How do I impart flavors without adding excessive butter, oils and creams?
Different cooking methods and herbs/spices work wonders in terms of creating new flavors.
Depending on the quantity of food served, the following can serve an amuse bouche, appetizer or main entree:
Roasted beets with a smokey-dijon sauce
Sautéed asparagus with cilantro and lemon
Seared scallops in ghee (form of clarified butter)
Many individuals gravitate away towards beets due to their experiences with canned beets. Canned versus fresh roasted? No comparison. In order to enjoy beets without a "beet overload," I enjoy pairing them with a slightly-smokey dijon sauce:
Remove stalks from beets and drizzle with olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt and lemon juice. Toss until fully coated, then place on a baking sheet, lined with aluminum foil. Roast in a 400 degree oven, covered with aluminum foil, until tender to cut with a knife (cooking time is variable - depending on the type of oven used, as well as the size of beets... the larger, the longer they will take to roast - even upwards of 45 minutes). When fully cooked, remove from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Using gloves (the pink/purple beets will stain your hands, as well as clothing), simply remove the skin. Generally you can use your hands to peel the skin away... occasionally you will need a knife to help in removing the skin.
If you enjoy the taste of beets, then keep in more bite-sized pieces. Another manner of serving is slicing thin... either with a mandolin or hand-cutting with a knife.
For the Smokey-dijon sauce:
1/2 c. Dijon Mustard
2 tsp Liquid smoke - Mesquite-flavor
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp Turmeric
Pinch of sea salt and cayenne pepper, to taste
Combine all ingredient together - and serve with vegetables/proteins - very versatile sauce!
Lightly cover the beets with the smokey-dijon or use as a dipping sauce.
Asparagus - when serving "thick-stalks," I will peel away the bottom portion of the asparagus - as this is where the "bitter earthy" flavors exist. If you want your asparagus to be slightly soft when consuming, first blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes, then immediately transfer into ice water (halts the cooking process immediately). Then sauté in olive oil with a sprinkle of lemon juice, sea salt and cayenne pepper for 2 minutes (enough time to coat the asparagus and develop a nice browned color).
Scallops - when serving scallops, the more simple preparation, the better. I tend to gravitate away towards covering the shellfish with sauces - simply because, if a scallop is perfectly cooked, it needs no sauces for embellishment. I have recently been using ghee (a form of clarified butter) to sauté my fish, as opposed to butter. I enjoy the taste, as well as health benefits (when cooking, it can be unhealthy to heat polyunsaturated oils (vegetable oil) at high temps - ghee has a high smoke point and does not burn easily... it is also less likely to form the dangerous free radicals when cooking - and the fatty acids are metabolized quickly by the body) - aka, "it's good for you."
Back to the scallops - a sprinkle of lemon juice, crushed sea salt and pinch of cayenne will do the trick. When searing, make sure that the ghee is smoking on the sauté pan, high heat, then add the scallop. Allow to form a nice golden brown crust (about 1 minute, 30 seconds), then flip in order to form a golden-brown crust on the bottom side (again about 1 minute). Scallops cook quickly and continue to cook, even when removed from the sauté pan. Overcooking can be an easy mistake to make... scallops should have some texture to them, without being "chewy" or "gummy."
When plating - place the thin-sliced beets on the plate, then top with asparagus. Final touches should be the scallops, then any type of micro green/flower to give it a more whimsical, polished-look.
"Most seafoods... should be simply threatened with heat and then celebrated with joy" - Jeff Smith