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Balancing Flavors in the Kitchen

Balancing Flavors in the Kitchen

“Play to each element’s strengths: use Salt to enhance, Fat to carry, and Acid to balance flavor.”

― Samin Nosrat, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking

Have you ever walked into your kitchen and felt like you were out of ideas? You open the refrigerator, look at the contents, and just consider making one of the same meals you made last week, and the week before that. All the joy of cooking a meal for your family has left you and it feels more like a chore than an experience.

Getting stuck in a cooking rut happens to all of us — myself included. It can be challenging to try new things and break away from the weeknight staples.

But, here’s the secret …

It can be easy to keep your meals exciting and recipe repertoire fresh … while still using simple ingredients. That’s why I’m excited to share with you 5 habits that will ABSOLUTELY get you out of your kitchen rut. Over the next several days, I’m going to share some tips, tricks, and ideas for getting back in the kitchen, creating dishes that feel exciting, and help you find a new passion for variety.

Habit #1 is inspired by one of my favorites cooks, Samin Nosrat, author of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking. I love watching her demystify what makes food delicious in her very binge-worthy Netflix show.

Here’s what I’ve learned — the trick is to balance your flavors

by learning the art of seasoning! 

Using quality salt is the perfect place to start. Salt does so much more than make food salty. Not only does it have its own flavor, but it enhances the flavor profile of each ingredient. You can use it to minimize bitterness, balance out sweetness, enhance aromas, and truly make a dish shine. Chocolate chip cookies with sea salt sprinkled on top, anyone?

Here are a few simple tips to help you get started on this balancing act:

  • Balance flavor profiles across your main and side dishes. For example, a spicy dish will pair nicely with soup or rice. And adding sweet and sour ingredients to a salad will really liven up the flavor profile!
  • Add salt throughout your cooking, not just at the end. As I mentioned before, salt brings out the flavor of all of your ingredients.
  • Taste as you cook. This helps you determine what flavor is lacking or whether something needs to be toned down a bit.
  • Adjust overly sweet food with bitter or acidic (sour) ingredients. Bitter ingredients can be things like coffee, beer, and green veggies. While sour foods are things like yogurt, sour cream, and vinegar.
  • Add sour ingredients a little at a time. Remember, small amounts of sour ingredients go a long way.

But here’s the best tip I can offer — trust your instincts!

While cooks like Samin can teach us the science behind our ingredients, don’t forget that half of the fun of cooking is experimenting.

Here’s to more exciting dishes in all of our kitchens!

With love from my kitchen,

Jessica Helgeson Signature