As home cooks, one of the things we want to do for our family is to offer a variety of tastes. Restaurants and take out, no matter how much of a welcome break we think they may provide, cannot meet this goal. Store bought food has to be standardized. This is the only way that a business can be successful. It can’t experiment or respond to each customer’s unique preference. This lesson really hits home during the holiday of Pesach when these establishments are usually closed.
Aside from the obvious advantages that making food from home offers, to me, the greatest one is the ability to develop an appreciation for different tastes. It is interesting that the same word, pallet, refers to our array of tastebuds, and also, on what an artist arranges and mixes paint colours.
It is at the times of our holidays, our celebrations, that we can really let loose and take our cooking to new heights. Sometimes we relish in the comfort of familiarity, and we don’t want to ‘fix what ain’t broke’, but in adding a new flavour note, we can liven up a well loved tune. This Pesach, consider adding a surprising element of heat to your repertoire. The sweet-hot flavour that fresh chillis deliver can enhance side dishes and even the humble shnitzel.
I really enjoyed making this unique spread over the last few weeks and trying it in different ways. Keeping it as a thick paste, it can be tossed with simple steamed vegetables, such as carrots, zucchini or cauliflower. Thin it down with a little more oil and hot water and toss it with roasted root vegetables, bake for an extra 30 minutes and you’ve got delicious chilli-nut coated morsels. Thin it down a little more and dredge your schnitzel (turkey, chicken or veal) in it before coating with crumbs and baking.
Here is the basic recipe,
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots or small onions, peeled and finely chopped
½ cup whole almonds, toasted
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2-3 fresh bird’s eye or Thai chillis
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
Heat the 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and saute the shallots or onions for a few minutes.
Place the almonds, garlic, chillis and sauteed shallots/onions in the food processor and pulse until the mixture is smooth adding the oil, honey and seasonings until it reaches a pastelike consistency.
This chilli paste can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. Use it to add a little sweet spiciness to your Pesach menues.
Next week I look forward to sharing my favourite Pesach dessert, a meringue layered with chocolate and hazelnut ganache-not at all difficult.
Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada