I’d never thought of making plum sauce with dried plums (duh). Turns out it’s that rich plum puree that gives this iconic Chinese sauce its signature taste. This one has a bit of zing from the orange juice and shallot, and is less cloyingly sweet than the store-bought versions.
1 teaspoon finely minced shallot
1 scant cup dried plums (pitted)
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
Pulse the shallot, plums and water to a paste in a food processor. Add vinegar, brown sugar, orange juice and salt and continue to pulse until a smooth paste.
This easy vegetarian mushroom ragu has plenty of meaty main-dish heft. It’s also an incredibly versatile little number. Toss it with pasta, serve it over polenta, or spoon it onto crostini smeared with goat cheese. The optional mascarpone lends extra richness to this mushroom ragu, but skip it to make it a vegan dish.
Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat and add shallot. Cook for 5 minutes, until shallot is a deep golden brown. Add garlic and cook another 2 minutes, until softened. Add mushrooms and thyme to pan, and saute for 8-10 minutes, until mushrooms are golden brown.
Pour in marsala and scrape up any bits stuck to the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until most of the liquid is evaporated. Swirl in mascarpone, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with parsley.
My friend Honore jokes that she’ll put lemon seeds in a dish of doctored-up jar mayonnaise to give her quickie aioli an air of authenticity. Feel free to serve this faux aioli recipe — pungent with smashed garlic and made with a mix of light and regular mayonnaise — with or without seeds.
This emerald pesto is ideal when the weather starts to warm up – the mint adds a springy note while the basil offers a hint of summer to come. Stir it into Maria Speck’s Speedy Chickpea Couscous with Pesto, serve a dollop atop fish or poultry, spread it on crostini or add it to hot pasta. This pesto recipe yields a generous amount. Use whatever you need now, and freeze the leftovers in an ice-cube tray. Once it’s frozen, pop the pesto cubes out of the tray and transfer them to a heavy-duty zip-top bag and freeze up to 1 month.
Raita is an Indian condiment made with yogurt, vegetables, herbs and spices. It’s often made with cucumber, but in spring, we like to use fresh fennel and mint. Try it with our Red Lentil Dal with Caramelized Onions, Carrots and Peas. It’s also delicious with lamb, poultry or fish. Save the pretty fennel fronds to garnish the bowl.
Ghee, the preferred cooking fat in Indian cuisine, is nothing more than an intense form of clarified butter that has been cooked until the water has evaporated and the milk solids have browned. The result is pure butterfat with rich, nutty flavor. According to the Indian philosophy of medicine called ayurveda, ghee is a healing food that enhances immunity, fights inflammation and calms the nerves. From a culinary perspective, it has a high smoke point, which means you can cook it at higher temperatures than regular butter without burning. You can buy ghee in Indian markets and health-food stores, but it can be expensive and it’s very easy to make. Although ghee is associated with Indian cuisine, you can use it to rev up the flavor of any dish, including baked goods like our Crispy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. Seriously, try this stuff in baked goods. Wow.
Chock-full of tender bits of candied peel, this bittersweet blood orange marmalade recipe, adapted from A Passion for Preserves by Frederica Langeland, has a fruit-forward flavor, and is wonderful spread on toasted English muffins or crisp baguette.
Food writer and cooking instructor Ginny Mahar currently resides in Missoula, Montana. Read about her mission to bring people back to the table on her blog, www.thesundaydinnerrevival.com.
Chef Kelly Anderson, founder of The Lunch Bunch, is a master at getting kids to eat their vegetables. One of her strategies: Sneak veggies into favorite foods. This thick marinara sauce is packed with tomatoes (of course), plus a boatload of onions, carrots, celery and fresh herbs. But once it’s pureed, even the most skeptical kid will just see–and taste–bright-flavored tomato sauce. It’s familiar enough to win over little ones, yet bold and vibrant enough to appeal to grown-up palates. Use it on pizzas, over pasta or as a soup base.
As Jonathan Bloom notes in his book, American Wasteland: How America Wastes Nearly Half of Its Food(DaCapo Press), bunches of fresh herbs are among the most common items languishing in our refrigerator crispers. Chances are, you bought some fresh herbs, only needing to chop a tablespoon or so for a recipe, and tucked the rest away with every intention of using it up. Pesto is easy to improvise with whatever herbs you have on hand. In this version, sage and parsley provide the anchor for a hearty winter pesto. Serve it over pasta, as a condiment with roast poultry or fish, or spread over crusty bread.
We’re calling this a “butter” but it’s really more of a cross between butter and sauce–a thin butter or a thick sauce, if you will. It’s inspired by an abundance of gorgeous pears in a holiday gift box and adapted from a recipe of Farmgirl Fare, a delightful blog that chronicles life on a 240-acre farm in rural Missouri. Most of the sweetness comes from the ripe pears themselves (any variety will do here), but a touch of brown sugar adds a caramel-y touch while the whole star anise brightens the overall flavor. It’s dandy spread on toast or dolloped on waffles or pancakes, and it would be a delicious condiment with our Spiced Roast Pork.
4 pounds ripe pears (any variety), cored and cut into chunks
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Pinch of sea salt
3 whole star anise pods
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Place pears in a food processor; pulse until pureed (depending on the capacity of your processor, you may need to do this in batches). Add sugar, juice and salt. Pour mixture into a 9 x 13-inch (4-quart) baking dish. Add star anise. Bake at 300 degrees F for 3 hours or until thick, stirring every 30 minutes. Cool completely (mixture will continue to thicken as it cools). Refrigerate up to 1 week.