These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Julie Andrews is welcome to her raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens… I’ll take roasted garlic and a good balsamic reduction any day.

The unvarnished, fresh-from-the-vine truth? As you may have already guessed, I am head over heels for fresh produce – AKA ‘plants’. But this wasn’t always the case. For much of my life, I subsisted on a typical ‘Western diet’ – meaning all manner of foods processed and refined. Happily, a while back I began approaching my daily sustenance with a lot more attention paid to health and well-being. Fast forward to today – Sunday strolls through the farmer’s market are an essential weekend highlight (highly recommended – enjoy rows upon rows of vibrant produce, and informative chats with friendly local farmers). The ‘Western-diet-me’ wouldn’t believe what I now consider kitchen staples – it’s enough to make her head spin.

Fruits and vegetables are now at center stage – the star performers of my diet. On their own, many can be amazingly delicious. But if you’re a little wary of embracing them ‘au natural’, here are a few tricks that I use to add quick, healthy hits of flavor to just about anything.

balsamic reductionBalsamic Vinegar Reduction – Pour a large bottle of Balsamic vinegar (Costo Balsamic was made for this) into a sauce pan and heat over medium high, bringing to a low boil. Next, reduce heat to medium and simmer for about half an hour – until it reduces to approximately 1/3 its volume. Keep an eye on it – it can thicken quickly towards the end of the cooking time. (Think molasses thick. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.) Once you’ve reached the desired consistency – you’ll want it just thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon – take it off the heat and allow it to cool. Use a funnel to pour the reduction into a kitchen squeeze bottle. Refrigerate.

**I keep a squeeze bottle of this rich, syrupy ‘nectar of the gods’ on hand at all times. Pairs marvelously with roasted meats and every vegetable I’ve ever poured it on.

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Fresh Ginger – Use a microplane zester to grate it over steamed or sautéed veggies. (No peeling necessary.)

**Little muss, no fuss and plenty of flavor. I always keep some of this knobby yellow root on hand – fresh, and with a couple extra in the freezer for emergencies. (In a freezer-safe bag. I know I’ve said it already, but freezer burn just destroys great flavor.)

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lemon zestFresh Citrus – Grate fresh lemon or orange zest directly over sautéed chard or spinach. Substitute fresh lime or grapefruit juice for vinegar to lighten up homemade salad dressings.

**Don’t be afraid to try any kind of citrus. Even consider slicing kumquats into salads. A little dash of these tarty-sweet gems can brighten up even the darkest days of winter.

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Roasted Garlic - closeupRoasted Garlic – Preheat oven to 400°F. Peel off the outer layers of the entire garlic bulb – leaving the cloves intact. I like to use Elephant garlic – much more volume and a bit easier to handle. Cut off about 1/4 inch from the top of the cloves. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle each bulb with a few teaspoons of olive oil. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake for approximately 45 minutes – removing the foil after 20 minutes. The cloves will be ready when they are soft when pressed. You can use them immediately – or squeeze out individual cloves, blend up and place a dollop of the mixture into handy little compartments of ice cube trays and freeze. (If you choose to freeze, remove from trays when frozen and store in a freezer-safe bag.)

**A simply amazing addition to mashed potatoes, soups and sauces.

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Basil & Garlic Cubes – Blend a large bunch of chopped fresh basil with 1/2 cup olive oil and 2-3 cloves of garlic. Pour into an ice cube tray to freeze. Once frozen, save individual cubes in a freezer-safe bag.

**Throw unfrosted cubes into warm sauces or soups. Or defrost and drizzle directly over vegetables.



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4 Responses to “These Are a Few of My Favorite Things”

  1. Cherylynne says:

    Wow, I want to go right home and start cooking! They are so simple to do and yet hold such a complex promise of flavor. Yummy!!

  2. Saw your Blog bookmarked on Reddit.I love your site and marketing strategy.

  3. [...] It is also delicious with a drizzling of basamic reduction – which I blogged about here. var addthis_pub = 'orionwell'; var addthis_language = 'en';var addthis_options = 'email, [...]

  4. Shalonne says:

    The Balsamic is soo yummy. Beware it will stink up the kitchen (so open the windows) but worth it. It is really great on caprese salads.

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