Being Better: 6 Ways To Add Some Fancy To Your Home-Cooked Meals
In an attempt at "Being Better," I've been strictly shopping the all-natural and organics aisles, and have been making a decent effort to cook more meals at home. But I've found that my brevity for recipes is not quite as "brev" as I would like it to be, and the good 'ole Meat-Veggie-Carbhydrate trinity is becoming rather old. So, I've been pondering ways to make my staple meals more interesting. Here are 6 ways to make your home-cooked meals a bit more fancy.
1. Go Vertical
You know what sounds good? Herb-crusted salmon and grilled asparagus. You know what sounds better? Herb-crusted salmon on a bed of grilled asparagus. As silly as it may sound, stacking your food somehow makes it feel more gourmet and less I-just-pulled-this-out-of-the-oven-myself. Apply this simple trick to any of your favorite recipes. My next attempt will be grilled pork chop topped with chimichurri sauce, over potatoes au gratin. Ommmm nom nom.
2. Spice It Up
My lovely roommate once asked me what kind of spices to put on grilled chicken. (I love you, dear), but I was flabbergasted! Most people are just a few shakes away from a deliciously-spiced meal. My mother always cooked with the Holy Three -- (sea) salt, pepper, and garlic -- and those are the three spices that my cabinet is never without. From there, I get creative with some of my other favorite spices, like basil (sweet Italian and Thai), oregano, thyme, rosemary, crushed red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, white and black pepper, and Old Bay seasoning, for when I get a-hankerin' for that steamed shramp. Get creative, and don't be shy with those spices!
3. Grab That Soy Sauce
Chicken, veggies and rice for dinner, again??? Let's make it interesting this time. Add some soy sauce! Now, I'd never really cooked anything Asian at home until a few years ago, so I wouldn't even pretend to know what I'm talking about in this department. But it tastes good to me! I usually start by sautéing a little garlic in a pan, then I add the veggies (usually chopped onions, peppers, broccoli, and carrots), followed by my chicken, pork or shrimp (usually spiced with a little white pepper and Thai basil). After I've prepared my noodles or rice, I toss it all into the pan and sauté with a bit of sesame oil and soy sauce (add some red pepper flakes for spice). It might not be authentic, but it sure is nommy.
4. Top It Off
Everything is more fancy with something on top of it. My all-time favorite topping for any meat or fish is chimichurri sauce (my own special recipe to follow soon), but I also love to top off my dishes with a little cheese. I usually shave a tiny bit of parmesan or pecorino romano on top of my dinner, but blue cheese crumbles, gorgonzola, and feta are delicious, too. Even a simple garnish like a rosemary sprig or a basil leaf will do the trick.
5. Mix It Up
We're not 5 years old anymore. It's ok if our food touches, right? Right. One of my favorite meals is a fresh spicy Italian sausage from the local organic butcher with some veggies or brown rice on the side. Recently, I experimented by cooking the ground sausage meat with some chopped red onions and minced garlic in a pan, then adding in a bit of red sauce, tomato paste, parmesan cheese, and brown rice. What I got was this seriously spice-tastic sausage-rice mixed that is delicious, quick, and great as a leftover. It's also wonderful as a stuffing for vegetables, which brings me to our final fancy trick...
6. Stuff It
Take that nommy sausage mix (detailed recipe in a future blog post), stuff it into half of a green pepper or a portabello mushroom, or some other lovely upside-down-umbrella shaped veggie, top with shredded parmesan, and bake! Food stuffed inside other food just screams "fancy," don't you think? I also love making crab cake stuffed shrimp as an appetizer or side dish.
Et voilà! That is one fancy feast. Who says your home-cooked meals shouldn't be as special as a night out?