Monday, March 15, 2010
Food Dude's Big 5
Hey all! This weeks Big 5 helps you to get out of a rut and try something new. Stop being afraid of new ingredients and give something exotic a shot. If it doesn't turn out or doesn't turn your crank then make a bowl of soup and try something else next time. Fortune favors the bold and a bold sense of culinary adventure is rewarded many times over. Here is my Big 5...Foods You Probably Haven't Cooked With....But Should!
Sold fresh in your grocery store's produce department this leafy topped bulb is sometimes labelled as "anise". Its crisp licorice taste lends great depth to salads, stuffings and even hot cooked dishes. The bulb section has a small hard core that has to be removed but once done there is a baseball sized piece that is very easy to work with. And the leafy fronds at the end of the stalks can be chopped fine for sauces or garnishes. One of my favorite uses is to dice it fine with apples and roast them in same pan as a whole pork loin.
Yes shark! I told you this was going to be an exotic list! I first tried shark a few years ago when we were selling it at the Safeway fresh fish department and I really enjoy this meat. It does not have an overly fishy taste to it and once cooked the texture of the meat is almost like a slightly rare pork chop than a flaky fish. So easy to prepare its a very quick meal. Here is my favorite way to do it. Heat pan to med-high heat and add 1 tbsp olive oil. Coat your shark steaks with sesame seeds and add to hot pan. Cook until sesame seeds are golden brown and fish is cooked halfway (you'll be able to see the cooking done on the side of the steak). Turn over and cook other side same way. Watch them carefully because if your sesame seeds burn it can taint the meat. Serve with a lemon herb sauce or even hoisin sauce.
Capers are the unripened buds of the Capparis plant and are usually sold brined in small jars. They pack a wallop of flavor and add a sharp briney taste to many Mediterranean type dishes. They also enhance many other flavors which is one reason I put it in my somewhat famous cream cheese spread (no I am not posting that recipe just yet...) Try adding a tablespoon worth of chopped capers to a serving of plain linguine, then a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil for a very authentic Mediterranean dish.
I don't know why more people don't try duck. It's rich and flavorful and its high fat content (OK, maybe that's the reason) gives its skin an amazing crispiness that is hard to beat. Try making a couple of duck breasts for dinner. You will have to scored the skin side of the breast with a sharp knife in a criss-cross pattern to cook off some of the fat. Cook them in a pan on the stove top like you would chicken breasts and then remove when done. Remove all but a tablespoon or two of the fat and add two big spoonfuls of orange or apricot preserves and a half teaspoon of freshly grated ginger. Stir over low heat until you have a well blended and flavorful sauce.
Even if you are not a fan of really spicy food your cooking can benefit from the addition of one of many different chili peppers out there. From jalapeno to birds eye to habanero there are a multitude of them ranging from mild to scalp scorching. Find one that best suits your tastes and start with a little and work your way to the limit of your comfort. Add chilies to pasta sauces, soups, salad dressing...anything really! Have you ever flipped through a Jaimie Oliver cookbook? That bloke tosses a chili in more than 50% of his recipes and it seems to me that he knows a thing or two about cooking!
Another Big 5 in the books! I have fixed the setting on the blog so you can leave a comment without registering. Leave me some feedback and definitely let me know if you try any of these for the first time!