Sesame, for instance. You may never have bought it, but chances are you've had it. It's what gives many Asian dishes a nutty, savory, richly aromatic flavor.
Most sesame oil is made by pressing roasted sesame seeds. The oil tastes deeply nutty, almost smoky, and pairs well with anything salty. There are cold-pressed varieties, but skip them; while fine for frying, the flavor is unimpressive.
A high smoke point (420 degrees) means this amber-colored oil can handle the heat of the frying pan. But its flavor shines brightest when used raw. Which means that getting the deepest, richest sesame flavor will mean using a bit of the oil in the pan to saute, then drizzling a bit more over the finished dish.
When shopping for sesame oil (sometimes labeled "toasted sesame oil" and often hidden in the Asian or International aisle), the darker the color, the richer the flavor. And while loads of antioxidants give sesame oil a long shelf life, refrigerating it will make it last even longer.
What to do with it? It's obviously a natural for stir-fry (remember to drizzle a bit more on the finished dish for best flavor) and makes killer marinades for steak.
Sesame Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Makes 6 servings
12-ounce bottle of beer
6-ounce can tomato paste
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
1 tablespoon soy sauce
11/2 teaspoons garlic powder
11/2 teaspoons mustard powder
1 whole star anise
3 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 to 2 teaspoons hot sauce
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
6 bulky rolls or other burger buns
Sesame seeds, to garnish
Sliced scallions, to garnish
1. In a large saucepan, whisk together the beer, tomato paste, brown sugar, vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil, the soy sauce, garlic powder, and mustard powder. Add the star anise and pork. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, cover and cook until very tender, about 40 minutes.
2. Discard the star anise, then use 2 forks to shred or pull apart the pork into bite-size pieces. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of sesame oil and the hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Divide the pork between the buns, sprinkling each serving with sesame seeds and scallions.
Per serving: 563 calories; 15 grams fat; 147 milligrams cholesterol; 48 grams carbohydrates; 55 grams protein; 2 grams dietary fiber; 923 milligrams sodium.