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Fare Exchange is a longtime meeting place for people who love to cook and love to eat. We welcome both your recipes and your requests. Be sure to include precise instructions for every recipe you send.
• Mailing address: Jane Henegar, 913 Mount Olive Road, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750
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Good December morning, readers. Here are three requests to prime the helpful pump: Where to find Spanish chorizo; how to make Naked Cakes; and recipes for salads containing raw cranberries and other raw ingredients.
Big Bad John wrote, "Do any of your readers know where to find Spanish chorizo in Chattanooga? Spanish chorizo is hard and sliceable like andouille or kielbasa."
Cookie K. wants to make special-occasion cakes called Naked Cakes as well as salads with raw and crunchy ingredients for a healthful December.
If you are food shopping these days, which I am pretty sure you are, you have noticed that really tasty dishes, completely ready to heat and eat, are available everywhere. No need to bake a sweet potato or even begin with canned sweet potatoes: You have the real thing and it is already topped with that good crunchy stuff. No matter; there is still a welcome space for the simple things straight from your own hand. Such is the recipe from our long-ago friend Martha Parker, who got it from her friend Polly Lane. And note the superlative in its title. You can use whole cans of tomatoes "or the big cans of tomato puree works just as well."
The Best Tomato Basil Soup
4-plus cups chopped tomatoes
4 cups tomato juice or chicken broth
15 chopped fresh basil leaves
1 cup heavy cream
1 stick butter
1 teaspoon salt
Simmer tomatoes and tomato juice or broth for 30 minutes. Puree with basil leaves, then add cream, butter and salt. Heat through but do not boil.
We are today sharing an authoritative source for ethnic cooking, the mysterious Mr. and Mrs. Sunday.
First, in answer to the question of where to find Indian and Thai food locally, the Sunday family opinion follows. Your own opinion, agreeing or challenging, is heartily solicited.
• Local Indian food. "So far the best Indian food in town for us is Sitar on Market. They seem to be trying to showcase the huge variety that is Indian cuisine. Don't eat from the buffet; it's not that it's bad, but it's dumbed down for people who are afraid of Indian. If you're anxious about Indian, try the Korma (with protein of choice); it's flavorful without being in your face. Similarly, the biryanis are good there (but just a touch warm for spice-o-phobes).
"We've been eating our way down the menu since we moved here three years ago and haven't been disappointed yet.
"Be sure to tell them your food allergies/religious requirements/heat tolerance; Indians are accustomed to wide variety in what various sects can and can't have so it isn't as much of a burden as it can be at other restaurants. The staff seems to be eager to help."
• Local Thai cuisine. "Proper Thai food is a balance between sour, salty, sweet, bitter and hot, but balance does not imply blandness. For years we thought Thai was a slight variation on Chinese until we ran across a Thai restaurant run by a Thai chef. This turns out to be fairly rare.
"Chattanooga is fortunate in having at least two restaurants run by Thai chefs: Sweet Basil and Thai Smile. [As to Thai Smile], we remember their food with pleasure but have no recommendation to offer. We hear the spicy duck is good but haven't tried it. At Sweet Basil, try Pad Ped Pla Duk, catfish fillets deep fried and covered with tasty vegetables and sauce. Catfish will never be the same for you."
• Shopping for ethnic ingredients locally. "If you can't find ingredients at Asian Food & Gifts on Hixson Pike, you can try India Bazaar, Hispanic tiendas, Cost Plus World Market near Hamilton Place and the Southeast Asian shop next door to Rain Thai Bistro."
The following suggestions are from Andrea Nguyen's cooking blog, vietworldkitchen.com/blog:
"Depending on your age, you may remember a time in America when there was no fish sauce at the supermarkets. That was my family's experience in 1975, when we found ourselves cooking and eating with La Choy soy sauce. (Shudder.) My mom recycled one of the small La Choy bottles as a fish sauce dispenser, which she still keeps on her dining table today.
"Nowadays you're likely to find a bottle of Thai Tiparos in the Asian section of mainstream grocery stores. There are galangal and fresh turmeric at some Whole Foods. That said, sourcing ingredients to make good Asian food is still a bit of a scavenger hunt.
"For many people, the major obstacle to preparing Asian food is getting the ingredients. Like my parents taught me, I stock up at Asian markets on hard-to-find ingredients like pandan leaves (to flavor or color food), wheat starch (for dumplings) and Sichuan chile bean sauce (dou ban jiang for killer mapo tofu). I also grow stuff because that level of freshness impacts my food. In my garden you'll see Vietnamese herbs, lemongrass, Chinese chives, kaffir (makrut) lime leaf or curry leaf."
• Supermarkets. "Large, mega-size stores tend to have diverse Asian food section. Dynasty, a brand of widely distributed Asian ingredients, labels certain products as "premium," which suggests higher quality and better flavor. Kikkoman's oysters sauce is exceptionally good, more salty than sweet."
• Small local markets and health food stores. "These often have the most surprising selections of Asian ingredients -- like rice paper, fish sauces, pappadums, dried rice noodles and dashi powder."
• Unusual retailers. "Cost Plus World Market has a pretty good selection of Asian ingredients, including rice paper and jasmine rice; they have Maggi Seasoning sauce for a fair price."
The next topic is decidedly mainstream America, decidedly Chattanoogan. Sylvie Chapoy tired of plain old cranberry sauce and found this one in Chattanooga's own "Dinner on the Diner."
2 1/2 to 3 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup orange marmalade
3 tablespoons grated orange rind
1/3 cup minced crystallized ginger
1 cup chopped walnuts
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place cranberries and sugar in covered baking dish. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. If you double the recipe, double the cooking time, too. Remove from oven and stir in remaining ingredients. Spoon into pint jars and refrigerate.
Yield: 1 1/2 pints. Perfect for Christmas giving.
Thanks to you all, and let's all keep on giving.