For cooks pressed for time, Janet Rosener's versatile flavor pastes are help in a hurry

There's a reason why even passionate home cooks don't make their own Thai curry paste--a recipe may require 5 or 6 hard-to-find ingredients, such as lemongrass and galangal. Yet pastes are handy for quickly sneaking complex flavors into food. With this in mind, former caterer Janet Rosener created Dahlias Exotic Flavor Pastes in 1997. Of course, developing the five varieties in the line took time; Rosener searched for eight months to find an American supplier of kaffir lime leaves for her Thai paste. She even delved into philosophy: her Indian paste, with fenugreek and peppermint, is loosely based on Ayurvedic principles of balancing flavors for health. Here, she streamlines the techniques she uses for Dahlias and shares a simple recipe made with kumquats. It's remarkably versatile--use it as a marinade for flank steak, in salad dressings or with mayonnaise as a sandwich spread.