Flavors and Textures in our Foods

Today I would like to talk about flavors and textures in our foods, how we mix them and how they meld together to enhance recipes.

Hopefully, I don’t lose you on this one, my wish is that you just get a general idea of how we put things together and maybe it will help you when you are looking for that “just a little something” when you are making a dish and can’t quite figure out what it needs. Or putting a meal together and trying to decide what you should pair together.

First, lets talk about the 5 flavors in our foods, they are:

  • Sweet
  • Sour
  • Salty
  • Bitter
  • Umami

We mix these flavors in so many ways that we may not even realize it, but it helps enhance the taste of our food on our taste buds J. Some examples would be adding lemon (Sour/acidic) to a dish to bring out that tang that just hits the back of our mouth. Think of how a squeeze of lemon or lime juice will enhance our meat dish. We put it over fish, we add some lime to our chili and it just gives it that little bit more. How about adding a little bit of sugar to a tomato sauce to cut the acid and just add a little bit more flavor. The most obvious that would come to our minds would probably be adding salt to foods. Some of these flavors can be so intense and be just the right balance to a dish that it fills in “just that something” you are looking for.

Let’s talk about umami,…(in Japanese it means “delicious” or “yummy”). It is such a difficult word to define in terms that are not complicated, so I can only describe it as a “feeling” of deep naturally occurring flavor in foods .  You get a umami flavor from meats, mushroom, tomatoes to name a few…think about making a pure beef or chicken broth and the rich deep flavor you get from this, that is umami. Mushrooms have such a strong deep flavor to our mouth that is umami. Potatoes, carrots and most cheeses have that same umami flavor to our mouths. How do we “add” umami to our foods for flavor, maybe adding a broth to our gravy, cheeses to our recipes or mushrooms to our dishes or our gravy.   (I have probably really confused so many of you, I’m confused, my suggestion would be to investigate this further, I have left out many scientific and technical terms (glutamate and amino acids to name a few), so please check out more information on this if you would like.)

Now lets talk about textures:

  • Crunchy
  • Smooth
  • Chewy
  • Cool
  • Warm

Let’s think about mixing our textures with ours flavors. How about having a cool crunchy salad and we add to it some bitter greens with some dressing that is flavored with vinegar (sour), honey (sweet), olive oil (bitter), salt and some blue cheese (salty), maybe even some sugared walnuts (crunchy and sweet). Think about all the flavors and textures we are getting, it is hitting so many areas our mouths are exploding with flavors and we are just going crazy…

There are examples that could go on forever, think up your own combinations and think about these things when you plan a dish and meal, if you have all salty foods, this would be pretty boring and you would be drinking boatloads of water for the next several days. You need a balance, and many of us probably do this without ever realizing it, but if we are aware, it will help us when we do prepare our meals.

Please let me know what some combinations are that you may use. We are excited to hear from you!!

** I really should put a disclaimer here that this subject is something that we talked about in our class this last weekend and I am really learning so much of this with you!! To be honest umami was a term I just really learned about a few days ago. I knew the concept of the “flavor” but didn’t really know that was what it was. I am sure as time goes on I will learn all the ways to apply these to my everyday cooking!