Let's Get Saucy

Jillian Tedesco

Jillian Tedesco

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Let's Get Saucy

Don’t get me started on sauces!

I love flavorful food, and sauces take any meal to the next level. I get a lot of inspiration from sauces when I go out to eat. For example, I was recently at a Mexican Cantina enjoying a piece of grilled Mahi Mahi over a bed of Spanish rice on a yellow tomato puree. There was citrus salsa and micro greens on top of the fish. Fancy! Can you picture this?!

This dish was poppin' with flavors. There were so many different things going on and it was from the 3 sauces on the dish. Let me break this down: the tomato puree, the citrus salsa, and a cilantro marinade that was brushed on my flakey fish.  

I think we all can agree this is why we go out to eat and don’t cook at home. We leave the flavor profiles and the hard work to the chefs, right? Or, is this something we can experience in our homes and with our skills?

Let me explain what a flavor profile is and walk you through how you CAN make a chef-inspired sauce at home! (I promise!)

First, what is a flavor profile? It’s basically when the witch throws all the ingredients together in the cauldron, stirs them up, and then the magic happens. Figuratively speaking. Our tongues can taste and feel different flavor profiles: sour, sweet, salty, spicy, umami, bitter, texture, and temperature. If you've never hear of umami, it’s the savoriness of the dish, typically from ingredients that taste meaty or earthy.

Certain flavor profiles will react with others and make the experience enjoyable. For example, adding salt to a baked item makes it sweeter. If your salad dressing is too sour, add some sweetness to mellow it out. These are examples of how combining ingredients (and doing it right) can make food much more enjoyable.

One other thing I must hit on for flavor profiles is aromatics. Aromatics are combinations of vegetables and herbs (and sometimes even meats) that are heated in some fat (butter, oil, coconut milk, etc) at the beginning of a dish. The heated fat helps these ingredients release addictive aromas and impart deep flavors into the dish that’s being cooked. You will notice aromatics within this dish.

Now let’s create a sauce together!

Since I'm feelin' spicy, let’s stick with the Mexican cuisine and semi-re-create the dish I explained earlier. When creating a dish, first choose your cuisine.  Second, you choose a protein, carb, and veggie. Then start to layer the dimensions of flavors by creating flavor profiles.

This Mexican dish has fish, rice, and tomatoes. For the fish, lightly season and sear it in a pan on one side, then top with pesto (flavor profile 1). Finish the fish in the oven. For the carb, I'd use basmati rice and make it into a pilaf (flavor profile 2). Next, sauté the veggies and aromatics, pour in the rice, add water, and steam. As for our tomatoes, this is a much more involved process. The tomatoes will need to have their skins removed, be cooked down, and strained of all seeds to get the smooth sauce I experienced with my dish.

You can’t get a yellow tomato sauce from a can, and the tomato is what gives this dish a summer feel. It’s so much lighter than a red sauce! For realistic purposes, I’m going to skip this one and suggest you just roast tomatoes. It will save you hours.

On top of the fish we're gonna have some citrus salsa (flavor profile 3).  Now let’s get cooking.

Remember, creating flavor profiles and layering them together enhances the experience.  In your mouth that is! 😂

Profile 1 - Pesto for the fish

  • Combine in food processor 
    • Cilantro - Aromatic
    • Jalapeno - Spicy 
    • Walnuts - Unami
    • Lime - Sour 
    • Salt & Pepper - Salty
    • Olive oil - None

Profile 2 - Turning plain rice into a pilaf

  • Basmati rice - Base
  • Bell peppers - Sweet
  • Onion - None
  • Garlic - Aromatic
  • Pumpkin seeds - Crunchy (finish with seeds after cooked)
  • Green onion - Aromatic (finish with garnish after cooked)

Profile 3 - Citrus Salsa

  • Grapefruit - Bitter 
  • Oranges - Sour
  • Jicama - Crunchy
  • Avocado - Creamy
  • Avocado oil - None
  • Cilantro - Aromatic
  • Honey - Sweet
  • Lime - Sour

All of these foods work nicely with Mexican cuisine: cilantro, jicama, pumpkin seeds, lime, and jalapeno just to name a few.  It was a lot of fun to create this for you to see on paper. Let me reiterate that each profile made it into this dish. That is why this dish was mind-blowing!

All that is left is to roast off some tomatoes (I would choose yellow tomatoes - heirlooms), with olive oil, salt, and pepper to finish the dish.

You can see why this dish is taken to a different level!  When we create @fit_flavors_stl meals, the chefs and I always challenge ourselves to bring the profiles alive. It's fun and interesting to cook like this! I encourage you to try to create just one profile next time you prepare a dish! Combine that with balance and portion control as we do at fit-flavors, and you are on your way to a lifestyle of good eats.  

Will you give this a shot?

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