21 May 2008

Interview about sauces and spices.

My friend interviewed me about some quick cook stuff, and I offered to respond to him as best as I could. Here's how it turned out:

Okay, here’s the scenario – I’m an average Joe or Jane. I’m busy and don’t cook. Dinner for me, if it’s not take-out, is something frozen or a sandwich, with maybe a salad and a vegetable to round it out. Cooking’s not my thing, I’ll never be a cook (although never say never), but I’m in a rut. I’m making a few baby steps, like buying varieties of frozen or steam-in-the-bag vegetables beyond my usual five – such as asparagus, cauliflower, and collard greens. I may not be a chef, but I figure I can shake a spice jar or pour sauce out of a bottle. Before we get into details, are there any very general guidelines for which spices and/or bottled sauces to use when? Where do I start? What should I buy? Is it totally individual, or are there certain combinations of spices and sauces and vegetables that work for most people most of the time – maybe I can start there…


Mrs. Dash is my wife. Seriously. OK, maybe I /am/ married to a man. BUT! We're not going to let that get in the way of my flavour profiles! Frankly, the only spice blend I've ever been seriously impressed by in terms of overall flavour, and overall versatility, is Mrs. Dash.

Suppose you have a bag of frozen veg, and you want to seriously add some depth of flavour to it. Start with a small amount of oil in the bottom of a skillet, and heat it up over high heat. Don't even bother thawing out the frozen veg in the microwave. There's honestly no point. When the oil is hot, pitch in as much of the frozen vegetables as you like. LIBERALLY sprinkle on the Mrs. Dash. It doesn't even matter which blend you use! That's how good her stuff is.

No, seriously. I speak from feeding carnivores. Every time I'd use aheavy hand with the Mrs. Dash, everyone would RAVE about the food, and come back for FIFTH helpings! Continue cooking the vegetables for as long as it takes for the ice to be gone, and for the vegetables to be cooked through. If you're in the mood, rub a clove of garlic on a slice of toasted bread, and use that as your starch to accompany your quickie meal.

If you're more of a saucy type, Lee Kum Kee Vegetarian Stir Fry Sauce is an excellent place to start. Start with the hot oil, the frozen veg, and the not bothering to thaw, like you would with the Mrs. Dash. I wonder if Mrs. Dash and Mr. Lee ever talked to each other. It seems to me like the two of them DOMINATE the quickie flavouring department, don't they? I digress.

Slather on about a teaspoon or so of the Vegetarian Stir Fry Sauce into your cooking vegetables. After you've added that sauce, you have a million different combinations to expand the flavour of what you're cooking. If you want a more salty flavour, pitch in a bit of soy sauce. If you want a combo of sweet and salty, pitch in some orange juice. If you want sweet, salty, and hot, do a combo of soy sauce, OJ, and some sriracha or hot sauce of your choice. If you want a sour twang, substitute a bit of lemonade (from the bottle) instead of OJ. I won't tell anyone that you buy lemonade in the carton. Quite frankly, if it ends up netting you a yummy meal, it's nobody's business what you did to get there, right?

That being said, don't feel like you have to follow hard and fast rules with these two Gods of the flavouring arena. Instead, feel free to mix and match the combinations in different ways, until you find something. Worst comes to it, you can always feed the disasters to the dog, and order takeaway.


This was the first part of a multi part interview. I certainly hope that you enjoy the rest of it as it unfolds. :)