Aromatic vegetables are used to enhance the flavor of soups, stews, sauces and other dishes worldwide. From mirepoix in France to refogado in Brazil, these aromatics are vegetables that are sought after for their deep, rounded flavor and aroma that arise when heated or crushed. Right from the very common garlic and onions to chilies and ginger, each vegetable comes with its own health benefits and cooking qualities that makes it unique.
Add more flavor to your meal with aromatics instead of increased fat, sugar or salt by following these tips.
Rabbit’s favorite carrots are power houses of beta carotene, which helps to regulate the immune system and reduce the age-related diseases. These natives of Asia and Middle East are a good source of fiber, vitamins C and B6 and potassium. Cooking carrots unleashes beta carotene for better absorption.
Celery is mostly neglected for its “negative-calorie” characteristic. Negative calories don’t exist in reality and if you are still doubtful about such negative-calorie foods, verify their non-existence at www.firsteatright.com. A cup of celery contains 15 calories and nutrients like vitamins A, C and K and potassium. Celery is also packed with quercetin, a flavonoid with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and heart-protecting properties. You can either enjoy raw celery as a crunchy snack or cook it to release its deep, savory flavors.
Chili peppers, native to South and Central America, range from mild to fiery hot with the smaller peppers being generally hotter. This heat intensity is due to the presence of the chemical compound capsaicin, which aids in digestion. Bring on a spicy kick to salsas, sauces and entrees along with the nutritional boost of vitamins A and C by adding peppers.
Garlic, considered to be the most pungent of the alliums, can be eaten raw or cooked in salads, stir-fries, sauces and stews. Eating garlic regularly helps to reduce atherosclerosis and the risk of stomach and colorectal cancers. Again here, the phytochemical content in garlic helps to lower cholesterol and fights against cancer.
Ginger along with garlic and chili peppers is known as the holy trinity of flavors in culinary. Ginger, a native of Southeast Asia and India, is rich in antioxidants such as 6-gingerol, believed to be responsible for reducing nausea and symptoms of vertigo. With its signature spicy fragrance, ginger is used in both sweet and savory dishes for its nutritional content of vitamin C, magnesium and potassium.
Leeks have a mild onion flavor and taste best when cooked. Leeks can be grilled, used in pasta dishes or can be used as the key ingredient in vichyssoise — a French-style potato soup. These aromatic leeks are a natural source of inulin, which supports good gut bacteria and are also great sources of vitamins A and C, folate and manganese.
Onions are an aromatic superstar and are invariably used in almost all the dishes. High concentrations of allyl sulphides in onions double duty fighting heart disease and cancer. Onions are also good sources of inulin, vitamin C, fiber, folate and manganese. Savor these sweet onions raw in salads and the pungent ones in stews, sauces or roasted.
Parsnips were used in ancient times in Europe to sweeten desserts before sugar became available. Parsnips are available all through the year but taste sweetest after a frost. These aromatics should be toasted and caramelized to bring out their natural sweetness and are good sources of vitamin C, folate and fibre. Smaller roots are more flavorful and tender.
These colorful bell peppers are a native to Central and South America and can be roasted, stir-fried or enjoyed raw. Green peppers ripen to red ones and become sweeter. Consuming one red pepper makes us armed with the day’s required vitamins A and C at only 30 calories. These peppers are a great choice for healthy skin and immune function.
Shallots, having a flavor between onion and garlic, were used to flavor French sauces traditionally. Shallots may be cooked whole, oven roasted or finely chopped to season salad dressings. Shallots are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin B6 and manganese.
Scallions or spring onions have a sweet, delicate onion flavour. Enjoy these thin alliums raw in grain or potato salads and salsas. Thicker, more pungent scallions can be used in pasta dishes, omelettes and stir-fries.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.