Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Holding It Together With Staples

Staples hold more than papers together. I’m talking about those things in your kitchen cabinets, freezer or fridge that are the glue in your creations and the things you can’t live without. I have many staples that are as dear to me as my lucky pen or my favorite socks and I will never give them up, hording them when I have a chance and even dealing with the harassment I receive when my stash is discovered, “How many jars of sundried tomatoes do you need? Don’t these go bad at some point?” Well honey, I don’t let them sit long enough to go bad. Remember the orzo from Saturday night, or the spinach salad from yesterday, they are all made with this lovely jarred staple of red delights floating in that wonderful oil.

But I digress. Wednesdays are one of my cooking days and that is when I find myself reaching for these particular items and turning them into a treat for the rest of the week. I know many of you have staples that either make up the backbone of your culinary adventures or create the perfect marriage of flavors, so show with me your “can’t do withouts” and I’ll show you mine. Tell me … how do you hold it all together?

Whether it is Grey Poupon or the store brand, organic or gourmet, Dijon mustard is something I can’t live without. I am a huge mustard person devouring grainy or smooth, spicy or sweet in just about everything, but this white wine-infused gem really makes it all come together. I didn’t realize my codependence until a few weeks ago when I found 3 different containers of the stuff littering my fridge. Each was about half full and set in different locations to be of easy access for any mood. I then noticed how many times I reached for them: salad dressing-just a dash with walnut oil and balsamic vinegar; leftover ham from the holiday-perfect accompaniment on a sandwich or as a rub with apricot jam to liven up the leftovers; chicken soup-toss in a dab and watch how it enhances the flavors; tuna noodle casserole-makes it a bit more high end. I consciously realized its versatility and began paying even more attention to this often overlooked brother to ketchup.

A simple addition to sauces, Dijon mustard compliments the tang of lemon, adds richness to a simple broth and a touch of piquancy to a creamy sauce. Added to vegetables like green beans (with a touch of OJ and orange zest), brussel sprouts (with bacon and walnuts) and cabbage (with vinegar and apples) this condiment reigns supreme.

Don’t believe me? Try this quick sauce with some grilled salmon and change your mind. It can also be stirred into some thin spaghetti for a herb/lemon infusion on your tongue.

Grilled Salmon with Dill Sauce

Grilling the salmon is the easy part (I usually just season it with salt and pepper and use either the outside grill (with the skin on) or the grill pan on the stove (skin off). Make sure to not overcook, it should still be a bit dark pink in the center when you take it out of the pan because it will still cook for another minute.

Dill Sauce

½ cup chopped fine red onion
Zest and juice from one lemon (If you really love lemon like I do, then you can add more to taste once it is all together)
I garlic clove minced fine
8 oz sour cream
¼ cup fresh chopped dill
1-2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper

Put everything in a bowl and taste it to adjust the seasoning. I do this before I even take the fish out of the fridge since I want to give the flavors as long as possible to meld. Spoon onto the grilled fish, add a dollop to green beans, mix in with pasta for a change from heavy tomato and cheese sauces. Remember to taste before you serve it as well since the flavors sharpen as they sit.


Lena said...

I couldn't do without cinnamon, creme fresh and mint. For both savoury and sweet dishes.

Praers said...

Oh I just love cinnamon, both in stick form and ground. My mint unfortunately has died due to the cold and I am not very familiar with creme fresh. Could you recommend a recipe?