Demystifying “to taste”

Anyone who has ever cooked with me knows that I value proper “seasoning” technique above possibly all other skills in the kitchen. This has been ingrained in me over and over by almost every chef/mentor I have had the privilege of working for. Believe me- this one simple technique can elevate any dish from amateur to gourmet.
(Of course, one must start with great ingredients which is a topic for a whole other post.)

The best way I have found to demonstrate the power of using salt to elevate a dish is by taking several pieces of produce and cutting them into small pieces. Tomatoes are an excellent choice, however this can be done with almost anything. Take a taste of the food by itself without any help. Hopefully, it is delicious by itself as with cooking, your dish will only be as good as the quality of the ingredients you start with. Now add a small sprinkle of salt and really feel the flavor evolve in your mouth. Keep adding a small amount of salt until it tastes too salty. Really feel what that tastes like, too.

Now get into this practice with every cooking step you do. Taste taste taste at every opportunity. And get in the habit of seasoning every layer you add to a dish. The results will truly blow your mind, if you are not already doing this.

It’s really that simple.

Here’s a classic recipe (with a little personal twist) that is perfect for practicing this technique:

Summer Caprese Salad

caprese 2017

2-3 of The Most Beautiful Tomatoes you can find (smell them to make sure they smell extra tasty)┬áSliced about 1/4″ thick

2-3 Super Fragrant Peaches or Nectarines, Sliced about 1/4″ thick

1 Tub of Burratta or Fresh Mozzerella Cheese,┬áSliced about 1/4″ thick

Fresh Basil, Torn in big chunks or left whole if you feel like it

EVOO

High Quality Balsamic Vinegar

Fresh ground black pepper to taste if desired

High Quality Salt*

(*Play around with different types of salt as you get comfortable with this – some fun ones to try include Himalayan sea salt, fluer de sel, black lava salt, kosher salt, maldon sea salt or any interesting salt you come across in your shopping adventures)
  1. Season each piece of tomato, peach, and cheese to your taste pallet’s liking by holding your hand about a foot above the sliced ingredients and sprinkling evenly from there.
  2. Arrange the items on a large plate, so that the colors form a pattern of your liking (or go for the random approach – its your plate painting – make it beautiful.)
  3. Once arranged to your liking, drizzle the olive oil and then the balsamic so that every piece has a bit of both.
  4. Top with a couple grinds of cracked fresh pepper if desired.

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