How to Play Up Texture to Make Your Meal More Satisfying

Flavor isn't the only element involved in creating a binge-worthy dish. Here, Cook This Book author Molly Baz reveals how getting creative with textures can take your meal to the next level.

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"The way food feels in your mouth plays an important role in how flavorful and enjoyable it is," says Molly Baz, the author of Cook This Book (Buy It, $20, amazon.com). "So a key part of selecting ingredients for your dish involves thinking about what textures they'll bring."

Reach for flavorful crunch from things like nuts, seeds, and croutons, she says. And for balance, add silkiness with a dollop of yogurt or a swirl of tahini. Here, Baz shares her techniques to make your meals more delicious, texturally rich — and healthier too.

food pie chart
Caitlin Bensel

Give It Some Bite

"More often than not, dishes are lacking a super-crunchy texture that I call crispy crunchy," says Baz. This texture is cooked separately from the main dish, which is why it often goes overlooked. Three of her quick and easy flavorful favorites:

Peppery Croutons

Stir them into soups, fold into a chunky tomato salad to make panzanella, or top saucy egg dishes like shakshuka.

To make: Preheat the oven to 350° F. On a rimmed baking sheet, combine 1/2 baguette torn into 1-in. irregular pieces with 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste. Bake until deeply golden brown and crisp, 12 to 14 min. Let cool.

Brown Buttered Walnuts

Drizzle them over roasted fish, stir into yogurt and spread over toast, use as a dressing for cooked lentils and grains, or top fried eggs with them. (

To make: In a small saucepan, cook 5 Tbsp. unsalted butter over medium-low heat until just melted and foamy. Add 2/3 cup finely chopped walnuts, and cook, stirring occasionally, until very lightly toasted, 2 to 3 min. Add 2 tsp. Aleppo pepper and 1/4 tsp. turmeric. Cook until walnuts are toasted and golden and butter is very nutty-smelling and fragrant, 1 min. longer. Season with salt.

Frizzled Shallots

Toss them into salads, spoon on top of sautéed greens, or scatter over labneh for a quick dip.

To make: In a large nonstick skillet, combine 4 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced crosswise, and 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until deep golden brown, charred, and crisp around the edges, 10 to 15 min. Transfer to a plate, and season with salt.

Cook This Book: Techniques That Teach and Recipes to Repeat

Cook This Book: Techniques That Teach and Recipes to Repeat
Amazon

Get Two-for-One Texture

Produce is perfect for this. You can prepare one vegetable in different ways for a variety of flavor profiles and chewiness.

For instance, pair the soft, rich, almost-jammy texture of roasted carrots or beets with raw, sliced versions of those veggies. Toss them together so that in every bite, you get both roasted and raw for the ultimate tasty contrast. (Dealing with winter veggies? Try these techniques to cook them to perfection.)

Add a Fresh Finish

"Very thinly slice or finely chop raw vegetables, and toss them on top of savory dishes like chicken or fish to add a crisp, juicy, and refreshing finish," says Baz.

Try radish, cucumber, cauliflower, fennel, celery, or a combination of them. To create multiple layers of texture and taste, turn them into a chunky relish by tossing them with olive oil, vinegar, a dried fruit like golden raisins, and some fresh herbs. (That's just one of the countless ways to use up all that oil and vinegar in your pantry.)

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