Clarity Nation! Have a real treat for you guys today - a beginners guide to spices!
Now, I'm not going to get into individual spices, uses, flavors, or any of that.
Here's what I will do though. First, let's start with why: from talking to clients, friends, people in general, I've noticed a recurring theme with a lot of people. They don't use spices in their foods simply because they don't know how! In turn, it has them using unhealthy sauces and condiments (filled with high fructose corn syrup and other highly inflammation prone substances) for flavoring.
News flash: You don't need to use unhealthy sauces and condiments to flavor your food! This beginner guide will help you find your footing well enough to explore, play, and have fun with different ways to season and flavor your food.
First and foremost: always season your meat!
Protein is often the focal point of our meals, doesn't it make sense to give it some flavor? Before you add some meat to your meal be sure to season it with a little salt and pepper.
Personally, I like to use pink himilayan sea salt. Why? It has 84 minerals in it, all if which are minerals our bodies need every day. It can be a great way to replace electrolytes through the day and help ensure our nutritional needs are being met.
Pink Himilayan Sea Salt, unlike your iodized table salt, is minimally processed and actually has health benefits, as opposed to standard table salt which has been purged of all nutritional value.
Tip 2: Choose salt-free seasonings as much as possible
Now here's the thing. We're already seasoning our meat with a little salt and pepper, there's no need for extra salt content in anything else. Salt and Pepper are primarily used to enhance the flavor of what we're eating. To be able to actually taste the salt means we're putting WAY too much salt into our diets.
If you're new to spices or just starting to learn, I'd recommend finding seasonings (such as italian for example, which has oregano, basil, onion, pepper, garlic, and other spices) which already have blends. These pre-blended seasonings can be a lot cheaper than trying to buy a bunch of spices individually. Dually, they can be a great way to familiarize yourself with using spices and the different flavors and aromas they emit.
Tip 3: Match colors to foods
This one may be kind of a no-brainer, but, match your colors to your food! Some colors of the spices just don't go with certain colors of foods. What are some examples?
A white cream sauce will turn red if you start adding red spices to it. Colors can be very unappealing to some people. If you're cooking a red sauce - leafy green spices or red spices can go in there. Meat - you can season it with almost whatever you want, just be mindful that spices can burn if applied wrong.
A general rule is that if your spices can be seen in the dish you're making, you may be using the wrong spices. There are some exceptions, however, like seasoning a steak for example.
Tip 4: Don't overdo it!
When cooking, taste test at different stages. Naturally, you don't want to taste test raw meat (perhaps maybe excluding sushi if that's your thing). And don't forget to use a clean spoon each time you taste test!
With spices (and sauces) we can't take them back out if we do too much. Over time with practice and experience you'll start to just get a feel for how much spice to put in. However, even veteran cooks taste test their food often!
If your food is a bit too bland, add a bit more of your chosen spice or blend in. Perhaps just another small teaspoon or tablespoon. Give your meal a good stir and let the flavors meld over some heat for a couple minutes before trying again.
Tip 5: Play and have fun!
Cooking is both a skill and an art. Before I went to school to learn to cook better (Level 2 culinary red seal, expired), that's how I taught myself how to cook! I started off with smaller meals and chose my spices for each dish by the smell of the spice. If the smells didn't go together, they wouldn't taste well together either!
Spices are complicated and can be overwhelming - if we're taking ourselves too seriously. Learn to play and have fun, leverage your different senses and have fun with your meals (and hopefully over time ditch the condiments).
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