All my bitter posts
- Belly Dancer’s Spice? (1/16/2015)
The scent of Fenugreek seeds tend to make me think of Belly Dancers, for whatever reason. It’s beautiful, exotic essence perfumes the very air; transporting me to a place dark with romance and secrets.
Fenugreek is used in many varied cuisines: India, Turkey, Persia, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, as well as an ingredient in traditional Yemenite Jewish New Year dishes.
You have probably encountered this spice in curries. Fenugreek’s fresh or dried leaves are used as an herb and the fresh leaves, sprouts and micro-greens are a delightful addition to your vegetable choices. Fenugreek’s distinctive sweet smell is from the chemical component, Sotolon.
The smell of the seeds is reminiscent of so many things, that it can be a challenge to one’s nose to identify exactly what has your attention so thoroughly. It’s pungent sweet, yet bitter aromas may make you think of burnt sugar, caramel, maple syrup, chocolate, coffee, or even, celery. Actually, it is an ingredient in artificial maple syrup.
Such a broad spectrum makes it a favorite in my spice cabinet. Besides it’s natural affinity to all the ingredients from that exotic side of our globe, it is fun to add in unexpected places. Why not? It’s beautiful with cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage. Try using a titch of toasted, ground seeds in an omelet. Add the same to plain yogurt, with herbs, to create a spectacular sauce for chicken, fish or maybe a lentil soup! Fenugreek also works well with tomatoes, so imagine a sauce featuring toasted ground seeds, garlic, chilies and fresh herbs. Try this sauce with pasta or as a base to roast chicken breasts.
It’s time for me to stop tormenting you with these ideas! Get in the kitchen and cook! Enjoy! Chef Celinda
- Cracking Up (1/14/2015)
Embrace your ‘Nutty’ side and bring more NUTS into your culinary repertoire. Walnuts, in particular, can be a wonderful addition, to both sweet and savory dishes. They also bring Omega-3 fatty acid and a decent amount of protein to “the table”.
I find it relaxing to hand-shell nuts, like these. Grab a handy nut cracker and start cracking those big shells! You may find a certain sense of timeless contentment or…maybe you might want to use this task for a little stress relief, for those annoyances you may have internalized. Yes, cooking can be quite therapeutic!
Whether smashing things brings you joy or you’d rather just slide into a bag and pull out some treasure, walnuts are easy to work with. They add a wake up of bitterness, lovely texture and the element of surprise in many dishes.
You have probably seen them used in salads. All of the elements discussed in the prior paragraph make them a great choice for this.
Walnuts are wonderful, as the primary, or as a secondary component in sauces. Consider them when working with apples, beets, blue veined cheeses, carrots, eggplant, figs, grains, greens, mushrooms, pastas, pesto and winter squashes, to name just a handful of ideas to consider.
So, maybe you are nuts, but you’re a fabulous Cook! Enjoy!! Chef Celinda
- Coffee: Bitter Blessing (1/14/2015)
You wake up in the morning. You’re foggy and a bit disoriented. You reach for a jolt of BITTER, ie: Drip Coffee, Espresso, French Press… I could list more, but they all typically include sugar, an entirely different life changing ingredient we add to our daily chemistry. Many Seattleites, would claim the consumption of coffee to be a near religious experience.
Today, I am going to discuss using the highly beloved coffee bean as a culinary ingredient. Yeah, I know! Life just moved to an even better place!
Whether using Dark roast, with it’s LOUD flavors or Lighter roast, that can be a bit more moderate, even quiet, in it’s expression, you have so many opportunities to create!
Maybe you have already risked it all, combining coffee with chocolate in your baking. Those two tango sublimely outside your coffee cup! How about using coffee in savory dishes?
Beef and Pork are great dishes to consider using fresh ground coffee, or espresso beans, as the primary component of a rub. The big flavors of coffee is incredible paired up with warm spices, spicy peppers, smokey flavored ingredients.
I also like to use coffee in sauces and gravies; even soups and chili. Have a project that is just not right; no pizzazz, no WOW? Add some prepared coffee to the liquid you are reducing. Be careful, it may feel like your kitchen had a little earthquake… Taste it now. And??? All of sudden, that dish is yelling HELLO!!! EAT ME!!
