Cooking Flavorful Food December 14, 2020
Well, I am a foodie. I love food. I call myself the Comfort Food Gourmet. Here is some of my best advice, tips, and secrets for preparing meals.
The first secret to maintaining meat and vegetable nutrients and flavor is to maintain it’s moisture. This is done with liquids and oils. The primary liquid is water but for more flavor broths are great. We have all kinds of oil for cooking and it also maintains nutrients and flavor and can, like liquid broths, add flavor. Both water and oil are necessary to carry nutrients to the cells of the body.
I use a 6 oz spray bottle for quickly and easily adding water to my food while cooking and an oil cooking spray as well. Often spraying both on the food, especially meat. I keep liquid broths (beef, chicken, and vegetable) and bouillon (beef, chicken, and vegetable) for adding flavor by liquid and several oils like canola, vegetable, corn, and olive. Butter is also a flavorful fat used for cooking and you can use an oil or butter on many foods depending on the flavor you want.
A liquid and an oil or fat is almost always how you start a meal, the first ingredients. Second for me is salt and pepper. Salt, a necessary nutrient, is also a carrier of nutrients to the body. Salt and pepper both come in a variety of flavors. I encourage you to find your favorites, and like liquids and oils, you may find that you like certain salts and/or pepper on certain foods.
Next on the list of ingredients is vegetables used for flavoring. Onions, peppers, and celery for example (and I like mushrooms). The best way to get these into your food and diet is to keep them handy by freezing. Prepare them for cooking by cleaning if necessary and then chopping or dicing them. Then place them in a freezer bag and into the freezer. I spend about 4 hours a month on preparing and freezing flavoring vegetables for cooking. These vegetables will provide you with much flavor, nutrition, and variety in and of meals. Once again, there are many to choose from, like our people of the World they differ a little from region to region but are basically the same. Find the ones you like and available in your market and include them in your diet. For soups and stews that are a little acidic (tomato based for example) a little sugar can be added to reduce acidity and sugar marries flavors very well.
I then add herbs and spices to my foods which provide the greatest variety of flavor. Once again, discover what you like in your food and use them in your cooking/diet. There are many good ones to choose from. These are what, in my opinion, turn a dish into a regional cuisine like Asian, Italian, or Spanish foods. Certainly their local salts and peppers, flavorful vegetables, and meat preparation add to tradition and originality of flavor to a dish but locally or home prepared cultural dishes are great. When learning to add herbs and spices and a rule of thumb is not available, I often try/add a little and see how it tastes. Premixed herbs and spices that are available in grocery stores like Italian Seasoning, Poultry Seasoning, Chili Seasoning, etc. are usually very good. Sprinkle herbs in or on until it appears right to you. I also keep a dried minced onion, onion powder, garlic powder, and jarred minced garlic for adding to foods.
I freeze meat (and fish) also and keep a variety available to eat. Add the liquid, oil, salt, pepper and get it cooking and then add the flavorful vegetables and herbs and spices. My basic way of thinking about this comes from making soups and stews. You will find marrying flavors in a broth can teach you a lot about cooking and flavoring food, in my opinion. Pan frying and pan poaching/braising takes a little more attention than soups and stews to the time of cooking and tending the food until your preferred doneness is reached but the ingredients can be essentially the same. Single dish or one pan cooking is also a good way to learn how to cook and marry your favorite flavors.
Flavoring meat by marinating is a good way to add flavor to meat. A marinade is essentially the same as a soup, a broth and other flavorful ingredients, which the meat is put in to absorb flavors. I usually marinade meat over night. I add a little oil to help with flavor absorption. Beef can be marinated in a little beef broth to increase beef flavor and other flavors can be added like onion and garlic and herbs and spices. The same can be done to chicken, etc. Experiment/explore and/or use your intuition to create your marinades, soups, stews, and other dishes that I know you and others will like. Lately, I have been experimenting a little with contrasting or differing the flavors of meat and the flavor of the other main or primary food(s) like vegetables, beans, noodles, or rice for example, that I have prepared to eat. Even beans, noodles, and rices come with differing flavors. But they are probably the easiest to include without altering a dishes flavor much and add much nutrition. Generally speaking, with the exception of soups and stews, these foods (beans, noodles, and rice) are cooked separately and added to the meat and/or vegetables.
