Rebecca Katz in her book One Bite at a Time very cleverly describes how to balance your flavors in any dish by using the four basic ingredients which are fat, acid, sweet and salt (FASS).
For fat use high quality fats like extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil, coconut oil, butter, ghee depending on the dish that you are preparing and its application. Know your fats and use them reverently. Rebecca refers to fat as the “magic carpet” that caries the flavors across your palate. The tongue is covered with many different islands of taste buds thus fat has the emulsifying action to blend all the flavors together in a well-orchestrated symphony. Another quality of the fat is to add substance to a dish leaving as satiated and well nourished. Just keep in mind a little fat goes a long way.
Acid brings brightness to any dish. It breaks down the tissues and fibers in vegetables and meats allowing the savory juices to run freely. An acid keeps greens from oxidizing, it is a great counterbalance to sweet flavors in a dish and helps reduce the salt required. There are many great choices for acids lemon and limes are some favorites to use and there are great vinegar choices. Again experiment with different choices and be creative.
Salt is the magic ingredient that brings out the flavors of whole foods, it is like a key that unlocks a door. Sea salt crystals act like little scrubbing bubbles that release flavors. It adds depth and roundness to the choir. Sea salt has no substitutes it has more than 80 minerals and elements from the sea. From the science side it has been suggested that sodium stimulates and improves the conductivity of electrical current in nerve cells. Table salt in not what we are talking about, that is a processed, bleached and filled with different chemicals to keep it white and dry. Salt is naturally hygroscopic loves moisture.
Sweet considered the matriarch of the flavors, brings balance to all others, increases our pleasure. Sweet is the flavor that we tolerate most; the brain loves it and asks for more each time. It cuts any bitterness and acid in any dish. Key is to use it in great balance. When you finish a meal on a sweet note you feel rewarded and content.
Now you know the key players in flavoring meals go ahead and experiment. Honing your taste buds requires a lot of trial and error in the kitchen the more you experiment the better you will become. Always start out with small amounts so that you can really feel the difference when your finished dish is seasoned to perfection. The best way to experiment is to make soups, which are why our second module is centered on soups. Just think you are taking a flavorless element – water- and you are creating a pot of delicious and nutritious meal that tantalizes all the taste buds and nourishes the mind, body and soul. Start out with fresh, whole organic, local and seasonal produce and create your magic using this incredible useful technique FASS.
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