sauces & condiments

In A Jam

My carpool has plans to take a detour tomorrow evening.  A friend has some bamboo stakes and fertilizer for the cherry tomato plants that I have growing in pots outside our apartment building. She invited us to stay a while and visit when we swing by to pick up those garden items, so I asked if she would mind if we make the occasion into a potluck dinner.

Potluck isn’t the correct term. We have a set menu. Each person has an assigned item to bring.  I’ll bring ground beef and jam. Others are signed up to bring Brie, fruit, greens/lettuce and buns. The hostess will have fries (sweet or regular potato) and supply the beverages.

“Eiffel Burger” is what one restaurant calls our entree. It is a hamburger served with Arugula, Brie, and jam. Some recommend strawberry jam, while others prefer a fig spread.

There is a jar of raspberry jam and another of orange marmalade in my refrigerator, but no fig or date jam. When my husband and I walked to the grocery store this evening we didn’t see any on their shelves. So as we headed home I decided to make some from scratch.

We’ll see how well it pairs with the Brie and burgers tomorrow.


Categories: Food and drink, Fruit, sauces & condiments | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Aji Amarillo

We were introduced several years ago. One of the ladies in the church we attended in Bogotá was Peruvian, and she invited us over for a meal.  Everything she prepared was Peruvian: from the papas huancaina to the mazamorra.

Just this past weekend, we got reacquainted. One of the ladies in the church we are attending in Pennsylvania is Peruvian, and she invited us to share lunch on Sunday. Everything she prepared was Peruvian: from the papas huancaina to the chicha morada. The chicken in the arroz con pollo was very flavorful, and everyone raved about the salsa criolla (an salad made from thinly sliced red onion).

One of the important ingredients in Peruvian cuisine is a yellow hot pepper by exactly that name, aji amarillo.  The heat is pretty strong, but it has a pleasant touch of fruity-ness about it. It can be used for the sauce of potato salad, to give kick to the salsa criolla, or to marinade chicken for the grill.

Aji amarillo isn’t as easy to find as your jalapeño, serrano, and habanero. Most people won’t even know what you are talking about when you use the word “aji”. While you can find those three in the fresh produce section of your local grocery store, don’t be confused by the bags of multi-colored sweet mini peppers. They may be the right color and almost the right shape, but they aren’t aji amarillo.  Your best bet is to look in the canned / bottled hot sauce section or in the Latin American section of the grocery aisle.

Even there, you probably won’t find this yellow Peruvian hot pepper. Only one of the Whole Foods Market stores in our area carry it—and that at a high price.  A lady at one of the stalls at the indoor Flourtown Farmer’s Market tipped me off to an international grocery store that sells the aji in a pepper paste for a fraction of WFM’s price. Most of the product at Assi Plaza is oriental/Asian, but they do have a wealth of products from other regions across the globe.


Categories: Chicken, Food and drink, Herbs and Spices, Potato, sauces & condiments | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Too Much Planning

Planning a weekly menu can help you control your budget. When you’ve got specific meals in mind, you can draw up a grocery list that is limited to ingredients that you will need. You may pick up a few extra things at the store, but overall it should be easier to focus on finding the products that you will be sure to use. The shopping trip should be shorter, and you should be more satisfied than exhausted when you come home, unload the groceries, and see your sufficiently-stocked pantry and refrigerator.

But then come the variables. You bought lovely, fresh fruit and vegetables. Now you’re afraid you might have overdone it. What if all four avocados ripen at the same rate? Will you be able to eat all five pounds of russet potatoes before they sprout eyes? Is the huge bush of cilantro going to turn black and yellow before you have time to chop it? Are the bananas going to end up so soft that you have to freeze them for a future banana bread?

Just looking at the beautiful bounty makes you too tired to cook! Will someone please take you out for dinner. Nevermind that the ingredients might be at their peak right now.

If you think that cooking is only a science, you’ll probably go crazy. You’ll be happier if not only have the formulas memorized but  also understand the rules. When your life doesn’t go according to plan you’ll know which rules can be broken without ruining everything.

bbq sauce sweet then heat

“Sweet Then Heat” from Mission BBQ is highly recommended.

Perhaps you have pulled pork stuck in the sandwich category of your brain.  Maybe you think it should only be served plated with a side of cornbread, a dollop of creamy coleslaw, oven-roasted potatoes, and a juicy pickle.

You served that on Thursday evening and now, Friday, there is a little bit of meat left over, but it doesn’t look like enough for a meal two adults. And, oh, the last of those four avocados you bought last Saturday is feeling quite soft! Do you lay out a haphazard buffet of plastic containers full of leftovers you’ve colletcted over the course of the week, or is there a possibility of fusing the ingredients into a “proper” meal that you both can enjoy?


Considering someone else’s ideas can be liberating.  I wasn’t so sure that fresh avocado would pair with sweet bbq sauce and pulled pork, but I listened to my husband’s suggestion. The corn tortillas, chopped onion, sliced avocado, diced potatoes, and shredded pork were quite a nice combination.

So. Do plan. Do make lists. But also be happy when creativity can rearrange your plans into a differently shaped success.



Categories: Food and drink, Pork, sauces & condiments, Shopping | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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