trumpet pasta from Spoglini Pasta Shop.
I’m not entirely sure why I bought the pasta. I honestly don’t even really eat that much pasta. But something about the unique and interesting shapes they offered, the rough-textured exteriors of the dry noodles, and the array of flavors from Everything Bagel Fusilli to Mint Cavatelli, had me suddenly needing to buy a bag. When it came time to make a dish out of it, I started with my favorite tomato butter sauce and built upon that with ingredients typically paired with rye, in this case hot smoked salmon and capers. I cut the tanginess of the sauce with a little bit of cream and added some freshness with spinach, fresh dill and a touch of lemon juice and zest. The dish is comforting and hearty without being overly heavily – it is Thanksgiving in 4 days after all – and once the sauce is done it all comes together fairly quickly. Of course the dish would still be great with any standard pasta, but if you can get your hands on some made with rye (Spoglini sells online!) you’ll see just what a difference it makes.
Rye Pasta with Salmon and Tomato Cream Sauce
Sauce recipe based on Marcella Hazan’s tomato butter sauce
1x28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
5 Tbs. butter
1 medium onion, peeled and halved
½ cup heavy cream
1 lb rye trumpet pasta
1 Tbs olive oil
1 large bunch of spinach
2 Tbs. capers
juice and zest of a lemon
8 oz hot smoked salmon, torn into large chunks
1 Tbs chopped fresh dill
salt and pepper
Start by making the sauce. In a large saucepan combine the tomatoes, butter and the two halves of the onion along with a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer to cook for about 45 minutes, until thick. Occasionally use a wooden spoon to stir and break up chunks of the tomato. When the sauce is done, transfer the onion pieces to a plate, cut into rough chunks, and return to the pot with the sauce. Stir in the cream and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package instructions until al dente. Reserve a half-cup of the pasta water and drain. Pour the noodles back into the empty pot and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium in a large skillet. Add the spinach and sauté until wilted. Add in the capers and the lemon zest and pour in the tomato sauce to warm it back up. Once hot, add the sauce to the pot with the cooked noodles. Add the salmon pieces and the dill to the pasta along with a squeeze of lemon juice and gently mix to combine. Pour in some of the reserved pasta water if it looks a little dry. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.
Living this suburban, just-outside-the-city-but-still-metro-accessible sort of life is pretty great but summer has a tendency to call me home. Home in the summer is a sigh of relief. It reminds me that there is a place in the world where I don’t have to put on appearances, where simple pleasures always exist. I can close my eyes and everything I hear, smell, and feel floods me with waves of nostalgia. A symphony of cicadas, a dozen or so mosquito bites on the ankles, the humid and hot air mingling with the smell of sunbaked grass and acrid tomato plants. If I could spend the rest of my life standing barefoot under the sun, a glass of iced tea in hand, watching that garden grow, it would certainly be a happy life.
But time is fleeting and just as I start to settle into the simpler ways of life at home, it’s time to head back to suburbia. But at least I’m usually laden with bags of fresh green beans, tomatoes, squash, and zucchini. Always so much zucchini.
And when there’s an excess of zucchini, quick breads are not far away.
I tried out a new recipe from Tara O’Brady’s book Seven Spoons. I haven’t yet had the chance to explore the book in too much depth but from the looks of it, the book is a treasure trove of delightful recipes that I can’t wait to try. But I can say that the chocolate olive oil zucchini muffin recipe is a definite win. These muffins have quite the flavor profile. The chocolate flavor is definitely there, but not in a way that makes you think you are simply eating a chocolate cupcake. It more so brings about this deep and earthy cocoa taste that pairs up nicely with the grassy component of the olive oil and the zucchini. Chocolate chunks and toasted walnuts bulk up the muffins providing a good crunch and chew to juxtapose the ultra moist aspect of the muffin itself.
I made 2-dozen muffins a few days in advance for an upcoming family reunion (they were a hit!) and I found that they froze really well too so you can stash several of them away for a day where a little taste of home is just what you need.
Chocolate Olive Oil Zucchini Muffins
Makes 24-28 small muffins
Recipe from Tara O’Brady’s Seven Spoons
1½ lbs zucchini
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups whole wheat four
½ cup cocoa powder
1½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1½ tsp. salt
1 cup toasted and chopped walnuts
8 oz. chocolate chunks
½ cup olive oil
1 cup buttermilk
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place muffin liners in two muffin tins. Using the large holes of a grater, grate the zucchini onto a clean kitchen towel. Once grated, place another towel overtop and press down to squeeze out some of the moisture. Let sit for 15 minutes and then transfer the zucchini to a bowl and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, walnuts, and chocolate chunks together. In a different bowl, whisk together the olive oil and the buttermilk. Whisk in the eggs, sugars, and vanilla and finally stir in the zucchini. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients and gently stir until just combined. Do not overmix.
Divide the batter between the muffin tins. I filled each so there was about a half inch of space between the batter and the top of the tins. Place in the oven and bake for 17-19 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the muffin. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.