This Site Has Moved

I moved the blog some time ago to Please join in the discussion over there!

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Tools of the Trade

I'm always on the lookout for new, healthful sauces to use in my cooking to spice things up a bit. Aside from the list of usual herbs and spices, which I use lots of (not only for their taste, but also for the nutritional benefits), I make use of several premade sauces that make cooking much quicker and much tastier.

One of my favorites is El Pato mexican tomato sauce. This is tomato sauce with a kick and goes well with pretty much everything. It's not overly spicy, assuming you don't have a sensitive tongue. It works well on spaghetti squash for a nice "spaghetti" fill in and can also be added to your regular pasta sauce. Last week, I sauteed some squash and zucchini and then simmered it in El Pato and chowed down. The Duck is good stuff.

Since I'm a big fan of Mexican food, I like to make sure I have some different sauces on hand. I have been using the Ranchero Red and Viva Verde sauces made by Abuelita Villarreal, but at Whole Foods this past weekend, they were out, so I had to seek out something else. I can across these Frontera Mexican sauces and picked up the Chipotle Garlic sauce. I had it a few nights ago and it is awesome; lower price and more quantity than the Abuelita sauces too, although it isn't as flavorful. Eggs, chicken, and any other protein all do well with these sauces.

I use coconut milk pretty religiously, probably 2-3 cans a week. It is a great source of high quality saturated fats and works for cooking pseudo-Indian or Thai dishes (especially when combined with the chili sauce below). Lately I've been eating a lot of berries and melons, so I'll just fill up a bowl with fruit, cover it with coconut milk and top with cinnamon. Chaokoh is a good brand if you can find cans that don't look like they were used for badminton and I've recently made the switch to Whole Foods 365 brand. It's $.10 more, but it's organic and doesn't contain the sodium metabisulfite.

For a good dose of heat, try the Sambal Oelek crushed chili sauce from Huy Fong foods. The chili garlic sauce and Sriracha are also great, although the Sriracha has a small bit of sugar. I like to saute an onion in palm oil, then add some broccoli and cover to steam the broccoli and near the end of cooking add some chili sauce and garlic. This stuff will give your food some serious spice so use sparingly until you figure out your tolerance.

We all have days when vegetables just don't quite zing our tastebuds. For those days, I keep some wheat-free tamari nearby. It's basically soy sauce with no wheat, although I find the flavor to be a touch stronger. Make sure it actually says "wheat-free" on the front of the bottle, because although tamari is technically supposed to be wheat-free, some brands aren't. I also look for reduced sodium.

And then there is Joyva tahini (ground sesame seeds). I only use this for making salad dressings, but it can also be used to make hummus. For a nice salad dressing, try equal parts tahini and olive oil, with some ginger, curry powder, and pepper (hat tip to Robb Wolf). The tahini really makes it stick to the vegetables.

As I said, I'm always on the lookout for new sauces, so if you have any that you enjoy, tell me about them in the comments.