April 20, 2015

Recipes From Restaurant Nora, America’s First Certified Organic Restaurant

By Erica R. Hendry

Rockfish with quinoa at Restaurant Nora.

Rockfish with quinoa at Restaurant Nora.

As early as she can remember, Nora Pouillon was drawn to the way food could grow so resiliently from the ground.

After World War II, growing up on her family’s farm in the Austrian Alps, food “was a constant occupation, and the land was precious,” she says. “Food was life.”

It’s a message heard frequently among the growing number of Americans who have bought into the $39 billion organics industry over the past decade. The number of U.S. organic producers has grown 250 percent since the U.S. Department of Agriculture started to certify products in 2002, according to this Associated Press report.

But in 1970,  Pouillon was a small voice in a market crowded by processed foods.

She spent nearly a decade driving to farms around the mid-Atlantic to form her own network of suppliers. When she opened Restaurant Nora, in Washington, D.C., nearly all of her food came from farms in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

In 1999, Restaurant Nora’s became the first certified organic restaurant in the United States, an elusive designation earned by fewer than 10 other eateries nationwide.

One of the reasons her restaurant has succeeded: The food has won over even the most famous of unhealthy eaters (including Former President Bill Clinton).

Even if you can’t make it to Pouillon’s restaurant, you can bring some of her most popular dishes into your own kitchen. Ahead of her April 21 appearance on our show, she shared some recipes that can help bring more organic foods to your table.


Serves four

Sake glazed black cod. Courtesy of Restaurant Nora.

SAKE MARINADE (About 3 Cups)

  • ¼ cup sake or vodka
  • ¼ cup mirin or sweet sherry wine
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 4 ounces white miso

Combine sake, mirin, and sugar in a saucepan and cook until alcohol is evaporated and sugar dissolved, about two to three minutes.  Whisk in miso and cool.


  • 2 ounces white miso
  • 3 tablespoons yuzu juice (available in Japanese groceries or use lemon juice)
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped – 2 inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 6-8 tablespoons sunflower or other vegetable oil

Purée miso, yuzu, tamari, ginger, pepper, and water in a blender.  Slowly add oil to emulsify. Set aside.


  • 4  4-6 ounce black cod filets (also called sablefish or Pacific cod; can be substituted with other  fish, like salmon)
  • Sake marinade


  1. Arrange fish filets in one layer in a flat-bottomed glass pan.
  2. Cover with a moistened cheesecloth and pour sake marinade over cheesecloth, spreading it out to cover fish.
  3. Marinate in the refrigerator at least one hour, preferably overnight.
  4. Preheat broiler. Lift cheesecloth with miso paste off the fish. If you don’t have a cheesecloth, just spread the miso paste directly on the fish and scrape it off before broiling
  5. Place filets in a pan and broil 4 inches from heat for four to five minutes, until barely cooked through.



  • 4 baby bok choy heads, cut in halves
  • 8 baby carrots
  • 12 snow peas
  • 4 scallions
  • 8 shiitake mushroom caps, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower or other vegetable oil


  1.  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Plunge the bok choy, carrots, and snow peas into the water for about a minute, then drain in a colander.
  3. Heat oil in a frying pan. Stir fry garlic, ginger, and shiitake mushrooms, if using, for less than a minute.
  4. Add blanched vegetables and stirfry until crispy and bright in color.


Place stirfried vegetables on a plate, top with caramelized fish, and pour vinaigrette around vegetables.


Serves four

Restaurant Nora, Washington, DC

Restaurant Nora’s Beet Salad. Photo by Scott Suchman.


  • 5 red beets, medium sized
  • 5 yellow beets, medium sized
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 orange, peeled with a knife to remove pith and sectioned
  • 1 grapefruit, peeled with a knife to remove pith and sectioned
  • 1 square of feta cheese, about 8 ounces, cut into ½” squares
  • Pomegranate vinaigrette (recipe below)


  1. Preheat oven to 350º F.
  2. Wrap each beet in aluminum foil and place in a roasting pan.
  3. Roast for 90 minutes, or until tender.
  4. Allow beets to cool slightly, then rub off the skins using a kitchen towel.
  5. Cut beets into squares at least ½” thick.



  • 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon pomegranate molasses (see note)
  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Whisk together pomegranate molasses, red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper.
  2. Gradually add the olive oil to emulsify.

Note: If you can’t find pomegranate molasses, take ½ cup balsamic vinegar and reduce in a small pan on high heat until thick and syrupy, about 3 Tablespoons, which you use instead of the red wine vinegar and pomegranate molasses.


Toss beets with pomegranate vinaigrette. Divide equally on four plates. Divide the citrus sections equally as well and sprinkle with feta cheese. Drizzle with leftover vinaigrette.


