Chef Jackie Newgent, RDN, shares her favorite tips on how to make tastier springtime meals.
With summer around the corner, spring is the time we often look to lighten up our meals. But going lighter doesn’t mean you need to accept blah breakfasts, bland lunches, or boring dinners. In fact, health-friendlier meals can mean more deliciousness.
So here are a few of my favorite and simplest strategies for heightening taste. I suggest focusing on one of these culinary tips a week. Eventually, you’ll find yourself naturally including all of these approaches as part of your lively meal repertoire. I promise, your taste buds will thank you.
1. Reach for Umami
Umami is the name for savory or “meaty” taste. But you don’t actually need meat to get it. A few ways to up the umami in your dishes is by incorporating more mushrooms, fully ripened tomatoes, naturally brewed soy sauce, or green tea.
Tip: Sauté sliced mushrooms with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a pinch of fresh rosemary until the mushrooms are softened. Use the mushrooms as the “meat” of a sandwich—or make a better burger by blending finely chopped sautéed mushrooms with less meat, and grill.
2. Feel the “Heat”
To create more depth of flavor, try a little bit of a spicy ingredient. I’m not talking about food that’ll make you sweat. I’m talking about a pinch of minced jalapeño pepper, splash of hot sauce, or dab of curry paste, for instance. Add just enough to create pep. Try it with mixed dishes, veggies, soups, dips, and desserts.
Tip: Prepare seasonal veggies any which way you like—grilled, stir-fried, or steamed. Then just toss with a drizzle of Gochujang (it’s a Korean sweet and spicy sauce). No other ingredients required.
3. Go for Spice Intrigue
Spices provide flavor panache and fragrant interest. So take full advantage of your spice rack. This is especially important to consider when preparing calorie-conscious cuisine to keep full-flavorful. Be playful, but start with just a smidgen of one or two spices at a time—not the whole rack at once, of course!
Tip: Pick opposites by adding a “sweet” spice to a savory dish for taste intrigue. Sprinkle ground cinnamon or ginger onto grilled chicken breast or kebabs.
4. Get Fresh with Herbs
I include fresh herbs in an integral way for healthful recipes, not just as a garnish or afterthought. They provide refreshing and distinctive aroma. Since most flavors actually come by way of your nose, this is one key to tasty fare.
Tip: Enhance salads by using herbs as part of the greens or the dressing. Toss in a small handful of fresh mint or basil leaves along with your leafy greens. Or whirl together equal parts extra-virgin olive oil, golden balsamic vinegar, and fresh cilantro or tarragon for an easy herb vinaigrette.
5. Try Acidic Pairings
Pairing wine to food can boost the overall taste appeal of your meal. The same can be said of matching an acid ingredient—like vinegar, lime juice, or lemon juice—to your foods. Consider pairing these acids as you might pair wines to food. Try red wine vinegar with Italian food or lime juice with Mexican food. It’s magical how a simple squirt can heighten flavor.
Tip: Pick up some kale, tatsoi, spinach, or other dark leafy greens from the farmers’ market. Wilt or sauté the greens and add a sassy splash of lemon juice or aged balsamic vinegar; it delightfully balances bitterness.
Need more ways to boost flavor in your food? Just ask us below—or connect with Jackie on Twitter @jackienewgent.