Words like "pamplemousse" and "flambé"... aromas of tropical fruits and flowers in a wine glass... combinations of flavours like curry and coconut in a marshmallow... all these are reasons why I am a food geek. There is wonder not just in every bite of food or sip of wine, but also in the sounds and the smells. Food is fun! Isn't it true that watching someone flambé bananas is a whole experience? You hear the crackle, smell the caramelizing sugar and the brandy as it flames, and you taste the rich sweetness and the complexity of the flavours combining.
In the dead of winter, I thought perhaps I could offer a few suggestions to spice up your everyday diet of food experiences, in hopes of making you smile on a grey day. I've even got something for the meat-and-mashed-potato people :)
Let's start with breakfast. How about something new on your toast in the morning, like tomato and cream cheese and maybe a sprinkle of basil? If you eat yogurt, try toasted nuts or seeds (you can toast them ahead of time so you're not rushed in the morning). They add flavour and texture. Dried fruits work well too. Oh, let me guess, you're one of those people who doesn't do breakfast. I think you are missing a great opportunity to start the day happy but if you insist, how about a pinch of cinnamon in with your coffee grounds, or added to your cup of coffee? It's not just good on lattes!
Lunch is easy to kick up a notch, even if you pack it. Kids can have fun weird things - like a bit of homemade dip for veggies or fruit, granola to munch on, sandwiches or wraps with weird combinations like chutney and chicken or cheese, olive tapenade and cured meat or cheese or canned fish, hommous with shredded carrot and cucumber... the sky's the limit! If you're making something fresh, how about considering the concept of bread for a grilled cheese like a blank canvas? You can combine any cheese with any veggie or meat or spread... gruyere with bacon and mushrooms, cheddar with apple and green onion, brie with chicken and almonds. Leftover meats are good to use too - how about some butter chicken with the brie, or spice-rubbed pork roast with smoked cheddar? Any condiment in your fridge likely has potential too - sundried tomato tapenade or antipasto, mustards, chutneys, pickled veggies even! Live dangerously if you feel adventurous and see what you like best. Think of flavours and textures you like.
Dinner is all about planning, because we know life is busy. Start by giving an old favourite a new twist. This is the birth of your own sort of fusion cooking - you can add a spice, or a topping, to a dish - it can kick up the flavours or add a bit of crunch or creaminess, depending on your whim (spicy chilis,fresh herbs, nuts, croutons, melted cheese). For you meat-and-potatoes people, how about a dash or horseradish or roasted garlic or Dijon mustard in your mashed potatoes? Or some lemon zest grated over roast potatoes or home fries when you pull them from the oven? If you're feeling gutsy, try a new version of a recipe you like - maybe making lasagna with sliced zucchini instead of noodles. Switch meats - how about pork cacciatore instead of chicken? If you want to up your game and increase your repertoire, try setting a goal of one new recipe per week, or month even. With all the Food Network shows and blogs and newsletters with recipes, there is plenty of fodder out there to use!
Dessert is my favourite. I like to enjoy different things at the end of a meal, as a salute to my sense of adventure. Any time I see a dessert recipe that's new I want to give it a try - whether that means make it or taste it. While we were in Jamaica I had grapefruit mousse with tamarind sauce over a chocolate brownie. It was like a beach party in my mouth! Yesterday I made cookies from a recipe I've had for years, but this time I substituted raisins for nuts, and added a bit of buckwheat and cocoa with the all-purpose flour. They were a new kind of delicious.
I have a great winter dessert on my blog for you to try, and it offers all the WOWs I mentioned... Pamplemousse Pie. It's a recipe I found in France, so I kept the French word for more fun; "pamplemousse" is the French word for grapefruit. This may sound like too much tartness, but trust me, if you can tolerate even a little bit of marmalade, you'll enjoy this. Try it with a dollop of whipped mascarpone for added richness.
I hope I have encouraged you to step outside the bounds of your kitchen comfort zone. Short grey days shouldn't be reinforced with boring winter food. Bon Appetit!