Starting to feel a good old fashioned case of the winter blues coming on? We feel you. After all, spring seems so, so (so!) far away — doesn’t it? While it may be comforting to indulge in some traditional, hearty foods this time of year, that doesn’t mean they have to be completely void of that summery feel. In order to add some zest to your meals and maybe kick your mood up a notch while you’re at it, we spoke to Saint Lucia’s culinary ambassador (and Top Chef runner-up) Nina Compton for some fail-safe tips.
ADD SOME CITRUS
Lemons and limes are a great way to brighten up a meal with very little effort. Grate some zest into your soups and stews, try some citrus-flavours on your fish or top a side salad with a generous helping. Or, if you feel like splurging a bit, Compton always recommends a nice slice of key lime pie.
ORANGE YOU GLAD FOR ORANGES?
Oranges, and clementines in particular, are always in season right about now and they’re the perfect way to invoke that summery, still-on-the-soccer-field feeling that comes with the sliced variety. “They add brightness to a dish,” Compton says. “I add them to sauces. If I’m cooking a tamarind sauce they’re great for sweetness. I use the zest in everything too.”
Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you have to give up grilling. After all, they make Canada Goose jackets for a reason, right? If you’re in the position where you can use that flame, do it up, says Compton. Using a grill is a great way to add flavour to plenty of traditional fall and winter veggies like squash, parsnips or pumpkin. Plus, what else brings back backyard barbecue memories a la grilled fish, and chicken?
Not everyone can afford a ticket to an all-inclusive vacation, but most of us can easily shell out a couple of bucks for a can of coconut milk. Use it instead of cream to thicken up a butternut squash soup, or make your own curry sauce for your chicken and veggies. Looking to cut some fat? Try braising fish or steaming rice in coconut water, which is lower in calories than the milk or cream, but just as tasty, says Compton. Or, swap your regular cooking oil for coconut oil. Just watch it because it has a low smoke point. Melted coconut oil also makes a great popcorn topping.
STOCK UP THE PANTRY
Most chefs prefer to cook with fresh ingredients only — no canned or frozen fare for them. Compton is no exception, although we say in a pinch frozen fruits and veggies are a viable option. One thing the chef can get behind though is a well-stocked pantry. What are Compton’s summery go-tos? Aside from the aforementioned coconut milk and oil, she adds curry, beans and lots of different spices.