Global Cuisine

Smoked Paprika, Meals with a Twist!

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by Jeanne Kelley

paprika.jpgI was recently asked by Heinz 57 Sauce and the folks at Good Bite what my favorite “flavor twist” was. They wanted to know what simple addition could be made to meals that would take them from simple to special. The answer was easy – Smoked Paprika.

Smoked Paprika, Pimenton de la Vera or Pimenton Ahumada comes from Eastern Spain. The red peppers are gently dried with smoke, usually from oak, before being processed into paprika. You can find it at fancy food markets, on-line and even in the spice rack at the supermarket. In fact, a McCormick rep told Bon Appetit Food Editor Sarah Tenaglia, that their jars of smoked paprika were one of their hottest sellers. So, I guess I’m not the only one who likes to add zip to dishes with Smoked Paprika.

The Spanish varieties, available in little tins, come in dulce – sweet or mild, and picante – hot. If you like things spicy, go for the picante, but a little cayenne pepper can be added to the dulce for the same effect. The tin pictured was a gift from my friend Pierre, who just returned from a trip to Spain.

I Love Kebabs

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by Amy Sherman

summerkebabs.jpgI don't know why eating food on a stick is so much fun, but it is. The best kebabs I ever had were in Istanbul, the meat sizzled on the outside but was juicy on the inside. Luckily kebabs are easy to make at home even for those like me, without an outdoor grill.

I'm amazed at how versatile kebabs are and how they always manage to stretch whatever I'm cooking. It must have something to do with surface area and spacial relations. When food is served on a stick, it just seems like there is more of it. Two slices of eggplant, two small zucchini and just under two Italian sausages somehow made a huge dinner for two. It also gave me the feeling of Summer, even though it was cooked and eaten indoors.

When it comes to kebabs, skip the bamboo. The best kind of skewers are metal--I have two sets, flat metal which are particularly good for meat and vegetables and double pronged which are perfect for seafood. With either one you choose, the food won't slip and slide. In my experience food also cooks faster and more evenly on metal skewers than on bamboo. Buy 'em once, use them forever.

Grilled Lamb Koftas

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by Joseph Erdos

kofta.jpg The flavors and spices of Middle Eastern foods, especially the grilled kebabs and koftas, are some of the most interesting and unique, with influence stretching from the Himalayas to the Mediterranean. Koftas, grilled ground meat patties, can be found in many countries in the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, And Central Europe. A few years back I enjoyed some wonderful lamb koftas at a Turkish restaurant in New York City. Ever since then I've kept the idea in the back of my mind of creating my own recipe. Inspired also by the Hungarian fasírt my mother makes, I wanted to create a recipe that combined spices from the various regions: paprika from Hungary and coriander, cumin, and turmeric from India.

My mother's fasírt combines beef and pork and only uses the simplest spices, whereas koftas are generally made out of beef or lamb and use the most pungent spices. These koftas can be shaped into patties or meatballs, but I thread them onto skewers, one of the more interesting methods of cooking them. They can be fried in oil, but grilling them is healthier and lends more flavor. In South Asia, koftas are seared first and then stewed in curry. This recipe can be adapted to suit many tastes and preparations. The idea of meat on a stick is so novel that it's worth making, especially for kids.

Miso Soup

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by Joseph Erdos

misosoup.jpgMiso soup is a traditional Japanese comfort food that has gained popularity throughout the world. Here in the United States, it entered the zeitgeist along with sushi and sake when Japanese cuisine became popularized in the 1980s. In Japan, miso soup is eaten by everyone everyday and is as popular as tea. Most Westerners tend to find it difficult to appreciate miso soup, to say the least. It's just one of those foods that is either loved or hated. But for me it's a soup I've been trying to come to terms with for many years. Whenever I've had miso soup I've always hated it, but sometimes I've almost liked it. I've learned that depending on the restaurant and depending on the preparation and the paste used, miso soup can be very different.

There are three to four main types of miso paste used to make the soup including red, white, yellow, and a mixed paste. They can be made of soybeans, wheat, barley, rice, or a combination. The flavors range from very strong and salty, of red miso, to more delicate and refined, of white miso. I've become very fond of yellow miso, which is the one I use for this soup recipe. I use a brand that makes a low-sodium version, which is just how I prefer the taste. Most miso pastes are very high in sodium. I do love the umami flavor of miso, but do not like the overpowering salty taste of many miso paste brands. That's what turned me off in the first place. But making miso soup is mostly about personal taste.

Green Curry Shrimp

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by Joseph Erdos

greencurry.jpgI cannot go to a Thai restaurant without ordering green curry. It is by far my most favorite Thai dish and I've eaten so many versions that I can almost say I'm an expert in its flavor. Something about the creamy coconut sauce with slight sweetness, the hot chiles, the green color, and verdant flavor makes me crave this dish very often. Curry, a generic term for dishes in South Asian cuisine, is known for its use of distinctive spices combined to form unique flavor. Most Westerners assume that curry is a single spice or a mixture of them. Although this is somewhat true, the word curry, an Anglicization of the Tamil word khari, references the nature of the dish: a stew, sauce, or gravy; not the spices. The colonizing English happened to call all saucy South Asian foods by the name curry, and the name stuck.

