There’s nothing quite like the smell of freshly baked cookies when you walk in the door, or roasted garlic as you enter your favorite trattoria.
They say you eat with your eyes first, but don’t we often find ourselves wanting to try something because of the decadent smell or enticing aroma? If this sounds like you, you’re in luck because I’m featuring some of the most aromatic ingredients used in cooking, which can not only fill your kitchen with their great fragrance, but also develop a deeper flavor profile in the dishes that you make with them.
Anyone watching their weight or just wanting to eat healthy will find this recipe to be both filling and good for you. It contains quinoa, an ancient grain that is packed with protein and other important nutrients. I like to cook quinoa similar to how I cook rice, sautéing it with aromatic onion and garlic. The figs in this savory side dish lend a delicate sweetness which I think you’ll like.
Quinoa Pilaf with Figs and Pine Nuts
- 1 large onion, cut into small pieces
- 4 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 c. quinoa, rinsed and drained
- 2 c. water
- 1/2 tsp. salt, pepper, and dried mint
- 8 sun-dried Calimyrna figs, chopped
- 1-2 tbsp. pine nuts, toasted
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic; sauté 5 minutes. Add the quinoa; stir 30 seconds or until lightly toasted. Pour the water in and bring to a boil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and herbs. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 20 minutes, then remove from heat.
Fluff with a fork and add figs and pine nuts before serving in small ramekins for a ready-to-go side dish during the week!
In years past vegetables were relegated to playing second fiddle at the dinner table. But no more! Today chefs all over the world are making vegetables shine again by putting them on their menus, front and center. Roasting the humble cauliflower brings out a tantalizing nutty aroma and flavor, transforming it completely. The onion caramelizes slightly while cooking, providing a sophisticated note which will impress even the most discerning dinner guests.
Roasted Cauliflower with Onions and Herbs
6 small servings
- 1 head cauliflower, cut into medium-sized florets
- 1 big onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 tsp. dried peppermint
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 420°F and mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Spread the mixture on two baking sheets, covered with parchment paper or silicon mats. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring and rotating the baking sheets once, halfway through.
Serve warm as a side dish or at room temperature as an appetizer.
Lately, I have been inviting people over for dinner and making my roasted garlic dressing over and over. Everybody seems to love it and it pairs well with a variety of salads. It’s my signature vinaigrette and its wonderful flavor comes from the roasted garlic.
This salad uses beets (those tender, sweet roots, usually a deep red-purple). Beets are best when roasted as the dry heat creates a wonderful texture. Also, with this method there is no loss of color or juice during the cooking process. Leave them unpeeled during baking and peel after cooling slightly. You won’t believe the amazing smell of the garlic as it roasts and won’t want to wait to use it in this dressing (and anything else you can think of!)
Beet Salad with Roasted Garlic Dressing
- 2 oz. lettuce greens, such as Spring Mix, washed and dried
- 1 roasted beet, sliced (bake wrapped in foil at 350°F for 1 hour)
- 4 – 5 tsp. roasted garlic dressing (recipe below)
- 1 oz. shaved aged Manchego cheese
- 2 tsp. cashew nuts, toasted
Mix greens with dressing in a large bowl. Arrange on dinner plates. Top with beets. Carefully sprinkle with the cashew nuts and Manchego cheese.
Roasted Garlic Dressing
2 – 3 garlic heads (you will only use 6 cloves for this recipe)
1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. salt
black pepper, to taste
1-2 tbs. honey
2 tsp. dijon mustard
Wrap all garlic heads in aluminum foil, without peeling the white skin. Bake at 350° F for 1 hour. Wait for them to cool.
Separate the cloves and peel them. Place in a container and keep refrigerated for 1-2 weeks.
For the dressing: blend 6 cloves with the remaining ingredients and divide into small ramekins for use during the week with all kinds of salads.
Vanilla extract is known for its wonderful smell and rich flavor, and it’s often used in aromatherapy as well as in the kitchen. These are my favorite drop cookies and they are both fast and easy to make and you can adapt the recipe to your liking. I have a friend who produces real vanilla extract (his brand is Lágrima and you can buy the bottles online). I used plenty of vanilla extract and chocolate chips, as these are personal favorites of mine. Instead of adding nuts such as pecans, walnuts, or macadamia, I opted for some coconut flakes I had sitting in my pantry unused. I found that they added more flavor and texture to the finished product making them a permanent addition to this recipe.
Aromatic Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen small cookies
- 6 tbsp. butter, softened
- 6 tbsp. olive oil
- 3/4 c. coconut palm sugar
- 2 tbsp. honey
- 1 egg
- 2 tsp. real vanilla extract (such as Lágrima)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 4 1/2 oz. all-purpose flour
- 4 1/2 oz. whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 3 1/2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 tsp. black Hawaiian sea salt (or other finishing salt)
Blend first 6 ingredients in a Kitchen Aid stand mixer bowl on a medium speed; add next 5 ingredients, mix on low speed; mix in the chocolate chips by hand.
Drop cookie dough by spoonful onto 2 baking sheets, lined with parchment paper or silicone mats. Gently press the top of each cookie to flatten it slightly. Sprinkle the tops evenly with sea salt.
Bake at 375°F for 7 minutes. Let cool for at least 3 minutes, not removing them until they are firm enough. Cool completely on wire racks. These can be frozen for a quick afternoon snack.
So there you have it, ingredients such as these are a great way to add depth of flavor to any dish while filling your entire house with their enticing aromas. Don’t be afraid of going bold because it can help elevate your dishes from ordinary to extraordinary. I know you’ll find new, exciting ways to incorporate fragrant ingredients in your cooking. From the moment your dinner guests enter your home they won’t be able to wait to try what you have prepared. LET’S EAT!
Story and photos by Yana Todorova