Tuesday, January 27, 2015

New Favorite Stuff

Discoveries and things I have learned lately I would like to share with you some of my new favorite food things. Since returning to the kitchens of NYC, I have encountered many new ingredients to add to my bag of tricks.

Elderflower presse

Elderflower Presse is something I originally tried in London. It’s a popular children’s drink, usually diluted with water, sometimes with seltzer. It is very refreshing and fragrant. It is made with Carbonated Spring Water, Sugar, Fresh Elderflowers, Fresh Lemon Juice, and Citric Acid. I like to mix it into my Lilet or some vodka. Or sometimes I just take a swig from the bottle. You can also reduce it and use it in a sauce for grilled peaches or pears. If you want the same flavor in an alcoholic base, try Saint Germain liqueur. The liqueur is made from the same elderflower, which blooms through the spring and summer. Still produced in an artisanal manner, the liqueur is made from flowers that are gathered from the hillsides in the French Alps during a short four- to-six-week period in spring. According to the company's website, the picked flowers are bicycled to a collection depot (really?) where they are immediately macerated to preserve the fresh flavors of the bloom. Extracting the flavors of this flower is not an easy process, and the Saint Germain company keeps theirs a family secret. Each bottle of Saint Germain ($33.09 for 25 oz) is individually numbered which says classy to me!

Chianti Vinegar

This is a much more flavorful and a less overused choice than Balsamic. The benefit of creating a wine vinegar from a single grape variety, is that the character of the grape is retained in the final vinegar. That means that Chianti’s rosy-purple hue and bright flavor shines through. This elegantly crisp, robust, and well balanced vinegar (taken from their advertisement) is the culmination of a centuries old Italian winemaking tradition. It reminds me of cherry and plum. Use it anywhere you want to add the flavor of Chianti. It can add complexity to marinades and pasta sauces, or reduce it to make a killer glaze for grilled meats.

Aleppo Pepper

This beautiful pepper is also known as the Halaby pepper. It starts as pods which ripen to a burgundy color and is then semi-dried, de-seeded, then crushed or coarsely ground. The pepper is named after Aleppo, a long-inhabited city along the Silk Road in northern Syria, and is grown in Syria and Turkey. It is excellent at added a little heat to meat, chicken and fish. Great on some nice homemade pizza. Kind of reminds me of Ancho chile, but more interesting.

Xanthan Gum

My first encounter with Xanthan gum was when I was experimenting with Gluten-free baking. It is often added to improve texture and make a better crumb. You must use it very sparingly, about 1/8 of a teaspoon to about 3 cups of batter but it does do the trick. It is an ingredient which has been on the industrial market forever. It is commonly used as a food thickening agent and a stabilizer (in cosmetic products, for example, to prevent ingredients from separating). All weird science to me! But now I have discovered it is the bomb when it comes to emulsifying sauces. I always used dijon to keep my salad dressings in suspension but it adds a flavor I don’t always want. Using Xanthan gum I can achieve a perfect texture and it never separates! Home made ice cream also benefits from a pinch (but do your research first to see the most effective way to incorporate it).

Vadouvan Curry

Vadouvan is a ready-to-use blend of spices that is a French derivative of a masala. It is an Indian curry blend with added aromatics such as shallots and garlic. The spice blend is thought to have originated from French colonial influence in the Puducherry region of India. Indian recipes for Vandovan blends vary but most contain at minimum, pounded onion, garlic, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds and fenugreek. The mixture is dried in the sun and then crushed, but still has large bits in it. (thanks Wiki). Vadouvan is sweet and just a tad smoky and is not heavy on cumin which I think can be overpowering. Great on roasted veggies like butternut squash, or in grains. Chicken loves it! Blend it into some butter to spread on your French radishes.

Malt Vinegar powder

This ingredient could change your world. One of the problems I have when trying to up the acidity in a mayo or aioli is it gets too thin. In catering, that can be an issue because when making elegant little hors d’oeuvres we try to put our sauces in squeeze bottles or pasty bags for fast delivery at on site events, so viscosity is an issue. Malt powder does the job and actually acts as a thickening agent. Besides sauces, it can add a nice tangy, vinegary flavor to your snacks and dishes. Use it on vegetables, salad dressings, chicken wings, pork, fish, popcorn & potato chips! Use it for to add a salt & vinegar flavor to your fish & chips. Add to your fish prior to breading to infuse the flavor into the fish without making it soggy. Careful when opening the package as the powder will go right up your nose like Wasabi!

Calamondin Marmalade

I first had Calamondin jam when my parents brought home small jars of it from their adventures on the Jewish Riviera, Miami Beach. It was like orange marmalade but better and more interesting. Then I never saw it again. Recently my friends were in Florida and asked if I wanted anything and it hit me! Bring me the jam. Calamondin oranges originated as a cross between a tangerine and a kumquat and they grow in the South. They smell sweet, but are surprisingly tart. Despite its outer appearance and its aroma, the taste of the fruit itself is quite sour, although the peel is sweet. Calamondin marmalade can be made in the same way as orange marmalade. Like other citrus fruits, the calamondin is high in vitamin C. The fruit can be frozen whole and used as ice cubes in beverages such as tea, soft drinks, water, and cocktails. The juice can be used in place of lemon juice. It makes a fantastic glaze for ham, and is excellent on duck. You can buy it online. My friends brought me all natural calamondin marmalade made by Pelican Bay Ltd. And of course it’s excellent on toast.

So, what's new with you?


Sharon Hauser said...

I know we're supposed to comment on the unique and delicious recipes you somehow find the time to share, so this isn't really for the internet, but for you. I just wanted to thank you for your blog, and for your great sense of humor, and for taking the time to maintain Mouth of Wonder. I grew up in NYC, and went to high school in Manhattan on 15th St & 1st Ave. During that time and afterwards in college, I spent a lot of time with my friends on the Lower East Side, in China Town, the Village, etc., visiting whatever unusual restaurants full of delectables we could afford. Then in 2008, after spending most of my live in NY, I moved with my family to Michigan, about an hour out of Detroit, and I feel like I'm in the middle of nowhere - which is, of course, because I am. No one here even knows what a knish is, and when I called a pizzeria to order a pie, they very politely told me that they weren't a bakery, and hung up. There aren't any good Chinese, Indian, Thai, South Western, Ukrainian, Japanese, Delicatessens, or any other kind of restaurants I can think of here, only restaurant chains and franchises. I'm in McDonald's and Dairy Queen country! I can't even find a decent bagel, and bialys don't exist here. So, you can imagine how much I love your blog, and how much it reminds me of home. It also keeps me busy trying to find ingredients for your wonderful recipes, which of course are largely missing from the stores. Thank you for keeping me sane in Michigan :)
PS- Is your restaurant near Kossars?

Stacy said...

So glad you enjoy my blog, stay tuned I am trying to hook up a NYC radio show in the fall.