It is always more fun to DIY. So spare a trip to the grocery store and make small batches of great foods at home. Take holiday cookies off kitchen counters and replace them with savory favorites to reboot our post-holiday taste buds.
The holiday season is officially over whether you breathe a sigh of relief or mourn the spot on your wall where your advent calendar once hung.
For a smoother transition, some resolution-friendly favorites make even the biggest holiday sweets addict rekindle their love of savory. With a refrigerator full of spice mixes and vegetable spreads to bring holiday leftovers back to life, forget about those cookies (until dessert, of course).
Homemade Thai Curry Paste
Most Asian supermarkets curry pastes lack fresh, complex flavors a good curry has; so strike out on your own. To make Thai food fresher, spicier, and more vibrant, start with a batch of this homemade curry paste.
(Makes about 2 ½ cups)
Toast 2 tbsp coriander seeds, a tbsp cumin seeds, and a tbsp white peppercorns over medium heat until fragrant and till peppercorns begin to color, about 3 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Combine and blend cooled, toasted spices along with partially seeded and chopped 250g green Thai chilies, 4-5 large chopped shallots, coriander root (or a bunch of cilantro, both leaves and stems), ¼ cup chopped galangal root (alternatively, ginger), 3 tbsp chopped fresh turmeric root, 2 chopped stalks of tender bottom lemongrass, 3 chopped kaffir lime leaves (or zest of 3 limes), 2 heads garlic cloves, 1½ tsp salt, a tbsp shrimp paste (optional) in a blender or food processor. As you purée, shallots and garlic will release a lot of moisture, but the mixture will still be fairly dry.
Pack batches of curry paste into ice cube trays, freeze it, and then store the frozen cubes in zipper-top bags for ease of use. It keeps very well this way, and because the ice cubes thaw quickly, you can just throw them in the pan without thawing them.
A greener, brighter, and even-more-attractive Green Goddess is cozy enough to drizzle on salads or eat with chopped vegetables, to dollop on eggs or, dunk fries into. Greener and brighter with avocado, basil, tarragon, and parsley, it leaves you in a state of utter relaxation, of joy, of glazed-eyed bliss, unlike the typical garlicky and gloopy Green Goddess.
(Makes about 2 cups)
Whizz ½ ripe medium avocado, 3 tbsp white vinegar, a finely chopped garlic clove, 2 oil-packed, very finely chopped anchovies, a tsp lemon juice, a tsp lime juice, and ¼ tsp sugar in a blender until puréed. Let ¾ cup olive oil swirl in a steady stream while the blender is on.
Whisk in the puree a ¼ cup heavy whipping cream; it is okay if it looks a bit stripe-y. Stir in 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil, 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, 2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon, and a small, finely chopped shallot. Season with salt and pepper.
Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours. It keeps for 3 days so enjoy at your leisure.
Buttermilk Ranch in a Jar
Homemade ranch dressing is just three simple steps: mix, shake, and stir.
Ranch, a buttermilk- and mayonnaise-based dressing, matches beautifully when drizzled on thickly sliced tomatoes, or is a cool dip for chubby field cucumbers. Grilled corn painted with ranch and dredged in grated Parmesan is addictive. Thicker versions make a fine sandwich/hamburger spreads.
Not emulating store-bought versions, this homemade dressing is a tangy rendition packed with herbs, and with enough body to coat greens and vegetables without overpowering them. Yogurt lightens up the mix, basil brings extra fragrance and sweetness, and paprika lends a smoky note.
(Makes about 2 cups)
In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine 2 tbsp each minced shallot, basil and chives, a tbsp chopped parsley, a small minced garlic clove, 2 tsp white vinegar or lemon juice, ½ cup mayonnaise, and 2 tbsp yogurt or sour cream. Screw on the lid and shake the jar to combine. Stir in a cup well-shaken buttermilk as per needed consistency. Season with salt, pepper, and ¼ tsp smoked paprika; drizzle in honey to mellow acidity and sharpness. Refrigerate for an hour to develop flavors. Use within a couple of days.
Classic Cashew Cheese
Vegan homemade classic cashew cheese makes a cheesy, cheese-free spread eatable on anything from salads to potatoes to sandwiches. Especially delicious, nutritional yeast cashew cheese adds nutrition and is perfect for dairy-free living and for anyone who wants to try something new as it is endlessly versatile.
Dollop it onto baked potatoes, salads, fresh pasta, or scrambled eggs. Use as a dip for vegetables, fruits, or crackers. Make a salad dressing with a tbsp cashew cheese and a couple tbsp of apple cider vinegar. Make a cheese sauce with ¼ cup cashew cheese, 3 tbsp Dijon mustard, and ½ a cup almond milk. Simply spread it onto sandwiches, cracker, wraps, and toast.
Soak a cup of raw cashews in ¼ cup water for 20 minutes to an hour. Add the soaked cashews, ¼ cup nutritional yeast, 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice, 2 cloves garlic and a tbsp Dijon mustard to a high-speed blender or food processor and blend until thick and creamy.
A versatile Middle-Eastern spice mix Dukkah is a delicious condiment and a great way to use up dried nuts and spices. In Arabic, the word dukkah means 'to pound'; and involves pounding toasted hazelnuts, sesame seeds, cumin, coriander, and peppercorns. Serve as a simple appetizer with olive oil and bread. Sprinkle onto Greek yogurt or use it as a dip for roasted cauliflower. Toss dukkah with roasted vegetables, or use it to crust meat or fish.
(Makes about ¾ cup)
Toast ¼ cup hazelnuts for a few minutes, until fragrant. Add ¼ cup pistachios, a tbsp whole dried coriander and toast for a few minutes more. Add a tbsp sesame seeds, a tsp dried peppercorns, and ½ tsp dried orange peel. Toast for a minute, remove from heat, mix in ½ tsp dried cilantro, and add a few pinches of salt.
Let it cool. Crush it in a mortar and pestle or pulse it in a food processor till it is still a dry crumble. Store it in a cool, dry place and keep it on hand for quick, flavorful meals.