High flavor ingredients save time, maximize taste
I found this an interesting read from the Napa Valley Register By J.M. HIRSCH, AP Food Writer...
Deadline cooking is all about the ingredients. Select the right high-flavor, low-prep ingredients and great meals practically assemble themselves.
But success depends on rethinking your shopping and pantry stocking habits. Convenience is only half the criteria that should influence your buying decisions. Intensity of flavor should get equal weight.
For example, if you're buying bagged shredded cheese to use on salads, pizzas, nachos, maybe even over warm pasta and casserole dishes, opt for one that includes a blend of cheeses, at least one of which should be Parmesan. Its intensely savory flavor adds nuance and complexity.
Here's a list of other high-flavor pantry staples the deadline cook can rely on:
* Capers. These pickled green flower buds explode with salty, savory flavor. Add them to salads, pasta, chicken stir-fries, or even blend a few into salad dressings. Go easy on them; they can be quite salty. Rinse if you want to tone them down.
* Sun-dried tomatoes. Stick with those packed in olive oil, as they are easiest to work with. Cut into thin slivers, they go great with pasta, stuffed into roasted chicken breasts, sprinkled over pizza or even nachos.
* Spicy refried beans. Microwave for a warm sandwich spread. Fill wonton wrappers with it, then bake or fry them and dip them in salsa or marinara sauce. Spread it on a bagel, top with cheese and heat until meltingly good.
* Olives. Try some of the stuffed green varieties, such as those with feta, almonds or jalapeno peppers in them. Put them in sauces, puree with olive oil for a sandwich spread or use in place of tomato sauce on pizza, or saute them with onions, mushrooms and peppers to top steak.
* Prosciutto. Swath figs or asparagus with thin slices of this Italian cured ham in it, then give them a quick sit on the grill.
* Peanut butter. No, really. Get some of the natural stuff (the one where the oil separates). Blend it with a splash each of water, vinegar, hot sauce and a dusting of black pepper. Toss this with warm noodles or simmer chicken breasts in it.
* Smoked salmon. Sure, it goes great on bagels with cream cheese. But it's also wonderful tossed with hot pasta or cut into slivers and sprinkled into a salad with goat cheese, as in the recipe that follows.
Smoked Salmon Salad
3 cups mixed salad greens
1 earn of fresh corn (raw)
4 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh dill
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh baguette, warmed in a 200 F. oven
Divide the greens between two serving plates. Set aside.
Use serrated knife to carefully cut the kernels from the ear of corn. The easiest way to do this is to stand the ear on its wide end and saw down the length of the cob. Divide the kernels between the two plates.
Cut the salmon into thin strips and scatter them over each salad. Top each salad with half of the pine nuts, goat cheese and fresh dill. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, then drizzle over each salad. Serve with baguette. Serves 2.