August 9th, 2006


Dinner Shortcuts, good and bad

I usually get home around 7ish, and then deal with dinner, and like to serve dinner by 8, so shortcuts are a way of life for me. And given that I am rarely feeling culinarily ambitious after a full workday, I'm always on the lookout for Commercial Shortcuts That Don't Suck. Last night had two experiments that are worth noting for future reference.

A few days ago, inspired by our new cocktail shaker, I experimentally picked up some "Simple Pomegranate Martini Mix" from the store. (Having essentially no experience with cocktails, this seemed like a way to start.) We tried out the recipe according to the label (equal parts Mix and vodka), and confirmed that it does, in fact, Suck -- too boozy, too sweet, not nearly tart enough to inform you that there was pomegranate in its ancestry.

However, in the interests of seeing whether the remaining Mix is at all useful, we adulterated the recipe last night, using instead equal part Mix, vodka, and actual Pomegranate juice. This does *not* suck: the result comes out tasting like a mildly sweetened pomegranate juice, with little detectable alcohol: tasty enough that one is tempted to gulp it, yet still strong enough to knock you on your ass if you do.

I suspect that, in the long run, I'll wind up keeping a jug of simple syrup on hand (the stuff is more or less shelf-stable, right?), and doing the pomegranatinis for real, working up a recipe that doesn't involve Mix. But this isn't a half-bad Shortcut.

Other experiment was Williams Sonoma's Shanghai Grilling Paste: smear liberally on swordfish, soak 45 minutes, then grill 10 minutes. That turns out to be a big win: a potent sauce with a strong ginger kick to it. The swordfish doesn't absorb the marinade as thoroughly as I might desire, so it's worth trying with other meats, but it was quite good as it was. Not cheap, but a small jar is enough for two full meals, including some extra on the side for dipping.