Updated: Jan 11
For most of the world, yesterday was just another Tuesday, but for Louisiana it was finally, finally Mardi Gras day. For weeks now New Orleanians have been postponing their New Year's resolutions for Ash Wednesday, the day we all wake up and promise to behave (at least until St Patrick's Day). In the Catholic land of New Orleans, meat is often left out of meals during Lent, which can leave dishes feeling a little lackluster without the fattiness and umami those animal proteins usually provide. So whether you're just starting your Lenten fast or realizing you haven't quite kept your resolutions, here are four ingredients that'll keep that meatless diet savory, delicious, and (most importantly) satisfying.
1. Roasted garlic
One of the most versatile kitchen ingredients out there, roasted garlic can make just about anything go from good to WOW, and with hardly any effort. The next time you're got the oven on, throw a couple of whole heads in for 20-30 minutes, or until the outside cloves are soft. Allow to cool then squeeze this buttery, savory paste into dressings and marinades or toss into grains or salads.
2. Hard cheese rinds
Store those hard cheese rinds-think parmesan or romano- into the freezer for storage then drop into soups, marinara, or polenta while cooking. The rinds will act like the proverbial 'ham bone in a pot of beans', releasing a nutty, salty backbone of flavor. Don't worry about fishing out stringy boiled cheese bits, either. The rinds stay whole for easy removal.
3. Mushroom stock
Even if you're not a mushroom lover, cooking grains like rice or farro in a mushroom stock gives an instant hit of meaty aroma and flavor. It couldn't be easier to make, too. Simmer veggie scraps like celery leaves, onion and garlic papers, carrot peels, and mushroom stems for about an hour, strain, and bask in the glory of your new favorite kitchen secret.
4. Liquid aminos
A healthier cousin of soy sauce, liquid aminos bring a higher ratio of flavor with up to 2/3 less salt than soy sauce. Combine 1 part liquid aminos, 1 part oil, and some lemon juice for a multipurpose marinade for spongy veggies like eggplant or squash or as the base of a salad dressing.