Winter is on the down slope, and for many of us, that is most certainly a good thing. It means the return of green, the flowers, and the warmth. It means abundant vegetable markets and a whole new array of tasty, seasonal treats to choose from. Undoubtedly, barbecues pits will see the light of day once more, and slush will dissipate beneath the tweeting of birds. In short, a whole new life!
But, slow down there, Bucko, we are not out of the winter weeds just yet. There are still a few days left to go, not to mention the unsightly transformation of piles of snow to icy puddles that is the start of spring. The last cold has not snapped, and the last much-needed, warm-me-up cup of tea has not yet done its work. But, let us not faint from with wintry weariness.
Instead, we can fight the frost. We can find ways to warm our cuisine, to warm our bodies, for the final push into the perennial paradise that is spring. We will do this via sauces! We will do this via condiments! We will do it now, no wavering or quivering lips, no relenting to the sub-zero sadness. Let’s get to it, people.
What makes for a warming condiment? Well, one option is certainly hot sauce. No need to be embarrassed. We’ve all experienced it: the hot sauce sweats. Now is the time to embrace that, let them mouth enjoy a little heat so that the body can feel it, too. In fact, there is nothing to fear, as there are loads and loads of hot sauces to try.
Of course, there are old favorites, the ever-present bottle of Tabasco or Sriracha, which can also be made at home. In fact, the DIY hot sauce game is great. There is easy-to-make raw hot sauce. There is the self-proclaimed Greatest Homemade Hot Sauce and even a thick and luscious, downhome chile sauce. But let’s not forget the greatest: Vegan Sriracha.
As if anyone needs arm-twisting to have more tahini, that wonderful something special that takes hummus recipes to the true and higher level. Tahini is simply roasted and blended sesame seeds, and sesame seeds are classified in traditional Chinese medicine as a yang, or warming , food.
Tahini is available at the supermarket in ready-made form or it can be done at home with but one ingredient — sesame seeds — and few clever, common kitchen gadgets. If tahini doesn’t do it for you, there are other sesame sauces to try, perhaps this black bean burger with spicy sesame sauce or some sesame-marinated tofu.
Chutney is one of those things that just taste fantastic, but that rarely makes it into most kitchens. When exactly is the right time to use chutney? Any time rice, beans or bread grace the plate, chutney can tag along. As well, for our purposes, wintertime is the perfect time, and we’ll take it fresh, warm and full of ginger and cinnamon (other warming foods).
Now, mango chutney is the one that makes menus most often, but there are lots of other options out there. For instance, things can get funky sweet really quickly with a roasted beetroot and ginger chutney or all-out tarty with cranberry-clementine chutney, both great for winter produce choices.
While we are in the region (chutney being a feature in Indian cuisine), we should take time to enjoy the curry, with all the right spice to keep things steamy in the stomach and more of those warming foods, like garlic, cinnamon, chili and maybe even a little ginger. As well, curry sauce has a nice, thick texture that’ll coat the insides for a while.
Indian cuisine has its share of curries, all of which warrant sampling (Here’s a basic curry sauce with vegetables), but there are also many varieties to be found throughout Southeast Asia cuisines, namely Thai curries and also hybrid variations like this Malay spicy coconut curry. Curry sauce feels right at home on rice, noodles and even roasted potatoes.
Anytime is a great time for mustard (at least for some folks), but the depths of cold weather is a particularly great time, especially for those nasal-clearing, grainy mustard varieties. Like garlic and chilies, mustard seeds heat up the body, and mustard (the condiment) being produced from mustard seeds … this all seems obvious by this point in the article.
There are oodles of awesome mustard varieties on supermarket shelves, but making your own nose-burning condiment isn’t so difficult, either. Here are three simple DIY recipes that can be enhanced with your own favorite flavors, herbs and spices and all that. Then, don’t be afraid to throw some mustard around, say in a maple mustard glaze over Brussels sprouts, or even just tossing the seeds in with some green beans and garlic.
Stay warm, my monsters. The end is nigh, the flip-flops calling out from the closet: “Is it time yet?” Almost. Almost.
Lead Image Source: Jessica Spengler/Flickr