At Sensational Seasonings we are all about great flavor and finding every possible way to maximize it! Imagine – it’s Friday night and you’re having some friends over for dinner, so you go all out preparing a delicious meal. Now imagine your frustration, when the dinner that you spent hours preparing, just doesn’t have the ‘zing’ that you were looking for. It’s bland, despite all the herbs and seasonings that you used.
With most recipes, there are four distinct flavors that are necessary to make your dinners impress. Leaving out just one of these makes a big difference and may even cause you to overcompensate by making it more salty or sweet. Think about it…salt is inexpensive and that’s why many processed foods have sodium levels that are off the chart!
Well, I’ve already mentioned two of them…salt and something sweet. The other two are spicy and sour. However, let’s say that you don’t like spicy food…or you are trying to cut back on salt. That’s the beauty of these fabulous four, they balance each other out so that you don’t have to go overboard with any one of them.
Let’s put into practice by making a marinara sauce. Start by sauteing minced onions, garlic, carrots, and celery cooking over medium heat in olive oil. Next, let’s enhance the flavor and add more ingredients.
Let’s start with salt, 1/2 tsp to be exact. What salt does is actually bring out the natural flavors of food. There’s a reason why marinara sauce from the grocery store tastes so good, it’s loaded with salt! That’s why it’s better and healthier to make your own at home. Remember though, one of the benefits of cooking at home is to reduce your salt intake and make better choices, so take it easy with the salt.
Tip: Another way to incorporate some salt, without going crazy, is by using Parmesan cheese or bacon. Imagine finishing pasta with some Parmesan or adding some crispy bacon.
Back to our marinara recipe…Now add just a pinch of chili peppers or red chili flakes and a teaspoon of thyme (or for a nice mix of herbs and spices use Sensational Seasonings’ salt free, Italian Herb. If using Sensational Seasonings, add two teaspoons along with a pinch of pepper flakes. This is where spicy comes in. Spice works really well when it compliments some sweetness in a dish. Plus it really wakes up your pallet.
Tip: Here’s another idea for adding just a little heat to a side dish that can come out tasting bland…Fried rice. If you’re making fried rice, use just a little sriracha or chili sauce.
Let’s now add two heaping tablespoons of tomato paste. Even better, cook the tomato paste for a couple minutes which intensifies the flavors of the tomato even more and it gives it plenty of depth.
Now for this flavor enhancer, we’re talking about either acid or something sour. For this recipe, some red wine will do the trick. Add some wine to the pan and reduce it by half. Now add a can of pureed tomatoes.The flavor is going to become more intense and really create a good base. Something acidic, like this, works because it brightens things up and it cuts through the richness of some dishes.
Tip: With other dishes, lemon juice cuts through the richness and make the flavor bright and pop. This is why so many recipes call for it. Also, a touch of vinegar is great for a salad dressing because they’re mostly made of oil which is rich. Balance it out with one part acid or vinegar. So much better!
For the fourth layer of flavor, we’re going to add honey, which rounds out all the flavors perfectly. Especially for marinara sauce because tomatoes are very acidic and the honey helps cut through that acid. Another way to add sweetness is Molasses. Honey or some kind of ‘sweet’ is also important when making chili. Always add it gradually though and taste along the way.
Yes, that’s right…Umami, which is Japanese and means ‘savory’ or ‘deliciousness’. If you’d like to add a savory, earthy flavor (Umami) to this marinara sauce, try either mushrooms, soy sauce or Parmesan cheese (or all of the above).
There you go! Don’t forget these fabulous four and a bonus, it makes cooking at home that much more enjoyable and fulfilling! And by cooking at home, you can take control of your diet, limit your salt intake and live a healthier life.
Sensational Seasonings is a gourmet seasonings company located in Johnson City, TN. Our healthy and delicious product line includes: Cajun Blackening Seasoning, Chicken Seasoning, Jamaican Jerk Seasoning, Italian Seasoning and Pork Rub. Each of our seasoning blends is either salt-free or low-salt (meeting all guidelines of the FDA). Reducing the salt content in our seasonings allows you to get more flavor from all the herbs and spices we include, while allowing you take total control of your salt intake.
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