Quick and easy garnishes to glam up your plain, boring food
WHETHER you are stuck with a plain protein and starch or leftovers in need of an upgrade, these are some garnishes and additions to consider, arranged by category.
Whole roasted, spiced chickpeas are easy to do at home, and given that they are one of the trendier snacks of late, why not keep a bag in your pantry, too? Indian markets are gold mines when it comes to these types of garnishes. Look for bags of whole or split fried and spiced beans, as well as snack mixes that include them along with nuts, fruit and short threads of chickpea noodles. Nuts on their own are another option. Ideally, they would be toasted - small amounts in a skillet over medium heat and larger in a 350-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes.
If you want a combination of spice and sweetness, choose an Indian chutney or Mexican salsa, the latter of which can be chunky or, well, saucy. Chutney pairs well with cheese in a sandwich or on a board, and salsa can glam up anything from scrambled eggs to, of course, tacos.
A dill or mint yoghurt sauce adds a Mediterranean accent to grilled meat or a grain bowl. Ditto hummus, whether you whir together your own or grab a tub at the supermarket. If your taste leans more toward Spain, you can’t go wrong with romesco, a smoky-pepper-andtomato sauce that is at home on almost any protein or grain, or as a dip.
Yes, the incredible egg deserves its own category. To call it a garnish may even be an injustice, because adding it can turn almost anything insufficient into a real meal. And you almost always have them around. Add an egg to leftover takeout rice along with some veggies and you’ve got fried rice. A crispy fried egg over roasted vegetables can be a light, seasonal meal. A poached egg, runny yolk and all, can double as a sauce in your grain bowl. Or put together an impromptu eggs Benedict with an English muffin and whatever extra veggies or meat you have. Hard-boiled eggs contribute heft to salads, sandwiches or tacos.
Cue the “Portlandia” sketch! Yes, you can pickle a lot. And why not? Pickled foods deliver a one-two-threefour punch of crunch, sweet, salt and spice. Use them to perk up a sandwich or plate of nachos. Because their flavour is so piercing, they’re perfect for cutting through the richness of a creamy egg or chicken salad or a gooey grilled cheese.
For a quick DIY garnish, there’s no need to go the whole canning route. Small-batch refrigerator pickles are easy to throw together on a weekend (or even a weeknight) and will give you a good few weeks of use. When the banana pepper plant my mother-in-law planted for us went bonkers, I took the surplus and just poured hot vinegar seasoned with salt and sugar over the sliced rings and stored them in a couple of half-pint jars. Hot peppers are ideal for this type of prep. Pickled onions are versatile as well.
Or don’t worry about making your own, because pickled foods are all over the grocery store. Naturally, there are cucumber pickles in all kinds of shapes, sizes and flavours. Other pickled/fermented foods to consider: Olives, green beans, capers, sauerkraut and kimchi. – Washington Post.
Quick and easy garnishes to glam up your plain, boring food. - Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post