Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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How to Spice Up Bland Foods

A friend recently asked me about herbs and spices for bland foods such as beans, rice, and potatoes. Let's take a look ...


Learn about herbs and spices in general. This makes it easier to choose good ones and build a collection you will enjoy using. Bland foods have little flavor of their own, so they readily absorb the flavor of whatever seasonings you add.

Some general guides:
https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-use-herbs-and-spices-in-cooking/
https://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/how-to-match-the-right-herbs-and-spices-with-the-right-vegetables/
https://www.trialandeater.com/essential-spices-vegetarian-vegan-cooking/
https://www.spicesinc.com/p-510-what-spices-go-with-what-meat.aspx
https://i.pinimg.com/originals/51/0a/a0/510aa02ee5d420f6b2a9f23ea3c726c1.jpg
http://gernot-katzers-spice-pages.com/engl/spice_geo.html
https://parade.com/848013/stephaniemanley/how-to-save-money-on-spices/
https://www.epicurious.com/recipes-menus/spice-blends-dry-rubs-and-other-seasoning-mixes-gallery

Bear in mind that most spice guides written in English will assume European/American cuisine. However, each ethnic cuisine has its own set of herbs and spices. What Mexicans and Asians do with beans are nothing alike. If you start with the most popular 3-5 items per cuisine, or 1-2 spice blends per cuisine, you can quickly build up a basic global spice rack. Here are some comparisons.

Spices by cuisine:
https://www.spicesinc.com/p-3746-most-popular-spices-by-cuisine.aspx
https://www.gardenandhome.co.za/gardening/kitchen-gardening/5-french-herbs-love/
https://www.spainfoodsherpas.com/spains-essential-herbs-and-spices/
https://www.thespruceeats.com/middle-eastern-spices-and-herbs-2355845
https://foodsfromafrica.com/pantry/african-herbs-and-spices/
https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-food/herbs-and-spices.htm
https://www.plated.com/morsel/9-essential-spices-youll-need-successful-indian-dishes/
https://www.oztukka.com.au/spices
https://www.ehow.com/info_8253086_american-indian-spices.html
http://www.realcajuncooking.com/2011/12/cajun-cook-top-10-herbs-and-spices-in.html
https://www.ehow.com/list_7272193_hawaiian-spices.html
https://www.limaeasy.com/peruvian-food-guide/common-herbs

Spice kits make it easy to cook by gathering items often used together. These are often simples but some kits contain blends. You can buy or make a spice kit for any cuisine. If you don't have any herbs/spices for a given cuisine, a kit will start you off fast. Options intended for camping also suit small kitchens.

Spice kits:
https://www.easypeasyfoodie.com/review-the-spicery-recipe-kits/
https://www.worldmarket.com/product/travel-spice-kit.do
https://www.spicesinc.com/t-spice-sets.aspx
http://theepicentre.com/shop/the-epicentre-spice-collections/
https://www.seriouseats.com/2012/02/spice-hunting-make-spice-kits-for-fast-creative-cooking.html
http://wildernessmastery.com/camping-and-hiking/diy-camping-spice-kit.html

Spicely sells sample-size boxes of spices and blends, as well as larger quantities. These are ideal to find out whether you like something new. They have spices from around the world. Individual spices are more flexible. Blends are faster to use. I like to keep some favorite blends (like garam masala) and a lot of simples.

Spicely:
https://www.spicely.com/
https://www.spicely.com/collections/spices/box4u
https://www.spicely.com/collections/seasoning

Another way to make bland food interesting is to vary the type of flavor added. If you cook with onions one night, chile the next, and leafy herbs after that, the results will all be very different even if the base ingredient is the same.

Types of flavor:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taste
https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/ayurvedic-living/living-ayurveda/diet/six-tastes/

Mushroom seasoning is an oddball that rarely appears on lists, but works great to add savory flavor to dishes. I discovered Mushroom Truffle Hunt a year or two ago and love it. Several other brands have various combinations of ingredients. You can also make your own by grinding together whatever flavors of dried mushrooms and spices you like.

Mushroom seasoning:
https://www.urbanaccents.com/product/mushroom-truffle-hunt/
https://www.marthastewart.com/316420/mushroom-seasoning

Healthy fats carry flavor. My favorites include ghee (clarified butter), olive oil, and red palm oil. Note that olive oil comes in "light" (almost tasteless, pale yellow to clear) and "full flavor" (strong taste, dark yellow to green) versions. Use light for greasing pans, baking, or recipes you don't want to taste like olives; use full flavor for salad dressing, pasta sauce, dips, and other recipes you want to enrich.

Healthy fats:
https://organic.org/11-healthiest-cooking-oils/
https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2015/10/how-to-embrace-healthy-and-unrefined-oils-in-your.html
https://www.oliveoilsource.com/page/how-pick-olive-oil

Beans in general are healthy food. Dried beans are much cheaper and have more texture. Canned beans are much faster and creamier. You can make them more interesting just by mixing several types of bean in one recipe.

Beans:
http://beaninstitute.com/beans-around-the-world/
https://www.bonappetit.com/story/how-to-cook-dried-beans
https://www.loavesanddishes.net/how-to-season-pinto-beans/
https://foodapparel.com/how-to-dress-up-your-black-beans-5-ways/

Rice also has many variations. White rice is cheap and lasts a long time. Brown rice has more fiber and nutrients. Wild rice is nutty and chewy.

Rice:
https://www.webstaurantstore.com/guide/658/types-of-rice.html
https://www.livestrong.com/article/466793-how-can-i-spice-up-plain-rice/
https://www.thescramble.com/cooking-basics/ways-to-liven-up-plain-steamed-rice/
https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-good-spices-to-add-to-rice

Basic potatoes differ primarily in texture and color, but taste similar. Fingerling potatoes have more variety in flavor but they also cost more.

Potatoes:
http://bigspud.com/files/pherb.htm
https://www.foodnetwork.ca/holidays/blog/delicious-ways-to-dress-up-mashed-potatoes/
https://www.thescramble.com/easy-dinners/15-ideas-baked-potato-toppings-liven-plain-baked-potatoes/

Beans for breakfast, beans for lunch, oh boy beans for dinner.
... better than no beans at all.
Tags: food, how to
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