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7 Unique And Unexpected Ingredients For Cooking

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Italian olives, fragrant lavender, chocolate swirled Nutella are all flavorful on their own, but what do they have in common? These odd items and more are making their flavors present in an increasing number of dishes in contemporary restaurants.

cooking with special ingredients

1.  Flowers

You can make syrup from roses, lavender, licorice, almonds, and pomegranates by heating in water and adding sugar. The syrups can, then, be used to dress salads, ice cream, or desserts. Use the flavors and colors to infuse olive oils and aioli. They have no specific nutritional value other than the carbohydrates released from the sugars.

2.  Tofu paste

The rather unappetizing looking tofu paste is the curd residue of coagulated soy milk. However, it has a thousand applications in Asian recipes, and it is now working its way as a high protein meat substitute into the cuisines of other cultures. In a 126 gram serving of commercial tofu, there are only 88 calories, no trans-fat and no cholesterol.

3.  Nutella

This high demand hazelnut butter has the consistency of regular peanut butter and is sometimes mixed with chocolate. As college students and children will tell you, it is good enough to eat right off the spoon, but it is now used in cookies and cakes that would call for peanut butter. On the downside, 2 tbs. of Nutella have 200 calories and high levels of sodium and saturated fat.

4.  Cardoon

It looks like a giant thistle, belongs to the artichoke family, and tastes like celery. Popular in Europe, the stems are blanched and used in soups and salads, breaded and fried, or eaten raw. A single cup serving of chopped cardoon has 20 calories and no fat or cholesterol.

sauerkraut5.  Sauerkraut (see photo)

The salty shredded cabbage is not just for entrees anymore. It is being used in cake and cookies to add fiber and texture. Sauerkraut is low in calories and carbohydrates, and there is no fat but a lot of sodium. Surprisingly, it keeps recipes moist with no sauerkraut taste at all.

6.  Olives

For ages, olives have come from Greece, Italy, Sicily, and throughout the Middle-East. Grown in a variety of colors and sizes, olives are stored in brine, stuffed, spiced, and soaked into delicious and delectable treats made for eating right from a bowl. Heart-healthy, they are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins. As fruit or oil, olives are the mainstay of the Mediterranean diet in spreads, sauces, and salads. You can roast them, toss them with lemon peel, or stir them in with pasta.

7.  Galangal

Looks like ginger and used like ginger, galangal is the key flavor and aroma in dishes from Indonesia and Thailand. Used in soups, stews, and seafood dishes, it is a distinctive taste familiar in Indochina cuisine. This root has 45 calories and 2 g of fiber, iron, and Vitamins A and C.

In a world where people eat gold flaked vodka, borax, coal tar, varnish, and bugs, you probably shouldn’t be surprised at anything. But, the ingredients listed here are easily available in a good supermarket and in recipes you can manage without a culinary engineering degree.

License: Creative Commons image source

Brielle has always enjoyed cooking. She recently took a cooking class and had to cook with flowers. She then thought of some other unique ingredients one can use to cook with and wanted to share them.

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