By: Nikia Wells
There is nothing wrong with using the basics when cooking, especially if that is what is available. But, black pepper and salt are just a starting point and should be viewed as a base level seasoning, that can be built upon to develop layers and depth of flavor. Switching up your spice cabinet can open up a world of new culinary experiences, without leaving your home. And, simply using a familiar spice in a new way can dramatically increase the flavor of a dish with minimal time or effort.
Tip: Consider grinding your own spices, or toasting them ever so slightly before cooking. Even fresh cracked black pepper can offer an entirely different experience versus its pre-ground bredren.
At first glance, an unfamiliar spice may seem intimidating, but experiment with adding a little at a time to become acquainted with the aromas, taste and texture that it adds to your dishes. Showman home cooks are taken on a weekly culinary tour around the world, and are treated to spices that they may or may not be accustomed to. Cuba’s box featured an Adobo blend, which included salt, garlic, black pepper, oregano and tumeric – many of the flavors that are prevalent in the region’s dishes. While the most recent African themed box, which celebrated dishes from around the continent, featured a garlic, ginger, chili pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin, and coriander infused “Berebere”, as well as the aromatic “Ras El Hanout” Moroccan spice mix, which can include up to 50 different herbs and spices. While Showman’s version is a simplified blend of allspice, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, onion, garlic, cayenne, paprika, and fenugreek, it still packs intense flavor that can enhance familiar dishes, like curry, or take diners on an entirely new journey for their palettes.
Tip: Don’t shy away from “sweet” spices in savory foods. Cinnamon and even chocolate are key ingredients in Mexican cuisine, and can add a little something unique and extra, when cooking.
Complete seasonings and seasoning salts are also not the final boss battle of cooking. Many are intended to enhance a dish, instead of being the sole source of flavor. They can provide a great base for at home cooks who want to punch up their cooking without filling their cabinets with dozens of ingredients. But, when using spice blends, take a look at the ingredient list. Consider what other spices or herbs may go well with the existing blend. And, add a bit of this, or a bit of that to make your meal uniquely yours.
Tip: Taste your food as you go, and season each ingredient. For example, instead of just adding spices to your breading mix for fried chicken, or just seasoning the chicken itself, intensify the flavor by seasoning both. And, be wary of over salting or adding too much pepper to foods. Both can be great enhancers, but too much of either can drown out other ingredients. The same goes for lime. A little can go a long way….