Simple Seasoning Hacks
By Cheryl Forberg, RD
They’re quick. They’re easy. They deliver big flavor in small doses and add richness we crave. What’s not to love about condiments?
Defined as a relish, sauce, dressing or other food accompaniment, condiments can be used in a variety of ways to add zip and zest to a meal. You can use condiments in pre-cooking marinades and rubs, incorporate them into dishes as you cook, or offer them on the side at the table. Whether it’s a glaze, spread, or a rub, having a few extra seasoning tricks up your sleeve is a quick and easy way to jazz up a ho hum meal when you’re in a hurry and you’re not necessarily in a creative menu planning mood.
Types of condiments include:
Relishes, salsas and chutneys. Incorporating chopped vegetables and fruits along with herbs and acidic liquids like vinegar or lemon juice, these accompaniments can be chunky or smooth. Although generally considered condiments for savory dishes, they can have sweetish overtones, or range from mildly spicy to flaming hot.
Fruit butters, jellies, jams and preserves. Fruit or fruit juice, sugar, water and sometimes pectin are the traditional ingredients in these spreads; to make them more nutritious, reduce the amount of sweetener to bring out intense fruit flavors, and use a healthy alternative to white sugar, such as agave nectar.
Dressings. A sauce used to top salads and other dishes served cold or at room temperature, dressings can range far beyond the standard oil and vinegar combination. Using aromatic combinations of herbs, flavorful vinegars or citrus juice, and minimal fat can make dressings healthy as well as delicious.
Sauces. Any thickened, flavored liquid that accompanies food qualifies as a sauce – from tomato sauce for pasta to crème anglaise sauce for dessert. Swap rich staples like Hollandaise sauce for healthier alternatives that use fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices to deliver flavor and texture. To achieve richness, use avocado instead of mayo – or combine healthier options for classic favorites that satisfy without unhealthy fats or excess calories, as in the recipes below.
Glazes. A thin coating of intense sweet or savory flavor can add another layer of zest to a dish, without adding fat. Reductions of meat stocks or broths, melted dark chocolate or fruit spread can all be used in sparing amounts to boost flavor without sacrificing health.
Marinades. As described in the opening chapter, marinades bathe meat, fish and vegetables in flavor prior to cooking. The bath of aromatic liquid typically consists of an acidic substance like lemon juice or red wine, plus spices and herbs.
Rubs. Another pre-cooking flavor booster, rubs are a blend of herbs, spices and salt that coat the surface of food – adding a flavor kick with few calories and no fat.
Chermoula (also spelled Charmoula) is a Middle Eastern seasoning blend used to flavor meat, chicken, fish and vegetables. Typically, it contains a combination of coriander, cumin, garlic and lemon. Here, it’s used as a spicy add to creamy roast eggplant. I’ve used Japanese eggplant to make it easier for individual servings. This is a great side dish to serve with roast lamb, chicken or fish. It’s also a great mezze to serve with tabbouleh and hummus.
3 T olive oil
2 T finely chopped preserved lemon (or lemon zest)
2 t finely chopped garlic
1 t chili flakes
1 t smoked paprika
1 t red chili flakes
1 t smoked salt
3/4 t ground coriander
3/4 t ground cumin
½ t ground sumac
3 Japanese eggplants
2 T chopped cilantro
1 T chopped fresh mint
S and P to taste
Combine the chermoula ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Halve the eggplants lengthwise. Score them with deep diagonal lines, without piercing the skin and place them on a baking sheet. Spread or brush the chermoula over the eggplants, spreading evenly to cover.
Bake in preheated over for 20 to 25 minutes or until eggplants are completely soft and cooked through. Remove from oven.
Garnish with drizzle of yogurt and sprinkle with fresh cilantro and mint. Serve hot.
Nutritional Analysis per one ½ eggplant serving
Total Fat 4 g
Sat Fat 1 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 390 mg
Total Carb 14 g
Fiber 6 g
Sugars 8 g
Protein 3 g
Vit A 6% RDA
Vit C 10% RDA
Calcium 0% RDA
Iron 6% RDA