Oil, herbs and spices


Salt is undoubtedly the world’s all time favorite seasoning. At one time it was considered so valuable in some societies that it was used as money. Today we know that too much salt can lead to health problems but we still love our salt. As a beginner cook you should learn to use salt to enhance a bland tasting dish. Salt will liven up tasteless food. However, remember you can always add more salt, but you can not remove it once cooked in. So, taste, taste, taste!

Salt Substitutes

If you are concerned about salt intake there are several natural foods you may use in place of salt. Lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar or dill weed satisfies the desire for salt for many people. Use dill weed and lemon juice on fish in place of salt.

Sweet and Sour

The Chinese learned long ago the secret of combining sweet and sour. It is used in many of their dishes. In dishes that are intended to be sweet, try adding a dash of salt. Likewise, in dishes intended to be sour, spicy or salty, try adding a dash of sugar. Examples: In any cooked greens (turnip, collard, spinach, mustard) add a touch of vinegar, salt and sugar. In chili, add a spoon of sugar or honey. In BBQ sauce and Italian or Ranch salad dressing, add a touch of sugar.

Experiment With the Unusual

Unsweetened cocoa powder, instant coffee, cola and beer/wine, in small amounts, impart flavors that are hard to identify but special. Don’t be afraid to experiment with these ingredients in your recipes. Just use common sense (no beer in ice cream). Most of these ingredients add a subtle but distinctive taste to chili, soups, pasta and Mexican dishes.

Stock Your Kitchen

As a beginner cook you should stock your kitchen with the following spices and ingredients as a minimum:
* Salt
* Black pepper
* Sugar
* Baking powder
* Baking soda
* Cornstarch
* Basil
* Oregano
* Cayenne pepper
* Cinnamon
* Vanilla
* Garlic

Eventually, you should add the following:
* Yeast
* Thyme
* Rosemary
* Sage
* Nutmeg
* Lemon juice
* Mustard
* Olive oil
* Cooking wine
* Corn meal
* Soy sauce
* Brown sugar
* Tomato paste
* Chicken and beef stock
* Vinegar

In conclusion, seasoning is perhaps the most important secret to a really good cook’s success. While recipes and mom’s cooking experience handed down are useful nothing teaches better than experience. Don’t be afraid to experiment. That’s how you learn. So tie on your apron, get in the kitchen and have fun.

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