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The Best of 2010, Part One

As we move closer to year end, I enjoy looking at the new ingredients and ideas I've found over the past year and sharing some of the essential ingredients I always have in my kitchen or refrigerator.

I find that sometimes the most simple ingredients can send you down a path of discovery with a new cuisine or a new direction in trying new ideas and challenging yourself.

1) White Truffle Salt - What was I thinking? I should have bought this years ago. I can't imagine anything that wouldn't taste better with this fabulous salt. It makes mashed potatoes that are sublime.

2) Sil Pat Silicone Pads - I know these have been around for a long time, but I finally tried them this year and they are really handy. It makes baking so much easier and no more hassling with parchment paper and it's more economically friendly as well.

3) Tamari Almonds - I basically live on these little gems as a quick snack. I have tried a lot of them, but I find the best are in the bulk food section of Whole Foods. Simple and good.

4) Por Kwan Soup Bases - This was a chance find. After retuning from Thailand I was craving the traditional Thai soup noodle and went to the trouble of making my own pork stock soup base and bought all of the ingredients, and it was very good, but what about when you want soup and you don't have 6 hours to make a stock? Try these instant soup bases and you will be amazed. So easy and very authentic. Imagine, instant Beef Pho! You can order them other wonderful Thai foods at

5) Brining- I have truly found that bring does make a major difference in how my roasts turn out. It creates one of the most tender turkey breasts you can imagine. Here is my recipe for a basic brine for poultry:

12 cups of water
1/4 cup, plus one Tbsp of Sea Salt
1 Tbsp Black Peppercorns
3 Bay Leaves
6-8 springs of fresh thyme
2 Tbsp Light Brown Sugar
Juice of one lemon

Combine all of the ingredients, except the lemon juice info a saucepan and bring to a boil. Then remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Add in the lemon juice and then pour over poultry and cover and marinade up to 24 hours, turning at least once.

Remove from brine, discard the brine, thoroughly rinse the poultry, dry it and prepare as usual. It will not need any additional salt. Just out it on a bead of mirepoix, rub it with olive oil or softened butter and roast.

6) Dukes Mayonnaise- Once again Dukes makes my list, as in my estimation it is the best prepared mayo you can find on the market. Since it has no sugar, and a stronger vinegar base, it make lighter salads and isn't so heavy on a sandwich. It can be ordered directly from the CF Sauer company in Richmond Virginia, if you can't find it locally.

7) Pomegranate Molasses, Al Wadi Brand- When you want a subtle sweet, tart and fruity flavor, there is nothing like this molasses. Used extensively in Middle Eastern cooking, it is great in a cooked dish, but also in potato salads and cole  slaw and salad dressings. Very special and unique taste.

8) Mojo - This was a revelation for me, as it creates a very healthy and tasty Cuban marinade for all sorts of meats, which you want to grill and best of all it's easy to make. Here is the recipe.

Juice from 4 lemons
Juice from 4 limes
Juice from one Orange, optional
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
4 cloves of garlic mashed
1 tsp freshly ground cumin seed
1 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp sea salt

Take the whole black peppercorns and the cumin seeds and grind them in a coffee grinder. [I always have one handy just for for grinding spices].

Then juice the lemons and limes and whisk all ingredients together. Put the meat into a 1 gallon freezer bag, pour the mojo over the meat, squeeze out the air and let marinade for at least 3-4 hours or longer. It can be marinated overnight. Remove from the marinade and grill.


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