We could all use a little more flavor, a little more heat and a little more zest
by Bobbie Ames | Food & Entertainment Editor
What is it? Typical in Middle Eastern and Moroccan cuisine, these are whole lemons preserved in a brine of salt and their own juices. With the aging process they become intensely lemony, yet mellow. The pulp can be used, but the peel is most valued. In recipes calling for preserved lemon, grated lemon rind is acceptable but not a truly satisfactory substitute. They are simple to make and last for months and even years in your refrigerator.
How should I use it? Preserved lemons provide a strong and bold citrus flavoring. Use with roasted broccoli, Brussels sprouts or sautéed greens. Add to salad dressings and marinades. Excellent stirred into steamed clams or mussels or to top any fish.
Panko Bread Crumbs
What is it? Traditionally used in Japanese cuisine to provide a crunchy coating. Readily available in any grocery store.
How should I use it? Panko crumbs add texture and flavor to any dish. Mix with melted butter, garlic, salt, pepper and fresh thyme (or your favorite herbs) to add a great finishing touch to chicken and fish. Add some parmesan cheese to Panko crumbs and sprinkle on top of roasted asparagus or other cooked vegetables.
Nonfat Greek Yogurt
What is it? A thick, smooth and creamy yogurt that can be made into a savory or sweet sauce, dip or spread.
How should I use it? Chop any combination of herbs, olives, roasted peppers or capers in a food processor. Combine with plain Greek yogurt. Season with salt and pepper. This purée can be baked onto fish or chicken or added to any meats after cooking. Add dill and lemon zest and use as a dip for roasted shrimp. Add cucumber, mint and basil and use as a sauce for Mediterranean baby lamb chops.
Course Sea Salt
What is it? Salt from the sea that has a much larger grain than common table salt and is therefore more noticeable and impactful to the palate. The most important spice in your kitchen!
How should I use it? Coarse sea salt is typically used as a finishing touch. Sprinkle it over any red meat after resting and just before serving. It can also enhance the sweet factor. Sprinkle some sea salt on top of homemade chocolate chip cookies before baking. Slice Granny Smith apples, drizzle with organic honey, dust with fresh thyme and coarse sea salt, and serve as a unique and flavorful but light appetizer.
What is it? A Thai condiment made from a paste of chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt.
How should I use it? Blend with butter for a spicy spread. Include in Bloody Marys and soups to heat things up. Use with eggs, whether deviled, scrambled or fried, for a zesty punch.
Nut, Seed and Vegetable Oils
What is it? Some examples are hazelnut oil, pumpkin seed oil and avocado oil. These, and other uniquely flavored oils, can commonly be found in grocery stores now. They add a great depth of flavor.How should I use it? Use hazelnut oil with lemon juice, salt and pepper to dress a salad of baby spinach, goat cheese and toasted nuts. Pumpkin seed oil is delicious on roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash and roasted cauliflower. (Add a dash of ground curry for an exotic touch.) Avocado oil, salt, fresh lime and a pinch of cayenne pepper make a wonderful combination to flavor fish tacos.
What is it? Black pepper is the dried berries of a climbing vine grown in hot, humid climates. It is one of the world’s most frequently used spices and enhances other flavors by adding pungency and heat. Divine when used in unexpected ways.
How should I use it? Use freshly ground black pepper on strawberries or cantaloupe to draw out their taste. Add to a cherry jam tart for a little “zing”. Grind onto grilled peaches to complete a truly special meal.
What is it? Shallots, like onions, are a member of the Allium family, but their flavor is milder and sweeter. Shallots provide a little bit of sharpness without the overwhelming strong flavor typical of onions.
How should I use it? An integral component of traditional French sauces and vinaigrettes, shallots pair brilliantly with meat, game and fish. Mix with curries and chili paste for an Asian flare. Sauté in butter until translucent and add to lightly steamed vegetables for a delicate finish.
Typically new cooks err on the side of under seasoning – so be brave, but just in case, always taste as you go.
Did you try these? Or did you come up with some amazing flavor boosters of your own? Let me know. Talk food to me at email@example.com. I want to hear from you!