Thursday, September 5, 2013

eating my share: neon flavor

One of my favorite things about cooking and eating is discovering new ingredients and flavors. I'm sure my 12 year old self would be shocked to learn about the wide variety of foods she'd eat once she was older.

As an adult I've developed a few favorite spices, one of which is coriander, the dried seed of cilantro. Compared to other spices that have heavy flavors, coriander is bright and citrusy. Its perky instead of weighty and I use the powdered form of it liberally with eggplant, tomatoes, carrots, etc.

I recently collected some fresh coriander seeds from a bunch of cilantro that had gone to flower. These seed pods are bright green and have a vivid, fresh flavor. It was the neon version of the coriander I'm accustomed to.

For tonight's dinner, I combined this new-to-me ingredient with the familiarity of carrots and the creaminess of coconut milk. I made a "flavor paste" using the fresh coriander seeds, red bell pepper and other aromatic ingredients. The resulting dish is vibrant, spicy and full of flavor I hope you'll want to discover. 

Coconut Braised Carrots with Fresh Coriander

flavor paste
1 tbs green coriander seeds (or 1 tsp coriander powder)
1 inch ginger hunk
2-3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup cilantro
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 date or 1 tsp honey
1 hot pepper, sliced in half
(remove some of the seeds to decrease spiciness if desired)
1 red bell pepper, cut into chunks

Combine the coriander seeds, ginger, garlic, cilantro and lemon juice in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients and process until a paste-like consistency is achieved.

coconut braised carrots
1-2 tbs oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
salt, to taste
flavor paste (recipe above)
1 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup water
1 lb carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal into thin coins
unsweetened coconut chips, toasted

Heat the oil in a deep saute pan. Add onions and cook until translucent and slightly browned, about 8-10 minutes.

Stir in flavor paste and a generous pinch of salt and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the sliced carrots to the pan and stir to coat. Pour in the coconut milk and water and cover the pan. Cook until the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes. Check every few minutes and add water if the liquid is becoming too thick. 

Season to taste and garnish with toasted coconut chips.

Is there a vegetable you hated as a kid but love as an adult?

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