#ThrowTogetherTuesdays 2: Marinades
It’s #ThrowTogetherTuesdays time once again.
So it turns out the creation of this column is somewhat serendipitous in terms of timing! I usually work from home and while between my child and job, quick is ALWAYS the essence of food for me, I typically have a whole lot of flexibility which not everyone does. Some things have changed this month! For the next little while, I will be working on a project from a client’s office. This move involves a 30-minute commute each way and let’s just say I am freshly discovering what crunched for time means!! This means that this column will take extra efforts to ensure that the things thrown together really facilitate convenience! And keep it that way.
This week, I want to talk a little about marinades. Whether you are a meal-prep-ahead-for-the-week kind of cook or one that stares into your refrigerator at 6 pm hoping to magic some food into being for dinner in half hour, marinades are your friend.
Marinades add tons of flavour to things. They are a typically used to infuse a punch of flavour into proteins (think meats, seafood, tofu, beans), but are not limited to that application. You can use a marinade to prep more hearty vegetables, or pour over already cooked delicate veggies as a sauce. It can be stirred through your grain or alternative starch for extra flavour too (think quinoa).
In terms of structure, a marinade is very similar to dressing. It has the same 4 components acid + oil + flavours + sweetener to balance. The difference is in the ratios. Since a dressing primarily accompanies delicate greens, it’s high on the fat, low on the acid and mild on the flavours.
A marinade has the opposite job. Let’s set aside delicate for a second.
It needs to flavour a much denser piece of food (think much more of the flavour component). It might sometimes need to soften a cheaper cut of meat (think more acid), and marinated food is often transferred into some form of heat that brings out fat, or additional fat… so think much less oil.
Some things need a quick marinade (shrimp) and some need to sit in your refrigerator for over 24 hours (think a whole turkey being brined).
Here are the principles to think of while marinating.
- Pick a flavour direction. Mediterranean? Fresh or dried herbs, garlic, salt, olive oil, and lemon. Thai? Thai curry paste, rice vinegar, coconut milk. Mexican? Chilli powder, cumin, garlic, olive oil, lime. Make your own flavours as you like – just taste as you go (before you put the protein in) to make sure it all works. Even store-bought Montreal steak seasoning and a little lemon works to pick up a dish in a pinch.
- Don’t be afraid of flavour – you need to be putting in enough seasoning for the entire cooked amount at hand so think spoons not pinches for flavour.
- Use the acid and the oil to liquefy the flavours you’re adding. Especially if you’re using spice powders or dried herbs.
- Take into account the time needed. More delicate proteins like shrimp and the vegetarian proteins don’t need much time. You can let them sit in you relatively watery marinade for 15-20 minutes and still get a huge flavour boost. A steak might take the same amount of time. But a roast would need to for at least a couple of hours to benefit.
- Think about the kind of ‘dish’ in which you will do the marinating. For hardier items that can take a bit of moving around, I like to use a zip lock bag. If offers full coverage because you can squish it and make sure everything gets exposure. For things like tofu or other cheese, vegetables and even fruit (yes you can do sweet marinades – honey, vanilla, and a few torn basil leaves taste divine with berries) you might want to think about a wide shallow dish or platter. And in this case, you might need to flip once midway through the process to make sure all sides are coated. Another option for the more solid foods is a storage container with the lid, everything goes in, and you shake, shake shake!
Here is a mini ‘recipe’ for what I did with the tofu pictured.
Press, slice, and blot dry your tofu (I’ll do a separate post on the blog later on how to make mind-blowing tofu). In a shallow dish, put together 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, tamari or the like; 2 teaspoons of sambal oelek, 1 teaspoon of powdered garlic, 1 teaspoon of honey (or hoisin to intensify the soy taste and add sweetness), 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and a squeeze of lemon. Dip your pressed tofu into it and flip for full coverage. Let sit for 10 minutes, turn over and give it 5-10 minutes more. Heat a bit of oil on your pan, put your tofu slices in, not touching, and let pan fry on a medium heat till browned, flip and repeat on the other side. The longer it sit on the pan, the chewier and more ‘bacon-like’ it’ll get. I don’t use any salt because the prepared sauces have plenty of it.
Why is this one of my favourite ways of cooking? Because it infuses flavour quite quickly. Especially some of the cheaper proteins. I could have very little at home to cook with, but a quick marinade will liven things up. It also cuts cooking times of longer cooking proteins.
Just this one technique and a bag of grains in your home could keep you in food forever!
Try? Let me know if you like in the comments below or on my social feeds (@socialsusandiaz in most places).