The recipe calls for belacan, or black moss or kachang parang. Or maybe something more commonplace in Asian home cooking: some oyster sauce, udon noodles or dried mushrooms. You know that everything you need is in your local Asian market, and often at a modest price, but negotiating the aisles of unfamiliar products is often intimidating.
Grab a copy of "The Asian Grocery Store Demystified" by Linda Bladholm before you begin your next search. She identifies and explains the meats, fruits, vegetables, noodles and delicacies and the sometimes forbidding jars, bottles and bags you'll see on the shelves. Many markets follow a traditional floor plan, so Bladholm organizes her book aisle by aisle as many Asian markets do. Chapters include Rice, Noodles, Flour, Flavorings and Condiments, Oils, Vegetables, Eggs and Preserved Meats, Pickled Items and Preserves. More than 400 illustrations additionally assist you: How else would you ever find the cordyceps (caterpillar fungus)?
"The Asian Grocery Store Demystified" by Linda Bladholm (Renaissance Books, $14.95, 288 pages). Available at many area bookstores.
Grilled Tuna With Cilantro-Lime Butter
This delicious recipe takes about 20 minutes from start to finish. The simple butter-based sauce is incredibly versatile--serve it with almost any grilled, broiled or baked seafood, such as tuna, swordfish or scallops. And it's simple to adapt it to your own liking; we've included a few variations suggested by author Sandra Rudloff in "Flexible Fare: Personalize Recipes With Countless Variations" (Bristol, $12.95).
4 ahi tuna steaks (about 6 to 8 ounces each)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 pound (1 stick) butter
Zest of lime, grated
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
1/4 cup lime juice
Prepare a medium-hot grill or preheat the broiler.
Season the tuna with salt and pepper to taste. Grill or broil the tuna steaks until firm and opaque in the center, 10 to 12 minutes or about 10 minutes per inch of thickness.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat melt the butter. Add the lime zest, increase the heat to high and bring the butter just to the boiling point. Remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro. Keep warm.
Transfer the tuna to a serving platter. Add the lime juice to the butter mixture, stir and pour the sauce over the tuna steaks. Serve immediately.
Parsley-Lemon Butter: Subsitute lemon zest for the lime zest, minced fresh parsley for the cilantro and lemon juice for the lime juice.
Caper-Lemon Butter: Substitute lemon zest for the lime zest and 4 teaspoons drained capers for the cilantro and lemon juice for the lime juice.
Per 8-ounce tuna steak with 2 tablespoons cilantro-lime butter: 464 calories, 53 gm protein, 1 gm carbohydrates, 27 gm fat, 167 mg cholesterol, 16 gm saturated fat, 146 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber
More for Your Condiment Collection
Chimichurri sauce, that staple of Argentine grilling, starts with olive oil, vinegar, parsley and garlic, but after that there are as many variations as there are cooks. If you haven't figured out which type you like, try Don Tango's--a simple spicy version made by Guillermo and Brigitta Toruno in Sterling, Va., who add a delicious twist of oregano and red pepper to the basic sauce. If you want to do as they do in South America, drizzle the sauce over grilled meats and sausages after they're cooked. But Brigitta Toruno also emphasizes you can use chimichurri as a marinade before grilling--on pork, chicken, beef and seafood. Or add it to sandwiches of sliced meat on french or crusty bread or splash it on your favorite subs. You can even drizzle some on your favorite pizza.
Available through www.dontangofoods.com; or call toll-free 877-406-4064 or locally call 703-406-8303, $5 plus shipping for each 12-ounce jar. Also available at area specialty markets, $5 to $6.50 per 12-ounce jar.
Here's a handy alternative to baking parchment--the Exopat nonstick silicone baking sheet liner. Designed to fit most baking sheets, the 11 3/4-by-16 1/2 nonstick surface can be used to line pans hundreds of times. But that's not all Exopat has going for it. The silicone fabric provides even heat distribution, which means your cookies, hors d'oeuvres or rolls will brown more uniformly. And it has a non-slip surface--no more slip-sliding cookies or rolls that stick. To clean, just shake or wipe off. The sheet rolls up for easy storage.
The Exopat sheet ($22 and up) is available at Crate & Barrel stores and La Cuisine (323 Cameron St., Alexandria; call 703-836-4435).
TONIGHT: Kosher Wines--lecture and tasting at Fresh Fields Arlington. Benefits American Red Cross International Response Fund. $10. 7 p.m. 2700 Wilson Blvd. Call 703-527-6596.
THURSDAY & SATURDAY: Book signing and baking demonstration with Marcy Goldman, author of "A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking." Free. Thursday: 7:30-9:30 p.m., Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation, 1441 Wiehle Ave., Reston; call 703-471-1207 (reservations required). Saturday: 1 p.m., Barnes and Noble Reston, 1851 Fountain Drive, Reston; call 703-437-9490. Saturday: 8:30 p.m., Barnes and Noble Rockville, Montrose Crossing Shopping Ctr., Rockville Pike and Randall Rd., Rockville, Md.; call 301-881-0237.
TUESDAY: Wine Basics--lecture and tasting with Jane Hermansen of the Greater Washington Wine School at Starland Cafe. $30. 6:45-8:45 p.m. 5125 MacArthur Blvd. NW. Call 301-530-6851.
Add this Web site to your bookmarks:
"The Splendid Table," a radio series aired every weekend on Minnesota Public Radio, is a boon to kitchen novices and old hands alike. Those of us outside the broadcast area can simply visit this companion Web site and tune in to host Lynn Rossetto Kasper and her guests (regulars include Shirley Corriher, Mark Bittman and Jane and Michael Stern). Shows include handy tips on everything from food prep techniques to food appreciation. And don't pass up the mouthwatering array of recipes from previous shows!