Three simple cooking hacks

I love to cook. It has all the visceral satisfactions of creating something real, developing mastery, and (if things go well) being yummy. Although I’m mostly known on my team for my quick breads (seriously, I just follow the recipe), I generally prefer savory to sweet. And so, I thought I’d share a couple of really simple things you can do to just about any salty/savory dish to make it taste better.

NOTE: these are additive, so go ahead, knock yourself out, and do all three if you’d like.

Use broth instead of water

Any time you’re making rice, couscous, quinoa, soup; if you’re poaching an egg, salmon, or a chicken breast; if you’re boiling some vegetables, cooking beans (after they’re already soft); i.e., any time you want something to taste richer, just use broth instead of water. I strongly prefer chicken broth, but do whatever makes sense for your particular taste and diet.

Add a little butter

Butter’s off the bad list – seriously! But you don’t need to add a lot. Just a pat’s worth of butter, say, a half tablespoon, is more than enough to make just about anything taste better. Add it to steamed vegetables, chicken, salmon, and rice, cook your eggs in it, etc. It won’t kill you, and it will add more umami than you know what to do with.

Use an onion base

This is the most important “trick”, if you can call it that. Open a window, turn on the fan, and mince one yellow onion. Heat 2-3 Tbsp of olive oil over a medium high flame. When the oil’s lost its viscosity, it’s ready – put the onions in, stir them to make sure the oil is evenly distributed, and stir frequently until the onions become translucent – but before they start to burn/crisp (5-7 minutes). A minute before they’re ready, you can throw some minced garlic in, or not – your choice. Once you’re done, put the onions into just about anything to make it taste great. Lentils, quinoa, and couscous are no-brainers. This is a great base for soup – combine with broth, tons of veggies, salt and pepper, and maybe a dash of thyme if you’re feeling fancy – that’s it. You want an awesome salad dressing? Take the onions, add a little salt, pepper, and vinegar, blend, and yum. The onion base is key to about 90% of all savory dishes.

One last note

Faro is amazing. Any time you think the answer is “brown rice”, use faro instead. You’re welcome.

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