Shake, Twist, Pour:
Best New Tastes
by Kate Heyhoe
Being a food writer has its ups and downs, but mostly its ups. The down side comes from testing recipes that simply don't work (oops!), or eating the same type of food repeatedly until a cookbook is finally completed. My husband and I enjoy the ever-versatile chicken, and we adore nachos, so creating the 200 recipes for A Chicken In Every Pot: Global Recipes for the World's Most Popular Bird wasn't too repetitive, and Macho Nachos was a breeze. But I'm not likely to pen an all-beef cookbook, devising a hundred beefy recipes in just a few months. For me, a little meat goes a long way, even here in Texas.
On the other hand, sampling new products can be one of the best parts of this business, from olive oils to wines to sauces, cookbooks, and appliances. At this year's IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) annual conference, I came away with a van load of goodies perfect for both busy people and adventuresome cooks. Here are highlights of ones that have left me smiling:
Vann's Rubs and Blends: You may not know the name Vann's, but you've likely tasted their products. For years, Vann's creator and brain trust, the charming Ann Wilder, has supplied the top restaurants and specialty food brands with the seasonings behind their private labels: Dean & Deluca spices, Draeger's in California, Sutton Place Gourmet, and others are created and packed by Vann's. But you can also buy Vann's spices under their own label at some gourmet markets and at their website (vannsspices.com). My newest favorites: Fig Granules, dried figs the size of cracked peppercorns; and Brining Blends, ready-mixed salt, sugar and spice mixtures (I tried Herb and Garlic on a pork loin, which turned out juicy with a perfect balance of flavors, sweetness, and salt).
Flavorful Oils: Some girls get a kick from champagne. I have a vice for cooking oils, and lucky for me, the range of flavorful oils just keeps growing. Like these winners: Brookfarm's Lemon Myrtle Macademia Nut Oil (combining two of Australia's tastiest native bush foods), and Spectrum's Toasted Nut Oils (hazelnut, walnut, and pumpkin seeds explode with even more flavor when toasted). For premium olive oil, indulge yourself with Napa Valley's hand-crafted Round Pond varieties, bottled as fancifully as French perfume. All of these oils are great on salads, breads, simple pasta, and seafood. (Tip: Most flavored oils are best left uncooked or mildly heated, as heat often destroys their flavor. Drizzle them on as finishing sauces or use them in dressings.)
Grilling Sauces: About the time we launched Global Gourmet in 1994, Justin Rashid and Larry Forgione had just opened the doors of American Spoon Foods, and helped raise the bar for jams, jellies, marmalades, and fruit preserves. They've added a line of seven fruit-based grilling sauces that pack the same quality and intense flavors as ASF's other products. Try them all, especially the Mango BBQ Grilling Sauce (with a touch of curry in it), and the tart, unsweetened Chili-Lime Grilling Sauce.
Sweets: American Almond's Chocolate Schmear is by no means your average plain vanilla ingredient. Chocolate Schmear is the rocket fuel of dessert fillings: intense, powerful, and just a spoonful is all it takes to set your tastebuds in orbit. Use it in pastries (it's divine in rugelach), and don't be ashamed to nibble on it straight from the can. Check out their incredible almond fillings and marzipans, too.
Specialty Condiments: Fischer & Wieser is fast becoming a big force in the world of specialty foods. What started as a single homemade peach preserve in the Texas hill country town of Fredericksburg has grown into a small universe of upscale products. They're best known for the award-winning Fischer & Wieser brand, especially the Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce, truly worthy of royalty. Now their chic, silver-packaged Four Star Provisions line shines with fourteen spirited new products. I've not tried them all, but so far I've got a passion for Havana-Mojito Glaze, Asian Chile Lime Basil Dressing, Yucatan Mango Chutney, and Strawberry-Lavender Jam.
And for more inspiring, tongue-tingling ideas, check out Texas on the Plate, a cookbook by Fischer & Weiser's corporate chef Terry Thompson-Anderson. It's thick and juicy, and one of the most luscious cookbooks I've seen, packing recipes that extend far beyond the traditional tastes of Texas, such as Herb-Roasted Pork Loin with Texas Port Wine Glaze, Braised Doves (or Cornish Hens) in Shiitake Mushroom Cream, and Mexican Fresh Apple Cake with Leche Quemada. Plates so good, they make you wanna go out and buy a small hill country ranch. This is million dollar food, but you don't need to be an oil or cattle magnate to afford it. You just need good ingredients and a bit of free time. Or, take Thompson-Anderson's shortcut to flavor with the Texas on the Plate's branded line of two dozen bottled sauces, salsas, dressings, rubs, and marinades, ones she's helped develop for Fischer & Weiser, including the Texas Port Wine Glaze (just open and pour), Lemon Grass Pesto, and Chipotle Chile Ketchup. (F&W also makes Timpone's Organic Foods, Mom's Spaghetti Sauce, Old Chisholm Trail, and Oasis Specialty Foods.)
So, with all of these products and a bit of imagination in mind, I've assembled below simple recipes that are good for everyday cooking and casual entertaining. Try them with an added infusion of a flavored oil, spicy seasoning blend, or serious bottled sauce, to instantly imprint these dishes with a whole new blush of elegance and the unusual. You'll find these products in gourmet and specialty shops, in stores like Whole Foods and Sur la Table, and of course, on their company websites and in online catalogs.
Cuban Pork Chops
Grilled Chicken Breasts Under Bricks
Herb-Roasted Flattened Chicken
Little Shrimp Casseroles
Pan-Roasted Striped Bass
Pizza with White Beans, Prosciutto and Rosemary
Seared Chicken Breast with Quick Pan Sauce
Stove Top-Smoked Pork Tenderloin (Brined)
Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts Baked in Foil with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Olives
Sides and Small Plates
Broccoli Rabe and Pea Fricassee
Grilled Artichokes with Lemon-Dill Mayonnaise
Lime and Honey Glazed Eggplant with Mint Chutney
Radish and Orange Salad with Paprika
Roasted Carrots, Potatoes, and Shallots
Salmon Carpaccio with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar
Smashed Red-Skinned Potatoes with Boursin & Scallions
Warm Goat Cheese Tarts with Fig Jam and Rosemary
Warm Salad of Shrimp, Radicchio, Arugula, and Balsamic Vinegar
Copyright © 2005, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
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