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When Simplicity Demands Quality

(post, KR Hendricks)

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If there's one thing I've learned from traveling to other countries and learning to cook along the way, it's that some of the best dishes are made with very few ingredients. Every cuisine I have encountered includes its share of down-to-earth foods. For this simple fare, quality means everything.

A French friend once served me a summer dessert of fresh, whole strawberries doused with red wine. No sugar, no whipped cream, no lemon zest. Just wonderfully sweet strawberries swimming in good Beaujolais. Heavenly!

I've made caprese--the classic Italian salad of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil, drizzled with olive oil--for years. But I never realized how amazing it can taste until we were staying on a farm in Tuscany and made it with ingredients we picked up in a tiny village store: perfectly-ripe, juicy tomatoes from a local farm and fruity olive oil from the region.

In Chile, I learned to appreciate avocado paste, the simplest of bread spreads, which consists of ripe Hass avocado mashed with a little salt. Less is definitely more when the avocados come from tree to table within a day, which they do there.

Germans and Scandinavians love their rote Gr├╝tze, or red compote, which is nothing more than seasonal red fruits stewed with sugar and thickened with sago or corn starch.

Such a "best of the simplest recipes" list could go on and on. And mine will, just as soon as I'm on the road again to a discover a new place.