To enhance the sensory perception of any menu, meal, or recipe.
Over time, I’ll be doing individual blog posts on each of the following ten suggestions, but I wanted to be sure to post the “bare bones list” for you now so that you can keep these 10 easy tips in mind when planning your menus, meals, and choosing and adapting interesting recipes to fix. It’s really not hard to go from “blah” to “aah” as the saying goes…so bring out the desirable spices and herbs, condiments and seasonings, broths and stocks and even some sauces and chutneys, marinades, and garnishes and really open your mind up to the possibilities.
1) Put some more spice in your life!
Do an eye scan of your kitchen spice cabinet inventory and update your selections;
Start using spices in new and exciting ways, including on everyday sandwiches!
2) Herbs: Sooner rather than later, or vice-versa?
Add herbs appropriately either sooner or later: Sooner in cold dishes where the flavors marry in the refrigerator;
Later for non-savory herbs in hot dishes because as they break down and release their aromatic qualities quickly, they may have fewer residual sensory elements left if they are allowed to “cook out” so-to-speak.
3) Maximize pleasant aromas
Water-based liquids, even without added fats, can still transmit aroma and flavor well, as known by consumers of all the different coffee roasts and tea blends out there. Heat carries enticing aromas through the air, so take advantage of that when planning to cook.
Remember flavor sprays? Anything with wonderful aromatic qualities can and does contribute to your sense of well-being and sensory satisfaction in life. Studies conducted by the Monell Chemical Senses Center and similar research programs have clearly shown that sensory satisfaction is what most of us seek. A major national weight loss program at one time marketed flavor sprays just for that reason.
4) Mix up food flavor notes
Monotony is boring–so mix the flavor notes in your menus, meals, and recipes up a bit! Try different cuisines as that will encourage you to mix up flavor notes in ways you had not thought of previously.
Experiment with mixing up the flavor notes of food items of all types.
You can also add flavor notes with commercially available products, but please be sure to check how much sodium they might also add to your intake if used in certain amounts. These products may be sold as dry “rubs” or “seasoning blends” or as liquids and range from anything from “bitters” to “Worcestershire” and other “sauces” or “Tabascos” or similar liquid products including even “liquid smoke” or equivalent, etc., sold under various trade names.
They are available in the marketplace locally or by ordering them for shipping directly to your doorstep. Always look for the lower sodium options, but be careful of anything with much potassium in it as that mineral can be quite bitter tasting.
5) Take stock of broths and other flavoring liquids
Increase the depth of flavor in soups, stews, and combination skillet meals by using flavorful, naturally lower in sodium liquids/broths options. Sodium levels can vary enormously in commercially made products, so be sure to check the labels. You can make your own broths and stocks and freeze them–using older style ice cube trays actually works well for that. You can even freeze extras of purchased product if you think you will not use it up right away and freezing in smaller amounts allows for easy inclusion in last minute meals.
6) Sometimes it’s good to Marinate!
Infusing flavor into various recipes can be done in a multitude of ways, and sometimes marinating is an excellent way to do just that. Surface marination allows flavors to penetrate into the food item all around it, while injection methods of marination will allow flavors to more deeply penetrate the food’s unseen depths. Depending upon how much marinade actually remains with the food affects how that marinade contributes to the nutrient content it leaves behind.
7) Boldly try new cooking techniques
Explore various cooking techniques. Flavor profile perceptions of food items can at times vary depending upon how you actually cook some items. Poaching will create a very different perception than will braising, steaming, boiling or stewing, roasting, pan sauteing, true frying, or baking. You can bring out the inner deep flavor of many food items by using a lower calorie cooking method that still ranks high on gustatory satisfaction.
8) Size and shape of the food item pieces really do matter.
Truly, both shape & size make a difference.
Flavor profile perceptions of food items will change depending upon how you actually prepare some items.
Change up your food preparation techniques including thickness and thinness characteristics to vary the textures of many food items, be they high protein content food items, or lower calorie, but higher fiber content vegetables and fruits.
By shaving cheeses, or super thinly cutting specialty deli meat items, it can be possible to have a pungent taste of them while still keeping the overall caloric content of a meal lower, yet still have a high flavor profile. An example is a thin band of super thinly sliced prusciutto (specialty Italian ham) wrapped around a ripe piece of cantaloupe melon.
When items are thinly sliced, they have more surface area by weight, and thus your palate can more fully appreciate their flavor potency.
In contrast, you can prepare vegetables and fruits as toppings or to include in chutneys, compotes, salsas, etc., where a little bit goes a long way–and the piece size is usually of a smaller dice.
In contrast, for crudities that are high in fiber, batonnet shapes are preferable as that encourages one to masticate them more and extract the flavor more slowly that way and experience the mouth feel difference between the crunch of the crudity and the rounder creamier texture of the dip (which may or may not be smooth).
9) Variety also matters
Explore different varieties within a food family to experience different flavor profiles.
Take for example, the alliums. Within the alliums (which include onions, chives, leeks, and garlics) there are hundreds of varieties, and each has its own unique flavor profile. Some are very intense and pungent, while others are much milder in their flavor profile.
Thinly sliced red onions or chopped chives or other green onion shoots/scapes that are finely diced and added raw into any fresh cold or room temperature salad will mingle and add a subtle flavor, while sweet Mayan onions grown in Peru or Sweet Vidalia onions grown in Georgia in the US or Texas Sweets grown in the US will contribute a different ever so slightly sweet element to a stir fry.
On the other hand, if you were making a stew, adding an onion that melds well into a dish that cooks in the oven or on a stove/cook top for much longer would be an excellent choice such as a Spanish onion.
White pearl onions make a mild side dish in and of themselves or can be added to other cooked vegetables in a wide range of dishes including for holiday celebrations where a stock sauce may glaze them.
10) Feast with your eyes whenever you can
People love holiday meals because in addition to all the personal ambiance of being around family and friends, there is usually a little extra effort put into setting up the dining room, using nicer table settings, adding decorative center pieces, optimizing the lighting, using pleasing colors for the theme, etc.
Remember that the eyes like to feast, too, so don’t wait for holidays to treat yourself and your family–why not add some edible garnishes to your plates as seasonally feasible? Consider including sprinkles of spices &/or herbs, edible flowers, edible vegetable tidbits, etc. Life is too short to miss an opportunity to feast with your eyes!