Secrets of Success when Cooking with 5 Ingredients

5-Ingredient Waldorf Salad (link to download the recipe)

5-Ingredient Waldorf Salad (link to download the recipe)

Five seems to be the magic number for the number of ingredients we want in a recipe. This excludes such common ingredients as salt, pepper and water. While researching recipes for a workshop on 5-ingredient cooking, I found the recipes I chose had at least one of the following qualities. See if these criteria help you find quick, easy, tasty recipes too!

  1. Use the best-tasting ingredients whenever possible. It’s hard to hide a poor quality ingredient when there are only five of them. For example, freshly ground black pepper tastes much better than pre-ground.
  2. Try to include at least one high intense flavor ingredient. Examples include:
    • Mustard (consider Dijon)
    • “Sharp” cheeses (you can use less because the flavor is more potent)
    • Lemon juice or lemon zest
    • Onions, garlic, celery
    • Olives
    • Capers
    • Vinegar
    • Nuts
    • Pickle relish
  3. Use some pre-prepared foods that can take the place of several ingredients. Compare the labels on the various brands and varieties as the sodium level can vary significantly. Examples include:
    • Salsa
    • Sauces: spaghetti, pizza, marinara, enchilada
    • Commercial salad dressings (flavorful, lower-fat varieties)
    • Low-fat granola
    • Pie dough, graham cracker crust, pizza dough
  4. Consider seasoning blends. Examples include:
    • Italian seasoning
    • Salt-free blends – sample in the smallest container-size the first time.
  5. Keep on hand ingredients that can be used several ways. Some of my favorites are:
    • Vanilla and plain Greek Yogurt
    • Diced tomatoes (no-added-salt)
    • Canned beans (no-added salt)
  6. Refrigerate some mixed foods (like dips) at least an hour, to allow flavors to blend.
  7. Roast meats and vegetables until “caramelized” or browned. This brings out the flavor.
  8. Thickening a soup without making a white sauce:
    • Remove some of the soup solids and liquid and puree in a blender. Cooking Light magazine (March 2003) warns when blending hot liquids to use caution because steam can increase the pressure inside the blender and blow the lid off. They advise filling the blender no more than half full and blending in batches, if necessary. And, while blending, hold a potholder or towel over the lid.
    • Sprinkle on some instant mashed potato flakes at the end and stir. Add more until you get the consistency you want.

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