The Taste-Buds-Pleasing Magic of Herbs and Spices
By Dina Eliash Robinson
To receive enthusiastic accolades for your cooking, no matter who eats at your table, all you need is a sense of what flavors enhance and combine well with each other.
(NOTE: Strongly recommend that only organic ingredients be used—both for health and flavors.)
While being born with natural talent is most helpful, quite effective gifts for creating tasty dishes can be acquired through patience, trial-and-error practice and the courage to persevere.
Having inherited the former from my Mother—who could conjure up gourmet meals worthy of world-famous chefs during times of war and food shortages from such basic ingredients as onions, garlic, cabbage, tomatoes, mushrooms, eggplants and beans—I discovered my knack for
- economic grocery shopping;
- selecting the best ingredients from whatever is available at any given time,
- and, when needed, substituting ingredients and adjusting flavors to make the dish taste just as delicious as if it had been made with the original ones;
- for cooking versatile dishes the flavors and textures of which surprise and delight my family and friends—while still being super-nutritious in general, and also meeting the specific health requirements of individuals for whom the dishes are prepared. (See Jazz Cooking—https://www.freerangeclub.com/category/jazz-cooking/–i.e. “improvised.”)
As a skinny child more interested in books than eating, I resisted learning Mother’s secret magic of making everything taste amazing, until I grew up and her creative cooking genes kicked in. Forced to obey their compulsion even while being tied to a hard-driving career track, I became a culinary Dervish by devising a fast and easy method to feed my family—and quite often friends or colleagues who invited themselves to our weekend meals or asked me to bring leftovers to work.
To save time and creative effort, I developed combinations of herbs and spices for various categories of dishes, such as chicken, turkey, fish, vegetarian and mushrooms—adding to or tweaking the combos now and then to light up the meal with a few unexpected flavors.
Here are some combinations of herbs and spices that that punch up flavors in the basic categories of home-cooked meals (see precise recipes at http://www.freerangeclub.com/category/recipes-with-pizzazz/):
- Chicken—marinated with herbs, spices, olive oil and Balsamic Vinegar, and baked, stewed (as a Hungarian Paprikásh), or made into a chicken-vegetable soup that prevents, as well as helps cure winter colds and flu—made worthy of multi-star restaurant fare through a combination of: fresh or dry parsley, basil and Tarragon; powdered red sweet paprika; Turmeric; olive oil; fresh red onion and garlic, chopped; powdered ginger; Worcestershire sauce; a pinch of Cayenne; and optional Rosemary, Thyme or Sage.
- Ground Turkey Loaf, Baked—mixed well (best by hand) in a bowl with a combination of olive oil; fresh or dry parsley, basil and Tarragon; powdered red sweet paprika; Turmeric; a slice of bread soaked in almond mild (excess squeezed out); fresh red onion and garlic, chopped; powdered ginger; Worcestershire sauce; a pinch of Cayenne; egg(s) and egg-whites.
- Ground Turkey Meat Balls—boiled in tomato juice—mixed well (best by hand) in a bowl with a combination of olive oil; fresh or dry parsley, basil, Turmeric and Tarragon; powdered red sweet paprika; raw brown rice; fresh red onion and garlic, chopped; powdered ginger; Worcestershire sauce; a pinch of Cayenne; oregano; eggs and egg-whites.
- Fish—Cooked on Stove-Top—started with chopped fresh red onion and garlic sautéed in olive oil; added chopped fresh tomato, pepper and fennel; combo of dry parsley, basil and dill weed; balsamic vinegar; Turmeric; Worcestershire sauce; powdered ginger; powdered red sweet paprika; pinch of Cayenne; crumbled seaweed; vegetable broth for sauce; (optional: splash of Balsamic Vinegar).
- Vegetable Ratatouille—several versions dictated by whatever fresh vegetables are available. Herbs and spices combo suggested: Chopped, sautéed fresh red onion and garlic in olive oil; fresh or dry parsley and basil (optional: coriander); Tarragon; powdered red sweet paprika; Turmeric; powdered ginger; pinch of Cayenne; Worcestershire sauce; splash of vegetable broth.
- Mushrooms—best when several kinds are cooked together (Portabello, Oyster, Shiitake, Reishi, Maitake, Crimini, etc.). Start with fresh red onion and garlic sautéed in olive oil; add mushrooms; splash of vegetable broth; Turmeric; Umami spice; powdered ginger; powdered red sweet paprika; pinch of Cayenne; Worcestershire sauce. Add wine when mushrooms almost cooked—red is best but white will do fine, also.