Flavors in foods come from just two sources: the ingredients themselves and the techniques applied to them. Knowing how the two sources interact can have a profound effect on your ability to create flavors. Here are some tips to guide you and those you serve on your quest for greater flavor, enhanced food enjoyment, increased fruit and vegetable consumption and better health.
Use Spicy Ingredients To Boost Overall Flavor
Did you know that produce items like jalapeño, serrano, and habanero chili peppers contain a compound called capsaicin that heightens our perception of sodium in food? Using spicy ingredients to boost flavor is a wise way to boost flavor before grabbing the saltshaker. Keep in mind there are processed versions of jalapeño peppers, for example, like fire roasted diced green chiles that offer the same flavor benefit as fresh as well as convenience. No chopping required! While the canned products do contribute some sodium, the amounts are typically very low. This is in contrast to the sodium contributed by buffalo wing sauces or other bottled hot sauces; I recommend people compare brands to find the ones with the least added sodium.
Use Umami-rich Ingredients To Boost Savory Flavors
Umami is one of five taste sensations along with sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. It describes the savory flavors or deliciousness of foods.
Umami taste perceptions come from three compounds: glutamate, inosinate, and guanylate. While these compounds on their own contribute umami properties to foods, their interactions have a powerful synergistic effect when combined in a single dish. Glutamate is found in many vegetables like mushrooms, especially dried shiitake mushrooms, tomatoes and processed tomato products, especially sun-dried tomatoes, and other vegetables like green peas, garlic, and potatoes. Inosinate is found in seafood, eggs, meat, and poultry. Guanylate is the rarest of the tree compounds.
The Umami Information Center website currently lists just four foods in their database that contain guanylate. They are nori (the seaweed used to wrap sushi rolls), dried tomatoes, dried shiitake mushrooms and enoki mushrooms.
Aged dairy products and fermented foods are also umami-rich ingredients that will boost flavor. Topping roasted veggies with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, adding chopped kimchi to a whole grain and vegetable salad, or adding a dash of soy sauce to sauteed vegetables will make those dishes even more delicious.
Finely Dice Or Purée Foods To Change Flavor
Garlic is an example of an ingredient whose flavor changes dramatically depending on the technique applied to it. A bulb or whole clove of garlic will emit very little aroma while a clove that has been cut in half will start to emit alluring garlic aromas. Finely mincing garlic will lead to greater flavor because more volatile aromatic compounds will be released from the cells into the air. This will have an impact on the flavor of the final dish with garlic.
Likewise, puréeing a food like steamed broccoli will burst the cells and create creamy textures with consistent flavor in each spoonful. Instead of people reacting to the more bitter flavor in broccoli crowns they will experience a sweeter, creamier flavor.
Use Aromatic Ingredients To Boost Flavor Perceptions
Aromatic ingredients are called “aromatics” because of the aromas they emit during preparation and/or cooking. Examples from the produce category include onions, scallions (or green onions), garlic, ginger, celery, leeks, and citrus zest or peel. Using more of these ingredients in savory dishes creates layers of flavors and complexity that make foods more appealing.
Spices and herbs are also considered aromatics. Buying whole spices and grinding them with a coffee grinder (cleaned with dry rice after grinding) or a mortar & pestle will offer more flavor than using a ground spice that’s been stored in your cabinet for more than a year. For herbs, fresh is typically the option that will provide more flavor, but some dried herbs like dried rosemary will pack a power punch of aroma when added to a simmering dish like soup or risotto.
Sharing these tips with the people you serve is another step toward our collective goal of increasing fruit and vegetable consumption. Cheers to all your work to motivate people to Have A Plant®!