Thursday, October 25, 2012

Chutney Ties the Meal Together

Hello condiment people!

Yesterday was one of those "let's buy a roasted chicken for dinner" days. But I can never leave it at that. To me, roasted chicken always begs for a little chutney on the side -- something with a sweet/tangy kick and a slightly chunky texture to savor with each bite. Add your favorite rice (I favor  basic wild rice, Lundberg Wild Blend, or a brown or white jasmine) and roasted vegetables, and you've got a standard comfort menu with minimal effort.

I've eaten all the homemade chutneys friends have so kindly shared over the past year, and I didn't make any of my own this summer, so I'm a loser in that realm. But, here's a store-bought find I have to share. Just purchased on a whim when I bought the chicken, this may be one of my favorite  chutneys ever. Stonewall Kitchen's Old Farmhouse Chutney absolutely, positively deserves its "Outstanding Savory Condiment Winner" emblem (missing in this photo) from The Specialty Food Show. 

Just as the "Dude's" rug "tied the room together" in the Big Lebowski, the Old Farmhouse tied this meal together in its own exquisite little way. Based on apples, it also includes cranberries, peaches, and apricots. Cider and balsamic vinegar? Yes -- both. Then there are the ample mustard seeds, roasted garlic and ginger root, a little curry, a little chili pepper... all in all the blend of flavors might be likened to a modern apple-based mince pie filling that's gone around the globe and been tarted up.

I found the chutney at the downtown Salt Lake City Harmon's, but it is widely available in supermarkets, or online of course.

(P.S. no one I write about on this blog sponsors or pays me. If I tout a brand name it's because it's a personal favorite -- that's all.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ode to Pickapeppa

I love you in a marinade. I love you in beef stew. Splashed on fried bananas? Yes, I like that too.  But I’ll pass on pouring over cream cheese, as I’ve seen others do.

OK, enough of that. 

I was just thinking about Pickapeppa -- one of the absolute best supermarket condiments around. A blend of cane vinegar, sugar, tomatoes, onions, raisins, sea salt, ginger, peppers, garlic, cloves, black pepper, thyme, mangoes and orange peel (whew!), it’s got to be great, right? Such a terrific melange of ingredients, and it’s aged in oak barrels. Quite the bargain at around $3 a bottle.

I was awakened to the glories of this savory sauce from Shooter’s Hill Jamaica at the Balboa CafĂ©, waaaay back in the 1980s in San Francisco. There it sat, a small bottle with its classic red and green label with the bird on it, just waiting to be poured on the amazing (and still on the menu!) Balboa Burger. One taste of Pickapeppa mingling with that perfectly medium-rare, totally sexy, juicy burger on a baguette piled high with caramelized onions and I was forever hooked. It was, and remains, one of the best combinations I’ve ever tasted. I’d marry it if I could. 

That’s how much I love Pickapeppa. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dusky Honey, Watermelon Jam, & Fig Mostarda

It’s sort of been like Christmas in October as I’ve had the opportunity to taste more extraordinary condiments from the Lake Garda region of Italy, via Laney Sachs and her online import shop, Ortensia Blu. Last week it was all about Mostarda Senepata. Here are a few more hard-to-find delicacies she's gathered. All would make great gifts. But if I were you, I'd order some to keep, too. 

Dusky (in a beautiful way) Honey

Ortensia Blu offers this romantic description for Miele del garda Bresciano also known as Melata: “Honeydew (Melata) Honey is named after the beads of nectar that glisten in the morning dew.” 

The thing is, that “morning dew” comes not from the nectar of wildflower blossoms, but from sap. This sap is a result, as one source put it, of “a splendid team effort involving bees and other insects. As they pierce the bark of fir and chestnut trees (among others) they release the essence of the tree—known as the melata,” spreading it over the surrounding flowers and leaves. The bees collect this sap with its aromatic, dusky character and high mineral content and transform it into this rare, highly prized honey. 

Dark amber, it has a lusty, molasses-y flavor profile. Enjoy it as you would enjoy any great honey. I actually like it on oatmeal, and it’s a classic with figs (roasted or not) and cheese for dessert.

A Most Unusual Jam

Conserva de Anguria Bianca is a watermelon jam. New to me, its flavor sits on the border of earthy and refreshing. Light and delicate, the jam resonates with the flavor of summer melon, but it’s not overly sweet. I found myself fantasizing about spreading it between layers of a vanilla poppyseed cake. It would also shine on biscuits or cornbread.

Beyond its flavor, what might strike you most about this shimmering, translucent green jam is the appearance of slippery red watermelon seeds suspended in the jar. I don’t suppose it would hurt you to swallow them, but I kind of like rolling them around my mouth and then letting them fly out over the deck when I’m alone. In “polite” (a rare occurrence in my world) company I would simply let them slide back onto a spoon or into my napkin. If you spread the jam on toast or whatever, you would, of course, remove the seeds. But the fact that the producer left them in the jam makes me really happy.

Mostarda de Fichi

Completely different in form and color from the firm jelly-like Mostarda Senepata in last week’s post, this spicy/sweet mostarda is what I think of when I think of the idea of “adult” sugarplums dancing in my head. Divine.

Petite white figs are suspended in a lemony yellow syrup and the flavor is a cross between spicy/hot and sweet. Traditionally, mostardas are served with “boiled meats” – something that always comes up in references but doesn’t really sound all that good. I like them with cheeses, of course – on a platter with salty cured meats, and with grilled meats of any kind. I could also see enjoying this particular fig mostarda with nicely caramelized roasted vegetables, such as carrots or Brussels sprouts. I’d drizzle a bit of the syrup on the veg’s and sprinkled chopped fig over them – not too much, just enough to get the occasional bite.

* * *