Would you like to travel around the world? I do it all the time -- in my kitchen. While some ingredients are synonymous with a single cuisine (wasabi, chutney, hoisin sauce), cumin takes center stage in foods from many countries: Mexican bean pots, Indian curries, my favorite Malaysian noodles, and good old American barbecue sauce.
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The phrase "a little goes a long way" describes sesame oil perfectly. Too much in a dish, and you notice it. Not enough, and you notice that, too. Just the right amount, a small amount, adds a heavenly, nutty, musky undertone to Asian stir-fry and sauces, and it's a key ingredient in my favorite all-purpose works-with-any-leftovers seasoning: three parts low-sodium soy sauce; two parts oyster sauce; and one part sesame oil.
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If you were to show up at my kitchen door and conduct a surprise inspection, you'd always find at least one half-full jar of capers in the rack in the refrigerator door. I don't use capers often, but when I do, they add just exactly the right lemony, salty, bright flowery taste, and nothing else can take their place.
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How does an ingredient earn its way onto The Perfect Pantry's permanent shelf space? One of two ways: It must be something I use in many recipes, or something indispensable to one treasured recipe I make over and over again. The premise of this blog always has been to encourage you to buy an ingredient called for in one recipe by promising to share more ways to use that ingredient. Have you tried smoked paprika yet?
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