Tuesday, October 27, 2009

002.Roland Tiny Capers in Salt

Produced in Morocco
Distributed in New York, New York, USA
$2.97, before taxes, for 2.65 ounces
Ingredients: capers, salt

The caper is a bush, the flowers of which we consume as capers, the berries of which were once fashionable as cocktail garnishes. I used to drink them with Ketel One vodka, to which they were wed in some marketing ploy.

Capers typically come in small, cylindrical jars, soaked in brine. I've had other capers preserved in salt, but the only brand I've found at Reasor's is Roland. I don't swear to them being better than other capers - I don't know if a one caper can trump another, say, the way an olive oil can, or a vinegar - but I do swear by capers preserved in salt versus brine.

I learned to like them, if I recall, from one of my pals at Mecca Coffee Company. (I'd provide a link but, thankfully, a visit to Mecca requires other transport.) I learned to employ them by reading Fergus Henderson's "The Whole Beast."

The "Beast" doesn't specify capers in salt versus brine, it just celebrates capers as something other than artsy garnish for veal piccata, and so I've come to know them for what they are, which are wee nibs of salty wonder, considering they are nothing more than tiny, tight flower buds.

Capers lead the charge in Henderson's green sauce, an English staple that accompanies roast meat, hot or cold. From a recipe called "Green Sauce and Its Possibilities":

"You have five wonderful things:

Extra-virgin olive oil

"There is no end to the possibilities ..."

Capers also flavor Fergus' Lamb's Brains, Endive and Shallots; his Sorrel, Chicory, and Crispy Ear Salad; his Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad.

Talk about your possibilities.

001.Hero Orange Bitter Swiss Marmalade

Produced in Lenzburg, Switzerland
Distributed in Canajoharie, New York, USA

Claim: “Switzerland’s Best”

$2.21, before taxes, for 12 ounces

Ingredients: oranges, sugar, wheat syrup, pectin, citric acid.

Hero comes from the first two letters in each of principals Gustav Henckell and Carl Roth’s last names. (It's a Swiss firm, obviously; the "ch" in the domain name, perhaps not so obviously, stands for
Confoederatio Helvetica, the International Organization for Standardization's tag for Switzerland. So, "CH" on one of those oval, black-and-white window stickers means there's likely a Swiss, or partly Swiss, baby on board.)

In addition to a variety of conserves, salad dressings and baby food (Adapta brand), Hero makes heat-and-eat treats. It’s very proud of its ravioli. “For about 60 years Ravioli have been, and remain, an important and popular food which is appreciated not only by children; it provides a valuable service to households and caterers as it is soon ready for the table with little effort.”

My favorite Hero item is a cereal bar called Corny that comes in five different flavors. Corny contains five grains — barley, oats, spelt, rye and wheat — none of them corn. Favorite, I mean, for the name. I’ve never seen or eaten a Corny.

I bought the marmalade because it was on sale, and because it sort of jumped out on an aisle of Smuckers and such. Plus, it looked like a good product. It isn’t artificially preserved, colored or flavored. There’s a stamp on the lid that could be the expiration date. It reads “E: 11. 20 11”.

Looks are one thing. I was also curious about
how bitter. From Larousse Gastronomique: “The crusaders brought bitter oranges from Palestine into Italy. The Arabs introduced it into Spain and the south of France, as well as into East Africa. Nice has been trading in bitter oranges since 1332.”

I just wish the ingredients said bitter oranges, but the tongue does not lie. What an odd taste, bitter, especially when it comes on the end of a run of sugary fruit. As with a Campari cocktail, the bitter does wonders to prevent the fruit from cloying. Bitter is the check and balance to sweet. Or, as Hero proclaims it:

“What your favourite conserve says about you …

“Whether raspberry, bitter orange or preferably black cherry – what you put on your bread in the morning, at tea time or in the evening says more about you than you think!

“Read about the typical character trains [traits?] of the lovers of different conserves and perhaps you will soon understand more about one or the other moods to which your partner is subject …”

Either way, it made a tasty peanut butter and jelly sandwich, though I suspect it would marry even better with the double-cream d’Affinois sitting in the fridge.

The Aisles Project

Yours truly does the majority of the grocery shopping at our house. This was easier when it was we two. With two lads added to the mixing bowl, things got more intense. I try to make them eat what we eat, but they have palates, minds and 'tudes of their own. Curry does not curry favor with my two sons. Spinach must be ground with chicken and cheese and hidden in the grilled folds of a quesadilla in order not to raise hackles. And so on.

The Aisles Project came to me one Saturday as I made my way up and down the aisles of Reasor's, my local food choice. (No one shop can do it for me, though. Reasor's, while carrying the load, cannot deliver on cheese, salad greens, spices and certain pork products. My shopping days tend to be hours, stretched across days. Yours might be, too, if you added it. Maybe not.) It occurred to me - somewhere near the many mustards - that so much shelf space was taken up by things I not only didn't cook with but also never knew existed.

Behind each label is somebody's proprietary effort. Barbecue sauces and pickled meats. Salad dressings and packaged rice dinners. Soda pops and cereals, and so forth. Much of it is junk, mired in salt or slurried in corn syrup. But not all of it. The point is, I've lost touch, let alone track. I know what I'm after, generally, and routinely pick my spots among the shelves of competition, often leaving entire aisles alone, certainly entire pockets of cans, bags and Pure Paks.

The Aisles Project is my effort to take stock and inventory of the food that fights for space among the shelves of my local grocer. I begin with a jar of Swiss jam.