Immediately Uplevel Your Dishes
Yesterday, we covered the importance of preparation—not only prepping all ingredients before cooking begins, but also keeping certain foods on hand so you’re always ready to whip up a little something.
Today, I want to introduce two ingredients that add elegance and depth to a dish.
Dijon Mustard and Capers
Dijon mustard is a condiment that I used to feel was redundant. Mustard is mustard, right? Oh no. Substitute Dijon mustard for yellow mustard and your dish is immediately more “French” and refined. Dijon is from the Burgundy region of France and gets its signature flavor from verjus, juice made from unripe grapes.
A Dijon mustard vinaigrette does for lettuce, grain, vegetable, or potato salads what a bath does for a dog. It comes alive! Tangy, smooth, and elegant, Dijon emulsifies with olive oil into a creamy dressing. When I make egg/tuna/chicken salad, I substitute half the mayonnaise with Dijon mustard.
It’s such a subtle tang that I use it to make fried green tomatoes—coating sliced tomatoes generously in Dijon, then dredging them through cornmeal. Oh, now they’re vegan, gluten-free, and 100% deliciously gourmet.
When shopping for Dijon mustard, I recommend the brand Maille.
Then there’s capers, the anchovies of vegan diets. Capers are pickled flower buds from a shrub commonly found around the Mediterranean.
A little salty, a little vinegary, and definitely umami. A little something to sprinkle over the most basic of dishes for a punch of wow. Another ingredient that seems unimportant but should never be left off. If capers were blended into a dressing, you’d taste something different, but you wouldn’t be able to tell what it is. Your foodie friends will be grilling you (again, couldn’t resist) for the secret ingredient.
You’ll find them in small and large sizes; the size doesn’t matter for our purposes. The smaller ones are more expensive. We’ll mostly see them brined in vinegar, but if you can find dry-salted capers, scoop them up immediately! They are superior in both taste and texture. Capers are also useful in that you don’t need many of them to serve their purpose.
As you explore more, you’ll learn that quality of ingredients makes a world of difference in how you enjoy your food. It’s especially obvious in the simplest of dishes. It really doesn’t take much to make memorable meals.
Tomorrow, we’ll go into depth on cooking fats—their differences, benefits, and distinct uses.
Recommended book by Highbrow
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