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Ten Secret Cooking Ingredients


Award-winning Chef Joel Harrington says these ten magic ingredients can be used at home and are the secret behind many great-tasting restaurant dishes. His CORE Kitchen and Wine Bar at The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain opens December 18 just north of Tucson, Arizona

MARANA, AZ. December 8, 2009 – When Joel Harrington left his high-profile position as chef de cuisine for North America’s #1-ranked Fearing’s Restaurant in Dallas, he knew he would soon be able to fulfill a dream of reinterpreting beloved American menu favorites using brilliant new colors and flavors – in this case, those of the lush Sonoran desert that surrounds Tucson, and those of the everyday American ingredients, like maple syrup and pecans, used by his mother and grandmother.

“Ten humble ingredients can turn anyone’s kitchen into a field of dreams,” says CORE Kitchen & Wine Bar’s Harrington, who is an avid artist, mountain biker and New York Yankees fan. “I can’t wait to show these ten tastes off at CORE Kitchen and Wine Bar. My magic favorites are: “

Maple Syrup

The ultimate elixir, maple syrup brings a spectacular touch of sweetness to salty and savory dishes, creating a sensation that delights nearly every palate. Chef Joel Harrington grew up in Vermont and has utilized Vermont maple syrup throughout his cooking career. His tip? Use it for marinades or as an exquisite finish to soups. Harrington’s favorite usage for maple syrup, though, is as a base ingredient for the lacquer used in his Chili-Lacquered New York Steak.

Japanese Snack Mix

Not usually a cooking ingredient, these flavorful rice cake morsels can bring crunch to sushi dishes and replace croutons in soups and salads. At CORE Kitchen and Wine Bar, Japanese snack mix is crushed and used with Big Eye Tuna, creating the traditional “crunch” or crouton of a classic tartare.


Chef Harrington’s passion for avocados led to the creation of his signature Avocado Fries, served with chili-lacquered steak. While avocados are a mainstay of salads, they also make for a great pure or chilled soup.

Tepary Beans

Native to the canyons and arroyos of southern Arizona and a second cousin of garbanzo beans, tepary beans can be used to add a rich, nutty flavor to soups, stews, Southwestern casseroles and hummus. At CORE Kitchen and Wine Bar, the locally-harvested beans are used together with pulled rabbit to create a rich and flavorful first-course ragout.

Sherry Vinegar

A refined balance of sweetness and acidity makes Sherry vinegar the perfect finish for flavorful sauces and an especially nice topping for steamed vegetables like asparagus and artichokes. Harrington likes Sherry vinegar not only in his salad vinaigrettes but also to finish the sauce he serves on his Madeira lamb duo.

Corn Tortillas

Readily available and definitely not just for tacos, corn tortillas can be ground and used as a binder in soups and sauces, or as a crust, stuffing or fritter component. They can also be used in meatloaf, and they take center stage in CORE’s Atlantic salmon with local squash chili quielles.


Both sweet and savory uses make pecans a versatile cooking ingredient, especially when pured for spreads. They are a great last-minute substitute for pine nuts in pesto, and at CORE, they are a highlight of holiday sauces as well as year-round desserts.


Nopales, the soft and juicy pads which grow on prickly pear cactus, can be added to salsa, relish, salads, soups and casseroles to add a flavor similar to that of green beans or asparagus. Nopales are widely used in Mexican cuisine and are similar in texture and usage to the okra favored in Cajun cooking.


A chili-based hot sauce that takes on different names in different cultures, Sriracha is considered by some chefs to be the world’s best condiment. Used as a base for dipping sauce, as a condiment for hot dogs and eggs, as a spicy topping for pizza and burgers, and mixed with Worcestershire, teriyaki , citrus or hoisin sauce, sriracha adds heat and flavor to many menu items. At CORE, it is used with maple syrup to marinate Harrington’s Wyoming buffalo tenderloin, creating a uniquely flavorful main-course experience.

Mesquite Flour

Mesquite isn’t just for the grill. This desert tree’s pods are also ground into flour, offering a low-glycemic alternative to traditional all-purpose flour and offering a slight taste of sweetness over traditional flours. Mesquite flour can be added to batters for pancakes, muffins, cakes, corn bread or cookies and can also be a delicious breading for meat and fish.  It is used in freshly-made pasta at CORE Kitchen and Wine Bar.

Harrington shares the following side dish/sauce recipe, which features some of his favorite ingredients and which he uses as a side dish with salmon at CORE Kitchen & Wine Bar, opening December 18 at The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain, north of Tucson in Marana, Arizona:

Vegetable Chili Quielles (to be served with salmon)

1 zucchini, julienned

1 squash, julienned

1 carrot, julienned

2 red bell peppers, julienned

2 Tbs ginger, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

In a saut pan, start with the ginger and garlic until sweated. Add the vegetables and saut to al dente. Add Chipotle-Tomato pure (below) and toss. Place in center of plate. Add more Chipotle-Tomato pure to the pan, and toss with tortilla chips. Place on top of vegetable mound. Top with Salmon and garnish with Pumpkin Seed Relish.

Chipotle-Tomato Pure

20 Roma tomatoes – halved

2 each chipotle peppers

2c Sherry vinegar

1c brown sugar

1c red wine

12 garlic cloves – smashed

6 shallots – chopped

Extra virgin olive oil – to taste

Lemon juice – to taste

In a large rondue, caramelize shallots and garlic and add tomatoes and continue to cook until tomatoes are soft. Add wine and chipotles. Cook down until tomatoes break up. Place rondue in oven at 350 degrees. Continue to cook until dark red color occurs. Let this cool and pure in blender while emulsifying with sugar and olive oil to taste.

Pumpkin Seed Relish

4c pumpkin seeds – roasted

4 each poblano peppers – roasted, medium-diced

1 bunch cilantro

1 bunch green onions

c maple syrup

Juice of 3 limes

1/2t ground coriander

Salt & pepper to taste

Pulse pumpkin seeds in robot coupe until rough chopped. Add in bowl with remaining ingredients.

About The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain and Core Kitchen and Wine Bar
Nestled in the high Sonoran Desert is an invigorating playground where the adventurous can explore the lush desert along the Tortolitas Mountains and majestic Saguaro forest. Opening December 18, 2009, the 850-acre Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain features a 250-room hotel, Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, destination spa and luxury homes at The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain. The resort also features adventure programming and world class hiking, and is home to the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championships each spring in its striking canyon setting. Serving breakfast and dinner daily, Core Kitchen and Wine Bar introduces the True American Cuisine of Chef Joel Harrington, with coast-to-coast American favorites presented in a brilliantly-flavorful Sonoran desert context. A stunning new restaurant with contemporary design inspired by the vibrant colors of the earth, CORE features six dining venues and an American menu focused on regional sustainable cuisine and local growers. The citrus grove directly adjoining CORE offers the freshest of Arizona oranges, Minneola tangelos and red grapefruit. For further resort reservation information, please call 1-800-241-3333 or visit

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