Global Cuisine

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.

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noodles-e1400604479450My improvisational style of cooking involves templates. Especially when it comes to cold noodles. I hate thinking of them as “salads” since that implies a “dressing” that is at the forefront. Instead, they’re bowls of cool freshness, or fresh coolness. When it’s hot I want a flavor bomb, some spice and not a lot of fat. That fat part? Speaking not from a diet perspective but from a mouth feel. Hot weather eating cries out for something clean, with a defined flavor profile. Not sludgy. So I tend to look toward Asia for flavor influence.

These spontaneous noodles come together with whatever I happen to have on hand. This time I used rice noodles which are perfect for hot weather since you don’t really need to boil them. I bring water to the boil, add the noodles and turn off the heat. The rice noodles soften in a matter of minutes. Drain them and squeeze out more of the water and you’re ready to toss them with the Nuoc Cham. I like tossing the noodles in the sauce then putting them in the refrigerator to cool and soak while I prepare the rest of the ingredients. You can also prep the veggies and let them marinate in the sauce while you cook the noodles.

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blackbeansriceThe other day I received a flyer advertising a romantic Caribbean get-away. It showed a scantily clad, deliriously happy couple lounging on the beach, cocktails in hand. I ripped it in half and tossed in the recycle bin. When you're married to someone whose Twitter handle is @Dermdoc, lying on the beach isn't in your future. Consider this: Last summer when our local Target ran out of sunscreen, they called us.

So the only thing worth going to the Caribbean for would be the food. Caribbean food is a fusion of many cuisines including African, Ameri-Indian, French, and Spanish making, making it deliciously unique. Given its temperate climate, the Caribbean produces an astounding array of exotic fruits such as passionfruit, guava, cherimoyas, and coconuts which feature prominently in both sweet and savory dishes. And their beloved jerk seasoned meats and fresh fish, are often accompanied by two of my favorite foods: plantains and black beans.

Caribbean black beans and rice. If you've never had it, I'm sorry; you've been missing out. I had my first taste about 12 years ago in an eclectic Caribbean restaurant in Asheville, North Carolina. I was smitten and still am.

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TART.chilirell.slice .sm Generally, on Cinco de Mayo, we go out to one of two of our favorite Mexican restaurants. I grew up going to Casa Vega. It truly is, in my opinion, the best, authentic restaurant in Los Angeles. The enchilada sauce is perfection, the crispy tacos with shredded beef cannot be beat, and the margaritas kick your butt. More importantly, it holds a whole lot of nostalgia for me. Another favorite is Lucy’s Cafe El Adobe. There is really nothing better than their bar-b-q beef tacos!

This year we are eating home. I have planned a festive meal to share with my family and I am making some of our favorites. Along with our favorites, I wanted to make something new. What I really wanted to make was chile rellenos. I don’t even order chili rellenos in a restaurant, but I had an anchoring to make these.

I looked through my Diana Kennedy Cookbook, a book I have had for over 30 years. I have made several of her recipes, but she did not really have a chile relleno recipe. Sooooo, I turned to the trusty Internet. I searched Saveur, Food & Wine, Cooking Light, and Epicurious. Epicurious was the winner. I found this recipe for a tart and I immediately knew that I wanted to make this dish.

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currantsconesOn the quest to bake the perfect scone, I've baked batch after batch of flat, hard, and dry scones. But as the saying goes, the third time's the charm. On my third try I created the fluffiest, most tender, high-rise scone. I have a great love for scones. Some of my best memories have been made while eating scones over tea with friends. I love them spread with clotted cream and jam. I remember the first time I had a scone was at the Orangery in Kensington Gardens in London. A group of us had the full English afternoon tea treatment with cucumber sandwiches, pots of the best tea from India, scones, and other tea cakes.

Typically scones are made plain or with sultanas, which are what the British call raisins. But any dried berry or chopped dried fruit works well. I especially love currants, cranberries, golden raisins, or chopped apricots. Chopped nuts also work well. Spices such as ground cinnamon, ginger, or cardamom lend a festive touch. Lemon or orange zest in the batter adds a nice citrus fragrance. Whatever combination you choose, scones are always well received around the holiday time. They make an ideal offering for whenever family or friends stop by to visit. Best of all they can be whipped together in minutes.

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