>> Tuesday, August 20, 2013
There are some very unique specialty food stores and markets appearing in towns and cities across the US that may seem like unlikely options for many grocery hunters. The truth is, many of these smaller-style food venues offer competitive pricing, hard-to-find ingredients, and some of the freshest produce and meats available locally. When perusing the retailers and markets of distinctive regions, seek out some of the less-commercialized and less-expansive options to find some fantastic items and garner some culinary inspiration!
Many consumers may overlook small ethnic grocery stores, thinking that the prices and the selection may not suit their family's food needs. While this is possible, there are also some perks to patronizing these stores. Not only does shopping in these smaller businesses boost the local economy, but it could eliminate tireless searches for specific ingredients needed for particular ethnic recipes. For example, small Hispanic markets found in some North Carolina towns offer an impressive array of produce that rivals any farmer's market, and the odd-looking fish displayed are "fresh-off-the-boat" in terms of quality. Browsing these venues may serve to inspire many home-cooks into trying something different, and may make some consumers feel a bit like Chantal Royer, combing the nooks and crannies of the world in search of the finest cuisine offered!
Those feeding families or that have some less-experimental palates in the home may find that many ethnic meals served are met with cynicism or resistance. It is okay to adapt and modify recipes when this is an issue; also, most people that claim to not care for specific foods or ingredients likely have never tried them before. Another approach might be to stick with family favorites, such as chicken, and serving it in a completely new way. Kids that eat chicken might argue that they don't like Thai food, yet when skewered and served with a delicious peanut dipping sauce, they will gobble it up! Encourage children from an early age to try and expand their food horizons, and motivate them to try something new and different. While many dishes may not evolve into becoming family favorites, it will serve to teach children about the world beyond their own kitchen.
A practical approach to expanding the kitchen and pantry to accommodate new and exciting recipes may include some initial investment costs. Some ingredients called for may be considered expensive; don't try to stock up on exotic ingredients all at once. A less-painful approach may be to pick up one or two items during weekly shopping trips, and slowly build a repertoire of items over the course of time. An example may include Saffron, which is an expensive item to buy as it is made from the carefully harvested stamens of a particular flower grown. Saffron is mild, though unique, in flavor and a little goes a long way; it is responsible for the warm, buttery color that it gives to dishes such as yellow rice frequently served in Hmong eateries.
For those that want to experiment but that are concerned about buying large amounts of unique items, visit a local health food store or market. These retail venues often offer such ingredients in bulk, which means that consumers can buy as little or as much as they wish. This enables experiential cooks to purchase just enough of an herb, grain, or other food stuff to prepare a particular meal or recipe, without wasting or having surplus left over. This tactic also keeps expenses at a minimum when trying to prepare particular dishes that might otherwise hurt the weekly food budget.
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