23 May 2008

Sauce interview, Pt 3

Thanks so much, Dino. Lots of information there! Definitely some stuff I didn't know. Oil is really its own subculture of cooking, is it not? Understand how to use oil and it seems like you're halfway there. [Dino's note: Whether it be oil, water, steam, or dry heat, it's paramount to know the different mediums of cooking. It's why I am so careful to specify which method to use in the recipes on here and in the book: it really does make a difference in the final food. Oil is but one of the cooking media.]

Thanks also for the "start small and gradually increase" recommendation on unfamiliar spices. Now let me get into some more specifics; these may be slightly random. For these next questions, I'm thinking about spices and sauces that easy to find.

First, I'm interested in spices or spice blends and/or off-the-shelf sauces that can be used to produce the flavors below. For simplicity's sake - and to fit in with our recent theme of vegetable - let's concentrate on vegetable dishes, maybe together with rice or other grains, or on a sandwich.

Suppose I want a Mexican feel?
What about Thai?
Down-home or soul food?
Barbecue / smoky?

Second...I'm interested in any favorite spices and sauces you have for the following vegetables. Let's say I'm quickly cooking up some frozen vegetables (nuking, steaming, pan-frying, etc.) as a side dish. It's a busy weeknight and I don't have any time to make anything elaborate, but I want to add a little something from the spice rack or cabinet.

Asparagus
Broccoli
Peas
Green Beans (One suggestion from me: A bit of Hoisin sauce. It works great.)


When there are times that you want to have a certain ethnic cuisine, but you can't be arsed to delve into the seedy underbelly of weird ingredients or expensive/time consuming stuff, you will need to guesstimate the experience of such cuisines.

Suppose I want a Mexican feel?
Mexican food is so difficult to classify, because there are so many regional variations, based on distance from the sea, the USA, and mixture of cultures in that particular place. However, there are some baseline foods that really feel Mexican, when you incorporate them into your regular food. For example, if you ever buy a wheat tortilla again (to have a Mexican feel), I will personally come to your door, and smack you with said tortillas. ALWAYS buy 100% corn tortillas. Wheat didn't show up in Mexico until long after the Conquistator oppressors showed up. Until that point, the native Mexcians made tortillas from corn.

Get. Corn. Tortillas.

Instead of lemon juice, use lime juice. Use lots of garlic, onions, tomatoes, and cilantro. Use cumin. For example, say you want to have a quickie bean burrito. Open up a tin of black beans. Drain them, and rinse them off lightly. Pitch them into the bowl of a food processor. Add some olive oil, lime juice, and cumin powder. Pulse until everything is ground down to a paste. Chop up an onion, mince a clove of garlic, mince up a chilly (be it poblano, jalapeno, or whatever heat you can take in terms of chilly). Dump the onion, garlic, and chilly into a bowl. Add a generous squeeze of lime juice. Dice up a roma tomato, and pitch that into the bowl as well. Mince up a bunch of cilantro (use parsley if you hate cilantro), and throw that into the bowl as well. Top off the concoction with some ground black pepper, a touch of salt, and about 8 oz of tinned corn (drained, of course). Quickly toast up a corn tortilla. Spread the ground black beans onto the tortilla. Top it with your salad of tomatoes and corn. Fold it in half, and enjoy!

What about Thai?
To someone from Thailand, there is no such thing as too hot or too garlicky. Get used to using lots and lots of heat and garlic.

Say you want a quick curry. In a skillet, heat up some oil. Add a diced onion. Sautee the onion until it's soft. Pitch in as much minced garlic as you can handle. Add some chopped up green beans, some minced ginger, and a healthy dose chopped tomato. When the vegetables are cooked, throw in a few tablespoons of cocoanut milk. Add a generous squeeze of lemon juice, some chopped chilly peppers, and a whole tonne of chopped cilantro. Serve the curry over rice.

Down-home or soul food?
Soul food is concerned with taking cheap ingredients, and making them taste really great. To make some quick collard greens, all you need is a bit of oil, lots of garlic, and some Old Bay seasoning. Chop your collard greens roughly. In the bottom of an enormous pot, heat some oil. Add the greens. Stir the greens around in the hot fat, so that every green is coated in a bit of the fat. When everything is coated, add a generous dose of Old Bay seasoning. Stir the greens around some more to combine them with the seasoning. Add in just enough water so that the first inch or so of the pot is filled. Add the garlic. Cover the lid of the pot, and drop down the heat to as low as it'll go. Let the greens steam for about five to ten minutes. Remove the lid, and stir everything around again. Serve with corn on the cob, a green salad, and some rice. Soul food need not be artery clogging!

Barbecue/smoky
Since I've never eaten it before, I'm out of my depth. What worked for me, is to rub on some cocoanut oil on some portabello caps, sprinkle on some Chili powder, and grill them. Friends have raved about it.

Asparagus
I hate asparagus.

Broccoli
Garlic powder, a touch of nutmeg, and cocoanut milk. Combine the spices and cocanut milk. Toss broccoli florets in spice and cocoanut milk blend. Nuke on high for like 10 minutes.

Peas
A tonne of parsley, basil, oregano, and dill (all fresh, please). Add some lemon juice, some olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.

Green Beans
Sautee in olive oil. Add slivered almonds. Pitch in some white wine. Cook until liquid evaporates.