In California, it’s called “Cost Plus,” which is a lame name if you ask me and doesn’t even begin to hint at the wonders contained within the four walls of those stores.
Here in the civilized world we call it a “World Market,” which while still not conveying the full myriad of wonderful merchandise these stores carry, at least sounds vaguely exotic and alludes to the cornucopia of stock in them.
If you’ve never visited a World Market, it’s a chain of stores carrying all kinds of things from around the world. It’s as if a classic, old-school bazaar has been sanitized, Americanized and air conditioned.
They carry everything from scarves to posters to woks. I bought a table and a few other items from there for my new place.
But they also carry food from around the world — and as with the rest of their wares, they take a kitchen-sink approach. The food ranges from British candy bars, German mustard and spaghetti sauce to a variety of curries.
The other day I was jonesing for a topic for this column when I stopped in at my local World Market. When I got to the food section, it hit me: Why not create a meal with items found on the shelves and only add a few odds and ends I had at home?
I got so into it that I even bought a beautiful black pottery bowl there to put the dinner in.
Into the ingredients: I added a jar of British pearl onions (Haywards). They look very much like cocktail onions or the ones that are sometimes served creamed at holiday meals.
I tasted one right out of the jar, and although they had a strong briney-vinegary bite, I kind of liked them. I thought they would bring an acid component to the finished dish.
So, when I sauteed the veg, I added about a half cup of the onions.
After it had cooked and the vegetables had picked up some pretty caramelization, I popped another one in my mouth to taste it cooked.
The water had cooked out of the onions, but that meant the vinegar had concentrated.
Into some kind of culinary incendiary device: It was so strongly flavored that I coughed for 10 minutes straight. I was afraid my neighbor would think I was dying over here, and I wasn’t entirely sure I wasn’t.
So, I went through the skillet and picked them all out, and although it hurt my soul, I threw them away.
I’m hoping one day I can think of something to do with the rest of them.
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Vigo creamy avocado and lime rice mix
1/2 cup, dried mushrooms: Bistro blend
1/2 cup, Cara Mia artichoke hearts in water
Not from World Market:
1 1/2 cups, tri-color corn
4 tablespoons, butter
Trader Joe’s Citrusy Garlic Seasoning
Tajin: Mexican chili-lime spice
1 cup, shredded chicken breast or ham or sausage from World Market
Place mushrooms into a heat-proof bowl. Pour boiling water over mushrooms and let stir for 25 minutes. Every once in a while, gently agitate the ’shrooms so that any dirt or grit will fall off them and sink to the bottom of the vessel.
Meanwhile, place artichoke hearts into a fine mesh sieve to drain. When the mushrooms have finished rehydrating, spoon them out of the bowl without disturbing the bottom and any dirt collected there. Put them in the sieve along with the artichokes to drain.
Make rice according to the directions, but add the corn and 2 tablespoons of butter to the pot when the water begins to boil, and let it cook with the rice.
While the rice is cooking, heat a skillet on medium-high and put in the other 2 tablespoons of butter. When the butter is sizzling, add the mushrooms and artichoke hearts. Season with the citrusy garlic powder.
Cook the veg, stirring occasionally in the skillet until they have browned. Set aside.
When the rice has finished cooking and all the water has cooked into the rice, keep the pan covered, and let sit off the heat for 8-10 minutes.
Afterward, pour the rice into a large bowl, along with the chicken or other protein and vegetables.
Serve in shallow bowls with sour cream and a good shake of Tajin. You can also garnish with a generous sprinkling of cotija cheese and some lime wedges.
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