Skip the Sauce and Use Aromatic Broths

Q: I recently started dating a woman who cannot digest oils. This makes cooking a real challenge. Are there any alternatives to oil for making foods such as pesto?

A: While I don’t recommend pesto without olive oil, I will suggest a tasty alternative.

You can use all the Mediterranean ingredients from pesto when cooking a quick broth for pasta — fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, salt, pepper and grated cheese.

In fact, my favorite “sauce” for pasta is an aromatic broth. I serve cooked pasta in a wide, shallow bowl with cooked vegetables, chicken or shrimp and the broth. It’s best to top the mixture with a shredding of Pecorino Romano cheese and a sprinkling of chopped fresh parsley.

If I don’t have the time to create a rich broth from scratch, I often use canned broth, such as fat-free chicken broth or vegetable broth. You can steep dried herbs such as thyme, Italian seasoning, bay leaves, oregano or rosemary leaves in simmering broth for a heady potion.

Here are some added tips to make your broth as good as gourmet:

  • Enrich an herb broth with a few crushed garlic cloves.
  • If you use fresh green herbs such as basil, sage, parsley and dill, they are best combined with the hot broth at the last minute, just before serving.
  • A few morsels of sun-dried tomatoes or dried mushrooms can boost the flavor of broths. Toss in two or three pieces and brew a full-bodied cup of broth.
  • For an extra hit of flavor, drizzle small amounts of condiments — such as Dijon mustard, Louisiana hot sauce, soy sauce or lemon juice — into the broth. Fresh ginger slices also go great with soy sauce and garlic.
  • Jazz up the broth with color. A couple slices of fresh or canned tomatoes create a blush-colored broth; fresh herbs and spinach add a greenish-bronze tone to the broth.
  • The dried fruit found in your pantry can serve as an exotic flavor enhancer. Just a couple raisins, dried cherries or dried cranberries might spark a delicate fruity sweetness to a bitter broth.
  • Add lots of vegetables. Baby carrots, scallions, sugar snap peas, grape tomatoes, pearl onions, snow peas and almost any frozen vegetable work fine.

For a variation on the broths above, you can skip the pasta altogether and substitute rice, potatoes or canned beans for bulk. Just be sure to rinse the beans before you add them to your broth.

If you’d like to make your dish heartier, delicate chicken tenders, smoked turkey breast or peeled and deveined shrimp are perfect proteins to cook with aromatic broth. And these meats cook quickly.

Use your imagination to create and serve aromatic broths with your favorite foods. When you’re short on time in the kitchen, sauces can be a bear. I’m bullish on broths for low-fat cooking.

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