Fresh fresh fresh…my )(*$)#&(. Chefs have been using tomato paste (and making it – but YOU don’t do THAT please!) to enhance everything from seafood to beef dishes to sauces for millenia. Tomato reduction contains umami! We all have recipes in our collection that call for a teaspoon or a tablespoon of tomato paste.
What to DO with the other 4 ounces (or 10 depending on the can you get? It comes in tubes now that will store in the fridge for forever, but you pay a premium. Lula’s Catering ‘s method is – buy a can. Put a piece of waxed paper or a pastry sheet on a cookie tray, dollop the whole can out in tablespoons on the paper, throw the sheet in the freezer for a few hours, pop it out, bag it up, and throw it in the freezer to have at the ready for the next YEAR. You’re welcome! For weekly tips and tidbits to help you in the kitchen you can go HERE.
EVERYBODY knows about cinnamon, right?!? I guess you know that there are two types of cinnamon – both are the bark of trees. There is the Cassia tree, and there is the Ceylon tree.
Volatile oils give cinnamon its strength. Ceylon Cinnamon has the lowest volatile oil content (1-2%) and is the preferred cinnamon in Europe and Mexico. In my opinion, it has more complexity and finesse than Cassia Cinnamon, which is much more in your “face” with volatile oils ranging from 3-7% depending on its originating terroir. Lula’s Sweet Potato-Bourbon Shortbread with Maple Pecan Streusal, among many other desserts AND savory dishes, contains Ceylon Cinnamon, and sometimes you don’t even know!!
Korintje Cinnamon from Indonesia is the flavor most recognized by American palates as it is the most readily available in our supermarkets. For fun, seek out China Tung Hing Cassia Cinnamon – you’ll notice it has a bigger “bite” in recipes, and a subtly different flavor from what you’re used to.
What you might NOT be familiar with, are Cassia BUDS. They are precious and hard to find – resembling a clove in appearance, though perfect and pink. Obviously, they are the bud of a cassia tree before it flowers – can you imagine the flavor of flowering cinnamon?!? These buds are prized, and laid in the sun to dry. They are used in pickling recipes, meat marinades and yummy warm holiday drinks. Happy Hunting – and if you find some let Lula know!! For more info like this you can get weekly click HERE!
OK folks, back to “winter” spices…though the clove is also a fantastic home remedy for toothaches all year long…did you know dentists used to prescribe sucking on a whole clove to alleviate toothaches? Oil of clove is a numbing agent. Cloves are also extremely popular in cigarettes … but DON’T!! 🙂 You can get cloves ground ( a little dab’ll do ya – enough clove in your spice cake and you’ll FEEL the numbing!!), or you can get cloves whole.
This is another spice that you could be put to death for in the mid 1600’s – planting OR trading cloves was a capital offense, and cloves are also a critical ingredient in French cuisine – you can’t make a stock without studding a whole onion with cloves and throwing it in!!
Here’s the most fun fact of all … back in the day when people didn’t bathe very often and STANK, cloves were a favorite ingredient in pomander balls (the usually metal balls with holes that one stuffed with aromatics and hung from their belt (men) or dangled from their wrist (women) to hide the ODOR… ahhh… the things you learn when armchair traveling with Lula…for more tips, tidbits and fun on a weekly basis you can sign up HERE.
OK, week two of “fall/winter” spices…I’m going to continue where I left off and discuss MACE – which is simply the thin, apricot colored, lacy outer layer of the nutmeg seed. Since there’s not as much of it, it has always been way more expensive. It resembles nutmeg in scent and flavor but is more delicate. Once again, this spice can be used in a variety of savory recipes as well as sweet.
At the height of its popularity the Dutch ruled the spice trade, and one year (1770) production exceeded demand by a year’s supply and the whole lot was BURNED – making Amsterdam the best scented city of all time! Fun Fact: Most American hot dog manufactures include mace in their recipe!! And NOW Lula is going to give away a closely guarded secret..put a dash in your BBQ sauces (think my Kentucky Black Bourbon…) YUUUUUuuuuuuuuuuuum. Hit here for more tips and tricks! With love, Lula
OK, we’re here…it’s fall rapidly descending into holidays…so I thought I’d touch on some winter spices that everybody uses for BAKING…but since I’m not the Pastry Queen I’m going to talk a bit about nuance and savory cooking. Nutmeg is one of my favorite spices because it has such a nuanced flavor if you use the right amount that most people can’t tell it’s in there…it’s the big ole’ “What IS that flavor?!?” that I love to hear so much 🙂
Nutmeg was fought over (the islands that grew it) and considered so valuable that it was sterilized when it left an island so that it couldn’t re-seed or grow anywhere else. It comes from a tree that also produces mace (more on that next time). The DEATH penalty was enforced for anyone smuggling nutmeg. First the Portuguese and the Dutch battled over dominion. Then the Dutch and the English. I’m going to leave you with two fun facts:
1) The Island of Manhattan, then called New Amsterdam, is part of the United States because of a negotiation in 1667 ending this particular spice war.
2) Add a pinch of nutmeg whenever you use cream, milk, or eggs. No matter the recipe. You’ll thank me!
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Native to South America, the quinoa seed comes in 3 different varieties, and I like them all – particularly together. Sometimes its hard to find the blend though, and when I can’t I’ll settle for red.
White quinoa is the most plentiful; it is the largest and has a nutty vegetal flavor and the softest texture of the three. Red is next in size and is crunchier because it has an outer seed coat that makes it even nuttier (any reason, you think, why this would be my fave?!?) Black is the tiniest and the crunchies with an even thicker seed coat.
The reason I personally like to mix them is because the white explodes and is fluffiest, the red has the best flavor and texture (to me – this is personal folks!), and the black will virtually always remain crunchy. Interesting flavors and textures always make for a more delicious meal! Lula’s Catering makes soups and stews with quinoa as well as entrée salads and side dishes. It’s packed with nutrition and is gluten free … a real winner! For more tips & tidbits from Lula you can always go here – just type in your key word question and I’ll probably have some sort of answer!! With love, Lula
I’ve got a tip for you when you leave for vacation. Put a half filled water bottle in the freezer on its side. Before you leave, set it upright. When you return, if the water is anything other than against and up one wall, you need to throw out your stuff! Make sense?!? You had an energy outage 🙁 If you love Lula’s sage ideas you can get them once a week here!
It might be a major diet component in the coming decades…but for NOW, we’re just going to discuss Kombu – a dried kelp that contains “umami” (specifically glutamic acid but what do you care?!?). If you missed that post look it up!
Kombu is used in Japanese (and my) cooking to enhance umami in many dishes – it can be found in Asian markets and these days quite a few grocery stores in dried form. Kombu is also a vegetarian source of the brain function enhancing Omega 3 fatty acid.
Just drop one 2×2 square per quart of liquid into soups and stews (think vegetable soup, tomato sauce) and pull it out when the liquid begins to simmer. You don’t want to forget it- bitter compounds form at a full boil. But you WILL add that indefinable “what is IN this that makes it so rich and tasty?!?” vibe if you pull it out at the simmer! If you liked this tidbit you can get one weekly here!
Did you know you can treat any squash seeds the same as pepitas (pumpkin seeds)? Do just what you would do with the pumpkin- separate the seeds from the pulp, put in a single layer on a cookie sheet and cook in a preheated 300 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Get creative with your seasonings! Cinnamon and sugar, or Rosemary & sea salt … the combinations are endless!! For more mouthwatering pics visit here !
In Lula's Kitchen, Love is ALWAYS our First Ingredient!