Quick meals are a must during the busy holiday season, and we definitely turn to the grocery store for some help. Having a jar of pre-made tomato sauce on hand to pour over a bowl of pasta can be a life-saver when we're tired and cranky! Here are a few tips on adding more flavor to this simple meal:
Nonstick cooking sprays like Pam and Mazola are convenient to use and boast fat-free cooking. But these products have also always seemed to us like one of those strange slightly-mystical products akin to Bac-Os bacon bits or pre-grated Parmesan cheese in a can. Just what the heck is nonstick cooking spray?!
I was lucky enough to get to play around with a jar of Zingerman's Italian Wild Cherries, which are being given as a prize in our Pie Bakeoff (have you voted yet?).
My original idea was to make a pie out of them, but with some careful practice recipe testing using the same volume of frozen (less precious and expensive!) cherries, I came up short. I tried a version using apples as a supporting filling, but it just didn't blow me away enough to risk baking away the entire $49 jar of cherries and dumbing it down with another fruit.
I got really into using fennel pollen a few years ago when I got addicted to Mario Batali's Goat Cheese Tortelloni with Dried Orange and Fennel Pollen. The first time I made it I didn't have fennel pollen sitting around in my pantry, so I used Batali's suggested alternative: ground up fennel seeds. The pollen, I quickly found, makes a difference. And so I started using it on everything. A pinch of this stuff, makes magic happen. The food writer Peggy Knickerbocker said "If angels sprinkled a spice from their wings, this would be it." (Saveur, May/June 2000)
Here are a few tips on how to use fennel pollen in your cooking...
I always keep a tub of Affi’s Aubergine Dip in my refrigerator, for many of the same reasons I always keep frozen peas in the freezer: convenience, inspiration, unexpected guests and, above all, deliciousness. While the ingredients are simple (mesquite smoked eggplant, olive oil, garlic, herbs and salt) the flavor impact is rich, smoky and complex.
All right, let's see a show of hands: who's too tired to cook every night of the week? Yup, that's what we thought ... us, too.
On the weekends, we like to go to the local farmer's market and load up on fresh produce, meats, cheeses, eggs, and the like. Often we'll devote one day to preparing lasagnas, casseroles, soups, and stews that we store in these wonderful Pyrex storage containers that go perfectly from the freezer to the oven to the table.
Toasted pine nuts can be a final grace note to well-constructed salads, pastas, and cooked veggies, and I often reach for them at the last minute to add savor and crunch.
Sometimes I stop short, however, realizing that I just don't have time to toast them. Untoasted pine nuts have a raw, mealy taste that I find unpleasant; toasting releases delicious oils and aromas. But toasting tiny pine nuts takes time and supervision. I have often burned a batch while trying to multi-task.
This versatile spread-sauce-dip combines buttery artichokes, tangy green olives and capers -- all spiked with red chili flakes and accented with refreshing mint for a sun-drenched Mediterranean vacation in December.