Every so often you taste something at a restaurant so flavorful, so unique, that you want to burst into the kitchen and bow before the chef on bended knee. How did he or she do it? What’s the secret? Chances are there are no great mysteries, only that the best, freshest ingredients were used for brightening flavor and adding color to the dish. Here are 10 ingredients to add that will make your meals as memorable as the pros’ with recipe suggestions to get you cooking.
Hold the onions! When a recipe calls for onions, consider adding leeks instead to create a subtle sweet flavor that won’t overpower the dish — or your date. Their light green hue also adds a pleasant hint of color to salads, soups, or side dishes. Best of all, you can leave them uncovered in the fridge without needing to double up on your boxed baking soda.
Risotto with Smoked Turkey, Leeks and Mascarpone
Irish Lamb Stew
These herbs are also great in place of onions without the pungent taste or aroma. Either chopped or snipped, their bright color and delicate shape can elevate any dish. Even a bowl of plain ol’ mashed potatoes will be instantly transformed!
Frequently referred to as Italian bacon, a small portion of this cured meat can really elevate the flavor of a dish to an entirely new level. Incorporate it into your favorite sauces and soups.
These protein-rich snack foods that you keep in your desk drawer to steer you clear of the sugar-coated vending machine treats at work are also great to fortify the flavor and texture of your favorite soups and salads. Try toasting your favorite kind to bring out their rich flavor. Two to try: pine nuts and pumpkin seeds.
Lemons and limes can perk up otherwise bland dishes with their tangy flavors. Squeeze over vegetables, fish, even steak in place of salt to brighten the flavor without adding sodium. Use fresh fruits whenever possible.
Mixed Citrus and Arugula Salad
Chicken and Rice Salad with Pine Nuts and Lemon
Cranberry-Orange Nut Cookies
Add warmth to even raw dishes by using ginger. With its fresh, aromatic flavor and health benefits, this herb has been a highlight of Asian cuisine for centuries.
Vegetable Stir-Fry with Ginger Vinaigrette
Asian Chicken Noodle Soup
Penne with Shrimp and Spicy Tomato Sauce
Fresh, stewed, or dried, the sweet and tart flavor of fruits such as peaches, apricots, cranberries, and cherries complements a wide range of both sweet and savory dishes.
Spiced Chicken Legs with Apricots and Raisins
Cherries Poached in Red Wine with Mascarpone Cream
Deep-Dish Peach-Raspberry Pie
Add spice without the fat by using this classic Mexican condiment on eggs, vegetables, meats, and other dishes. While fresh tomato salsa is preferred, jarred varieties can work in a pinch.
Vegetables steamed in water are just, well, steamed vegetables. But simmer them in chicken or vegetable broth and you have a savory side dish that even kids who have sworn off anything green will enjoy eating.
Homemade Chicken Broth
Tortellini and Spinach in Garlic Broth
Sausages, Potatoes and Artichoke Hearts in Tomato Broth
While Survivor contestants who have lived on coconuts for weeks on end might not agree, your palate will be pleased with the unexpected tropical flavor of coconut milk. Use in place of water for boiling rice or other grains and as a substitute for regular milk in dessert recipes.