Flavor-Boosting Tricks Add Spark to Healthy Cooking
Chefs share their tips for boosting flavor and nutrition.
By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD
Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD
You know it when you taste it, but just what is it that distinguishes a great dish from an ordinary one?
Culinary experts say that chefs and cooks who understand how to develop layers of flavors, through food combinations and cooking techniques, get the best results. These simple techniques are great for boosting the flavor of lower-calorie dishes, which can make them seem more satisfying. Some may also help to maximize health benefits by improving nutrient absorption.
Sound too good to be true? Read on to learn the secrets of the new culinary masters.
The Art of Flavor Layering
A new generation of food science has emerged that slashes sodium, trims calories, and increases nutrient absorption.
"We have a greater understanding of how to layer and use flavors, cooking techniques, and the art of combining foods to create fabulous, healthy cuisine that is richer in nutrients," says Connie Guttersen, PhD, RD, author of The Sonoma Diet.
Layering flavors involves cooking techniques that add depth of flavor. Each step of the cooking process is important -- skip a crucial step and you can't add back the missed flavor.
These flavor-enhancing techniques include:
The other part of the flavor-boosting equation is using ingredients that complement one another.
Combining certain foods not only deepens flavor but can also increase the nutrients your body absorbs from the foods. Foods contain thousands of substances that perform functions in the body, such as vitamins and phytochemicals. In some cases, certain substances, when eaten together, produce a greater effect than when each is eaten alone.
For example, it's a good idea from both a nutrition and taste standpoint to eat dark leafy greens with a little healthy fat. Many people find dark leafy greens bitter, but if you combine them with some fat, acid and heat, the flavor becomes rich and mellow.
"From a nutritional standpoint, the addition of a small amount of fat increases the absorption of the fat-soluble flavonoids in the greens," says Gutterson. "The other ingredients balance the bitterness, and voila, the bitter flavors are replaced with a delicious, mellow flavor that everyone will love."