Posts tagged ingredients

What do you do with purple carrot juice?

Good question, huh? You may not have a friend who passes along cool food finds like purple carrot juice (thanks Sarah!), but you might have a fridge or pantry with ingredients you need to use. Maybe you just can’t recall why you bought coriander seeds or orange vinegar in the first place. Or maybe you found a new fruit or veggie at your farmer’s market or grocers that you’d like to use.

When you’re looking to use a new ingredient, here are a few ideas to get you experimenting…

Taste it. I know, I know, that sounds obvious, but you might be surprised. I was sure that purple carrot juice would have a sweet, mild taste, something similar to the flavor when I roasted them. Poured myself a big glass. The pungent juice had an almost molasses-like taste and a strong steamed carrot smell. I’m sure some people like drinking it straight but I figured the best way for my to enjoy the flavor–and the nutritional punch–was to put it into something.

Bake it in. Since the flavor mimicked molasses and went well with veggies, I decided to replace some of the apple sauce in my favorite bran muffin recipe with the purple carrot juice. I swapped out 2 Tablespoons. The juice gave the muffins a slightly darker color and a hint of carrot I liked. I’m thinking next I need to try it in carrot muffins. Doesn’t that sound tasty? Or add it to fruit leathers?

Marinate with it. Mixing new-to-you ingredients in marinades is a great way to play with the flavors. I thought the carrot juice would work well with a strong soy sauce-based marinate. I wouldn’t use it in Mexican dishes, but Asian or standard BBQ marinades, toss some in!

Sauce it. Now about BBQ–lately we’ve been doctoring our BBQ sauces, either making our own from scratch (recipe coming) or tweaking our favorite bottled variety. My hubby starts with about 1 cup of juice–usually cranberry for a bit of tartness–and he boils it down by half until it thickens slightly. Then he adds 1 1/2 cups bottled BBQ sauce and then tweaks it with spices according to what we’re putting it on. Last week it was ground ancho chiles to go along with shredded pork. I’m thinking the black carrot juice would make for a cool BBQ sauce. I’m going to give it a try. But at your house, think tossing pureed or fresh squeezed juice into sauces and dips. Better yet, let your kids think up the combinations. One of my favorite Asian dipping sauces is simply equal parts lime juice and soy sauce. Hum, I wonder what apricot-soy would taste like…

Your turn–any ingredients that you’ve been wanting to use but weren’t sure how to use ‘em? Any ingredient experiments that worked well, or maybe tasted awful?

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Where to find deals on pricey ingredients

Grapeseed oilTrying out new recipes can carry a real price tag. Sometimes, I substitute other ingredients if I know I’m not likely to use them again (sorry lemongrass), but other times I really try to hunt down the complete list. That’s why there’s fish sauce, Gruyere cheese, and concentrated pesto paste hanging out in my fridge.

So if you’ve been looking for deals on some otherwise pricey ingredients, here’s where you might have some luck:

•Ingredient: Extra virgin olive oil

Where to find it: Costco

Scoop: It may not be imported from Italy, but for about the same price as a small flask anywhere else, I can buy a 2-quart jug at Costco. I save the pricier imported varieties to drizzle over meals that call for it (like on top of focaccia). But in most vinaigrettes, I’m using the less pricey brand.

•Ingredient: Cool cheeses

Where to find it: Trader Joe’s

Scoop: Fontina cheese can make a meal, with its smooth consistency and tangy flavor that’s slightly stronger than mozzarella (but note that it won’t make your sauces, like alfredo, stringy). At Trader Joe’s it’s around $2 a pound, cheaper than I’ve found it anywhere else. They carry a full array of cheeses at prices low enough that you can justify trying something new.

•Ingredient: Grapeseed oil

Where to find it: Marshall’s

Scoop: Prized for its high smoking threshold and its mild flavor, you might find grapeseed oil turning up in more recipes. But it’s a pricey ingredient–unless, that is, you find it a discount store. Check at Marshall’s for this specialty oil (and others!).

•Ingredient: Ghirardelli chocolate chips

Where to find it: Cost Plus World Market

Scoop: Okay, so this isn’t an exotic ingredient or anything, but if you’re looking for the 60% cacoa variety of the big chips, you won’t find it at the grocery store. I know, I’ve tried. The only place I’ve found it so far is at Cost Plus World Market (other than at Costco seasonally). Around the holidays the chips go on sale, pair that with frequent coupons they dole out with their Rewards Program–it’s free to join–and I can get my favorite chocolate, in a 30-ounce bag, for less than if I bought a grocery store brand.

•Ingredient: Tortillas, dried chilies, panko crumbs

Where to find it: Ethnic grocery stores

Sccop: Google  ‘ethnic grocers’ in your area. When I need to find fresh tortillas for enchiladas, I make a trek to a Mexican grocers. Ditto when I need specialty items for Japanese, Chinese, Middle Eastern, or Thai fare. Usually, the cost for ingredients is sometimes as much as half what I’d pay at the grocery store. And usually, I find other ingredients that inspire me to try more new recipes.

Now it’s your turn–where do you find deals on ingredients for recipes that you want to try–and you don’t want to spend too much?

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