Marinades

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Marinades are a wonderful way to flavor meat. They can be simple or involved, depending on your desires, but they’re also a great way to use up ingredients. Have some leftover parsley? Make a marinade. Tomatoes? Make a marinade. An orange? You get the idea.

Generally, a marinade is composed of three parts: the oil, the acid, and the flavoring. The oil is simply the carrier. It can be a neutral oil like grape seed, an extra-virgin olive oil, or an infused oil.

The acidic option depends on what food you’re preparing. If I’m marinating beef for fajitas, I’d choose lime juice as my acid. If I’m marinating chicken for a stir fry, I’d choose sake or mirin. But there are other options as well. Orange juice? Pineapple juice? A ripe tomato? Sure! They all work.

The third part of creating a marinade is the most fun, because you can get really creative. Garlic is always important to me. There’s not one cuisine I can think of that doesn’t utilize this wonderfully pungent allium, be it Indian, Asian, Mexican, and so forth. Ginger is also perfect in Asian- and Indian -inspired marinades.

The next option for me would be fresh herbs, like cilantro, basil, or parsley. They provide beautiful color and freshness to a marinade.

Chile peppers puréed in a marinade provide wonderful heat as well as flavor. Just remove the stem of fresh jalapeños, for example, and pop them into the blender with the other ingredients. Alternatively, use roasted peppers or chile pepper purée, of which there are many varieties.

Here are some spice options for marinades: Cumin, chili powder, smoky or sweet paprika, coriander, Chinese 5-spice powder, curry powder, cayenne, chipotle, ancho chile pepper.

Other ingredients to flavor marinades include pesto, miso, ketchup, soy sauce, fish sauce, hoisin sauce, berbere, harissa, romesco, mustard, honey, maple syrup, roasted red bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce… the list is literally endless.

The following marinade is basically a red wine-based vinaigrette, seasoned with garlic, dried herbs, and cayenne pepper flakes.

Here is a marinade made with olive oil, lime juice, garlic and parsley puréed together for chicken breasts. The combination makes a wonderful green marinade, which colors the chicken beautifully after grilling.

For a beef tri-tip, I created an Asian-inspired marinade. I used soy sauce, sake, sesame seed oil, chile paste (Sambal oelek), ginger and garlic. After 24 hours I seared the thin slices of beef in peanut oil for a quick dinner. It’s that simple.

Yogurt can also be used as the “carrier oil,” which you learn about quickly when you indulge yourself in Indian cuisines. So for my final example of a marinated meat, I’m using a mixture of yogurt and harissa.

For a more involved Indian-inspired marinade, I would include garlic, ginger, and curry powder, but I wanted to show how easy it is to create a flavorful and unique marinade. It took10 seconds to prepare and you don’t even need to use a blender.

I’m simply smothering a pork tenderloin with the marinade, waiting a few hours, and then roasting it in the oven.

Marinating requires very little work. It’s just about planning. Try different variations and see what magic you can come up with!

Season

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In his first book, entitled Season, published in 2018, Nik Sharma writes the following.

“I take pride in incorporating flavors, techniques, and ingredients in new and exciting ways. This, my first book, celebrates diverse cultural influences and, I hope, helps to erase labels like “ethnic” and “exotic” in the West by shedding more light on some of these ingredients. Season is a collection of flavors from my two worlds – India and America.”

Sharma’s story is fascinating. Born in India to bi-cultural parents, he came to the USA as a young man to study molecular genetics. Eventually his love of food and cooking averted his career path and he started his now famous, award-winning blog, a Brown Table.

He also became a weekly food columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, and is working on his second cookbook, entitled A Brown Table.

Reading Season (I love that title!) and studying the recipes was a fascinating experience for me. Sharma’s food truly is fusion food, but unlike the “let’s see how many weird ingredients we can put together” attitude that I find smug and pretentious of many chefs, Sharma’s approach obviously came from his love of foods from his homeland, blended with what he discovered after moving away.

Examples of such fusion dishes include Caprese Salad with Sweet Tamarind Dressing, Turmeric and Lime Mussel Broth, and Hot Green Chutney Roasted Chicken. But the recipe I wanted to make was Chouriço Potato Salad, using freshly made chouriço, or sausage from the Goan region of India. Goa is a state on the west coast of India, on the Arabian Sea.


According to Sharma, “This (salad) is great for breakfast with a couple of fried eggs, or in a taco, or by itself for lunch.”

Chouriço Potato Salad

8 ounces chouriço, (recipe below)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground chipotle chile
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons raw pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon thinly sliced chives
1/4 cup crumbled Paneer*
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
1/4 fresh lime juice
1 lime, quartered, for garnish

Break the meat into small pieces and set aside.


Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and sprinkle with the salt and black pepper.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, 5 – 6 minutes. Sprinkle with the chipotle chile and paprika and fold to coat evenly.

Add the chouriço, and cook for another 4 – 5 minutes, or until the sausage is browned and cooked through, stirring frequently.


Add the pumpkin seeds and cook for 1 minute longer.

Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the contents to a large bowl. Cool for 5 minutes. Gently stir the chives, paneer, cilantro, and lime juice into the warm potatoes.

Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.

Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve warm or at room temperature with lime wedges, if desired.

I can’t describe well enough how wonderful this potato and sausage salad is, besides wonderful. The sausage along is exquisite, but with the potatoes it’s, well, magical.

