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Ingredients with oomph make weeknight cooking easy
via The Daily News Transcript Food and Dining RSS by J.M. Hirsch, ASSOCIATED PRESS on 9/10/08
Weeknight cooking is no time for nuance.
Rather, it is the time to reach for ingredients that speedily supply significant flavor without lengthy cooking. We're talking about the Parmesan cheeses, balsamic vinegars, jalapeno peppers and garlics of the world.
Pepper jelly is one such ingredient. Found most often alongside more traditional jams and jellies (though sometimes also near the jarred hot peppers), pepper jelly has a splendid sweet, savory and spicy flavor.
And it's an easy way to add flavor. For example, blend together a few tablespoons of the jelly with peanut butter for a spicy peanut sauce that can be used for dunking veggies or tossing with warm noodles.
Thinned with a bit of oil and water or broth, pepper jelly makes a marinade or glaze for chicken breasts or pork. You also could mix it with a bit of juice, heat it slightly and pour it over vanilla ice cream or pound cake (or both).
For a starter, place a log or round of soft goat cheese (feta also would be nice) on a serving plate. Drizzle it with some barely warmed pepper jelly, thinned with water if needed, and sprinkle with crushed toasted walnuts. Serve with bread.
Or try this recipe for Thai Peanut Coleslaw, which combines a simple medley of savoy cabbage and other veggies dressed with a vinaigrette-like blend of pepper jelly and olive oil.
The cabbage will begin to wilt within a few hours of being dressed, so add the dressing only just before serving.
THAI PEANUT COLESLAW
Start to finish: 25 minutes.
1/4 pound green beans, trimmed
1/2 cup pepper jelly (more or less to taste)
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 medium head savoy cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
3 carrots, cut into matchsticks
2 green bell peppers, cored and thinly sliced
2 ears corn, husked
1 large cucumber
1/2 cup lightly crushed unsalted peanuts
Fill a large bowl with cold water and ice. Set aside.
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Once the water boils, add the green beans and blanch for about 1 minute, or until the beans are bright green and still crisp. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the beans to the ice water. Once the beans are cool, transfer them to a kitchen towel to dry. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the pepper jelly, olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a large serving bowl, combine the cabbage, carrots and bell peppers. Toss to mix well.
Use a serrated knife to remove the kernels from the ears of corn. To do this, stand each ear on end and saw downward with the knife. Add the corn kernels to the bowl and toss. Add the green beans and toss again. The beans also can be cut into smaller lengths, if desired.
Peel the cucumber, then cut it down the center lengthwise. Use a spoon to scrape out and discard the seeds from the center of each cucumber half. Finely chop the cucumber, then add to the bowl and toss to mix.
Just before serving, add the dressing and toss well to coat. Sprinkle the peanuts over the coleslaw.
Makes 8 servings.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 259 calories; 139 calories from fat; 15 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 29 g carbohydrate; 5 g protein; 5 g fiber; 182 mg sodium.