Global Cuisine

tsazkiI have just returned from an incredible week sailing the Aegean on the luxurious Seabourn Quest. (http://www.seabourn.com) It’s truly a wonderful way to travel and I highly recommend the experience.

A week of Mediterranean cuisine will undoubtedly influence the next few pieces I write.

I’ll start will some of the incredible dips and appetizers that are found on nearly all menus in Greece and Turkey.

Tzatziki, one of the most common, is perfect for spring and summer and can be served as a dip with pita bread, or as a sauce for grilled meat or vegetables.

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garlicspreadGreek cuisine features many great snacks and nibbles from olives to pastries and dips. An easy dip to make is skordalia. Recipes vary regionally, but generally feature garlic, extra virgin olive oil and potatoes though sometimes egg yolks, almonds or bread as well. The problem for me is raw garlic which gets more and more potent over time. The solution? Roast garlic.

Roast garlic is sweet and soft and most important, mellow. It won't overpower most dishes like this skordalia inspired dip made with potatoes, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and roast garlic, instead of raw. Not only is this dip good for Passover, it's vegetarian (vegan if you use vegan mayo) and gluten free! That is if you use a gluten free mayonnaise, which adds additional creaminess to the dip.

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mise-en-placeYesterday afternoon, I was lost in a meditative moment of nothingness while pleating dumpling skins around mound of shrimp filling.  A gentle fall breeze had been blowing through my kitchen window, transforming the room from a sweaty summer dungeon to an autumn playpen.

A podcast of This American Life was playing in the background and it would drop in and out of my consciousness as I prepped my food for the day.  My fingers danced through my mise en place bowls, filled with carefully prepped components of the dish I was focused on.  It all came together in perfect harmony, with me paying very little attention.

Do you want to know a secret?  Cooking is the easiest thing I do.  I don’t mean that in a nasty “Pah ha, I’m so awesome at my job” kind of way.  I just mean that, once I’ve made it to the actual cooking part of my job, I know that my mind (body, soul) knows what to do.  By the time I’ve arrived in the kitchen, I have spent hours working with the client to specify the preferred regional cuisine, protein specific, dietarily proactive meal of their dreams and formulated a procedure and plan to carry out said dream meal. 

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springrollsRice paper salad rolls are basically salads wrapped in rice paper. You probably already have plenty of salad ingredients in your fridge, but what about Vietnamese rice paper? It's one of those pantry ingredients I've sometimes bought and used once, and then forgot about. And that's kind of a shame because it has a lot going for it. It's cheap, keeps forever and is easy to use.

Rice paper is traditionally used to make Vietnamese "Summer rolls" but like tortillas, it's extremely versatile and shouldn't be limited to only Vietnamese cuisine. Use it as a wrapper for pretty much whatever you like and you've got a great appetizer, snack or meal. While tortillas are served warm, rice paper rolls are served at room temperature.

I believe eating outdoors is more fun than eating inside, and that eating with your fingers makes everything taste better. So that makes rice paper salad rolls perfect for picnics (or take from home lunches). I have used all kinds of different fillings and this is a combination I really like, but experiment! Try sprouts, shredded chicken, smoked salmon, enoki mushrooms--the possibilities are endless.

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taco.steak_.crispy.sm_.jpgWhen ever I am asked what would my last meal be, the answer is always the same; a crispy taco.  Crispy tacos are way at the top of my list of favorites and I have absolutely no will power when it comes to ordering in a Mexican restaurant.  Intellectually, I know I should be ordering the soft tacos with grilled chicken or grilled shrimp in a Verde sauce.  But I just can’t seem to help myself.

Growing up, a typical day was swimming at the Nathan’s pool, doing some arts and crafts, and then gathering up my friends and riding our bikes to Taco Tio. Taco Tio was a typical little taco stand about 3/4 of a mile from my house. Food was ordered through a sliding mesh screen and there were a few stools that sat under the outside, very high counter.  I would order my crispy tacos, sit on those stools,  and watch the lady make and assemble my afternoon snack. When Taco Tio closed and a sub shop tooks it place, it was a sad day in the neighborhood.  And to this day, I have had a hard time replacing the taste of both their tacos or those memories.

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