Just nine ingredients we suggest, no we insist, that you to have on hand at all times unless allergies or alien captors keep you away. These are the seasonings that make real food – unprocessed produce and proteins -easier to prepare and better to eat. You most definitely have a few of these stocked up, but take a look at our list and consider the rest.
Lemons are a full service food. Their acidity tenderizes chicken and fish, while cutting the harsh tastes found in some greens – do you hear me bok choy? The fresh tanginess heightens nearly any beverage from tea to cocktails to soda and makes for lighter pasta sauces; my favorite is risotto. Let’s not forget that lemon juice prevents avocados, apples, and pears from turning brown and it removes fishy smells from your hands. It also removes the polish from your marble counter top. Lemon, like milk and toilet paper, should be on your weekly shopping list.
Sea salt is not just for Iron Chefs. It costs a bit more than iodized salt, but sea salt’s depth intensifies foods not alters it.The girl on the Morton’s label is spilling her iodized salt because she knows it’s better for melting ice on the driveway than it is for eating.Because sea salt tastes better, you need less which is good for the heart and tummy. Salt foods during cooking, not just at the end. And use a pinch on salads w/ground pepper, vinegar and olive oil, instead of salad dressing. When you take the plunge into sea salt, I recommend fleur de sel that I buy in bulk online. Don’t get me started on pink himalayan.
Fresh ground pepper goes with sea salt as a basic for seasoning, but that sprinkle on stuff just doesn’t get the job done because pepper immediately loses its aromatic flavor after grinding. Fresh ground pepper, like sea salt, has better depth of flavor. I use it, even in speckled amounts, in almost every savory dish. Although black pepper is the most widely traded spice in the world, I also recommend green pepper for milder tastes and white pepper for light colored dishes. I’m a fool for Penezy’s assortment of peppercorns.
Honey is a decent substitute for sweetening drinks and liquids rather than using refined sugar. We rely on it to sweeten dressings especially when paired with peppery and bitter lettuces – do you hear me watercress? Honey is also great for binding granola bars and rice crisps squares instead of using light corn syrup or marshmallows and for soothing throats that have been yelling about the virtues of sea salt.
garlic is a vegetable’s best friend and one of those seasonings where a little goes a long way. I forgive you if you rely on chopped garlic out of jars, but you should get into the practice of smashing and mincing fresh garlic as needed. Garlic loses it’s nutritional value shortly after chopping and if you read its healing properties, you’d keep it fresh and add it at the last minute. I flash cook vegetables that are about to take a turn for the worse, and garlic, like the religious healer that it is, miraculously brings those tired veggies back to life. Although garlic has its own set of nutritional stats, I think anything as powerfully strong to make us eat more vegetables, should be praised even more for its blessed flavor savior abilities. Amen.
Soy sauce, much like garlic, is a kind and considerate partner to vegetables because, much like a good mate, it brings out the best in them. Soy sauce gives a savory rise to stir-fry vegetables or performs well as a marinade for most proteins (poultry, meat, fish). Easy teriyaki marinade: 1 T soy sauce, 1 T light brown sugar, 1/2 t sesame oil, 3 T water.
dried herbs (oregano, dill, rosemary) Just a sprinkle of these herbs can punch up any mild flavored salad, egg dish, fish, chicken or vegetables. We are big fans of the fresh herbs here, but oregano is one of those herbs that’s almost as good dried as it is fresh. A dash on a salad with oil and red wine vinegar to make an instant mediterranean salad.
Salsa is a fresh, low-calorie, intensely-flavored topping for nearly any savory food: eggs, meats, fish, beans, salads, and vegetables. Look for freshly prepared salsas or pico de gallo at the grocer. I always take home an extra container of pico de gallo and cilantro from Baja Fresh for cooking. What? We add in 1/2 c salsa to a can of black beans for last-minute frijoles negros.
Sugar, yes sugar. A pinch in salads and dressings can tame strong vinegars and bitter lettuces charming young ones into eating salads or crudites. We prefer turbinado sugar (pictured), but even refined sugar works in small doses.
Now that you have our list of nine essential seasonings, you’ll be ready to move to the next levels. Look for our upcoming posts: crunchtime desirables and crunchtime delectables. What are your best and easiest ways to elevate tastes of real food?