Posted by: A Part of the Solution | November 3, 2010

Vegan Pantry, Part 5: Condiments

Demonstrate delicious, nutritionally sound food and you’ll convince others to give your dietary restriction a try. Demonstrate dull, morally correct food and you’ll convince others you’re not quite right in the head. So here’s a glossary of what will bring your meals to life and your choices into the realm of plausibility.

You already have some idea about ketchup, mustard, mayo and relish. This is the rest of the tribe.

Condiments

Aminos: This stuff is great if you’re watching your sodium intake. This stuff is great if you miss the ‘umame’ in meat-based food–that savory stroke up the center of your tongue. You don’t need much, it’s like Worcestershire sauce that way. Buy a small bottle and give it a try. Brilliant in your slow-cooked greens.

Capers: These briny balls of green goodness finish any preparation from the north side of the Mediterranean. Some folks find them weird. If you’re not sure, put a small dish of them on the table and let everyone please themselves.

Chutney: Sweet and somewhat spicy, chutneys may be made at home or purchased, as time and money allow. These make Indian food all that, but they also bring beans to life without a lot of extra fuss. Duck sauce is fundamentally a chutney, so include it where you like it–and Moosewood has a great recipe for it, too.

Gomasio: Here’s a great way to lower the salt added to your food whilst upping the calcium content. Lightly toast ‘hulled’ sesame seeds over low heat in a dry skillet, they’re a darker brown than regular because they have more layers of fiber (and calcium) on them. Add four tablespoons of the seeds to one teaspoon of sea salt in your spice grinder. Let ‘er rip. Marvelous on steamed veggies and a perfect finish for homemade sushi–or on plain rice.

Herbs, minced or chopped: Parsley has presence when it’s more than a sprig on the corner of the plate, ditto cilantro and basil and the mixed Herbes de Provence. If you see it fresh in your produce section, bring it home and do a little poking around on the interweb to find out where it will shine the brightest.

Hot Sauce: Whether you like ’em fiery like Sriracha or mild like Crystal, these guys are essential for adding depth and character to your food. Have a selection, so that guests can doctor their plates (or bowls) to suit their own palates.

Kim Chi: So many kinds–some stinky, some spicy, some pickledy, some combinations of any (or all) of these. They are lacto- fermented, without any milk being involved. This means they’re great for toning your digestive system as well as flavoring your meal.

Nuts: Toasted and chopped these add valuable fats and outstanding flavor anywhere you sprinkle them. Keep several kinds on hand, and store them in the freezer if you aren’t using them fast. This keeps them fresh and wholesome longer.

Salsa: Here’s flavor and to spare. Here’s a way to brighten up just about anything on your plate. Here’s a chance to get some quality veggies and fiber into your food without much stress. Make your own, or purchase ready-made.

Soy Sauce: Choose organic, for starters, or you’re just giving money to Monsanto (the people providing more of the world with most of the patented, sterile GM seeds). Low-sodium and gluten-free are options, and delicious with it.

Tahineh: This is sesame paste (tahini) mixed with lemon juice, salt and pepper, and thinned with water. You can add chopped herbs, hot sauce, or other minced veggies. It’s a nice topper for most foods from the southern side of the Mediterranean. And it’s required for real falafel.

Vinegar: Well, not just vinegar. Really, it’s vinegars. There’s rice wine vinegar, and red wine vinegar and malt vinegar and apple cider vinegar and sherry vinegar and balsamic vinegar for starters. Each of these has a distinct character. Each of these not only makes great salad dressing, but also brightens and brings a light acidic balance to savory dishes like stews, soups, stir-fries and casseroles. Further, vinegar helps to put lightness into baked goods as well.

Worcestershire sauce: Look for a natural foods brand and the word ‘Vegetarian’ on the label. Otherwise, there’ll be fish extract in it–and that’s a no-no.

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