Seasonings

Seasonings in food, both type and quantity, are very much a matter of personal taste. Each recipe lists what I use. But take that with the proverbial (and here, possibly quite literal) grain of salt. Season to taste. Here, I want to offer a few comments on seasonings that pertain to some or all of the recipes.

Salt

For health reasons, I have to watch the sodium in my diet. For this reason, most of the recipes will have no mention of adding salt. (I’ll make a very occasional exception when I really think it’s needed, even for me.) Many people will not have this problem and will want to add a moderate amount of salt when cooking. Of course, you should feel free to do so. It’s just that I’m in no position to offer advice on how much to use. For your health, do so moderately and don’t overdo it.

It’s not that I have to avoid all salt. Some recipes may include ingredients, including condiments, which have fairly high sodium levels. I include these in moderation, not every day, and in a reduced-sodium version if available. For example, soy sauce has a very high sodium content, but at least the reduced-sodium version helps out somewhat.

After I was advised to reduce the sodium in my diet, food initially seemed bland. It’s no longer an issue for me for two reasons: First, I learned to get a lot more creative in the use of different herbs and spices, bringing flavor to food in new and ultimately more interesting ways. And second, I’ve gotten used to having less salt in my food. Eating out, properly seasoned food is fine for me, but I occasionally encounter food that probably has had more salt added than would be best for anyone and it tastes horribly salty to me.

Pepper

For me, black pepper is a basic seasoning, and for me, that means fresh ground pepper. I always keep my pepper mill close by. I like having one with an adjustable grind, because sometimes finely ground pepper seems right while other times, such as over the top of a salad, more coarsely ground pepper tastes best.

Pepper will be an ingredient in some frittatas and many vinaigrettes. Since I’m using fresh ground pepper from my pepper mill, measuring it out isn’t terribly practical. So this is one time where I use my judgment, and you will have to use your judgment as well.

For some salads (definitely not all), I also like to add some fresh ground pepper to the finished salad, just like the restaurant server offers with that ridiculously long pepper mill. Obviously purely a matter of personal preference, just as it is when offered in the restaurant.

Garlic

I like garlic in food, though not to the extremes to which some people take it. Recipes will include garlic in some vinaigrettes and sometimes elsewhere in cooking. The quantity will most often be 1 clove of garlic. But I’ve learned to be careful on this. Garlic cloves can vary widely in size. Adding a very large clove of garlic to a vinaigrette made for one person can be a little much. So use your judgment. You may want to use just half of that large clove, unless you are one of those who really likes things garlicky.

For adding to a vinaigrette, either peeling and finely mincing the garlic or using a garlic press seems to work equally well for me. Using the garlic press is certainly quicker. When including garlic in something I am cooking, I have a slight preference for the peeled and minced garlic.

Quantities

Other than the fresh ground pepper, the recipes will nearly always include measured quantities for all of the seasonings. This isn’t just so I can put nicely precise recipes on this blog. I have measured and recorded quantities for a long time, when I was only thinking that the cooking was for myself. This is why I do that and why you might considering doing so as well: When I make something new (assuming it comes out decently and I might want to make it again) I want to keep a written record of what I have done. It may be that I have lucked out and hit everything just right on the quantities of all of the ingredients, including the seasonings. But it is more likely that my final judgment is something more like, I really like this, but I think it could use more (or less) oregano (or whatever) next time to get it just right. I will make that note on my recipe. But when I make it again, perhaps a few months or more later, how do I know how much the “more” oregano might be unless I had recorded the amount I used the first time? Then, after making the dish the second time, if I think I now have gotten things right, I change the amount of oregano on the recipe and delete the note to try more the next time.

Sources

I’m not into extremely exotic foods. But occasionally I will be making things that use seasonings that are not generally available in the typical market. For example, I have made a chicken tikka masala frittata that uses garam masala as one of the spices (of course!). If you have your source for such items, great. If not, I can suggest my go-to place, Penzey’s Spices. They have some stores, a mail order catalog that is fun to browse, and of course a website for ordering online. The selection is large and the quality has always been great. The website is https://www.penzeys.com.