Simple Food – Letting Ingredients Speak For Themselves

May 16, 2018 | Cooking Tips

It has been my experience that the best way to consistently make good food is to not overcomplicate it. Keep it simple. Don’t over think it. It takes less effort to make simple food delicious and generally it is more enjoyable to eat. Now, what do I mean by simple food? I mean using as few ingredients as possible, and cooking in the simplest way. Strip back all of the unnecessary stuff and focus on the things that matter.

Think of a margarita pizza. It has four ingredients and is perfection.

The Italians are experts in this. They focus on the quality of the ingredients and do very little to them. They let the natural flavours of the ingredients stand out. Rather than covering up these natural flavours, they work to compliment them. Think of a margarita pizza. It has four ingredients and is perfection. Dough, crushed tomatoes, fresh basil, and mozzarella. What about carbonara? It has five maybe six ingredients. Simple!

How do we cook simple food?

So, how do we do it? How do we cook simple food? The first thing we have to do is change how we think about cooking. It has become part of cultural consciousness to think of cooking as adding more and more ingredients. We are conditioned to think that cooking is about creating something new by combining as many ingredients as possible. We need to start thinking of it in terms of not creating something new but simply enhancing what’s already there. Compliment not cover up.

…even though all of those vegetables are cooked the same way…they will all taste very different.

Let’s think about vegetables. Most vegetables are best when tossed with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, maybe an herb or two, and roasted on high heat until they are cooked. There is nothing complicated about that, and there is little to no effort. This works great for peppers, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, asparagus, onions, leeks, mushrooms, cauliflower, squash, sweet potato, and brussels sprouts if you blanch them first. Obviously, this technique is pretty versatile. And the thing about it is, that even though all of those vegetables are cooked the same way with the same ingredients, they will all taste very different.

Vegetables aren’t the only foods that can benefit from a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Vegetables aren’t the only foods that can benefit from a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Fish is fantastic when roasted this way and the addition of a touch of lemon, and some thyme or other fresh herbs will make it a great dish. Chicken can be done the same way as the fish or instead of lemon, a few spices like paprika and cumin can be added. Yes, before you ask, this works with pork, lamb, beef, turkey, duck, quail, pheasant, emu, llama, or pretty much anything else you can think of.

cooking simple food is just about letting the food speak for itself.

Really, cooking simple food is just about letting the food speak for itself. It’s about using as few ingredients as you can to maximize the amount of flavour. It’s about using techniques that limit the amount of time you have to actively be cooking. And really it’s about using those techniques that draw more of the natural flavour out of the food.

…focus on complimenting the main ingredient.

Obviously, roasting is not the only technique that lends itself to cooking simply. Steaming, sauteeing, stir-frying, poaching. All of these techniques can be used. Just focus on complimenting the main ingredient. Even with sauces. If I make a meat sauce, doesn’t it make sense that it should taste like meat? Why cover up the meat flavour with twenty-seven different ingredients. The best meat sauce I’ve ever had had less than eight ingredients and two of them were salt and pepper.

There is beauty in simplicity.

The more ingredients we add to our food, the more complicated we make it, the more opportunity there is to mess it up. There is beauty in simplicity. There is beauty in letting the ingredients stand out and speak for themselves. Stop focusing on what needs to be added. Stop adding ingredients just for the sake of adding ingredients. Enjoy cooking and eating more by focusing on simple food done really well.

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