Sometimes all it takes is one simple ingredient to turn your everyday recipes into a gourmet meal. There are literally hundreds of single ingredients which, when added to your dish, will transform the entire flavor profile of the food.
You may recognize these ingredients, but when used in new ways, they become something totally different. Very simple spices like rosemary added to your baked chicken and potatoes or ingredients like prosciutto on your Hawaiian pizza, will change things up quite a bit. I can think of three extremely versatile ingredients to jazz up almost any dish you can make. Let’s take a quick look at these simple ingredients:
One of the classic ways to instantly transform a dish is with the use of heavy cream. Take a chicken Parmesan dish, for instance. If you want to give this dish a gourmet finish, try adding heavy cream to the tomato sauce. Not only will it tone down the acid from the tomato, it also adds a rich, creamy dimension to the entire dish.
Do you have a pile of recipes that call for cream of mushroom soup? Substitute a heavy cream white sauce thickened in a simple roux made of butter and flour and, voila!, you have a gourmet dish instead of a cafeteria-style casserole.
Heavy cream also works well for soups and chili. If you have a beef and barley soup that just seems bland with beef stock, try adding a little heavy cream to give the soup depth. The cream will also give a boost to the beefy flavor. Classic chowders and creamy soups will always benefit from a splash of heavy cream.
You can even add heavy cream to your routine breakfast foods. Use cream instead of milk when you make French toast and you have just added a little ooo la la! Whip heavy cream into eggs for the ultimate light and fluffy omelet delight.
You may not want to totally replace milk with heavy cream simply because the fat and calories are rather prohibitive to most diets. However, heavy cream, when used sparingly, is a great resource to keep in your refrigerator. It possesses unique qualities that makes it that special ingredient that becomes your secret to those extraordinary meals.
Who would have thought these little green berries could make such an impact on the culinary scene? With the addition of capers, you give your dish a swift kick in the pants it never saw coming. The small little pickled berries have a distinct salt and vinegar taste that will transform any typical dish into a Mediterranean dance on your flavor palate. Capers are what the word ‘piquant’ was invented for.
Capers are a secret ingredient that gives everything from meat to pasta an incredible gourmet flare. To start cooking with capers, you may want to think of a simple sauce. Turn a routine creamy lemon sauce into a mouth-watering burst of flavor with the addition of a few small capers. This lemony sauce would be perfect drizzled over grilled or baked fish, turkey, chicken, or even vegetables.
The next time you create your classic Minestrone, give it a gourmet kick by stirring in capers. There’s no reason you can’t give the same kick to your favorite spaghetti sauce, too. Italian cooking is the perfect match for capers.
Don’t forget seafood dishes including steamed shellfish and creamy chowders. And, even something as simple as egg salad, deviled eggs, or tuna sandwiches can be given the gourmet treatment by adding capers. Surprisingly, breakfast dishes are very adaptable to this blast of taste from capers. Savory scrambled eggs, omelets, and frittatas are made even better with the addition of this flavor powerhouse.
The use of capers has caught on in many cultures, but not so much in American cuisine, yet. For some reason, not many people attempt to experiment with the flavor profile of the capers, and even go so far as omitting them in classic dishes that call for capers. The next time you see capers in a recipe, include them. And, the next time you want to give one of your regular recipes a big piquant flavor boost, consider adding a sprinkling of those little green capers. Your plain recipes will earn the title gourmet.
This ingredient is actually an ordinary recipe that packs an extraordinary wallop. Typically, pesto is nothing more than a simple mix of basil, garlic, olive oil, and pine nuts. Many people make their own pesto at home in a variety of ways. Or, if you prefer, you can always find fabulous pesto at your favorite grocery store.
Pesto is great to dress-up and flavor-up grilled meats, fish, seafood, and chicken, or to create many gourmet-style pasta or rice dishes. Because the flavor has a strong basil base, you should also consider adding a teaspoon or so to a pot of spaghetti sauce, lasagna, soup, or any recipe that would benefit from the addition of basil and a nice little kick.
Add this fantastic blend of ingredients to turn a basic deli-cuts sandwich into a gourmet treat. Mix a bit of pesto in mayonnaise to make a unique spread that will perk up a simple ham, turkey, or Club sandwich. Pesto added to the oil and vinegar dressing on a classic Caprese salad will wed the flavors of the tomato, basil, and fresh mozzarella cheese into a gourmet delight.
What about pesto for breakfast? When you break down the pesto into the basic ingredients, you can see how any omelet, scrambled eggs, or frittata would benefit. But, don’t forget muffins or cornbread, too. Just a dab of pesto will make a pan of cornbread something entirely different than you’ll ever find at one of those breakfast chain restaurants.
That’s what budget gourmet cooking is all about – turning your kitchen into a gourmet kitchen, easily and simply. How simple to keep a few ingredients handy that will do the job without having to dig up recipes or spend a lot of money. Jazzing up your standard recipes with one simple ingredient is an easy and affordable way to offer your family new dishes without having to scour through countless gourmet magazines for ideas. Grab one of the ingredients from above, or try one of your own, and turn up the notch a tad the next time you serve your favorite dishes.
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