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Underappreciated Ingredients


donk79
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This year has been one of discovery for many of us.  My first cooking discovery was realizing what a huge difference fresh parsely made in my pot pie recipe.  Then I ran across a recipe for tuna salad that only used onion and parsely in addition to the mayo and tuna.  I was blown away by how good it was.  I am learning the lesson that parsely really is more than an antiquated plate decoration.

 

So I am curious now.  What else am I missing out on?  What have you discovered that is often overlooked or neglected?  I will never leave parsely out of my garden plans again!

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Curious if you are referring to curly or flat leaf?  Curly to me is tasteless. If I had to pick 2 ordinary guys I'd say:

1. Cracked black pepper "bloomed"with the fat rather than plunked on at the end

2. Dijon mustard - just a smidge does something more than one expects. Esp in stews and soups. Not the grainy stuff

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Dijon mustard in sauces. Just a little, esp with a sweet sauce. Adds depth. You shouldn't say "oh, mustard" or even taste it, but its there helping.

 

Edit ...I see I got beaten to the punch lol

Edited by gfweb (log)
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9 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

Parsley is one herb I'd happily never encounter again. It is, in my opinion, overused to tart up otherwise drab dishes. I never buy it or use it.

 

We all come up differently. The bed of flat leaf at grandma's house was essential. A flat leaf variety from seed brought by the early charter flight travelers (cheap) from Europe.  The roots essential in chicken soup. The first time I smelled it on offer at a mainstream grocery I got tears in my eyes. 

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53 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

Parsley is one herb I'd happily never encounter again. It is, in my opinion, overused to tart up otherwise drab dishes. I never buy it or use it.

 

So you're not making tabbouleh any time soon? It''s in my weekly herb delivery without fail, and I use it not to tart up my otherwise delicious dishes, but to add a certain slight punch to same.

 

Spanish smoked paprika is a wonderful spice - and it comes in 3 heat levels. Great for sprinkling on corn, or potatoes, or...

 

Citrus in the form of fresh lemon or lime juice enlivens many things.

 

And whole spices, rather than ground, when possible. I toast all whole spices and then grind them in a small mortar/pestle, for dishes as they are needed. Black peppercorns ( a mix) are kept in a grinder, but I will toast them for a cacio e pepe or something similar, when pepper is the main spice.

 

Edited by weinoo (log)
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I'll echo @weinoo 's smoked paprika.  A little can add interest or a lot can be the main flavor of a dish.

 

And I'll add a little shot of vinegar to sauces/salads that wouldn't necessarily have it.

 

And a bit of tomato paste in sauces too.

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14 minutes ago, lindag said:
39 minutes ago, gfweb said:
39 minutes ago, gfweb said:

I'll echo @weinoo 's smoked paprika.  A little can add interest or a lot can be the main flavor of a dish.

 

And I'll add a little shot of vinegar to sauces/salads that wouldn't necessarily have it.

 

And a bit of tomato paste in sauces too.

I'll echo @weinoo 's smoked paprika.  A little can add interest or a lot can be the main flavor of a dish.

 

And I'll add a little shot of vinegar to sauces/salads that wouldn't necessarily have it.

 

And a bit of tomato paste in sauces too.

I only recently discovered how much Balsamic Vinegar can add to foods.

 

Keep it as a table condiment - a little drop will do ya. Also the mentioned tomato paste. When tomatoes are not great frying it a bit adds remarkable tomato depth. And generic works!

Edited by heidih (log)
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3 hours ago, heidih said:

Curious if you are referring to curly or flat leaf?  Curly to me is tasteless. If I had to pick 2 ordinary guys I'd say:

1. Cracked black pepper "bloomed"with the fat rather than plunked on at the end

2. Dijon mustard - just a smidge does something more than one expects. Esp in stews and soups. Not the grainy stuff

Flat leaf.  And I am guessing that there is a difference between the two that was part of what I was missing out on!

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3 hours ago, heidih said:

 

We all come up differently. The bed of flat leaf at grandma's house was essential. A flat leaf variety from seed brought by the early charter flight travelers (cheap) from Europe.  The roots essential in chicken soup. The first time I smelled it on offer at a mainstream grocery I got tears in my eyes. 

I'm curious about this use if the roots.  I may have heard it in passing before, but I am paying attention now!  Are there any tips you can give about how to use it?

 

The pot pie recipe is from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home.  I found that the parsely added a particular sweetness that I really missed when I left it out. (There may have been a few too many potpies in our house during early Covid lockdown.)

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Curly leaf parsley does have a strong (good) flavor to me. It also has a good "shelf" life, too, IIRC. Maybe it got a bad reputation from being just a plate garnish for so long. I've used it in homemade falafel before with good results, IMO.

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20 minutes ago, donk79 said:

I'm curious about this use if the roots.  I may have heard it in passing before, but I am paying attention now!  Are there any tips you can give about how to use it?

 

The pot pie recipe is from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home.  I found that the parsely added a particular sweetness that I really missed when I left it out. (There may have been a few too many potpies in our house during early Covid lockdown.)

 

It may have been the variety as they were pretty big. More along the lines of a small parsnip - great flavor. We only used them in soups. I stole them and let the others fight over the carrots. There is a firm core that is often not edible. Nothing I have grown from US commercial seed packets was worthy. But as those who enjoy SE Asian cuisine use cilantro roots pounded in curry pastes  I think even the wimpy ones would add interest at times. Trial and error.

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5 hours ago, Chris Hennes said:

Isn't that exactly what adding ingredients is supposed to do? Take a dish that needs "something else" and adds that "something"?

 

Indeed. But I find too often it gets added to everything. And I'm not find of the something it adds. I realise I may be in the minority here.

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5 hours ago, heidih said:

 

a little drop will do ya.

 

LOL...I was thinking of this phrase in relation to a handful of these excellent suggestions...but wondered if anyone was old enough to get it.    Yes, so many of these add an indescribable dimension to a dish, while a heavy hand can both ruin the dish and the ingredient's reputation.   

I have just learned to use tomato paste, something that I avoided like the plague previously.    When tomatoes are bland, TP comes to the rescue, and when a dish needs some depth, again, TP fills it out.   

Every suggestion above can elevate relevant dishes when used judiciously.

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I’ll add a third to tomato paste. In my first training I was taught to start your tomato sauce with paste, slightly browning a teaspoon or so in the oil before everything else goes in. You can’t define what it adds but you can certainly tell when it’s not there. 
 

I’ll add curry leaves to the list. Can’t get them fresh here, but dried works. They add a great smoky flavor to lots of meat dishes, especially ground beef for something like tacos. 
 

And fish sauce! Smells gross and tastes even grosser to me. But in a meat dish, especially Asian, just adds something special. And a bottle will last you forever!

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20 minutes ago, pastameshugana said:

And fish sauce! Smells gross and tastes even grosser to me. But in a meat dish, especially Asian, just adds something special. And a bottle will last you forever!

 

Fish sauce is part of cooking life at least where I live in Los Angeles. Euro stepmom objects when I leave open jar of nuoc mam on counter or cook with fish sauce and then asks why something tastes so good. 

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1 hour ago, KennethT said:

What size bottle do you have? A 1 liter bottle only lasts us a couple months if we're lucky!


Well I will admit it makes it into a small portion of our dishes, and it seems a little goes a long way, so that’s probably we’re getting so many miles out of ours. 

PastaMeshugana

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"What's hunger got to do with anything?" - My Father

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