Bland diet? Feh!
I've been on a flavoring kick for a little while now: 5-spice powder, dried oregano, ground ginger. Sure, some days a nice, easy dish of buttered noodles is just what the dietician ordered. But as I look over some of my recent creations, I see I've been jacking up the taste-bud factor.
I remember hippie food, back when none of us really knew how to cook; we figured if we just knocked the entire contents of the spice shelf into the brown rice, all would be good.
It wasn't. Besides, the contents of the spice shelf were ancient, dried-out, and sometimes just weird. ("Seasoned salt"? What is that? "Lemon pepper"?)
Years later I've finally learned a few things, one of which is restraint. I've also learned to use natural, often local, flavors, which generally means "no spice shelf." That doesn't mean my food is bland — for complexity, I rely on citrus, chiles, fresh herbs; and there are times when the taste of a pure, ripe tomato needs nothing else.
How pristine of me; how holy.
Not really. Yesterday I baked a batch of crackers to take to a party. The recipe (Alton Brown's if you must know) calls for a mixture of white and whole-wheat flours as well as a riot of poppy and sesame seeds. But I wanted more in my mouth. I'd made Alton Brown's whole-wheat crackers in the past, and they were sweetish and mild... yesterday's mixed-flours batch was going to get a kick in the pants, dammit.
So I knocked in a couple of the contents of the spice shelf — garlic powder and mustard powder, and I added a shake of mustard seeds to the other seeds. That, plus the salt the recipe already called for, gave just the right upward tick away from "nice." Now, the crackers were a little closer to "nasty" — in a good way, you understand. Heck, they might have even benefited from a little cumin or cayenne, too.
Yep, I'm re-exploring my spice shelf. Wow. There's some pretty old stuff in there. I'm not saying how old, but the price stamp on a jar of dried oregano I just used up said ".49." But that's cool. I'm going to replace it.
Party Fun! Don't worry about losing a party dish; make one you can leave behind. This works great with dry foods, or you can choose to line the homemade paper dish with a throw-away plastic container for anything drippy. Since Cranky and I have a little bit of journalism in our DNA, I thought it would be neat to take sheets of newspaper and fold them into pressman's hats. Turned upside down, the hats are now disposable baskets. Wanna try?