Saturday, December 27, 2008

Substitutions: Tamarind for Citrus

It's been a croupy December for the two of us, as we succumbed in succession to the bug du jour. Thankfully it's only wheezing and sneezing, but enough to keep us from much holiday partying. We've been grateful for an Ayurvedic winter tea passed on by our wonderful yoga instructor. Designed as a warming drink, it calls for fresh ginger, star anise, peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, and orange peel boiled for ten minutes and strained. No sugar needed--it's delicious. And a daily dose seems to help my winter circulation. Much less cold in hands and feet now, after a week of sipping this.

Orange peel is one of those iffy items for James -- it's less loaded with citric acid than oranges per se, but he'd still rather avoid it. Substituting for citrus is always difficult. There are so few foodstuffs with the same zing. Verjus, rice wine vinegar, cider vinegar, booze -- there are a range of possibilities but few with the tang of oranges.

Tamarind came to mind. At Trader Joe's we found an excellent dried (but soft) version seasoned with peppers that had just the spark we wanted. So we are happily sipping our tea, hoping to outlast the colds, and enjoying one more discovering in the world of culinary substitutions.