I thought I would follow up from yesterdays post, by noting that most commercial food is bland. It is marketed to the lowest common denominator, in this case, fat, salt and sugar. Not everyone has the same tastes, and for some reason, there are some who are afraid of new tastes. This would reduce sales of packaged foods, so they make sure their food is appealing to the widest audience. Even restaurants, unless they are marketing themselves as trendy, avoid using herbs and spices that would add odors and flavors that might not appeal to everyone.
This is reason # 4,349,867 to cook at home. While cooking at home can be time consuming or inconvenient, it is the best way to ensure you are eating healthy. As I noted in yesterday’s post, spices add health giving benefits and flavor to your food. If you do succumb to buying your food ready made, take it home and add spices too it. You can split the difference, buy frozen veggies, frozen chicken breasts, partially microwave a potato and saute all that in a little olive oil, maybe some balsamic vinegar, add some rosemary, thyme, sage garlic, or whatever else strikes your fancy and you are good to go. While making coleslaw is a breeze in a food processor, if it doesn’t appeal to you, then buy the slaw mix, make your own dressing, substituting balsamic vinegar for regular, add some dill, marjoram or parsley to it.
Here are some basic rules to try, and it doesn’t mean they can’t be broken, but if you are timid and want some guidance. Dill, Tarragon, Marjoram, parsley and sage are rather mild herbs, they can go in most any “white” dish, cream based, fish based, or mayonaise flavored. Try adding one the next time you make a cream soup or mayonnaise based salad. The “red” spices, that you are already familiar with from Italian cooking, are oregano, basil, rosemary, and thyme. They have strong flavors and you either like them or not. I would suggest them in any tomato dish, even canned tomato soup. Thyme on a pork roast with garlic, salt and pepper is out of this world. As I noted in a previous blog entry, I LOVE roasted veggies with rosemary. The “hot” spices, chili, cayenne, black and red pepper, can add zip in surprising ways. I add some red pepper flakes to my chicken soup. just enough to “wake it up”. The “sweet” spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger, are most familiar to us from deserts like pumpkin pie, apple pie, ginger bread and oatmeal cookies. They can go other places and be paired with hot spices for an exotic flavor. Chinese 5 season spice pairs cinnamon, star anise, and pepper, and I love it sprinkled on my roasted chicken. When you smell that cooking, you can hardly wait to get it out of the oven. Ginger is great in green tea. Mexican cuisine pairs chocolate and pepper in several dishes.
Everyone loves tasty and easy. Spices and herbs are a great way to achieve that. Please leave a comment if you have a favorite use, or a novel one you think others should try.