You taste the spiciness immediately, the creaminess of the potatoes, the flavorful sausage, the freshness of the cilantro and lime, and the slight crunch of the pepitas.


*Paneer is easy to prepare, but the author recommended a swap of crumbled Cotija or queso fresco, which I happened to have on hand.

Homemade Goan-Style Chouriço

1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 whole cloves
1 pound ground pork, preferably with fat
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 – 1” piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon Kashmiri chile
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Grind the black peppercorns, cumin seeds, and cloves with a mortar and pestle and transfer to a large bowl.


Add the remaining ingredients and mix with a fork to blend well. Shape into a log, wrap with wax paper, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, and preferably overnight.

Mughlai Kabobs

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Yesterday I made a creamy sauce called sas, made with pistachios, cashews, and almonds. And today I’m making curried lamb kabobs that go perfectly with the sauce.

From Indian Food Forever, a website devoted to Indian recipes, “Mughlai food is known for its richness. It is famous for the exotic use of spices, dried fruit and nuts. The Mughals did everything in style and splendour.”

These kabobs are so easy to make – it’s as simple as putting a meat loaf together, and forming elongated meatballs over skewers! If you don’t want to mess with the skewers, just make them meatballs!

Mughlai Kabobs

1 pound of ground lamb, I used a mixture of beef and lamb*
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/4 cup ground chick-pea flour, or besan
1/3 cup sliced almonds, pulverized in a blender
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
1/2 lemon, juiced
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons garam masala or curry powder
2 teaspoons salt

In a very large bowl, add all of the ingredients.

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Mix everything together well. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes for the flavors to meld.

After time has passed, create the kabobs by forming the dough over the end of your skewers – I’m using bamboo skewers. I didn’t soak them because they really weren’t going to be over direct heat. Try to make the meat cylinders of uniform thickness so they will cook evenly.

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Meanwhile, start up a grill outside. You could also cook the kabobs inside under the broiler, but I used these kabobs as an excuse to try out a Cuisinart indoor-outdoor electric grill that I bought but have never used…. yet.

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So I plugged the “griddler,” as it’s called, outside in the shade. Then I turned the dial to the highest position, which is 400 degrees. Then I put the kabobs on and really, nothing happened. Then I realized that the plug wasn’t pushed in all the way, but after another 15 minutes or so, still nothing was happening.

Then lo and behold, I discovered I was using the dial incorrectly. Inadvertently, when I thought the dial was on 400 degrees, I had turned it to OFF.

I have wasted more time in my life with dials. Especially in hotel bathrooms where I can’t figure out which way to point the shower dial. There’s always a pointy thing, or a lever of sorts, but there’s never a corresponding line to match up with. I wish I could design these things. Although, I might be the only person who has this problem.

And so, I started up the griddler again, this time with the dial actually on 400 degrees. And it actually heated up really fast.
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I cooked the kabobs on three sides, then turned down the temperature to 350 degrees, put the lid on, and finished them for another 15 minutes. I wanted them still a little teeny pink on the inside.

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Then I served them just off the grill, with some of the beautiful creamy nut sauce, and a curried spinach and mushroom side dish. Scrumptious!!!!!

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* Because my husband thinks he doesn’t like lamb, I used the mixture of beef and lamb.

verdict: I’ve made these and the sauce before, and I will continue to make these throughout my life. This is fabulous Indian food fit for a fancy meal or a pool party!

Creamy Nut Sauce

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The actual name of this sauce is sas. It’s Indian in origin, and the recipe I’m basing this on is out of the Foods of the World – The Cooking of India cookbook.

The sauce is made essentially with nuts and cream and is served with various kababs. Tomorrow I’ll be posting a recipe for Mughlai kababs, which are grilled, ground-lamb skewers. The kababs and the sauce together are pure heaven.

My most favorite dishes to order in Indian restaurants are the kormas – meats in creamy sauces made from nuts, although you’d never know it. The sauces are very delicate in flavor, yet scream decadence because of their richness.

So today I’m making this sauce, and tomorrow I’ll post the kababs.

Sas, or Creamy Nut Sauce

Pinch of saffron
1 tablespoon boiling water
1/3 cup pistachios
1/3 cup mixed almonds and cashews, blanched
Seeds of 4 cardamom pods
1 cup milk
1 tablespoons ghee
1 cup half and half
1 teaspoon salt

Place the saffron in a small bowl and add one tablespoon of boiling water; set the bowl aside. Given time, the hot water will leach the beautiful color and flavor of the saffron, which you can see as it changes color.

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I happened to have green cardamom pods, so I peeled off the outer shell to reveal the actual spice pods. (There are also white cardamom pods.). Below I show the difference between the whole pods, the cardamom itself as it occurs naturally inside the pods, lower right, and some ground cardamom, upper right. If you own ground cardamom, you definitely don’t need to buy the pods. Just try to use the equivalent of ground.

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Place all of the nuts, the cardamom pods and one cup of milk in a blender jar and blend until smooth.
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Then place the ghee in a saucepan and melt it over medium heat. Pour in the nut and cream mixture and cook it for a couple of minutes.
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Add the saffron and the water, the half and half and salt, and cook the mixture until it coats the back of a spoon.

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Store the sauce and refrigerate until needed. Stay tuned tomorrow!