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5 Ingredients You Need to Be Cooking with Now

Cooking enthusiasts: Read on for details on how, why and where to get such hot commodities as black garlic.




PHOTOS BY LEAH LIZARONDO
 

One of the things I love to do with everyday food is to tweak my go-to recipes every now and then by introducing new ingredients. Many of us fall into the convenience of making the same recipes over and over again because of the demands of life. Sometimes I don’t have time to try new recipes, but I always find time to pick up new ingredients I see at the grocery store and add them to something I’m already accustomed to making. And often that’s enough to turn a “We’re having this again?!” to “Oh, what’s this new thing?!”

Here are some new ingredients you can pick up right now that will help you do just that. Great sources for these are your local farms, Whole Foods Market, the East End Food Co-Op and Trader Joe’s (which surprisingly is a great barometer for trending ingredients!). Another great foodie secret is to go to where chefs get their unique ingredients. One such purveyor is The John V. Heineman Company in Lawrenceville; if you read about some new thing you want to try, call this place because chances are they have it (or can easily get it for you).

 

Green chickpeas

Love edamame? You’re going to love green chickpeas even more! The typical chickpeas we know are ones left on the plant to ripen and dry. These are chickpeas picked in their “infancy.” Green garbanzos are soft and creamy and taste like spring. They are extremely addictive just charred on a hot cast-iron pan with shells and all, then sprinkled with salt, pepper (I like to add a hit of Togarashi, a Japanese spice) and eaten as you would eat edamame. Bet you can’t have just one.

Get them now because they only are available fresh for a narrow window of time (and that window is closing quickly!). Good news, though: Some brands now sell frozen packs.

 

Preserved lemons

Preserved lemons are common in Moroccan and Middle Eastern cooking, but modern recipes often have been adapted to include only lemons to accommodate what’s typically available in our grocery stores. What we don’t know is that while the dish still tastes amazing, we are robbing our palate of one of the best tastes out there: the salty, sour, sweet tang of preserved lemons. They add a completely different dimension to dishes.

It is super easy to make preserved lemons. For those of you who have fear of making anything jarred, canned or preserved, I am not kidding about how easy it is. But they also are becoming more available — I just saw them at Trader Joe’s!

Add them to tagines, pastas and salad dressings (there are many recipes out there — in fact, I’ve included a simple one below if you want to give it a test run).

 

Black garlic

Another fermented favorite, this one takes a little getting used to because it’s, well, garlic that not only has turned black but also is a different texture than what we are used to. Black garlic has been aged to the point where it tastes almost the exact opposite of what you expect — instead of being strong, spicy, aromatic, it is mild and sweet and takes on a caramelized flavor. It is fantastic just sliced and used as a topping or fried lightly.

 

Celtuce and kale sprouts — the “hybrid” vegetables

I tease a friend of mine who has, um, a vegetable-challenged palate that I have found his worst nightmare: kale sprouts, a cross between Brussels sprouts and kale. I think it’s a great entry point for people who do not like Brussels sprouts. It’s a powerhouse Brassica marriage that combines the nutrition wealth of both vegetables. I like to cut them in half and roast them in the oven until crisp. Like chips. Only healthier.

Another is veggie portmanteau celtuce — lettuce with a stalk that is reminiscent of celery. It is used a lot in Asian cooking and though we don’t usually like lettuce stems, celtuce is valued for exactly that. The stems are flavorful and firm and can take on stronger sauces. I love it SO MUCH. Here is a great primer on how to use it.

 

Food waste

“Food waste” is the new ingredient top restaurants are crazy about. One major reason is that food waste is the largest component in our landfills — causing enough environmental damage that if the waste were a country, it would be the third leading source of greenhouse emissions (behind China and the United States).

Last month, Dan Barber, one of the nation’s most-celebrated chefs, closed his critically acclaimed Blue Hill in New York City for renovations. While that was ongoing, he staged a pop-up restaurant with a rotation of all-star chefs offering a menu replete with food waste. This was Barber’s advocacy for the fact that we waste 40 percent of our food. In our everyday lives, we may not create as inventive dishes as the ones on this menu, but we can use vegetables from root to stalk as a way to prevent waste.

“Root to Stalk" is a great book that teaches how to use all of the parts of a vegetable, including carrot tops (great for pesto!), broccoli stalks (I made that noodle stir-fry pictured with broccoli stalks!), watermelon rinds and even potato peels (hello, best chips ever).

Do you juice? Don’t throw out the pulp! Here are 20 ways to use it. And here’s that killer preserved-lemon recipe I’d mentioned.

 


  Spaghetti with Preserved Lemons and Asparagus

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces pasta, cooked (save a ladleful of pasta water)
  • 2 cups asparagus, cut into 1 inch stalks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 tablespoons chopped preserved lemons
  • salt
  • pepper


Directions:

  1. In a saucepan, sauté asparagus in olive oil until tender.
  2. Add chopped garlic and stir.
  3. Add preserved lemons.
  4. Add reserved pasta water.
  5.  Toss with pasta, season with salt and pepper.

 

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