On Sunday evenings, when Nora Pouillon’s family and friends gather at her 1930s modern home near the Georgetown Library, guests often find a simmering pot of spicy lemon grass broth scenting the kitchen. “This bare stock is so versatile as a poaching liquid,” says Austrian-born Pouillon, co-owner of Restaurant Nora, America’s first certified organic eatery, near Dupont Circle. “For an appetizer, I quickly bring the broth to a boil, add raw shrimp or scallops and let them cool in the pot. They cook perfectly.”
In minutes, the Thai-inspired shellfish are ready to serve with mayonnaise infused with ginger or cilantro mayonnaise. Simple and delicious. “It’s really nice with that first glass of wine,” says the widely known pioneering chef, an early proponent of farmers markets and sustainable organic farming practices.
For private parties at Restaurant Nora, which opened in 1979, the same fragrant broth is the base for a popular entree of seared wild salmon, shitake mushrooms, Chinese cabbage and rice noodles. “It’s so easy to adapt the broth to your taste,” she says. “Add more or less lemon juice for citrus flavor, adjust the heat,” by discarding or using the seeds of the jalapeno peppers.
With farmers markets in Glover Park, Dupont Circle and Rose Park brimming with seasonal bounty, early summer is prime time for Pouillon’s favorite salad of Boston lettuce, mixed with roughly chopped parsley, chives, green onion and even mint. “I like to add spinach, frisee, julienned kale, and often, thinly sliced Persian cucumbers.” The more greens, from mellow or bitter, the better.
Her go-to dressing is “my daughter Nadia’s way,” with the juice of a fresh lime replacing, which she combines with two to four tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper. “It’s a very refreshing, flavorful salad with all the different herbs and the lime juice really brings out the flavors without contributing too much acid.”
Toned and glowing from a variety of daily workout routines, she is currently on the board of six environmental organizations and is working on a memoir. “It’s about what led me to become passionate about healthy food and lifestyle. I want people to take responsibility for their own health.”
Nora’s current favorite restaurants:
Estadio for contemporary Spanish
and Le Diplomate for French bistro fare, both are in Logan Circle.
SPICY LEMON GRASS STOCK
5 lemon grass stalks, crushed and cut into 3-inch lengths
6-inch knob fresh ginger, sliced
1 bunch cilantro stems, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 jalapeno peppers, cut into half (with or without seeds to taste)
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon coriander seed
2 yellow onions, sliced
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
3 lemons, cut in half and squeezed (set aside
the juice; use oranges as substitute)
3 quarts cold water
2 cups white wine
Place all the ingredients except lemon juice, water, and wine in a bowl and toss so that the oil is evenly distributed. Heat up a large saucepan to medium heat and add the ingredients, sautéing (sweating) about 3-4 minutes until the onions are translucent.
Add the liquids and bring the stock to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 40 minutes.
Pour the stock through a strainer, pressing as much liquid as possible out of the vegetables. Discard vegetables.
What’s Cooking, Neighbor? visits with wine, food and entertaining professionals, who call the Georgetown area home.
Georgetowner dining columnist Walter Nicholls is the food critic for Arlington Magazine, a former staff writer for The Washington Post Food section and an East Village resident.