Summer is all about chillin' outdoors, powering up the grill and watching stars sparkle in the night sky. Put some of that fun into your meals year-round with these simple tips for jazzing up familiar foods.
1 Whatever you're cooking, season as you go with salt and pepper. Don't save these condiments for a last-minute sprinkle; the flavor won't penetrate or seem integrated into the food. Make sure to put salt and pepper on both sides of meat, poultry or fish.
2 Use canned chiles, drained, or fresh sliced chiles, for a quick spot of heat on burgers, hot dogs or grilled-cheese sandwiches.
3 Add a dash of Thai hot sauce to your next Asian stir-fry or main dish salad. Called sriracha, this bright red sauce is made from chiles, vinegar, garlic, salt and sugar. That touch of sweet from the sugar gives some depth to the sauce's heat.
4 Yank open that can of anchovy fillets. These oil-marinated fishies give an appealing funk to veggie pizzas. A favorite combo is a "white" pizza made with caramelized onions, anchovies, black olives and a flurry of grated Parmesan cheese.
5 Mustard isn't just for hot dogs. Buy a Dijon mustard and stir it into pan sauces. Spoon it on a burger with a couple of pickle slices. Mix with mayonnaise and slather on lamb chops before broiling. Spoon a dollop into the vinaigrette before dressing a salad.
6 Replace the ketchup on the burger with a spicy tomato salsa. Make your own or buy a bottle.
7 Consider curry powder. Stir into sauces thickened with cream or coconut milk. Spike your deviled egg filling with a pinch of curry powder and a little chopped chutney. Combine with plain yogurt and use as a marinade for grilled leg of lamb.
8 Fresh herbs pack a lot of flavor, aroma and color. Keep your favorites handy, preferably growing in pots right outside the kitchen door. Snip right before using for maximum quality.
9 Top a seared sirloin steak with a flavored butter. Let the butter soften, mix in your chosen flavor and serve. Experiment with mustard, garlic, tarragon, parsley, anchovies or shallots. Use as a spread on bread, too.
10 Jazz up store-bought mayonnaise with a spritz of fresh lemon juice and a spoonful of extra-virgin olive oil. Or mix in some fierce wasabi paste or powder.