The most well-known curries are Indian and Thai, but the combination of ingredients differ greatly. Thai curries use a vast array of fresh herbs and vegetables such as cilantro, kaffir lime leaves, and lemongrass to lend incomparable aroma. The base of the green curry comes from the all-important paste, which combines lemongrass, lime leaves, shallots, garlic, ginger, cilantro, chiles, and the spices coriander and cumin along with the particularly Thai ingredients: fish sauce and shrimp paste. All of the Thai curries begin with a similar flavorful paste, but of course a red curry will begin with a red paste, and a yellow with a yellow. The "green" ingredients create the unforgettable fresh flavor that is the base for green curry.

Huevos Rancheros son Muy Deliciosos

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by Susan Russo

heuvosrancheros.jpg Since I live in Southern California, I really should speak Spanish. It’s not like I don’t know any Spanish. I know a few essential phrases, such as Buenas dias. ¿Cómo esta? Muchas gracias. And ¿Puedo tener huevos rancheros, por favor?

It’s not much, but it’s gotten me by so far, especially the last one. Knowing how to ask for huevos rancheros is muy importante since it’s one of my favorite dishes for brunch. I ate heuvos rancheros for the first time 10 years ago in Chapel Hill, NC. Since then, I’ve eaten heuvos rancheros all over the country, from San Diego, CA to Miami, FL, and I can say two things for certain about them:

1. I’ve never had heuvos rancheros prepared the same way twice.
2. I’ve never had a dish of heuvos rancheros I haven’t liked.

Heuvos rancheros refers to a dish containing eggs and tortillas. It is one of those gloriously laid back dishes that seems to turn out well no matter how much (or little) effort goes into making it and no matter which ingredients are used. As with any regional dish, I’m sure there are many recipes for “the right way” to make them. If so, I don’t have it. I’m always altering the ingredients based on what is available seasonally and what I’m in the mood to eat.

Lime & Salt Tortilla Chips

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by Amy Sherman

limesaltchips.jpgCorn tortillas come in such huge bags, I don't know how can you possibly use them all. Buying one of those packages, though they are cheap, is a major commitment in my house. It means weeks of enchiladas, tacos, chilaquiles and when I run out of ideas, tortilla chips or totopos as they are known in Mexico. I love the word totopos, even though it sounds a bit too much like the Italian name of a certain well-known cartoon mouse.

Traditionally totopos are tortillas cut into triangular wedges that are deep fried in oil. If there is one thing I just can't bring myself to do, it's deep fry anything in oil. I just can't. Don't ask me. So here is what I do instead, I bake the tortillas. Baking doesn't make them as light, crispy and decadent as frying, but they are still yummy and as a bonus you can enjoy them with very little guilt.

If you look for tortilla chips in the store, you'll find they come in all kinds of flavors. With a little experimenting I found you can make great lime and salt flavored chips with--you guessed it, lime and salt! Eat them plain, with salsa or with toppings like guacamole, refried beans and crumbly Mexican cheese. Are you getting hungry yet? Because I sure am.

Indonesian Ginger Chicken

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by Cathy Pollak

spicychicken.jpgI am always searching for a new way to make chicken.  It's one of those blank canvas foods...just waiting for inspiration to hit and turned into something wonderful.

While flipping through one of my Ina Garten cookbooks, I came across this recipe. There wasn't a picture, which often deters me from making something. I want to see it done. Anyway, it just sounded good, not to mention I had few hunks of ginger in the refrigerator I needed to use. Ina mentioned this was served in her New York store and was excellent both warm and cold.

The mixture of the honey, ginger, garlic and soy sauce sounded like the perfect flavor combination. So out came the chickens from the freezer to thaw completely and then the marinating process began.

Pantry Paella

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by Amy Sherman

pantrypaella.jpgMy kitchen is overflowing. My freezer is so full I can barely close it. I sometimes hear the crash of bottles, jars and tins falling off my pantry shelves and onto the floor. I seriously think I could cook and eat without going out of the house for a month. Ok, I might get bored of tuna and beans and pasta, but then again, maybe not. I have no idea what causes me to hoard food, but I sometimes imagine I must have been a starving Italian casalinga in another lifetime.

The other day I was thinking about using the short grain Valencia rice I had languishing in the cupboard to make paella. I was going to buy some shrimp but as I perused various recipes it became clear to me that you can make paella with just about any combination of vegetables, seafood or meat. There is no one paella. I figured I might as well use what I have on hand. In my pantry I had a jar of artichokes and a can of green olives, and in the freezer I had pearl onions, peas and a single sausage. Those ingredients were what I used on top of the paella rice. I tweaked the technique I found in a Mark Bittman recipe Tomato Paella to make the rice.

Moussaka

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by Joseph Erdos

moussake.jpg "It's all Greek to me" were practically the words that came out of my mouth when I first saw this dish listed on a restaurant menu. I didn't know what I was getting in to, but ever since that initial sumptuous taste, I have been in love and obsessed with this classic Greek casserole. Moussaka at first may appear to be a wintry meal, but late summer with its abundance of dark purple eggplants or aubergines is truly the perfect opportunity for making this dish. For me the sight of an eggplant around this time of year automatically equals moussaka. And truth be told, I love it so much that I usually end up eating the entire casserole all by myself.

This love, however, doesn't come so easy. The recipe takes real time and preparation, but it's wholeheartedly worth it. Many components can be made ahead, in particular the meat filling. The day before I plan to make this meal, perhaps for a summer dinner party, I prepare the simple ground-meat filling. Late the next morning of the dinner, I'll fry the eggplant slices for the layers. Then about an hour before guests begin to arrive, I'll make the béchamel sauce, start the assembly, and bake. After the casserole has a chance to cool for easier slicing and serving, it's ready to be enjoyed with a chilled glass of Greek white wine.

 

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