Just as I’m not a fan of food gadgets – being technically challenged is one reason, finding the wooden spoon, whisk, a good quality iron skillet and good knife to be key tools of the trade is another – I am not one who seeks out the latest trendy ingredient.
However, it does make my day when I find a food – from humble to haute – that packs a powerful punch of taste and/or texture. Here are a few I’ve discovered lately:
Tamarind Paste: A friend mixed this tamarind concentrate with teriyaki as a quick marinade for steak which he cooked on the stove in a grill pan then flambeed fabulously with rye (I use brandy). The paste comes in a tub and is much easier to use than the ubiquitous blocks that need to be reconstituted. It’s sold in many Asian, Middle Eastern and gorumet food shops and is also a boon for dishes like Pad Thai and some curries.
Tony Barone, chef/owner of Toba restaurant in downtown Toronto, is famous for his gnocchi, pastas and other Italian-inspired dishes. He also makes a mean salad. I’d been trying to find out the secret to his delectably tangy, sweetish vinaigrette for some time, with no luck. One day, I bumpoed into him in Kensington Market and popped the question when he wasn’t expecting it. “I use orange blossom water,” he ‘fessed up with a grin. Also great in fruit salad and other desserts, this lovely aromatic liquid is available at House of Spice in Kensington as well at Persian, Middle Eastern and some Indian food shops.
My daughter Ruth’s impeccable palate discovered Haaen-Dazs coffee ice cream when she was about four. The other day, I introduced her to a sublime new HD flavour: Latte Vanilla Caramel. Serve with tart homemade applesauce and crisp thin ginger cookies and you’ve got a taste sensation.
The new Liberte Organic No Fat Probiotic Yogurt is a food mogul’s marketing dream and a creamy delicacy that’s always in my fridge. The flavours are delish, from plain to raspberry. This yogurt is loaded with nutrients that help digestion and boost calcium intake. Bonus: 175 grams (about 1/2 cup) contains a mere 80 calories.
I’m crackers about two finds from my local health food store: Lesley Stowe’s Raincoast Crisps (from Vancouver) come in several flavours including my favourite, fig and olive. They are superb served with pungent cheese served at the end of a dinner party meal. Okay, I’ve been known to snack on them for no particular reason. Also top-notch are Baked Vegetable Brown Rice Snaps: crunchy, thin, disc-shaped crackers that are a snacker’s dream. Made in the U.S., they’re distributed here by Edward & Sons.
I came upon the small packages of Barbera espresso coffee in Mokadolce flavour by accident while cruising the aisles of that wondrous Italian food emporium called Lady York on the northern stretch of Dufferin St. in Toronto near the Yorkdale mall. I am now addicted to this delectable brew. I make it each morning in my cheapo Kenmore espresso machine (I sleuthed the market for fancier contraptions and gave up in despair) adding a little milk for a strong, smooth, superb cup of coffee.