Flavor Blasts

Earlier this week, I wrote about The Breakaway Cook
- a great cookbook by Eric Gower that focuses on using flavor blasts to enhance otherwise-simple meals. He mentions a number of what he calls "flavor blasts." These are intensely flavored ingredients that can be used to elevate a simple dish. Gower presents a number of flavor blasts, some of which I mentioned in my earlier post. I thought I'd add some more that aren't on Gower's list.

Lime zest - I don't actually like lemons, generally. Via some sort of weird inside-out-psychology, they remind me of cleaning solution. Limes, however, I love. Lime zest is a cinch with the microplane, and it adds an intense flavor punch without the acidity of the lime juice.

Pomegranate Molasses - This is on Gower's list, but I'm including it here because I've been using (and talking about) it a lot lately.

Dried fruits - These keep for a long time, and they are concentrated flavor. You can plump them up, use them as-is, or toss them in a blender with some liquid. Just to be a pest, I'll include sun-dried tomatoes in this category.

Wasabi, Horseradish, and Mustard - There are differences between the three, and variants within each. They add a different sort of heat to a dish than peppers do, and they mix well with a surprising variety of flavors.

Tamarind - This is a sour fruit that is popular in a variety of Latin American and Asian cuisines. You can usually find tamarind paste fairly readily. It is very versatile.

Fish Sauce - Usually found in Southeast Asian food, fish sauce is very salty and can be somewhat fishy. Used with a light touch, it can add an incredible depth of flavor. I like Squid brand.

Liqour - Some alcoholic beverages - rums, whiskeys, tequilas and the like - have strong, distinctive flavors of their own that can add dramatically to a dish. In addition, these ingredients can release alcohol-soluble flavors that would otherwise be hidden in your food.

There are plenty more where these came from: rhubarb, mint, nutmeg, sauerkraut, truffle oil, coffee, olives... not to mention all of those which Gower writes about.


Sun-dried tomatoes are really interesting. I like to throw them in a marinara sauce (which I make by roasting tomatoes and mire poix) because they add that extra tomato kick. Of course they are perfect for kitchen shears. :)

A favorite very simple dish:

1 cup couscous
1 cup chicken broth
4-6 sun dried tomatoes, julienned (aka snipped with shears)
t tbsp raisins
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
toasted slivered almonds

Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil. Add the chicken broth, tomatoes and raisins and get to a boil. Stir in the couscous and reduce heat, covering until couscous is cooked. Garnish with toasted slivered almonds, mint and salt and pepper.

Strange... I have a similar couscous planned for tonight, except it involves dried morel mushrooms - also great for flavor, especially with beef or pork. They're a little pricey, unless you can find a dad or uncle who hunts them in the woods.

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