A good cook is not one who manages to perfectly execute any recipe, but one who, with few resources, is able to get a good dish out.
In the day-to-day kitchen we are not going to complicate ourselves with huge cakes or roasts, but it is not the same to serve a bland Grilled chicken breast that bring it accompanied by some sautéed spinach or a homemade pepper sauce.
Garnishes are our main ally to turn a boring dish into a much more appetizing one, and its management is essentialalso to make our cuisine more varied and balanced.
When we hear about side dishes we usually think of chips or rice which are precisely the least healthy and, if anything, a salad. But the world of accompaniments is limitless, and we would do well to expand the repertoire.
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The secret of a good side dish
Although the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy defines a garrison as a “complement, usually vegetables, legumes, etc., which is served with meat or fish ”, the secret to getting the garnish right is not to see it as an element apart from the dish, but rather as one more element of this, which reinforces its flavor and, if possible, its nutritional profile.
As our colleague Carmen Tía Alia says, there are garnishes that surpass the main elements in flavor, and this is precisely our goal: to convert conventional meals, which we repeat over and over again – such as grilled meat or fish or soups and creams – into changing and surprising dishes.
As it explains Becky krystal on VoraciouslyWhen choosing a side dish, we should not only think about what type of food it is – as a general rule, we must add vegetables to proteins and vice versa– but also in how its texture and flavor combine with the dish.
Following this classification we can divide the garnishes into seven categories.
Any crunchy element provides a extra texture to dishes which can be key, especially in purees and salads. Almost all foods can reach a crunchy structure, so the only rule to follow is that the combination is pleasant and structured.
If we serve a salad, it is ideal to add nuts or seeds, lightly toasted, but they also serve bread croutons, crispy fried onion, vegetable chips, nachos, bread picks, scolds, grissinis, crackers, etc. I especially like how well fried bacon works, although if you are looking to reduce calories you can save it. All these accompaniments go great, too, like garnish in cold soups or purees.
In the crunchy section we must also add the fried ones, a garrison as helpful as it is universal. Although it is not the healthiest cooking technique, it is very useful to give a special texture, especially to vegetables. Forget potatoes for a moment – the ubiquitous garnish – and try these crunchy artichokes, a ratatouille in tempura, some fried green tomatoes, some battered borage, some delicious fried aubergines or these wonderful crunchy chickpeas.
2. Sauces and chutneys
Although sauces are not usually seen as a garnish, they serve the same purpose, and they are an almost mandatory complement To accompany foods that are not distinguished by having a too intense flavor, such as lettuce or chicken, or whose texture is on the dry side.
A good sauce can completely transform a plate, especially if we opt for homemade options, which in addition to being generally tastier, have a better nutritional profile — most industrial sauces are full of sugar.
The list of sauces with which to accompany a dish is infinite, but you will never fail If you accompany a salad with a good vinaigrette, a vegetable dish with a romesco sauce, a grilled steak with a yogurt, pepper or mustard sauce, or a fish with a good mayonnaise.
Do you need inspiration? These are the 15 sauces that every cook should know how to make and these are the best to accompany meats.
Pickles add acidity, salinity and a crunchy texture to any dish. They are ideal to liven up a sandwich, a Russian salad or any vegetable dish, and, in general, they marry beautifully with cheese and eggs.
Most pickles can be purchased at any variant shop. We are talking, of course, about pickles, chives, garlic, capers, olives … You can also try making them at home. We leave you, for example, an interesting pickled mushroom recipe.
Depending on your tastes, almost any dish can be enhanced with a touch of spice. I am one of those who add black pepper to everything and hot sauce to almost everything.
Although the classic sauces Tabasco, Sriracha or Harissa They cannot be missing in any cupboard, the world of hot sauces is infinite and, like everything, you can also choose to make them at home. This sauce for patatas bravas, for example, can be used to accompany many other dishes.
Although in Spain the options of spicy garnishes are more limited than in other countries, it is already easy to find, for example, pickled jalapenos, which provide a vinegary, crunchy and spicy touch at the same time and are the ideal addition, for example, to a lentil dish or a ham and cheese sandwich.
5. Cheeses and creams
The dairy garnishes They will help counteract acidic or spicy elements and add sumptuousness to any dish.
Although only pasta has traditionally been accompanied by cheese, there is no reason not to add it to other dishes, such as soups, creams or salads.
This section also includes béchamel sauce or a yogurt sauce, which can enrich any meat or vegetable.
Perhaps it is a bit unfair to classify eggs as a garnish, but the truth is that adding this, in its different forms, can transform any dish, which is what concerns us today. A few simple grilled vegetables are completely transformed with a good poached egg, a ratatouille is always better with a fried egg, and salads or sandwiches with hard boiled egg go to another category.
7. Sauteed, boiled, or steamed vegetables
We leave for the end what should be the garnish par excellence: vegetable in any of its forms. Any meat or fish is enhanced with a vegetable accompaniment, be it a Catalan spinach, a roasted pumpkin with crunchy broccoli or the classic caramelized onion.
Although vegetables should be in many cases the main dish, try to make sure that it is present, even as a garnish, increase consumption of these and makes our diet as a whole healthier. In the end, if we make these Provençal zucchini, some delicious green beans or a caponata, we will realize that steak is not the main dish, but the garnish, and perhaps we end up doing without this.
Images | iStock
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