Watch the full video of me breaking this down on my IGTV Channel on Instagram @Andreas_Cooktales.
Use Kosher Salt
Above any other salt (yes, even sea salt), kosher is the best to cook with. Why?
It’s the perfect texture in between fine and coarse (sea can be too coarse)
It flavors food better and less is more. While I still have a heavy salt hand, I have discovered with kosher I use less, as it flavors better than sea.
It’s inexpensive. Sea sat is usually double the price of kosher salt.
It changed my cooking. When I started cooking, I discovered kosher and became a better cook. So I guess you can say kosher salt played a role in the beginning of my career.
I go into full detail about all salts and why to use which ones on my Instagram profile’s Highlights. Find the full rundown @andreas_cooktales under Salt Tips.
Salt As You Go
Another salt trick, yes. After all, salt is what makes cooking good. Why?
When you salt as you cook, the salt cooks into the food so you taste it in every bite of the finished product.
If you wait to salt too late into cooking, you won’t get the full flavor the dish is capable of having.
Some ingredients are simply bland without salt, so if you salt them as you go, you flavor as you go.
Other ingredients are full of flavor, but salt brings the flavor out more. Example, tomatoes – say you’re making a cold tomato salad with multiple ingredients. By salting the tomatoes first, the natural flavors come out and you’ll need to add less salt at the end because that natural tomato flavor will be swimming in the salad. But you can’t bring it out without salt!
Use Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
It’s a simple ingredient many of us take for granted by buying low-grade, low-quality (fake) versions. Yes, some olive oils are not even real – they are mixed with unnatural, greasy oils. A true olive oil will make you a better cook. Why?
There’s nothing (aside from salt) that will flavor your food the way a good, fruity olive oil will.
Most often, the first thing you taste in a dish is the last thing that was added to the dish. A nice drizzle of EVOO brightens dishes, gives them a creamy finish, and will make your taste buds smile.
How do you choose an olive oil? I always recommend doing a taste test and picking your favorite that way. There’s no other way to choose one that will change your life. If you don’t have a local olive oil store that lets you try before you buy, get online, do some research, and buy several - make sure they are authentic olive oils – then do an at-home taste test.
Use Fresh Herbs
Fresh herbs lighten and brighten dishes, giving them that all-natural, just-picked-from-the-garden flavor.
By using them, you can forego unhealthy ingredients. You don’t need unhealthy ingredients when you have fresh herbs to flavor your food.
Use Fresh Citrus
Fresh citrus – particularly lemons – like fresh herbs lighten and brighten food so you can replace unhealthy ingredients with it.
As much as I love salt, when I’m going low-sodium, I use a lot of extra lemon juice. It’s a great flavor replacer for salt.
A squeeze of fresh citrus over a dish freshens it up. Lemon is such a clean flavor – there’s nothing quite like it.
Use Canned San Marzano Tomatoes
I can take one bite of any tomato sauce in a restaurant and know if they use canned San Marzano tomatoes. They’re simply the best. Yes, I said canned is the best way to go when it comes to tomatoes – when you’re making sauces that is. I still think a good, in-season heirloom is best when eating tomatoes raw, but when they’re being cooked, always go for canned San Marzano. Why?
This particular type of tomato is special. If it’s a true San Marzano, the can will be labeled “Made in Italy” or “Imported from Italy.” Which brings me to my point of why they’re the best. The places they’re grown in Italy are the perfect climate for these tomatoes – making them the very best and something you can’t just pick up at your local farmer’s market – unless you live in Italy.
Yes, there are San Marzanos canned in the US. When you start paying attention to the labels, you will notice them labeled “SM” or “DOP.” These are not authentic, as they’re not from Italy, but they are still good-quality plum tomatoes. I buy them sometimes, and they’re fine. But I always try to look for San Marzanos that come straight from Italy.
Either way, what makes these canned tomatoes so good… 3 things: 1) They’re San Marzano, 2) They were picked at their sweetest, most ripe, 3) They have sat in the can for awhile, and anything that sits for awhile (think day-after refrigerated soup), the flavors merry together and become stronger.
For more tips and recipes, watch my IGTV channel on Instagram @Andreas_Cooktales.