One of my nutrition pet peeves is when people assume health eating is boring and bland. In order to lose weight there is no mandatory sentence to steamed vegetables, dry salads and cottage cheese. If that were the case I’d be searching for another profession. Yet we can all get into a food rut. Below you’ll find ten of my trusted jazzer-uppers that I use time and time again.

Capers- I spent my childhood flicking capers off smoked salmon on Sunday mornings. I couldn’t fathom what there was to like about them.  The skinny bottle of capers and the tube of anchovy paste confirmed at an early age that my parents were nuts. Then, during my first pregnancy, I did a culinary about-face. I became a caper convert.  My favorite capers are Le Pain Quotidien’s wild mountain capers.  Capers are great in tomato sauces and of course with fish (including smoked salmon)
Caramelized Onions are so delicious it’s hard to believe they’re just onions. I love caramelized onions mixed into other vegetables such as mushrooms or as a filling in potatoes. This genius idea of cooking them in a slow cooker is from Justine at Full Belly Sisters

 Pickled Jalapenos– I’ve never met a pepper I didn’t like but pickled peppers are special. They’re great with black beans and also hard-boiled eggs. They’re not crazy spicy but add that perfect little kick to foods. I’ll admit, I don’t make them but here is a recipe if you’d like to try. 
Zest-I have only been zesting for a couple of years, I first started after watching Giada’s show. Giada may zest lemons (limes and oranges) in more recipes than any other human. If you are going to zest you will need a microplane (which you can use for fresh ginger too) and prepare to have your life changed. Smoothies, chicken and salad dressing will never be the same.
Maya Kaimal’s Spicy Ketchup-last week I told you about MK’s simmer sauces. Well, there’s another ingredient you need to own and it’s her spicy ketchup. I am not a ketchup fan but this is not typical ketchup at all. You can use it in place of ketchup but I prefer it as a cocktail sauce stand in with shrimp.

     Truffle Salt– I am generally not one for fancy salt. I have a brick-sized box of kosher salt that I use to refill a saltcellar on my counter. Truffle salt is fantastic though; the flavor is sensational.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit one of my favorite uses for it is on popcorn. It’s also great on omelets and scrambled eggs. It isn’t cheap but I’ve had the same Dean and Deluca jar for almost a year.
Hampton Chutney Cilantro Chutney-Years ago, I was over at my friend Meg’s apartment for dinner. I cannot tell you what we discussed that night. All I know is that I planted myself next to this green dip and must’ve polished it all off. I know cilantro is a divisive herb but if you are pro-cilantro you need to try this. It’s great as a dip but also fantastic rolled with turkey, drizzled on an avocado or mixed into tuna. The ingredients are rather interesting: cilantro, coconut, dates, chilies, ginger, lemon juice, a handful of spices and a touch of salt.

Tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds, deserves a life beyond hummus. Tahini has a rich, creamy taste and works well as a salad dressing base. I also thin tahini and use it over greens, sort of like a creamless 
creamed spinach. Here are some other tahini recipe ideas from the New York Times.
Fig and Passion Fruit Vinegar-years ago I took a Balsamic Vinegar cooking class with my mother. Prior to that vinegar was reserved for salads exclusively. In class, we learned to pair various vinegars with cheese and even fruit.  Recently, one of my clients brought me a fig vinegar I love with fresh strawberries. I also have a passion fruit vinegar that works nicely with fish.
Pesto –in the summer I love making pesto.  I have a recipe I loved that incorporates arugula. In the winter, I cheat.  I buy pesto from Sauces n Love or Le Grand Pesto. I haven’t found anything that doesn’t go well with pesto.

What are your favorite jazzer-uppers?  Any uses for the ingredients above you want to share?  And are you pro-cilantro or anti?


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