Tuesday, October 30, 2012

POWER PLAYERS: Using the Power Mix in Standards and Staples


We use the Power Mix as the backbone of all our sauces, condiments, and many side dishes. It's a living condiment, so, while the spices will carry through in cooking, it's more powerful to enjoy the living enzymes and bacteria, in symbiosis with your intestinal flora & fauna, by avoiding adding it to anything that's still steaming (transition point of water to vapor phase, 118 degrees F). Since it's just garlic, onion, and peppers, (and vinegar, yum!), it's a natural and specific flavor/spice addition to basic meal components. 

When we're not using the Power Mix as a straight and un-adulturated condiment (ground down to a fine slurry in the Quisen-thingie, with or without extra oil and/or vinegar), we're using it as the spicy/umami component in other condiments and side dishes. 

Here are a few of the Lewis Casa standards:

- Guacamole: use the Power Mix instead of the garlic, onion, and peppers, mixed into avocado and diced tomatoes with lime juice. We use at least a tablespoon Power for each avocado and small lime.

-  Hummous: with garbanzo beans, lemon (or lime), tahini (sesame butter), olive oil, and comino. Start by adding the Power instead of the garlic and then add in more from there, according to your taste. This latest batch, being pepper-spicy heavy, gets things hot quick. So we're cutting the overt heat on this latest batch of hummous with yogurt and extra olive oil.

- Johnny Tapenade: greek kalamata and green olives, carrots, celery, parsley  olive oil, vinegar, and Power Mix. Since the olives and Power Mix are already cured, and the carrot is pretty hardy over time (with these other ingredients), I just put these together for the basic batch. Then I can chop in the parsley and celery when folks come over. Or add chili powder or oregano to take it in a different direction. Like many dishes, subbing in balsamic vinegar or tamari or fish sauce, et al. are fun variations.

Now, moving forward with the backbone concept, I'm starting to structure our fridge with Power Standard elements, the individual components that we mix to make our condiments. We've done this before but it's easy to be tempted into big  batches by the ceramic crocks. While established recipes like Escabeche are great in the big ol' crocks, flexibility ends up offering more utility with our Power Players. The first are the Three Sisters of the Power Mix- sweet peppers, hot peppers, and garlic & onion. Fermenting them separately allows us to custom-blend mixes as we go, helping us past some of the limitations that we get like with this latest batch of all-in-one Power Mix. Here they are:

1) Garlic/Onion Mix: While we usually use six pounds of garlic to seven pounds of onions, we like it when the garlic flavor power just overtakes the onion on the flavor profile

2) Sweet red, yellow, and orange Bell Peppers

3) Hot Jalapeno (seeded) and Serrano Peppers

- Ginger Carrots: spears with ground ginger. If you layer it from the bottom, a fun flavor gradient develops. This stuff is a great as a sauce on its own but mixes in well, too. Shoot for a 1:3 ginger to carrot ratio and use whey as an inoculant.

- Beet/Carrot/Root Kvass: Kvass is a bracing tonic for the immune system and guts, full of electrolytes, and so good for us drinkers, too. With the high sugar content of beets, we ferment it like a chutney, for just a couple or few days (drain and reserve most, then fill the jar back up with water for a second ferment). Adding carrots and root veggies like parsnips, turnips, and rutabaga brings a wider, happier side to the flavor profile. Here's more details: http://houston-cultures.blogspot.com/search?q=kvass

- Root Slaw: Cabbages, root vegetables (carrots, radishes, beets, etc.), Power Mix (or garlic, onion, and peppers), and fun tidbits like apples and seaweeds. The famed and widely-fabled Peanutbutter Mix is the bulls-eye on this one but this is a perennial Fall and Winter standard. Lately, we've been craving a batch that's grated or julienned, instead of chopped, making it a proper slaw.  

Now, after all that, there are a few new Standards to post: 

Power Aioli: a great mayo substitute, aioli is egg yolks, olive oil, lemon, and garlic all carefully mixed into an emulsion, to create the mayo consistency that makes it such a great spread. We start with the Power Mix in the quisen-thingie (instead of the garlic) and egg yolk, blend them first on the slowest setting, gradually getting higher as the yolk starts to emulsify. Then add in the citrus and oil slowly, drop by drop. It takes patience but the spreadable consistency makes it worth it! Now, this is a living food but, because the egg has some shelf life very much worth paying attention to, it isn't a great fridge Staple- it needs to be made to order, like the herbal version of the Johnny Tapenade.

Power Sauces: a few structural bits and then the flavoring component:
- Power Mix (throw it in the Quisen-Thingie and grind it down to a liquid)
- Acid (living cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, lime or lemon juice) and/or Tamari, Bragg's Aminos,  Worsterchestershire, etc.
- Olive Oil emulsion or oil emulsion-diluted cheese or other fat
- And then, the Flavor Star options: 
  - Cheeses: parmesan, gruyere, goat, blue cheese, gorgonzola, chevre, etc.
  - Bacon, baconfat, or brazing drippings or, for bar-be-que or basting,  citrus and honey or maple syrup
  - Herb Blends (rough-cracked pepper mixes, Italian, curry, etc.)
  - Ginger Carrot, this is a fun way to take what's already bangin' to the next level with the Power Mix, vinegar, and oil options.

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