Vegetable dishes are created using the same principles as entrees and can be an entree. Primary vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and green beans generally have a milder or less intense flavor than those used for flavoring. They are very good all by themselves with a little water, oil/butter, salt, and pepper which is why they are most often a side dish. They generally maintain their own flavor and combinations of these vegetables and their flavors combine well with one another in the mouth. A good soup or stew can be made with primary vegetables alone especially when they are slow cooked which brings out more flavor.
Take a little time to know what you like in your food to eat and try to incorporate those things into your cooking. I think you will eventually find yourself trying different foods and combinations of foods.
Again, soups and stews are a great way to learn how to cook everyday food for yourself and family. And fall, winter, and spring are all good seasons for soups and stews. You will learn some about meat and vegetable preparation, proportions (# of servings) of both meat to flavoring and primary vegetables (# of servings) and broth (or water) to food (immerse food in water or broth for cooking, noting the quantity in cups, and then add more to your liking at any time during cooking), and the amount of herbs and/or spices you like to add (sprinkle in until it appears right to you). Generally speaking a serving of vegetable(s) added to a serving of meat is a good proportion for soups and stews. But less meat can be used and often is. You can add a few of the flavoring ingredients at a time and taste during cooking to come to a flavor you like. Soups and stews are generally slow cooked (1-1/2 to 2 hrs min) at a simmer, and in a broth, so cooking is easy and the food is very tender and nutritious. Noodles, rice, beans, barley, etc. can be added. Broths for soups can be found in grocery stores as well as bouillon for making broths by adding water. Bouillon generally has a little stronger flavor than broths. A good choice for a bouillon brand is Better Than Bouillon.
Frozen vegetables like mixed vegetables, peas, corn, lima beans, etc. bought at a grocery store are excellent and easy for adding to soups and stews. My favorite is mixed vegetables. Canned beans of all sorts are available and are a great easy addition.
The broth of a soup or stew can be thickened by adding a thickening ingredient like flour or corn starch. A small amount of water is added to the powder to make a thin paste or thick liquid and then stirred into the broth. I usually use corn starch which has directions on the container for gravy. Use about 1/2 to 3/4 as much to start for a thicker soup or stew. Note how much broth in cups that you added to the meat and vegetables so you can follow thickening instructions.
Soups and stews and many other dishes that are made at home can be frozen. When reheating water is usually necessary for reconstitution and more oil may be necessary too. I think it is important to understand that the foods we eat and the nutrition they provide are basically carried by water and oil (fats). The weight of most living things is mostly water greatly needed by the body. Cooking brings the nutrients in the water or fat out so the food can become dry and perhaps the nutrients somewhat denatured or left in the pan after cooking. So adding water and oil to food is important for both nutrition and flavor. What goes in the pan should come out of the pan if it has been cooked correctly especially with nonstick pans. Generally speaking low to medium temperatures are best for cooking but high temperatures are sometimes needed during a cooking process. Soups, stews, and vegetables are often brought to a boil first and then reduced to a simmer. This quickens the cooking process and brings out the nutrients and flavors of the food so they can marinade. Coming to understand liquids and oils for cooking is very important to making nutritious flavorful food.
Preparing and cooking food should be like reading a book, watching TV, or listening to music. You should take the time to devote your attention to it, learn a process, style, and flavor(s) all your own. It is a skill or art required several times a day. Certainly we often work until we are very hungry or we are in a hurry and turn to sandwiches and chips or a hamburger and fries and I don’t think these are bad for you foods. I eat them regularly. But your diet should be as varied as possible. Our restaurants (and grocery stores) are phenomenal in my opinion. Take some time to find ones that you would like to try during your work day and that fit into your schedule.
Well, I hope this advice, tips, and secrets help you with your cooking and wish you all the best of health.
Richard A Damron