Adventures in the Kitchen: New Recipes
Start a new year with some kitchen adventures. Food Editor Robyn Webb, MS, LN, suggests new cooking techniques, spices, and do-it-yourself staples.
Cooking with Moist Heat
How to create tender, tasty food
When you’re looking to cook foods quickly, without too much added fat but with tender, moist results, I highly recommend cooking with water. The recipe to the left uses the technique of poaching—gently simmering foods in a flavorful liquid. Here are a few other healthy cooking methods that yield delicious results:
- Steaming: There are many ways to achieve this cooking technique, but they all share a common factor: The food is kept separate from the boiling water or liquid. Instead, the liquid vaporizes into steam, which heats the food. You can use a steam cooker—a two-part bamboo or metal steamer. The food retains its flavor; none is boiled away. Food that’s steamed won’t brown, so chicken and seafood won’t look golden and crusty when cooked through.
- Braising: Dry heat and liquid cooking combine for this method, often used with cuts of meat and for stews. First, sear the food at a high temperature with just a little oil to create a crust and lock in the flavors and juices. Finish cooking the food at a low temperature in liquid, covered. This long-and-slow method tenderizes tougher cuts of meat and allows flavors to meld.
- En Papillote (in parchment): This cooking method involves steaming food in a parchment paper or aluminum foil packet. The sealed pouch locks in moisture from the food and any liquids you add, such as a little bit of wine or broth. Plus, the packets are a fun way to present the food at the table. But be careful when slitting them open: Hot steam will escape.
Healthy flavor boosters to make at home
We’re all busy, and today’s vast selection of prepared foods means you don’t really need to cook. But for fresh-made taste and more control over what’s added to your foods, consider making your own staples. Like the homemade marinara sauce on the opposite page, these three staples are surprisingly easy and delicious to make at home:
- Salad Dressings: Commercial salad dressings may be quick, but they are full of unnecessary salt, sugar, and preservatives. Instead, make your own dressings with some good-quality olive or nut oil, an acidic liquid such as citrus juice or vinegar, and your favorite selection of fresh herbs, spices, and aromatics. Combine the acidic liquid with the herbs, spices, and aromatics, then add the oil in a thin stream, whisking to emulsify. You may want to let the dressing rest for a bit so the flavors can combine. When you’re ready to serve the salad, make sure the greens and other ingredients are dry, so the dressing will stick. And add the dressing to the salad just before you serve it so the crisp bits stay crisp!
- Spice Blends: Creating your own spice blend, like the za’atar on page 60, allows you to experiment with your favorite flavors. You can also control the amount of sugar or salt you add, if any. Use dried spices when they’re at their freshest, before they lose flavor to time and temperature. Toast whole spices before grinding them and mixing them into homemade combos. Store homemade spice blends in a tightly sealed container for up to three months.
- Crunchy Toppers: Chefs know that a sprinkle of crunch adds adventure to the most standard recipe. Use toasted nuts and seeds or a homemade crunchy topper (a great way to use up high-fiber cereal, p. 66) to add the finishing touch to soups, salads, and steamed veggies.