Nothing connects you to a place, its people and its culture quite like experiencing the local fare and cuisine.
And since a far-flung vacation is not always on the menu, what better way to take diners on a global flavor tour than to incorporate international ingredients into your dishes?
We turned to our VSAG resident globetrotter Valerie Zweig, Director of Conceptual Projects, to ask for some of her favorite flavors and dish inspirations that she’s discovered in her travels. With a culinary background and a passion for research, part of Val’s job is to seek out interesting foods and trends and find creative ways to share them with clients. Here are some of her favorite finds:
Kimchi. Dating back to 7thcentury Korea, Kimchi was introduced as a way of pickling and preserving mild-tasting vegetables. That purpose still rings true to the Kimchi of today, but the current fermented version features mainly cabbage, mixed with radishes, carrots and sometimes turnips spiced with flavorings such as chili, garlic, ginger and green onion.
A taste of Korea’s popular Kimchi can be added to your menu as a stand-alone appetizer, or as a base for soups and stews, or minced then combined with sesame oil as a delicious dressing for steamed vegetables such as snap peas, broccoli, carrots and the like. (Kimchi photo courtesy of chow.com)
Aged Balsamic Vinegar. Sure, it’s common to find balsamic vinaigrette dressing on the menu in US restaurants. But, if you want to take that taste of Italy to the next level, Val suggests that indulging in a good, aged balsamic vinegar (traditionally from the Italian provinces of Modena and Reggio Emilia) is worth the investment. In order for balsamic vinegar to be classified as ‘aged’ it must have been wood-aged for a minimum of 12 years. The result is a rich, complex, almost candied balsamic flavor that will surely stand out with guests.
Adding Italy’s Aged Balsamic Vinegar to your pantry is always a great idea because it’s so rich and thick, a little goes a long way. So try it drizzled on anything from fish, chicken or steak, as a complement to roasted vegetables and fresh pasta, as a surprising accent on desserts such as fresh strawberries with vanilla ice cream and creamy Italian cheesecake, or to simply accompany fresh, crusty Italian bread, olive oil and parmigiano. Divertiti! (i.e. for those of us non-Italian speaking foodies … Enjoy!). (Aged Balsamic Vinegar photo courtesy of ciaochowlinda.com)
Cilantro + Lime. Bring the flavors of Latin America and the Caribbean to your table by pairing the bright green leaves and stems of the coriander plant (aka cilantro) with the citrus, slightly tart juice of a lime. This fresh twist will add a lively, distinctive punch of flavor to dishes that guests will love.
Flavors of Latin America and the Caribbean calls for vibrant, fresh ingredients such as cilantro + lime. Mix this combo into fish ceviche and guacamole, as vinaigrette for hearty red cabbage slaw, marinade for shrimp/chicken skewers or fish tacos, serve with grilled skirt steak, or combine with mayonnaise or Greek yogurt to create a delicious aioli for sandwiches, burgers or dipping sauce for crisp French fries. (Cilantro + Lime photo courtesy of userealbutter.com/recipes)