Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The world's best ingredient.

I would like to introduce those of you who are not aware of it to my favorite ingredient in the WORLD. If you a) know about it already, b) hate garlic, or c) hate ginger, then go along your merry way, as this post is not for you.

Indian and Pakistani cuisine very commonly includes garlic-ginger paste. I cannot sing this stuff's praises enough.

It's sold at every Indian grocery ever, in jars that should be kept in the fridge once they're opened. Consistency is of a slightly hairy toothpaste (hairy cause of the ginger). I keep a jar of this stuff and a jar of pre-minced plain garlic-in-water in my fridge door at all times; I haven't had to chop garlic in months, or try that damn extract-the-awesomeness-from-ginger-using-just-the-flat-of-your-knife thing that the cookbooks pretend is straightforward but always ends up with me either coming perilously close to cutting myself, or smelling like a Thai whorehouse (not that I'd know), or shooting a small piece of ginger at high speed right across the kitchen or sometimes even out of the window and onto someone's car in the next door dentist's parking lot. Which, it goes without saying, is awesome.

But yes. Garlic-ginger paste. Sounds simple, but the beauty of it is its versatility. It can be consumed uncooked -- if you really like the strong flavor, I've even used it in small amounts as a no-cal sandwich spread -- and I often whisk it into salad dressings and other raw liquidy things (bet it'd give hummus a kick in the teeth! I wouldn't know, I'm allergic to most hummuses. Hummi? Hummusoi? Humina humina).

It is awesome when cooked in any way, to soften the flavor. If you're sauteing a dish, for example, or frying anything in just a little bit of oil, adding this to the oil first and giving it 30 seconds on medium or low heat is scrummy. Ditto adding it to sauces, even soups, and oh my goodness I can't even tell you what it does to marinades. Num. Brush it on fish before boiling or roasting. Num. Bored of plain veggies? Tell you what, you can start with the most generic of *frozen* beans or peas -- as you're steaming them (or even nuking them), fake-fry a spoonful of this paste in a tablespoon or two of low-sodium chicken broth (another fridge door requirement) with a teaspoonful of cumin seeds, and Double Num Num!

Mmmmm. Num.

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