Let us free ourselves from being too specific, and think in terms of techniques, categories, and tendencies.
To use a phrase from food writer and teacher Greg Patent, I believe in “cooking empowerment“.
When we learn the basics of ‘how things work’ we can shift and adapt, letting creative juices flow even when we were too intimidated to think we had such a thing as cooking creative juices. This is what I mean by expanding our versatility in the kitchen.
This is not to say that I don’t appreciate authentic ingredients and combinations, I love the anthropology of food and its history! But food has always shifted and evolved. Sometimes we cannot acquire certain foods so we adapt and adjust, and before we know it our traditions have changed. Perhaps it is better if everything is not always available at all times…our limitations can help us to see what IS around us.
Speaking of adaptations, these are pictures of a May Day Parade in Minnesota with definite flavors of Cinco de Mayo. I love it!
I think pastes and spreads are a great example of a concept that can be taken many directions.
Paste = A flavor packed spread, usually made from a mixture of herbs, spices, oils and often something acidic like lemon or vinegar. Some of my favorites are Chermoula, Harissa, Pesto, Adobo, Jerk, Fresh Chutneys, Garlic Chili, etc.
Tasty pastes are a way to be versatile and creative. They can be used with vegetables, meats, pastas, maybe even fruits. Flavors in a spreadable form! The liquid and oil help them to bind to other textures, and the herbs make it dynamic on your tongue. Make a lot and freeze it!
Chermoula (or charmoula) is of North African origin and generally is made with fresh herbs, oil, garlic, lemon, cumin and salt. There are, of course, numerous variations…some with onion, some with saffron. I think of it as a zesty cilantro pesto.
My cilantro in the garden is about an inch tall so I am already making plans for it in a chermoula over linguine pasta and grilled strips of steak. This first batch I made was from not-so-local cilantro and eaten with cooked potatoes. Yum!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Coarse Chop then grind with a mortar and pestle or blend in a food processor:
2/3 cup Fresh Cilantro
2/3 cup Fresh Parsley
1 – 2 Garlic cloves
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Fresh Lemon juice
2-3 teaspoons Sweet Paprika
2 teaspoons Cumin, ground (or if you can freshly grind the seed, it’s divine)
2 teaspoons Coriander, ground (ditto on grinding the seeds)
3/4 teaspoon Salt
1/8 teaspoon Black Pepper
Pinch of Cayenne
Stores at least a week in the refrigerator, or at least 3 months in the freezer.
Ways to use Chermoula
- On cooked vegetables (carrots, cauliflower, beets, etc)
- On rice or potatoes
- As a finishing condiment for chicken, lamb, beef or fish
- With garbanzo beans and cucumbers
- Spread on a piece of toast
- In a fruit salsa
- Tossed with shrimp, tomatoes and linguine pasta