Nutrition Column – Savor the Flavors of the World

If Italian cuisine means pepperoni pizza, French fare translates into french fries and Chinese night means you’re having Minute rice, you’re missing out on a whole world of flavors. Without traveling further than your local supermarket, you can find all sorts of ways to perk up meals with foods and flavors from around the globe.

Here are some tips for transforming everyday foods into exciting international cuisine simply by adding a few ingredients.

– Lend a taste of Italy to salads and vegetables with a sprinkle of oregano, basil, parsley, thyme and minced garlic. Or top pasta, poultry and fish with capers, diced pimento or a few sliced black olives.

– Give a Greek accent to pizza and salads with a little crumbled Feta cheese or fresh spinach.

– Think Mexican by using corn or flour tortillas instead of bread for sandwiches. Tortilla sandwiches work especially well in sack lunches because they don’t get squashed as easily as regular sandwiches.  

– Build a Thai flair into chicken soup by using coconut milk and adding a little fish sauce, lime juice and red chili powder. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

– For a taste of the Mediterranean, substitute balsamic vinegar with red wine vinegar in marinade and dressing recipes.

– Go German by topping a green salad with asparagus tips and red cabbage slaw. Serve with dark rye bread.

– Instead of regular rice, try some of the different grains now available in many supermarkets. Bulgur and couscous add a Middle Eastern flavor. Toss with grated citrus peel, a dash of cinnamon and a few tablespoons of raisins. For a taste of India, try basmati rice.

– Think Chinese by seasoning or marinating lean meats and vegetables with sauces like oyster sauce, Cantonese sir-fry sauce, ginger soy sauce, Teriyaki sauce, Hoisin sauce and plum sauce. These also add flavor to stir-fry recipes.

– Toss some water chestnuts or toasted sesame seeds in salads for a crunchy Asian addition.

– Perk up potatoes, burgers, poultry and seafood with a dollop of salsa.

– Finely grate a bit of Parmesan, Asiago or Romano cheese over vegetables and salad greens for a little Italian zip.   

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by Pat Kendall, Ph.D., R.D., Food Science and Human Nutrition Specialist, Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension