Food Network Editors’ Favorite Ways to Zhuzh Up Meals

A drizzle here or a sprinkle there can take even the simplest of dishes from alright to amazing.

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October 13, 2022

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Photo by: Photo courtesy of Amazon

Photo courtesy of Amazon

If you are anything like us, you are constantly searching for fresh ways to take your meals up a notch. We love that the zhuzhing — adding something to make a dish more exciting — can make a homecooked meal feel like it came out of a five-star restaurant. Finishing your dish with a new oil, crunchy topping or seasoning blend can really take your weeknight dinner to the next level. Here are our favorite ways to spruce up a meal.

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“Drizzle a good-quality, very fresh, extra-virgin olive oil over finished dishes to take them from standard to sublime. It works on soups, stews, pasta and meats but don’t let that limit you. My nine-year-old loves it on rice with flaky salt and black pepper, and it’s wonderful on chocolate ice cream or macerated strawberries. Primo is an excellent versatile oil that appeals to many palates as it’s well balanced and doesn’t overpower.”
–Alexis Pisciotta, Culinary Purchasing and Events Manager

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$8.34

“Store-bought fried shallots are my go-to. Often used in Southeast Asian cooking, they’re magically crispy, deep golden brown and savory-salty-sweet. I love sprinkling a big handful of them over any sort of roasted vegetable side dish, slaw, salad or heck, even mac and cheese. They’re such an easy way to add textural crunch and visual oomph to any dish.”
–Heath Goldman, Culinary Editor

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“My technique is: I like to perk up long cooked braises, soups and stews by adding a few key finishing elements beyond just some salt and pepper. Often I'll add a pinch of the same dry spice I used earlier in the recipe right at the end to freshen up the long cooked flavor and to enhance what was already there. I also add a small splash of vinegar in the last few minutes of cooking (balsamic or red wine vinegar are my go-tos) to cut through some of the heaviness and round out all the flavors. I often do this before my final seasoning with salt as a bit of acidity will replace the need for more seasoning.”
–Melissa Gaman, Recipe Developer

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“I love to use soy finishing salt on just about anything including eggs, avocado, roasted meats and veggies, and especially rice. It gives that crystallized salty bite of a finishing salt but infused with a rich umami soy flavor.”
–Jenny Bierman Director, Culinary Production

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“Lately, I’m really into the Crispy Jalapeño Pieces from Trader Joe's. They’re great for topping salads, grain bowls, pastas and even sandwiches for a little extra crunch and a bit of heat — which I think every dish needs!”
–Lauren Piro, Editorial Director

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$10.99

“Mike’s Hot Honey is my pantry secret weapon. I always squeeze a swirl into red pasta sauce and it truly makes something as simple as penne and jarred arrabbiata have a wow factor. The sweet heat always puts a smile on my face.”
–Maggie Wong, Editor

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$8.78

“I had my very first taste of Ken’s Honey Balsamic Dressing at a family barbecue over the summer, and ever since it's become my secret weapon for dressing up practically any dish. Yes, it's fantastic as a salad dressing, but it's even better when tossed over roasted Brussel sprouts or used as a dipper for breaded chicken cutlets – trust me, you should try it! I love the condiment's briny-yet-sweet flavor most of all, and I’ve been super tempted lately to try it over something sweet, like plain vanilla ice cream or a simple yogurt and berry parfait. There’s been a shortage of it recently at my local grocery store, so it seems like more and more people in my neighborhood are catching on to this secret sauce.”
–Michelle Baricevic, Online Editorial Coordinator, Food Network Magazine

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Food Stylist: Susan Spungen
Prop Stylist: Pamela Duncan Silver

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Food Stylist: Susan Spungen Prop Stylist: Pamela Duncan Silver

Photo by: Con Poulos

Con Poulos

“My favorite way to zhuzh a piece of fish, chicken or vegetables came from this simple salmon recipe. It features a muhammara-inspired relish of chopped walnuts, roasted red peppers and parsley and it taught me that any nut + any herb can make a delicious and beautiful topping for just about everything. Sometimes I’ll use almonds and cilantro with crushed red pepper, other times I’ll go spicier and combine roasted peanuts, scallions and jalapenos. A little olive oil helps bind everything together and a splash of vinegar, lemon juice or other acid adds brightness. It’s the ultimate use-what-you have garnish that is hard to mess up.”
–Lygeia Grace, Director, Culinary Editorial, Food Network

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