The Food & Wine page of Stuff.Co, a New Zealand website, says these ingredients should be added to the new year’s shopping list to “refresh your repertoire, kick your skills up a gear and invigorate your rotation of go-to dishes for 2014”:
1. Fermented vegetables
They’re simple to make, great for your gut and chockful of flavor. Sauerkraut and kimchi are good examples of fermented cabbage—all you need is salt and a vegetable in a sealed jar, stored at room temperature and out of light for five to 10 days, depending on the strength you want. It will bubble up with healthy lactic acid bacteria.’
While adults love fermented vegetables’ pungent flavor, they can be a harder sell to kids. Try serving a spoonful on the side ‘with fattier things like roast chicken or avocado.
As a side note, if you make your own pickles, don’t throw out the juice. Add a slurp of pickle juice—gherkin, dill, or anything to a vinaigrette. In general, for anything that needs a lift, add pickle juice.
2. Unusual chiles
Bring your favourite chiles out of the restaurant and into the pantry. Good ones to try are smoky chipotles, both in dried form and in cans of adobo sauce, and ”padron peppers,” also known as “roulette peppers” because only one in 10 is hot and spicy. They’re best used by sizzling them up in a hot pan and serving with fried eggs or chorizo sausage, or tossing them into a tomato salsa.
3. Coconut oil
Another item that’s gaining popularity not only for its flavor but also its health benefits. Coconut oil has an impressive fatty-acid profile and can help modulate good and bad cholesterol ratios. Coconut also has a high smoking temperature, which means it can be heated to high temperatures before it oxidizes, making it a great option for cooking. Try adding coconut oil to pumpkin soup, using it to pop black rice for salads, or infusing it with turmeric, lemon zest, garlic and hard herbs ready for cooking.
Now being extolled for their versatility and complex, tart tang, try them as the final ingredient for a summer salad with chopped tomatoes of every color and size, with red onion and capsicum, a dressing of red wine vinegar and olive oil, finished with a glimmering shower of pomegranate seeds.
Last year, it was quinoa. This year, it’s time to embrace freekeh. Of Middle Eastern origin, it’s a highly nutritious, easily prepared roasted green wheat grain with a lovely nutty flavor. Try a warm freekeh salad with preserved lemon, ricotta and mint, or a Cypriot grain salad with freekeh, lentils, seeds, nuts and herbs, topped with yogurt and pomegranate seeds.
This dark-green vegetable, with its leaves frilled like coral, is popping up all over the place, popular for its nutritional value and versatility. You can braise it and have it as a breakfast side, put it through soups, bake it like a gratin, swirl it through pasta and even season and roast torn leaves for a healthy alternative to potato chips. One chef says his most popular dish is kale fritters, because “the To prepare, we wash and dry the kale, and soak it in a rice flour batter and then fry the leaves.”
This root vegetable is especially popular in Central and South America. It’s versatile and can be used for sweet or savory applications. Try it on your menu as yucca frita [chips] with Huancaina sauce [a South American sauce made of chilli, Sao biscuits and feta], finished off with a fried egg on top. You can also grate it into meatballs and use cassava flour in baking.
There are many types of seaweed – nori, wakame, kombu – and they’re a great go-to for adding texture and umami. Reconstitute your favorite, tear it and add it to salads, or enhance a seafood pasta sauce with powdered kombu.
9. Gochujang paste
Korean cuisine may be about to have its long-awaited time in the sun—to start to get in on the trend, keep a jar of gochujang paste (fermented chilli bean paste) on hand (find it at Asian grocers). Mix it with sesame oil and a little sugar to make a sensational dressing for oysters and seafood. Used in a stir-fry, it provides an amazing flavor that goes perfectly with chicken, seafood and pork. A small spoonful can also be added to dressings for salads.
10. Instant noodles
Also available at Asian grocers, a stash of Nongshim kimchi ramen is great to have in the pantry for a quick feed after a long shift. This version has reduced sodium and is MSG-free (and comes in a recyclable bowl), but still tastes like the real thing. The noodles can also be had as a snack with a few pork rinds on top (some soak up the soup, others stay pleasingly crisp), or thrown in with a few fresh vegetables and maybe some shallots, and served with kimchi on the side.
11. Dried Chinese sausage
Chinese lap cheong sausage offers a special combination of convenience and strength of flavor. ”I always keep a pack in the fridge,” says one chef. “I love the sweet porkiness it brings, not just to Chinese dishes and stir-fries, but even when just steamed, sliced and sizzled for 10 seconds in a hot pan, then tossed over fish and rice for a quirky surf-and-turf effect. Dinner is done.”
12. Buckwheat flour
This pseudo-cereal grain is from the same family as sorrel and rhubarb and is especially good to stock for those following a gluten-free diet. Its nutty, tangy flavor adds a delicious base for cakes and biscuits. It can be bought as a ready-to-use flour, or you can buy the grouts and grind it yourself for a fresher flavor. Buckwheat grouts can also be sprouted and roasted, then cooked in a light broth to make traditional buckwheat porridge.’ It’s also great for making blinis and Normandy-style crepes.
13. Beyond balsamic vinegars
Expanding your repertoire of vinegars can unlock many new culinary tricks and recipes. The naturally fermented Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar is both health-promoting and a starter for all sorts of fermenting, and food writer Jill Dupleix recommends LiraH Oak Aged Shiraz Vinegar. ”Soak a couple of tablespoons of currants in red wine vinegar for an hour or so before dinner,” she says. “Drain and use the vinegar with olive oil to dress a leaf salad, and scatter with the currants—[they are] little ‘bliss bombs’ of sweetness and acidity.”
14. Pomegranate molasses
Middle Eastern flavors are still popular, and the enduring versatility of pomegranate molasses can be used for both savory and sweet dishes, from meatloaf to coffee cake. It’s an ingredient with such a concentration of flavor, as well as an amazing sweet-and-sour balance, that it can enrich dishes and freshen them at the same time. Making a meatloaf with haloumi, pistachios and oregano, and glazing the top with some pomegranate molasses, will give it a deliciously sweet and sharp accent. It can also be used in an exotic version of Eton mess with Persian fairy floss and cubes of pomegranate molasses and cranberry jelly. For a spiced coffee and date loaf, skewer holes and drench with pomegranate molasses while it cools, which will make it extra-moist.
While this Egyptian dry mix is not unusual, its lovely, spicy, sesame-seedy goodness is coming back, but used in new ways—scattered over fried eggs, shakshouka, leafy green salads, soups, or roast veggies; swirled into yogurt and smashed feta to serve next to grilled fish, chicken, lamb; or used as a crust for oven-baked fish.