Submitted by: Joanne Perez, Real Bite Nutrition
Healthy cooking doesn’t have to be boring? It doesn’t even have to be complicated. To become a culinary master of healthy cuisine, you just need learn how to layer. In the food world, layering is all about combining, expanding and deepening a dish’s flavors with different cooking techniques, herbs & spices, complimentary ingredients and flavor enhancing substitute ingredients. The goal is to make that last bite taste as flavorful, but a little different as the first one. By layering, you can slash (and not even miss) sodium, fat and calories while enhancing nutrient absorption.
Many chefs believe that how you cook an ingredient is almost as important as the ingredient itself. A simple tomato (the fruit that wants to be vegetable) takes on a whole new life once it is roasted. Its flavor is more concentrated and intense with less liquid. Add a few roasted tomatoes to some canned tomatoes and add a few diced fresh ones, and you have taken your sauce gourmet without any added fat, sodium or calories.
Believe it or not, it is not hard to give your meal the look and flavor of 5-star restaurant. Each of the following techniques will bring a robust and unique flavor profile to any food.
Ever wonder how the chef gets that wonderful crust on your T-bone? The answer is searing. Searing is a cooking technique that not only gives an outer crust, but also locks in the juices keeping the item moist and juicy by caramelizing the sugars and browning the proteins. All you need to do is take your pan (don’t use a non-stick pan for this), add a few drops of vegetable oil, swirl it around the pan and let it get nice and hot. Then add your meat. It’s important that you pat the meat dry to prevent it from steaming instead of searing before you coat it with your seasonings. Once the oil is sizzling, add the meat and let the magic begin. Make sure you don’t fuss with the meat, as it needs a few minutes of uninterrupted contact. It will stick at first but then naturally release when the sear is complete. This is your clue to turn it over. Once you’ve seared all sides of the meat, it’s time to remove the meat and finish the cooking using whatever cooking method your dish calls for.
This browning technique brings out the natural sweetness of a food and hence, intensifies its flavor and aroma. To caramelize, you just need to take sautéing to the next level. If your recipe calls for sautéed onions, simply cook them over a medium heat until they take on a golden color and get ready to taste onions like never before.
There’s a reason why you always see roasted vegetables on a fancy restaurants menu. Roasting enhances the natural flavor of anything and everything (think Thanksgiving turkey). It’s so easy that you would be nuts not to use your oven for more than just baking. Preheat your oven to 400, drizzle your vegetables with a little oil and stick them in the oven for 20-45 minutes depending on the veggie. How easy is that?
In the culinary arts world, the word poach means to cook something in liquid with a temperature ranging from 140°F to 180°F. I’ll be the first one to admit that this technique takes a little practice, but once you master it, you’ll never eat an egg or piece of fish another way. Not only does poaching keep the food moist and tender, but it also imparts the flavor of the liquid to the food. You can use white wine or chicken/beef/vegetable stocks or even water that you add some citrus and herbs to as your liquid base. There are two types of poaching-deep poaching which has you completely cover the food with liquid and shallow poaching where the liquid covers the food about 2/3 up and is covered by a cartouche (grease proof piece of paper). Regardless of the type of poaching, you place the food in the pan, cover it with your great flavored liquid, bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer until cooked. The hardest part is finding that perfect simmering time. But we all know practice makes perfect.
We are not talking about sticking a few slices of bread into that appliance on your counter, but instead a way to bring out the flavor of nuts, whole spices and grains. Toasting releases the natural oils, which in turn brings out insane flavor. You can toast in a 400-degree oven using a cookie sheet or on the stove using a dry pan. Just throw the item on the cooking surface and let it cook until its color deepens.
These easy cooking techniques can turn any dish into something special. Taking a Real Bite is about learning how to enjoy food and eating so why not experiment. You never know what you might discover.