Kitchens Without Borders by Paul Lindemuth

Many cooks, both home and professional alike, have for several years embraced the philosophy of eating foods locally grown as often as possible, and cooking seasonally with fresh ingredients as they appear naturally and not shipped halfway around the world to a giant supermarket. Those focuses are easier to follow with the pending return of our local farmer’s markets and CSA boxes that we subscribe to.

We have enjoyed the plethora of global cuisines and perhaps dabbled in “fusion” cooking, where mutli-cultural influences blend to form an inspired menu.

But maybe we don’t want or have time to prepare an entire Thai or Mexican or Indian menu, and are looking for a little inspiration to put a new flavor dimension into a family favorite recipe or when we tackle that weekly CSA box.

Sambal Oelek

Asian Chili Paste

Thinking outside the box (quite literally) can yield some new perspectives while we cook. Using just one ingredient that is indigenous to an ethnic cuisine can sometimes singlehandedly give a new dimension and depth to a recipe; a sprinkle of ground cardamom on roasted sweet potatoes, a teaspoon of Chinese chili paste in some braised lentils, curry powder added to your butternut squash soup, a few roasted, peeled and diced poblano chiles folded into your mashed potatoes.

Your kitchen may have four walls but they are not borders. Explore the world of flavor with your creativity and some ingredients you already have on hand.

Braised Lentils
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Ingredients
  1. 1 ½ cups French green lentils, picked over and rinsed
  2. 3 T. olive oil
  3. 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  4. 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  5. 2 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped
  6. 3 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  7. 1 t. dried thyme
  8. 2 T. Worcestershire sauce
  9. ½ to 1 t. Chinese chili paste
  10. ½ to ¾ cup chicken broth
  11. salt
  12. freshly ground black pepper
  13. 3 T. chopped fresh parsley
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Place the lentils in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Place over moderate heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the lentils for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large casserole warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery. Sauté until soft but not brown, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the lentils and their cooking liquid, the garlic, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and chili paste. Stir in enough chicken broth to cover the lentils. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix well.
  5. Cover the casserole and bake until the lentils are just tender, about 30 minutes.
  6. Stir in the chopped parsley. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Comments

  1. Christine Victoria says:

    Hi Paul,
    I completely agree with your statement of how using 1 ingredient that’s indigenous to a culture can bring dimension and depth. As a foodie, I am always giving myself food challenges. My last challenge was to make an authentic Panang Curry, but there were no Asian grocers in the St. Charles area. Being determined, I found a very small Asian grocery store in Elgin and the owner directed me to the panang curry paste that she uses (not the brands found in the international sections of chain stores. She also took me to a freezer and pulled out a baggie of kefir lime leaves.
    I went home with both, made the curry and WOW, it tasted exactly like what I had from a Thai restaurant in the city. The lime leaves added this amazing layer. I have wanted to take some classes at Marcel’s, and will probably sign up soon. For now, it’s on to my next food challenge!

    Christine

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