Friday, May 1, 2009

A few of my favorite things

The process of making fish past is a bit like the old fashioned way of pressing grapes. (pictured.)

Everyone who cooks has some tips and tricks that wake up the flavor of food. Sometimes it takes only a little bit of something to balance the flavor and tittilate the taste buds. For a job I was doing for the short term (we'll see) I was told to cut back on the onions and garlic, I do admit I rely on the heavily but there are many other ways to get a taste kick.

Hot Peppers: All kinds from the jalapeno the the habanero taste terrific to me. I love the heat. For most however it just takes a few shakes or grinds to bring up the flavor of a dish. If you have a soup that's a little bland, just a touch of hot pepper can help wake up the other flavors.

Fermented Fish Paste/Shrimp paste: No kidding, if you have never tried this give it a shot. It adds umami that newly discovered taste sensation without MSG or any nasty ingredients (read the labels of course). I've snuck a bit into pasta dishes that were otherwise traditional, and fish paste rocks. Anchovies can do much of the same thing, but the fermentation ads it's own dimension.

Salt: Often when friends ask me to taste something they ask what it needs and the answer is often salt. Get a nice sea salt and don't be afraid of it. Mashed potatoes, gravies, rice....multitudes of dishes can be improved with just a little salt.

Butter: If a sauce does not quite have that rich mouth feel or the fish is a little dry, use some butter. Never margarine, any anyone with taste buds who has tried 'I can't believe it's not butter' knows that the name is a lie. Your first bite and you know it is a science project, not food. Believe me, don't use it, even in baked goods.

Olives are another umami sensation, if you are doing a simple vegetable toss with a few olives and olive oil and it becomes worthy of a trattoria. Play with your food and try an unconventional ingredient in a traditional dish and wake up your palate.

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