 Asparagus and Morel Salad with Roasted Garlic and Lemon Dressing



  • 1 head garlic, unpeeled
  • Zested peel of 1 lemon
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon  Dijon mustard
  • 1 green onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 400º F.
  2. Cut off the top 1/3 of the head of garlic exposing the inside of the cloves.
  3. Wrap the garlic in aluminum foil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until very soft.
  4. Squeeze the garlic pulp into a blender.
  5. Zest the lemon and reserve for garnish.
  6. Pour the lemon juice into a measuring cup and add enough water to make 3/4 cup liquid.
  7. Pour the lemon-water mixture into the blender.
  8. Add the mustard, the green onion, and salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Purée until smooth.
  10. While the machine is running, add the olive oil in a thin stream blending until the vinaigrette is emulsified.


3/4 pound asparagus, trimmed and peeled, if large


  1. Steam or boil the asparagus for about four minutes or until tender.
  2. The exact cooking time will depend upon the size of the asparagus.
  3. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.
  4. Drain on a kitchen towel.
  5. Cut the bottom 1/3 of the stalks into 1/2-inch diagonal slices and set aside.
  6. Reserve the upper two-thirds.



  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 10 ounces morels, drained and trimmed
  • 8 green onions, trimmed, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons tamari
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley, for garnish


  1. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan
  2. Add the morels  and sauté for about 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add the green onions, balsamic vinegar and tamari and continue sautéing for about 2 more minutes, stirring from time to time, or until soft and blended.
  4. Remove from the heat and add the sliced and cooked asparagus stems.
  5. Stir to combine.
  6. Season to taste with pepper.


  1. Pour the garlic-lemon dressing in a pool covering one-half of each salad plate.
  2. Fan the asparagus spears over the dressing.
  3. Put a large spoonful of the morel and asparagus mixture at the base of each asparagus fan, dividing the portions evenly across the four plates.
  4. Sprinkle with parsley.

REHRUECKEN (Viennese Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake)

Serves 12

A note from Nora: This is a recipe that Omi, my grandmother, used to make. I always preferred this cake to the famous Sachertorte because it is so much more moist and tastes similar to a brownie.

Originally this cake is called Rehruecken, which means “saddle of deer,” because it was baked in a long ribbed loaf pan that imitated a  venison rack. It was also spiked with skinned almond pieces to imitate the larding pieces that were traditionally woven through the venison to tenderize the lean meat. You have to be Viennese to turn a cut of meat into a cake!    

Viennese Chocolate Almond Cake

Chocolate Almond Cake with Chocolate Glaze. Courtesy of Restaurant Nora.



  • 1½  cups almonds, coarsely ground
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter plus more for pan
  • 4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • ½ cup fine breadcrumbs
  • 6 egg whites


  1. Preheat the oven to 325º F.
  2. Butter an 8” springform or meatloaf pan with about 1 teaspoon of the butter and dust with flour or some bread crumbs.
  3. Soften the chocolate in a double-boiler over simmering water, then remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  4. Combine the butter, sugar and softened chocolate in the bowl of a mixer and whip until the batter changes to a lighter color and becomes creamy, about five minutes.
  5. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice while whipping.  Add the egg yolks, one at a time, continuing to beat.
  6. Lower the speed of the mixer and add the ground almonds and bread crumbs.
  7. Beat the egg whites until they are soft but not stiff.
  8. Stir a third of the beaten whites into the batter, blending thoroughly. Gently fold in the remaining whites, working quickly and carefully to incorporate all the whites without deflating the batter.
  9. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
  10. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes. The cake should be soft in the middle while hot.
  11. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a cake rack, then cool completely before glazing.



  • 3 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
  • 3 ounces unsalted butter, softened


  1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water or in the microwave on 50% power.
  2. Add the butter and stir until blended and smooth.
  3. Remove the glaze from the heat and allow it to cool and thicken to the consistency of a thick cream.
  4. Brush the cake to remove any loose crumbs, and place both the cake and the cooling rack on a sheet pan to catch the chocolate glaze.
  5. Slowly pour a pool of chocolate glaze at the center of the cake.
  6. Working from the center out, use a spatula to spread the glaze evenly over the top and sides of the cake.
  7. For a smoother look, glaze the cake a second time: Scoop up the excess glaze from the sheet pan and reheat it in a small double boiler.  Pour it through a sieve, if necessary, to remove any cake crumbs, and cool the glaze slightly to thicken a bit.
  8. Pour the glaze again at the center of the top and allow it to spread without using a spatula by just twisting the cake.
  9. Allow the glaze to set for about 2 hours at room temperature or 30 minutes in the refrigerator. The cake is traditionally served with Schlag (unsweetened whipped cream).


  • Don’t glaze the cake. Slice thinly and serve with vanilla ice cream or a fresh fruit compote and some whipped cream.
  • Use any kind of nut. Instead of almonds, you can use hazelnuts, walnuts or pecans.



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