Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Cooking With Fire And Ice

Many home chefs are afraid of of those five letter words - spice and herbs.They're afraid that it may ruin a dish or that their families may not like the fiery , cooling or even strange taste.Those are silly fears. a dash of cumin or dried ancho peppers - or even a few mint leaves can transform a simple dinner into a special one.

Spices are both a professional chef's and home chef's best friend. For those still leery about adding zing to their  recipes, start with the most basic - black pepper. Add freshly ground peppercorns to simple dishes like pan fried steak or even scrambled eggs can lift them out of the ordinary.From there they can graduate from the black kind to the other varieties such as the green, white, and pink,The next step is trying the fiery but delicious Szechuan recipes that prominently feature the spice. Chili lovers can appreciate the value of a hearty and hot three alarm chili.Some cooks balk at making it at home, however their families will love a blood warming bowl if the heat is gradually turned up.It just a simple recipe readjustment of going from one teaspoon to two.Also other spices such as paprika and cumin can also be added to give layers and subtlety to the dish too. These fire bombs can be used in other recipes as well. Think about fried chicken with the added kick of cayenne. If home chefs are leery about putting the usual three teaspoons in the batter, cut it back to only one or one and a half teaspoons..Sub in curry  for a slightly less hotter chicken.

Home chefs can also cool down a recipe by using mint - peppermint and spearmint leaves. They have been used for centuries ,in  Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines to offset spicy flavors. Greeks have added the leaves to yogurt  as a cooling side to heavily spiced lamb and vegetable dishes. It's a simple mix of adding two teaspoons of dried leaves to  Greek yogurt. Tabbouleh gets a refreshing lift from it as well. This blend  of bulgar or cracked wheat ,cucumbers, tomatoes and onions are mixed with freshly minced  parsley and mint leaves for a nice cooling side with grilled kabobs and veggies.The herb can also be ground into pesto.The leaves have the same consistency as basil so it's very easy to grind into a paste.As with the original , Parmesan cheese and pine nuts are added along with lemon  to give it some tartness. It can be served with any kind of pasta but would be best with penne or rotelli. Try it drizzled over a cold pasta salad when barbecue season rolls around.Another warm weather dish  that's cooling is sliced cucumbers in a mint sour cream sauce. Spearmint , usually reserved for tea, can sub in if you don;t have peppermint leaves. Try it with lamb or poultry.

There's nothing wrong with adding a little fire - or a little ice to liven up a dish. Experiment with different spices and herbs.They'll add zing to a once boring dinner.

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