Written by guest blogger Brett H, who writes on the subjects of healthy eating, living, and lifestyles
Sometimes we want to add an exotic or unusual touch to our meals without having to get dressed and drive to a restaurant. By visiting natural food grocers or taking time to peruse your regular grocery store, you may make some interesting discoveries but not be sure as to how they can be utilized in your traditional recipes. Depending on your grocery list, you can play it safe by making a minor change, or you can go all out with new spices and food products. Here are some interesting and exotic ingredients you can try out:
Andouille sausage – this spicy Cajun classic comes mostly in chicken and pork varieties. Though mostly in link form, some regions may carry it as a ground sausage. For those looking to watch their waistlines, a chicken or turkey version has much less oil than the traditional sausage. This sausage can bring a kick to ground meat dishes, pasta, and rice entrees.
Epazote – this Mexican herb resembles filé in color and texture but is made from a young weed that is aromatic and rich. It works best in dishes that are savory. It is ideal for those who desire spice without the heat of cayenne powder. This works well with soups, stews and bean dishes. This herb is also known to locals as a digestive aid. If buying in leaf form, a word of caution: darker, older leaves should be used sparingly.
Lavash or lavash bread – this type of bread is a large, somewhat bland flatbread with Middle-Eastern roots. Though normally served with kabobs, this food has become a popular bread substitute in the United States. Used mostly in sandwich wraps and pinwheel appetizers, this is becoming a popular choice for those who want cracker-style pizza crust without the labor of making extra-thin dough.
Pickled asparagus/garlic cloves/mushrooms – These ingredients can be combined to make a great snack or a new way to top a green salad. Found mostly in natural or gourmet food stores, these tasty, bite-sized treats are moderately priced but are a great way to reduce salad dressing usage. They can also be added to chicken or tuna salads.
Swai (rhymes with “shy”) – this Vietnamese cousin of the catfish is catching on as the “it” fish for those looking to stretch their dollar. Slightly sweet with a flaky texture that is similar to catfish, this is normally sold frozen in the U.S. Though it may be sold as Basa fish, the difference is that Swai grows much faster and is not quite as sweet. Look for flesh that is beige or light pink in color, and because of its mild flavor, it can be prepared in a variety of ways.
Tamarind candy – this spicy-sweet and sometimes sour fruit has many origins, but the candy, which is mixed with spices and chili, is commonly found in international or Latin markets. For those looking to get accustomed to the taste, chop into bite-size pieces and add to yogurt, butter pound cake or ice cream. Or for the holidays, add to spicy fruit cake recipes. Tamarind fruit also has medicinal purposes for those who seek stomach relief.