Seasoning Holds Key to Making Delicious Meals

Seasoning Holds Key to Making Delicious Meals

We’re all on a diet — whatever we choose to eat on a regular basis is what makes up our diet. Yet when people talk about “going on a diet”, what comes to mind first and foremost is deprivation, and who wants to sign up for that? Believe it or not, it is possible to eat food that is good for your health and that delights your taste buds. No one I’ve ever met is motivated to remain on a regimen of foods that offer no enjoyment. The difference between a great meal and one that’s just ho-hum is in the seasoning and method of cooking.

Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, who lived 2,500 years ago, made the following statement: “Let thy food be thy medicine.” What was true then is still true today: our health is very much a function of what we choose to put into our bodies on a regular basis.

Chinese food alchemy talks about the five flavors which help maintain balance among the different organ systems: salty, sweet, bitter, sour and spicy and they should be represented in our daily meals. Too many western diets, unfortunately, rely heavily on sweet foods and don’t include enough of the sour and bitter flavors, especially.

Sweet foods include most fruit and cooked onions are a wonderful sweet treat. Slice the onions into thin rings or half-rings and place in a pan with olive oil, or a combination of olive oil and butter. Add a dash of salt and leave to simmer, covered, over low heat for 25 to 30 minutes.

You may need to add a little water to prevent burning. What you’ll end up with is a caramelized deliciousness which you can spread on toast, eat with a steak, or add a dash of balsamic vinegar for an onion jam.

For sour flavor, add a dash of vinegar or lemon juice to a salad or vegetable dish. If you’re a gardener and have an overabundance of vegetables, try making pickles (which keep in the fridge for a long time and can be added to salads or as a tasty side). Wash, trim and slice the vegetables and place in a glass jar and add spices like peppercorns, mustard seed, coriander seed, thyme.

Combine 1 cup water, 1 cup white vinegar (wine vinegar, white balsamic or rice vinegar), 1 Tb salt, 1 Tb sugar in a pan and bring to a boil.

Pour over the vegetables in the jar, making sure they’re covered. Let cool and place in the fridge. Some of my favorites for this treatment are fennel, summer squash, cauliflower, onion — experiment, use your imagination and have fun!

Bitter foods support a healthy immune system. Among bitter flavors are raw garlic and dark leafy greens, e.g. collard greens, Swiss chard, or kale.

Margaret Riesen is the chef/caterer at the Vegetarian Gourmet. To learn more, visit www.vegetariangourmetcatering.com.