Vail Simply Seasonal column: Refresh winter meals with tamarind
When mid-winter produce is lackluster, I get inspired to try something new. Cima Executive Chef Michael Mayer offered a Latin-inspired, crunchy cabbage salad dressed with a light tamarind vinaigrette and studded with roasted chicken, dates and spicy cashews. I was intrigued and delighted. Though I had heard of tamarind, what was this flavor? Tart, pungent, yet sweet and with a refreshing citrus-like finish, the flavor hinted at summertime in the tropics. Tamarinds are evergreen trees native to Africa and grown throughout the warmest areas of Asia, South America, Mexico and the Caribbean Islands. The trees are tall and lush and bear fruit resembling pea pods. Inside the pods are hard, dark seeds and a sticky brown pulp known as tamarind paste. This paste is a common thread through cuisines around the world – Jamaican jerk, Phat Thai, Indian chutneys, Mexican beverages, even our familiar Worcestershire sauce. Look for tamarind paste in the international-foods section of your grocery store.This fruit is a perfect discovery for winter, offering a wealth of health benefits, including dietary fiber and powerful antioxidants to protect against colds. Bring a bit of the tropics home by giving one of these recipes a try.Frozen tamarind margarita4 ounces blanco tequila3 ounces tamarind paste1 ounce simple syrupChili powder for rimming1 cup icePour the ice, tequila, tamarind concentrate and simple syrup into a blender, and blend until smooth. Rim 2 chilled margarita glasses with chili powder. Pour the blended contents into glasses. Makes 2.Tamarind chicken salad2 cups shredded, cooked chicken1 cup shredded red cabbage1⁄2 cup shredded carrot2 cups mixed salad greens (use a variety of textures and flavors, such as spinach, frissee, red leaf, radicchio)1⁄2 cup Medjool dates1 cup chipotle cashews (recipe below)Tamarind vinaigrette (recipe below)Combine chicken, cabbage, carrots, dates and greens in a large bowl. Toss with enough tamarind vinaigrette to lightly moisten. Divide among individual plates. Garnish with chipotle cashews. Serves 3-4.Tamarind vinaigrette1⁄2 cup olive oil 1⁄2 cup balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 1 tablespoon tamarind paste 1 pinch salt 1 pinch brown sugar Mix vinegar, mustard, salt and sugar. Slowly add oil, and continue to mix. Store excess in refrigerator for as long as 3 days.Makes 1 cup.Chipotle cashews1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey1 tablespoon water1 pound cashews, whole and pieces1⁄2 cup sugar in the raw1⁄2 teaspoon chipotle powder1⁄2 teaspoon saltPreheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine honey and water; heat together in microwave or double boiler to syrup consistency, and pour into large bowl. Add nuts, tossing to combine. Continue tossing until all syrup is coating the nuts. Toss the sugar, chipotle and salt together, and then pour over nuts and mix well. Spread on two cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake 5 minutes; stir to separate. Bake 5 minutes more; mix up and transfer to clean sheet pan with clean parchment. Stir occasionally while cooling to prevent clumping. Makes 1 pound.Salmon with tamarind sauce4 Salmon filets1⁄2 teaspoon salt1⁄2 teaspoon turmeric, ground1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper2 teaspoons vegetable oil2 teaspoons garlic, minced2 teaspoons soy sauce1 teaspoon fish sauce2 Tablespoons brown sugar2 Tablespoons tamarind paste, mixed with water to make 1⁄4 cup1 serrano chile, minced3 Tablespoons scallions, choppedChopped cilantro, for garnishRinse filets and pat dry. Combine salt, turmeric, and pepper and rub on each filet. Lightly coat filets with oil. Grill salmon over medium heat to desired doneness. Transfer to platter and keep warm. In small skillet, heat one tablespoon oil over low heat. Add garlic and saute until lightly browned. Add soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar and tamarind liquid. Bring to a boil over medium heat and add more brown sugar if desired. Reduce heat and simmer about two minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened. Add peppers and green onions to sauce and simmer for one minute to blend flavors. Pour evenly over fish and garnish with cilantro. Makes four servings.Sue Barham is the director of sales and marketing at Cima, now open in The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa. The newest restaurant concept from acclaimed chef Richard Sandoval, Cima is a contemporary Latin kitchen, featuring bold, vibrant flavors with Latino roots, created with fresh ingredients and global cooking techniques. Visit http://www.richardsandoval.com.
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