Do you get stuck in a cooking rut? Do you make the same foods over and over again because they’re delicious, comfortable and easy to make? I certainly do! It is so easy to fall into a routine, especially if you live in a small town with limited food ingredient choices. Fortunately, our small town is very diverse. Not only do we have Germans and Norwegians, but we also have Belgians! Seriously, we are diverse with many people groups from Africa, Asia, Mexico and South America represented along with the typical Northern and Eastern Europeans.
The grocery options are just beginning to catch up to the expansion of ethnicities in our town. Two Asian food markets have opened recently, along with the Hispanic market, and Middle Eastern grocery. I must confess, I haven’t been to the Middle Eastern store yet, but I have heard they sell a mean curried goat! There is also a store called Tawakal, which I believe is an African market. I am planning out an exploration of these last two markets, but before I go, I really want to have a foundational understanding of the cuisines. It’s nice to have at least a vague understanding of what you’re looking at.
Another way of expanding your culinary possibilities is to grow different things than you normally would in your garden. I have a fair sized garden, and this year I decided to try a couple of new things. I am growing New Zealand spinach, and Dragon’s Tail radishes.
New Zealand spinach is not related to spinach, but it does taste vaguely like spinach. It is a bit hard to germinate, but it doesn’t take too many plants to produce enough spinach to feed you! I am growing eight plants and am suddenly buried in salads and greens! It’s not a bad problem to have! Used in a tossed salad, it tastes very much like a spinach salad. Wilt it in a pan with onions and garlic, and you will notice that it holds up better to the heat than does real spinach. It keeps a bit more of its texture.
The Dragon’s Tail radishes are an interesting plant, but I can’t find recipes for it on the internet. Articles talk about pickling them and using them in salads and stir fries. This is a radish different from most others in that it is the seed pod and not the root that is consumed. Eaten raw, they are hot and crunchy. Though they taste much like a typical radish, the flavor is a bit less harsh, but hotter. I have a small crock of sauerkraut from last year that needs to go away before it melts the inside of the refrigerator in my basement. I will ferment a large number of these seed pods whole, and also try to make a fermented relish with it.
One of the most satisfying aspects of cooking, for me, is being able to play with your food! Now if I could just learn to play with my photographs. They are sad, pathetic little things.