When asked, "What is your favorite ingredient to cook with?" I have to admit ... butter.
We grew up with the Imperial Margarine and "Chiffon" generation (and to this day, I cannot imagine who else Mother Nature looks like). The only time we ate real butter in our home, was at family holiday dinners. The next morning, our mom would make us eggs scrambled in butter, and they would taste kind of funny to me, because I was used to margarine.
By now I am of the everything in moderation generation, and for years I have only used butter in cooking, and spreading! Mixed with herbs, roasted garlic, citrus, and all sorts of other splendid things, it makes an incredibly delicious condiment.
Last weekend, at the Original Farmers Market, Tusquellas Seafood Market offered $8.98/lb. King Salmon and I am still wondering why I didn't buy out the lot. Bob Tusquellas, our expert fishmonger (also the Bob of the Bob's Doughnuts, by the way), promises our Melting Pot Food Tours guests (and hosts) that King Salmon is strictly the best. It usually costs about $24/lb. at his counter.
On Sunday, our great friend and Art Director extraordinaire, LuAnn, had her beautiful deck all primed for a little grill party, with her dauschund Frankie standing by, as usual. I brought the groceries for dinner, with a page from my own book at BarComida. I made a compound butter with tarragon, like the one my guests have enjoyed with baby vegetables.
Combined well with freshly grated orange zest, fresh tarragon, a little sea salt, and a quick twist of orange juice ... regular unsalted butter was suddenly elevated to a 5-star ingredient. Can I begin to tell you how spectacular that grilled salmon was, with this simple touch?!
Freshly grated lemon zest, a little salt, and finely chopped fresh rosemary makes vegetables come alive. Mash roasted garlic with unsalted butter, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and fresh chopped herbs like flat-leaf parsley, oregano, and thyme, and add beautiful seasoning to Mediterranean recipes.
Jump start your own shopping spree at that Original Farmers Market by enjoying their weekly specials. Monsieur Marcel has recently exploded their private-label line; now even more herbs, infused salt, and exotic peppercorns are available as is European-style butter, including Plugra. Our guys at Huntington Meats can offer more tips for seasoning their special offerings, and do drop by Tusquellas Seafood to see what gorgeous fish Bob has for you and yours!
Meanwhile, shhhh, don't tell LuAnn ... since I'm petsitting Frankie this weekend, I plan to leave a surprise to welcome her home. Sunday dinner is a whole roasted chicken, painted and basted with the rest of that orange-tarragon butter. She'll be surprised, that is, only if I don't finish it all myself.
I hope she doesn't mind reruns!
Until next time, I remain your Chef and Tour Maestra,