It’s spring! Everywhere you look, you see signs of the season. Outdoor markets are open, fresh plants, flowers and produce fill the stalls and the produce sections of local grocery stores. Magazines, television shows and blogs are telling you about great ways to freshen up your house, your garden and your menus.
Yet, somehow, when you plan your weekly shopping trip or do your daily run-in-and-get-something stops, you’re picking up the same meal items that are tried and true, easy-to-prepare family favorites.
Don’t beat yourself up because you haven’t transformed your dinner table with new foods and new recipes. You can take advantage of the fresh foods that are coming out now and make easy changes to your menus with quick and tasty marinades, sauces and rubs.
You and your family will enjoy the difference that a little change makes to your meals when you just give a little extra love to something on the plate. It can be the meat, seafood or veggies that get a little extra treatment.
The best thing about a little switching up is that you can do it a couple of ways. One is to try some fresh ideas that only need a few ingredients and a little chopping and mixing; the other is to purchase a ready-made product that allows you to open the lid and give a new taste a chance. At The Purple Onion and West Virginia Marketplace, we think both options are great ways to try something different.
Let’s consider your options.
A rub is like a seasoning but with larger pieces of dried herbs and spices. Because of their texture, rubs are often applied more liberally than a seasoning. Rubs are, generally speaking, dry and include spices along with some sugar. They can be applied ahead of time or just before cooking. To get the most flavor from a rub, you should apply it to the meat or fish at least an hour before cooking. Rubs are often used for grilling, but work for pan searing and roasting as well.
At West Virginia Marketplace, a long-time favorite is Ray’s Rub. Made here in West Virginia, the tasty mix was originally developed for use on wild game. It is great on beef, pork and chicken and adds a new kick to seafood and vegetables. Other choices include the salt-free lemon pepper by Smoke Camp Crafts and Tar Billy’s Grillin’ Rub. At The Purple Onion, you’ll find some international rub flavors including Za’atar, Asian and Italian.
If you want to try your hand at a fresh, homemade rub, try the Herb, Garlic and Lemon Rub which is actually a wet rub, or the Blackened Cajun Rub. Both are good on pork, chicken, seafood and fish.
A marinade is a mixture of spices and herbs with a liquid like vinegar, citrus or wine. The acidity in the liquid helps tenderize tougher cuts of meat and intensifies the flavor. Hearty cuts of beef, pork and chicken can marinade for 12 to 24 hours. Seafood and thinner cuts of meat should be in a marinade for no longer than an hour.
At West Virginia Marketplace, we have customers who can’t get along without an Appalachian Mountain Specialties product. A marinating favorite is the tangy Zest Sauce which can be used for slow cooking, chilis, soups, poultry, fish and vegetables. At The Purple Onion, you might want to try one of our new products, Garlic Expressions vinaigrette. This vegan and allergen-free dressing can be used as a marinade on meats and vegetables.
For a tangy Mexican marinade, try the Mojo Marinade on pork, white-fleshed fish, shrimp or scallops. It will take taco night to a new level. The Yogurt, Lime and Black Pepper Marinade is great with chicken, pork, lamb and beef.
Sauces are added to food either while it is cooking or afterwards to add flavor to the dish. Having said that, it’s only fair that you should know that a sauce can be a marinade and a marinade can be a sauce. If you use the sauce as a marinade, you might want to add a bit of vinegar, citrus or wine. If you use the marinade as a sauce, it can probably be used as is. Just remember this important tip: Anything you use as a marinade must be discarded if it has been used on raw meat. So, if you think you want to have some extra marinade for sauce along with your meal, set some aside before you add the meat.
West Virginia Marketplace now carries Wild Kenyan Pepper Sauce, made by Kenyan Café in Morgantown. Customers really like the kick of this vinegary hot sauce made with cayenne red peppers. The Purple Onion carries a good selection of Stonewall Kitchen sauces that range from traditional barbecue to citrus to teriyaki. With added kick from sriracha, horseradish and garlic in some of them, you can find the right tang for your taste.
If you want to make your own sauce, try the bright Briny Chermoula or Tangy Dill Sauce to top shrimp, scallops, chicken or lamb. The Chermoula is chunky and fresh; it will add texture to the meal. The Tangy Dill Sauce is rich and thick.