August 1, 2012

Good Taste and Good Dip

Salt-Free Avocado Tahini Dip

Good taste.

In fashion, this means not wearing hammer pants with a bolo tie.

In manners, this means not gawking at that guy wearing hammer pants with a bolo tie.

And in food, well this is where it differs a bit.

Good taste might just mean being daring enough to pair the culinary equivalent of hammer pants (zucchini) with a bolo tie (peaches) to discover newfangled, unimaginable ways to create flavor and excite the palate.

This is where Karen Palmer enters.

(Enter: Karen Palmer)

As a past colleague at DailyCandy and a recipient of a culinary degree, she defines refinement, with a twist of spunk and spice.  And now, in her new post as the Good Taste editor for Tasting Table (a free daily email for adventurous eaters), she’s merging all her savoir-faire skills together to bring you the latest trends in balanced eating and drinking.

What does that mean? By signing up for Good Taste, Karen and the Tasting Table team send you weekly inspiration on how to twist the foods you love so that it reduces the junk, keeps the flavor, and boosts the health factor. Sound familiar?

And while many of the recipes and tips that land in your inbox may not fit within your dietary needs, you don’t have to miss out. Good Taste is yet another resource for kitchen trickery as well as a great source of motivation to be fearless — and finally pair those zucchini hammer pants with peach bolo ties.

Just remember that you can always leave out the salt and high-sodium ingredients and get creative on your own.

I’m a huge fan of Good Taste (and Karen Palmer) and anything that helps expand my low-sodium tool belt. And because we all have our culinary journeys, I’ve asked Karen to let us into her kitchen and tell us how she found her way to the top of the food pyramid.

So today, I’ve brought you two gifts: (1) a Q and A with Ms. Palmer herself and (2) an Avocado Tahini Dip from Good Taste. They’re both delicious.

No need to thank me or Karen. Enjoy this love session, sign up for Good Taste, and start playing with your food.

How do you define Good Taste? And where do you find it?

Here at Tasting Table, we define Good Taste as balanced choices for the epicurean. In other words, we’re looking for recipes, products, trends, and more that are wellness-minded, but never compromise on taste. We find inspiration from restaurants and top chefs, the freshest seasonal produce, cookbooks, and more.

When did you fall in love with food? What was your Oprah “aha” moment?

I grew up with a typical Italian grandmother who cooked to show her love (I especially miss her ricotta gnocchi and zucchini fritters, that she would make just for me). Growing up, though, I took good food for granted. It wasn’t until I moved to NYC right after college that I really began to explore restaurants, discover different cuisines and give some thought to a career in food. It was really after reading a few of Ruth Reichl’s memoirs that I decided to combine my two passions: food and writing.

Were you ever scared of cooking and the culinary world? What helped you overcome your kitchen anxieties?

Even though I went to culinary school, I was anxious about going beyond my comfort zone (which, in my case, meant the Italian/Mediterranean food I was raised on and used to making). I was a nervous wreck the first day of school: Everything–from knife skills to making a basic Hollandaise sauce–was daunting. What I’ve found with cooking, to use a cliche, is really that “practice makes perfect.” Just getting comfortable in the kitchen, with different tools, ingredients and techniques, takes time, but now, I rarely ever follow a recipe.

What was your proudest home-cooking and/or dinner party moment?

Actually, it was for a story. I was one of the food editors for a city magazine in SF for a while. Because a bunch of local chefs, like Michael Mina, were coming out with cookbooks at the same time, my editor and I decided it would be “fun” to cook one course from each cookbook. Well, it turned out to be quite an undertaking, because we wanted to follow the recipes exactly. It took two days (with help!) to pull it off, but I’ve never been more proud of a meal. (We’re talking lobster pot pie from scratch here, people.)

What whole ingredient do you think packs the most natural flavor? And where have you seen it used best?

Plain old lemon can elevate a dish immediately; a little zest or juice goes a long way. Take this recipe for avocado-tahini dip that Good Taste ran recently (click me for recipe). Lemon brightens up the dip, bringing out the greens and herbs. Low-sodium, salt-free eaters can use salt-free tahini (omit the salt in the recipe, obviously) and add some zest and more fresh herbs to keep the dish full of flavor.

What is the most bizarre ingredient you’ve ever encountered? 

Heart in any of its various forms. Enough said.

What is the most memorable interpretation of a traditional recipe you’ve ever encountered?

Before foam and savory ice cream were ubiquitous, at his short-lived SF restaurant Winterland, Boris Portnoy made a poached egg dish with asparagus foam and bacon ice cream that tasted like breakfast on crack. It was ahead of its time.

If you could only use one flavor enhancer again, what would it be?

That’s a tough one. I’d say it would be a three-way tie between citrus (see above), Garam Masala and fresh tarragon (not all together).

Any other Good Taste tips do you want to give to low-sodium, salt-free eaters?

Don’t be afraid to experiment! Try out different spice rubs on your favorite meat or fish. Sign up for a CSA to cook with fresh fruit and vegetables that you otherwise wouldn’t buy at the store.

Thanks, Karen!

For the full Avocado Tahini Dip recipe, click here.

And for a super low-sodium version, replace the salt with a pinch of smoked paprika, salt-free garlic powder, and of course, a bit more lemon as Karen suggested.

Chow on.

Kali September 10, 2012 at 5:37 pm

This is such a great blog and your convo with Karen is enlightening. Lobster pot pie sounds delicious too! I agree on the lemon thing. It really does brighten up the flavor in a dish but a little does go a long way. I made a lemon chicken dish and added a wee bit too much. Yep, tasted like lemon! That Avocado Tahini dip sounds amazing as well! By the way, I love your table cloth! It’s adorable.

Jennifer Le October 16, 2012 at 11:19 pm

Deng, just found your website and just wanna say that it’s AMAZING! =)

Holly Madden August 5, 2013 at 10:35 pm

I made the avocado dip. Awesome. I added a bit too much chilli to it but still great. Nice post!

sara November 14, 2013 at 5:12 am

one word AMAZING! thanks a lot

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