Don’t be Bitter! Have FUN with your FOOD! Chef Celinda
- Zesty! (1/14/2015)
During, seemingly endless, gray winter days, bringing a little sunshine into our meals is a true bonus. Beautiful colors, bright flavors, reminiscent of sunny days past or future, give us hope. That bitter tang from tiny morsels of zest, as it assaults each of our senses and bellows WAKE UP!!
Using the zest, the thin outer edge of the peel not the inner white pith, in recipes adds flavor, but no fat or sodium! How many ingredients, with that level of WOW, can say the same thing?
The easiest way to make quick flavor adjustments to many dishes, is by keeping a microplane handy in the kitchen. You can zest directly into the pan or do ahead and have it handy. It smells sooooo good, coming off the plane in tiny ribbons, as the oils are released into the atmosphere.
If you are in need of a large quantity, you might want to use a grater with a larger surface. I like to do this over a good size piece of waxed paper. Less mess and more zest for use.
I particularly like the bitter aspects of citrus zests. I use it frequently, in any dish that the primary fruit flavor would work with. Watch Fearless Feast recipes for lots of great ideas!
Enjoy! Chef Celinda
- Chocolate (1/14/2015)
Dark Chocolate is a wonderful ingredient to integrate into numerous savory dishes. You may be familiar with it in Puebla Mole recipes. It is an incredible ‘secret ingredient’ in chili and it makes a subtle component, when included in rubs for beef and pork dishes.
Chocolate is only grown in a narrow band of latitude around the globe. Like good wine, it is available from single plantations. If you get the opportunity, don’t pass up the chance to taste test a variety of chocolates. You will find them to be amazingly different from one another. Savor it on your palate. Close your eyes and delve deeper into the flavor profile. What do you taste? The essence of the earth it was grown in? Spice? Berries? Coffee notes? Approach chocolate tasting the same way you would seek to choose a wine. I will warn you, once you have experienced this level of culinary ecstasy, it’s rather like flying first class…coach will never be adequate again.
You want to buy a product that is high in cocoa; 60% is sweet enough for most people’s eating pleasure, while 80% is best for cooking with. The difference is the sugar content. Once again, taste! Be bold! Think about those flavors, not the sugar. What excites your taste buds?
Another great treat to work with are cocoa nibs. This is chocolate in its non-processed form. No, it has no sugar, but it’s a more balanced bitter flavor then unsweetened, processed chocolate. Try adding nibs to risotto that will accompany beef or pork! You will want to add them at the end of preparation time. They are wonderful sneaky ingredient to integrate into a dish. Experiment!
Remember, dark chocolate is high in anti-oxidants, too! Enjoy!
- Play With Your Food (1/9/2015)
This colorful pair of playmates are both from the Chicory family. These are some excellent ingredients with which to invigorate your Winter diet!
The frivolous greenery to the right is Frisee; aptly named. Frisee is a fine leafed relative of curly endive. It has a nice bitter, yet slightly sweet flavor. You can eat it raw, in a salad featuring, possibly a favorite, full flavored cheese, nuts, eggs, mustard, or citrus. Additionally, it is excellent as a wilted salad! Frisee can also be braised. I think I might endeavor to create a recipe using this frolicsome ingredient tonight!
The luscious purple/red orb to the left is Radicchio. You might have read my recent post featuring a warm radicchio salad. This highly versatile chicory hales from Italy. It also has the bitter notes, typical of this genus. You will find Radicchio to have a subtle earthy quality in it’s flavor profile. I particularly enjoy cooking it with vinegars, like Balsamic. The cooking process brings out a wonderful sweetness, that is enhanced by the acids of the vinegar. You might also try dressing wedges of Radicchio with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper then grilling for another addictive flavor!
For more ideas on ingredients to use with these lovely ingredients, I recommend Karen Page’s book ‘The Vegetarian Flavor Bible’. Karen does a phenomenal job of giving us endless ways to combine and create with these and 1000’s of other ingredients!
So get out there and PLAY with your FOOD! Chef Celinda