Twenty-somethings used to spend more time at Micky D’s than in the kitchen.
But that’s changing. Chalk it up to economic necessity. Or perhaps to a desire to create and collaborate with friends in the kitchen. But one thing’s for sure: Young people are cooking more and more.
But the staid holiday table traditions often don’t leave room for creative flair. Remember, cooking is supposed to be fun, and foodies don’t have to be fuddy-duddies. If you’re looking for suggestions to help you add some creativity to your traditional holiday meals, here are a few ideas to liven things up:
Amaranth. In case you haven’t tried it, this tiny seed that’s eaten as grain in parts of the Indian subcontinent and Nepal was an old New-World staple in Guatemala and Peru. It is a great source of protein, iron, and calcium and features a fine nutty flavor. It goes splendidly with a dash of salt and a bed of herbs steeped in lemon juice and olive oil. It’s available at natural food stores and better supermarkets.
Whey. Hey, whey’s good, too. Whey is the thin liquid byproduct of cheese-making. It’s slightly sour, but it’s full of healthful enzymes and increasingly favored by chefs who like their sauces full-bodied and flavorful. Use it in baking, or to lacto-ferment vegetables, chutneys and jams. Try mixing it into your broth or stock-based soups. Or—if you’re really feeling adventurous—mix it with fruit and yogurt for a tangy smoothie. Note: real whey is not the same as the powdered “whey” sold in health food stores.
Oriental subs. BLTs and club sandwiches are still great, but Asian variations are a hit with college students and recent grads. These are subs stuffed with cucumbers, cilantro, pickled vegetables and spicy mayo. Like the old-school hoagie, they’re a full meal that can be eaten on the go. Try the Cambodian num pang or the Vietnamese banh mi for starters. But don’t stop there—the Orient’s one big buffet.
Lap cheong. Now, if you’re pescatarian, skip to the next item. But if you’re partial to all things pork, lap cheong is a dried, hard sausage made from pork and with a high fat content. It is normally smoked, sweetened and seasoned with rose water, rice wine and soy sauce. Don’t take a bite without cooking it first; this sausage needs to hit the frying pan before it hits your palate. Chop and sautée, then fold it into an omelet. Or slice, wok-fry and dip the slices into rice-wine sauce flavored with chopped onion and spicy cilantro.
Seafood CSA. That’s seafood community supported agriculture (CSA), for the uninitiated. Think farm-to-table, but where the farm is the ocean. The CSA model had its start in fruits and veggies, but now CSA programs like Cape Ann Fresh Catch operate on a direct-to-the-subscriber distribution model to bring fresh-caught fish direct to your kitchen. One seafood CSA, Crate to Plate, even lets you lease your very own lobster trap, monitor it online and ensure that your lobsters get lots of love till they get delivered to your doorstep.