Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sourcing Global Ingredients: McCormick’s 2012 Flavor Pairings

When the 2012 McCormick’s Flavor Pairings came out, I knew that I was going to be on the hunt for ingredients (one of my favorite things to do) because McCormick created it’s very first global forecast. 
Get your passport out and pack your bags because this forecast will take you on a genuine flavor journey.

A worldwide group of food professionals, including McCormick For Chef’s Executive Chef Kevan Vetter, joined forces to predict what global food trends will influence your food choices for years to come.

We’ll have to track these back but so far Kevan’s crystal ball has been ever so accurate, especially on things like Chipotle and Cocktail-Inspired Meals.

I must admit that some of the ingredients were not easy to find – even in Chicago- but there are numerous internet markets now where you can purchase just about anything. You will however not have half the fun that I did looking for some of the items like Korean Pepper Paste and Red Tea.

It was an outing in the snow and cold to find Korean Pepper Paste only to find it later that same day in my own back yard (Fresh Market – Lake Forest). But the trip to Argyle renewed some of my old connections with the best Asian markets in the city so the trek was well worth fighting the elements to find it.

I love sourcing ingredients because it’s always an adventure. More often than not, I finish the day with a mixed bag of new and interesting friends and an education that I could not have possibly learned in a book or the classroom.

When I looked at the list this year, the combinations are surprising. Who would ever pair red pepper and grapefruit but when I tried it, I loved the exciting turn of flavor.

These pairings were well worth the wait and here are the groupings for 2012.

Cumin with Sofrito
Authentic Hispanic Foundational Flavors
Did you know that Cumin is the second most popular spice in the world after black pepper? Even that surprised me.

Sofrito? Sofrito is a combination of ingredients which have been cut in very small pieces and slowly sauteed in cooking oil or bacon grease for 30 minutes.
People enjoy green sofrito but I prefer mine tomato based. What I really love about Sofrito is that it is made with only the freshest ingredients. Mainly onions, garlic, and green bell peppers… similar combinations of vegetables are known as the holy trinity in Creole cooking, refogado in Portuguese, soffritto in Italian, suppengrün (soup greens) in Germany and włoszczyzna in Poland.

No matter what you call it, it is the source of all flavor for many dishes and cumin adds an interesting mix to the pot.
Korean Pepper Paste with Sesame, Asian Pear and Garlic
BBQ With A Global Twist

Korean Pepper Paste?
Gochujang : a flavorful and pungent fermented Korean flavoring made from red chili, rice, fermented soybeans and salt.

Exploring this flavor combination is going to be fascinating particularly when it comes to firing up the BBQ.

Stay tuned for a lot of wonderful recipes from this match. One of my favorites.

Dill with Mint, Melon and Cucumber
The Ultimate Refresher

I’ve never been a huge fan of dill but balancing it with mint, melon and cucumber, well… this combination becomes the ultimate refresher for sure.

Even a small pile of melon and cucumber topped with these two spices was a clean approach to the start of any meal.

The possibilities are endless and don’t think this is just a summer union. A lot more markets are bringing in these celebrated ingredients… even in the middle of winter.

Meyers Lemon with Lemon Thyme, Limoncello and Lemon Peel
The Ultimate Lemon

Pucker up because all of you who love lemon well… this is your pairing.

I never thought about bringing in so many lemon flavors at once but I am now an aficionado of all things lemon.
ING’s restaurant inspired me to try the honey nut cheerios infused rum with these ingredients so look for the result on my blog in the next few weeks.

Eggplant With Honey and Harissa
Worldly Veggie With Sweet Heat

I didn’t have a clue what Harissa was before these pairings were published.

Since Mourad Lahlou is one of my favorite Moroccan chefs it is fascinating to see what he does with Harissa. Beef cheeks with Carrot Jam and a Harissa emulsion. Dungeness crab roasted in Meyer Lemon Harissa Butter. Harissa is now ever-present on Moroccan tables, almost like ketchup.

Stay tuned because I really loved the well-balanced pairing of Harissa and Honey.
Squash With Red Curry and Pancetta
Versatile Veggie With A Touch Of Thai

Mention Pancetta and I get excited. I use to think that bacon made everything taste better until I tried Pancetta.
This combination of squash (which I have never particularly loved) and Red Curry (which has also not been one of my favorites) has made me a believer in the power of Pancetta.

Ginger and Coconut
Warm Spice Joins Tropical Favorite

No surprise that the flavors I loved when I lived in Hawaii made the list.

I am such a fan of ginger in fact, consumed as a delicacy, medicine and spice that I grate it on just about everything…including sorbet.

Vanilla With Butter
Pure Essentials For Real Goodness

OK – so now we get down to the basics. Butter and Vanilla.

Butter is the source of everything delicious. Sorry, I believe that Julia was right… you just can’t find a substitute for butter no matter how hard you try.

Vanilla: One of Mc’Cormick’s core ingredients from day one. Who sells more vanilla than McCormick?

Together these two classics are the foundation of a lot of memorable recipes.

Doesn’t it always go back to the basics?

Red Tea With Cinnamon and Plum
Better-for-You Beverage Meets Fruit And Spice

It took me forever to find red tea. Only logical that instead of looking at the grocery, I would find it at Argo Tea, who sold it to me by the ounce.

Did you know that red tea is really black tea, made from the completely oxidized bud leaves of Camellia sinensis?

Better ask the tea specialist at Argo because there are so many varieties out there now you need an expert to keep up with an ever changing marketplace.

Have to admit that the combination of the red tea with the Cinnamon (Saigon of course) and Plum had me dreaming up what I could do next with one of the most interesting groupings on the list.

I also love the winter plums I found in the market…beautiful, deep, dark red and so delicious.
Grapefruit With Red Pepper
A New Take On Lemon Pepper

Ok – so this was easy but Red Pepper and Grapefruit?

I didn’t think I would like the idea but once I took a bite, it was so easy to jump into these flavors.

This pairing will produce a lot of inspiring combinations including a non-stop assortment of salads.
Sweet Soy With Tamarind and Black Pepper
Steak Sauce With An Asian Flavor
These are my ingredients. From steak sauce to marinates and used in a variety of cuisines, Tamarind is also great for medicinal purposes and I would be one to favor a little black pepper to do the trick.

Like celery, onion and green pepper is to New Orleans cooking, these three are the holy trinity of BBQ.

Blueberry With Cardamom and Corn Masa
From Everyday to Extraordinary

OK – so I existed on Corn Masa for years when I lived in Mexico.

Corn Masa, which is a staple ingredient in Latin American foods such as corn tortillas and tamales, is also a essential ingredient in the new American kitchen.

Tell me that Corn Masa Pancakes with Blueberries and Cardamom isn’t a breakfast that gets you thinking about what else to do with these ingredients?
Bon Appetit and look for recipes with these great pairings in the months ahead.