Mar 26th, 2006
I've written here before about how lucky I am to live in an ethnically diverse neighborhood. There are many benefits to that diversity, not the least of which being the range of ingredients available at our local market. The Red Apple stocks food from the Phillipines, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, Mexico, and increasingly, Seattle organic-land. That last one is a sign of the changing makeup of the neighborhood as 30-somethings move in from other parts of the city to buy a starter house and have kids.
But what I've noticed over the past few years is these 'exotic' ingredients showing up in more and more groceries around town. Red lentils are one of my favorite ingredients, and now I can find them at the Safeway down on Rainier in their Middle East section. Pomegranate juice is available seemingly everywhere in Seattle, and pomegranate molasses is increasingly easy to find. I've got couscous from Israel and lentils from France in my cupboard, both plucked from the shelves of the Northgate QFC.
Cooking Light had an article in their most recent issue about the increasing availability of previously hard to find items. They highlight five ingredients that are now commonly available: queso fresco (Mexican soft cheese), guava paste, chipotle peppers in adobo, Asian noodles, and panko. I decided to see if I could purchase them all at my neighborhood grocery store, and yes they were all there. The only one that gave me any trouble was the panko and that's because it wasn't in the Asian specialty section but the general baking aisle - so I guess it has truly gone mainstream. For the picture below I threw in a few other ingredients that I use a lot that are increasingly common in stores in our area - frozed edamame, Sriracha, Tom Yom paste, and Sambal Oelek. I also picked up a plantain while out shopping and wanted to include it, but it just looked vaguely phallic and out of place in the picture. I'm not a camera wizard, but even I could tell that the pictures with the yellowish-grayish phallus lurking in the background were less appealing than those without. (Oh my god I can't even imagine the Google hits I'm going to get now.)
Guava paste was the only ingredient in this list that was new to me, and luckily Cooking Light included a fabulous sounding recipe for Guava Gelato with Candied Ginger. The instructions assumed that you had access to an ice-cream maker, which I don't, but I decided to try the low tech method. I've read several recipes where you just basically freeze the cream and take it out and stir it once an hour or so - you don't get quite the same creamy consistency, but it's close. I didn't really know what I was doing, but for some reason I was confident that it would work. And it did. Oh my gosh this is so good - creamy and tropical, with a hint of a bite from the chewy ginger morsels. I can imagine making this on a sunny day in August - scooping it into bowls in the backyard as the sun lingers in the sky past nine o'clock and the boys run shrieking through the sprinkler.
Guava & Candied-Ginger Gelato1/3 cup nonfat dry milk
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated fat-free milk
7 ounces guava paste, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
4 large egg yolks
1 cup 2% milk
1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
Cook the dry milk, evaporated milk, and guava paste over low heat with frequent whisking until the guava dissolves into the milk, somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes.
In a medium bowl whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla, and salt. Add the guava & milk mixture slowly to the egg yolks, whisking steadily. When the milk is completely incorporated, pour the contents of the bowl back into the pan. Cook over medium heat for about ten minutes or until a thermometer registers 160°. You'll need to whisk pretty furiously to avoid boiling, especially as the mixture heats up. Boiling is bad.
Pour the creamy guava into a freezer safe container and stir in the 2% milk. Cover and chill in the freezer for about three hours. After three hours take the bowl out of the freezer and stir - it should be completely cooled down and starting to freeze. Now is a good time to add the candied ginger pieces. Repeat the stirring process about once an hour until you've reached a frozen, creamy consistency. As the cream freezes and hardens you'll need to move from stirring with a whisk to stirring with a fork.
-adapted from Cooking Light, April 2006