My Food writing teacher asked us to write ten flavors/ingredients we cannot live without. Imagine, just ten things out of the millions and trillions that exist in our culinary world! What a challenge.
1. Olive Oil- Olive oil makes up the basis for most of our cooking in my kitchen. Regardless, I happen to adore the flavor. Every once in a while I buy a few different varieties of what I think is considered a good olive oil and taste it in some of my dishes. Good olive oil should be drizzled on top of a soup, or on a light tasting fish dish and should never be cooked. By doing so you really can taste the complexities and flavors of the oil.
2. Tomato- I find myself exploring the flavor of tomato more and more. Tomatoes are a big part of my families kitchen culture. A quick tomato sauce is instantly a meal with some pasta and parmigiana added. This is something I have been eating since I was a little girl and crave it. I love making tomato sauce. Adding the garlic to the olive oil and adding the canned tomatoes once the garlic aromatizes. Watching the bubbles as the tomato cooks. Crushing the whole ones and tasting it as it slowly cooks on the stove top. It brings my whole life back to me in an instant. Memories of my grandmother and cooking together for all of our holidays with my mom; all is remembered from a spoonful of sauce hot from the pan. As the smell fills the house it brings everyone to the kitchen it brings a warmth to our home and a smile on everyone’s face.
3. Peanut Butter- I have an obsession with peanut butter. The creamy texture and the flavor of the roasted and crushed peanuts is such a comfort for me. Usually I eat it with a bit of chocolate.
4. Dark Chocolate- My mom introduced me to dark chocolate. I make many desserts with this ingredient, as does she. When I was a child I would go into the cupboard and sneak pieces of bakers chocolate and I still do today. The bitterness of the chocolate with the creamy texture that melts in your mouth is why I love it. The little caffeine kick is such a pick me up from a long day.
5. Coffee- Most flavors that I cannot live without come with strong memories. As a child I loved the smell of coffee in the morning. I would jolt up from the smell, as if the scent alone was a caffeine kick. Every morning until I went to college I would wake up and sit with my mom as she drank her coffee and we would watch the news together. The house completely silent and peaceful, it was our twenty minutes of quiet together. Since, I have grown my love for it. There is a whole world of coffee that is much like wine. The beans all have their own terroir which create different flavors and complexities. The bitterness, full body, crema or oil slick at the top are all reasons why I love it. Right now I am very into Cinco de Junio, a coffee from Nicaragua. It is bold and full-bodied, but with low acidity so it can stand up to some soy milk and sugar without overpowering them.
6. Garlic- I don’t know how to describe garlic other than it is very strong, slightly bitter, and has a bite to it when raw. A flavor I use in majority of my cooking at home; I could not work without this aromatic.
7. Soy- I eat a lot of Asian cuisine and Soy is in almost all of that style of cooking. The salty, umami flavor instantly adds complexity to a dish that would be lackluster without it.
8. Salt- Sodium is necessary for life, but more importantly for flavor composition. We cannot eat most, if not all things without it. Salt draws out complexities that would otherwise go unnoticed and adds roundness to a dish.
9. Chili/ Spice- Ever since I was a little girl I have loved the flavor of hot sauce and chili peppers. This is really a love/hate situation because of the painful burning my heart feels once consumed, but, nevertheless, I can’t let it go. The burning sensation on my tongue and the complex flavor of the capsaicin is interesting and fun for me. It adds an unforgettable component to a dish, especially when my mouth won’t stop burning afterwords.
10. Vinegar/ Sour- The acidic, sour flavors of vinegar and citrus is an essential in my kitchen. Many fish dishes, especially, need a little acid and sour. It is very similar to adding salt, but adds a new roundness to the dish. For example a shallow poached salmon is instantly brightened with a little vinegar or lemon.
What flavors speak to you?