You don’t have to be an Iron Chef in order to serve up mouthwatering and (heart) healthy dishes your family will want to eat.
Healthy food is often thought of as being bland, but that does not have to be the case at all! Here are three simple steps to develop ﬂavor in the foods you prepare throughout the cooking process.
1. Boost flavor with herbs, spices and marinades.
Natural flavors—such as citrus juice and zest, herbs, spices, and vinegars—add zing and bold flavor to meals. In addition to cutting back on fat, sodium and calories, these are also some of the top sources of disease fighting antioxidants in your diet. If you’re new to cooking with herbs and spices , start by using the basic ones like basil, oregano and thyme. Crushed smoked chili peppers and cilantro add a little heat and a Mexican or South American flair to dishes while coriander, cumin and ginger add the sweet and spicy flavors of Asia.
You know another source of powerful antioxidants which can help lower both bad cholesterol and blood pressure? Tea. Green and black teas have been shown to be the most effective in promoting heart health. You may pour yourself a cup of tea to drink during the day, but have you tried cooking with it? Tea can be used as a base for a broth or sauce, or as the liquid for poaching or steaming.
Marinades are great ways to add flavor too. Most foods don’t need to marinate very long which makes using marinades perfect for weekday meals. Marinate fish for up to 30 minutes and thinner cuts of meat and chicken pieces for 30 minutes to a few hours. Be sure to turn your food while marinating so all sides absorb the flavors. If your marinade has been used with raw meat or fish, do not reuse it. Toss it. It contains harmful bacteria.
2. Roast and sear whenever possible.
These methods cook food in a hot pan over high heat, resulting in a beautiful, crusty exterior. When natural sugars in foods come into contact with high heat on the stove (searing) or in the oven (roasting), they caramelize, bringing mellowed sweetness to any vegetable (roasted beets, Brussels sprouts and bell peppers are just a few of my favorites) and a complex savory, nutty, deeply caramelized flavor to meats and fish.
Use a stainless steel or a cast iron skillet for this kind of cooking; avoid nonstick skillets. Add a few teaspoons of vegetable oil, it has a higher smoke point, and set the pan set over high heat. As it’s heating, swirl the oil around to get a thin coating over the bottom of the pan. Pat the meat dry as the pan heats — this helps keep it from steaming instead of searing. When the oil starts to shimmer and smoke just slightly, you’re ready to add the meat. Don’t overcrowd when you do add the meat, it prevents steaming.
3. Finish your dish with a sprinkle of freshness.
Top dishes with fresh, chopped herbs like parsley and cilantro or a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Grated Parmesan cheese adds a dash of creaminess and aroma while chopped nuts add a bit of crunch.