Sponsor Article from Ro*Tel®
Spice up the recipes your family already loves by keeping a handful of secret ingredients tucked away in the pantry. Big flavors can exist in little bottles, and all you need to know is where to look at the store and how they can be incorporated into your dishes at home. With a dash of something new, your family will be surprised how you transformed dinner from underwhelming to unexpected with ingredients you had on-hand.
Dried herbs offer great versatility of flavor and store easily, making them a handy tool for the busy cook. The flavor of dried spices is derived from the essential oils they contain, which requires protecting during their selection, storage and preparation. When shopping, choose whole spices over ground ones (ground have a tendency to lose flavor quickly as they are bottled and stored). Store spices away from light and heat to avoid losing potency: An ideal spot is in a drawer or cabinet not directly adjacent to the oven or stove. When possible, use a dedicated coffee grinder for whole spices just before you need to use them. When adding dried spices to a dish, sauté them for a minute in hot oil. For example, adding them just as a batch of onions finishes softening. This toasts them and revitalizes their flavor.
Ready to try it? Switch up your favorite Italian meat sauce with a heavy pinch of ground fennel, add a dash of cinnamon to sautéed ground beef for tacos or finely grate nutmeg over your favorite cheese sauce.
Jarred Roasted Red Peppers
Keep a jar of roasted red peppers — a widely used ingredient from Mediterranean to Mexican cooking — in your pantry for a shortcut to bold flavor. Before adding to recipes, drain the peppers from their liquid (water, brine or oil, depending on the brand) and chop. Blend red peppers into your favorite marinara sauce, or puree them to use as a base for pizza instead of tomatoes.
Olives and Capers
Brined ingredients like olives and capers bring big flavor to dishes because of their salty and savory nature. To avoid over-salting a dish, drain olives and capers before using a modest amount. Add olives before simmering your favorite tomato-based stew or stir chopped capers into a bit of mayonnaise for a BLT.