1. Herbs. Ask any gourmet chef what is their secret ingredient to make their food taste so good and they most likely answer some type of herb. Herbs are Mother Nature’s natural flavor enhancer. Here is a list of common herbs and what foods they pair best with:
- Basil – Pairs great with tomato dishes, pesto, egg dishes, salads, marinades, and fish.
- Dill – Tastes great paired with salads, soups, fish, chicken, eggs, carrots, cucumbers, potatoes, pickles, yogurt dips, and vinegar.
- Lemon Zest – Easy way to add flavor and “zest” to any meal! Simply grate the lemon rind and add to fish, poultry, marinades, salad dressings, and jams.
- Mint – Easy to grow and maintain, mint not only adds flavor but it also adds “eye-appeal”. The simple act of adding fresh mint leaves to a meal immediately make it more appetizing! Mint is paired great with lamb, eggplant, desserts, teas, and salads.
- Oregano – A versatile herb that is usually used to enhance flavors in many Italian and Mexican dishes. Also pairs well with beef, chicken, pasta, tomatoes, sauces, and marinades.
- Rosemary – A wonderfully aromatic herb that not only adds taste to your dish, but the aroma of rosemary will make any meal enticing. Rosemary pairs well with chicken, fish, lamb, pork, rice, potatoes, and stews.
2. Spices. Spices not only enhance the flavor of your food, but also provides a variety of health benefits. The spices available in the marketplace are endless and it can be exciting and overwhelming all at the same time to explore and figure out how to cook with them. Below you will find five spices that should be in every kitchen to enhance flavors and improve health
- Chili pepper
3. Oils. Cooking with a small amount of oil will help enhance the flavors of food, make eating more enjoyable, and increase the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. There is a lot of confusion out there on “What is the best oil to cook with?” And the truth is, cooking with a variety of oils can expand your nutrition profile and diversify your taste buds.
However, before we go into further detail on cooking oils, it is important to address the topic of oil “smoke point”. Smoke point is the temperature at which an oil begins to smoke; this is traditionally used as a reference for when the chemical breakdown begins to occur. Changes in the chemical profile may not only affect the taste of the oil, but also the nutritional value of the oil. Heating an oil beyond the smoke point can result in the release of cancer causing agents. Therefore it is recommended to not heat an oil beyond it’s smoke point.
Here are some notes on a few of my favorite cooking oils:
- Olive Oil: Pure olive oil can be used for stir-frying foods, however it is not recommended to use extra virgin grades because of it’s lower smoke point.. Avoid deep frying with olive oil because of the smoke point. Extra virgin olive oil is an excellent flavor enhancer served on cold foods such as pastas, salads or bread.
- Peanut Oil: Peanut oil is a monounsaturated fat with a higher smoke point than olive oil, and therefore can be used for deep frying and high heat cooking methods. Will add a nice flavor to the meal!
- Asian Sesame Oil: Asian sesame oil has a very delicate heat point and therefore should not be used for cooking. Use instead for flavor enhancement.
- Grapeseed Oil: One of the newest oils being talked about for it’s health benefits and high smoke point include Grapeseed Oil. Grapeseed Oil has a very neutral flavor profile and will not affect the taste of your meal.
- Additional Oils with a higher smoke point to enhance the flavor of your food:
- Walnut Oil
- Macadamian Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Avocado Oil
- Hazelnut Oil