Have you ever made a dish, tasted it, and stood there stumped like a kid at the spelling bee who just got the word “onomatopoeia”?
You stand there thinking “Ugh this dish is missing something but I can’t figure out what! I added salt, herbs, spices, the works, and it’s just not quite right.”
If you’ve ever had this experience, chances are what you were missing was acidity.
After watching countless hours of Food Network and America’s Test Kitchen, I started learning about acidity and used in more in cooking. What I learned? It makes a difference! It takes a bland dish and makes it bright, tangy, sour, or sharp.
It is the answer to the question “what the heck is this missing?!”
So today I’m sharing tips for using vinegars and citrus in your cooking. Here’s how to make your next meal a vibrant dish everyone will be talking about.
HOW TO ADD FLAVOR WITH VINEGARS & CITRUS
Currently, my go to vinegar collection includes:
- balsamic vinegar
- apple cider vinegar
- rice wine vinegar
- red wine vinegar
- white balsamic vinegar
When I first started adding vinegar to my dishes, I was a little nervous. It can smell strong but I promise it won’t overpower your dish. All it takes is a splash, about a teaspoon. Or maybe a tablespoon, if you’re making a really big dish.
The first time I really noticed a difference was when I was developing this Tuscan White Bean Soup. I made the soup and it was good but tasted just slightly bland or flat, even though I added salt. I stirred in a little red wine vinegar, tasted it, and it was exactly what the dish needed! It really brightened the broth of the soup.
The more you cook with vinegar, the easier it will be to know which type of vinegar to use.
A general “guide” I follow is to match up the obvious vinegars with certain types of cuisine. Making an Asian dish? Rice wine vinegar is probably a good fit. Making an Italian pasta dish? Add some balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar to the sauce. Apple cider vinegar and white balsamic vinegar can go with more of a variety of foods.
Here are a couple of examples of ways I’ve used vinegars in my recipes:
- Apple cider vinegar in: Homemade Chorizo Tacos
- Red wine vinegar in: Kale Pesto Pasta
- Rice wine vinegar in: Sesame Noodles
I typically use lemon and lime the most but you could use oranges too. Of lemon and lime, I use lime the most because I make a lot of Mexican and Asian dishes and lime works really well with those cuisines. I do use lemon from time to time though.
The concept here is the same as vinegar. A little citrus can go a long way and the more you use it, the more you’ll learn which type of citrus is best for what you’re cooking.
I really recommend fresh lemons and limes. The bottled lemon and lime juices just aren’t as good and won’t give your dish the pop that a fresh lemon or lime can give.
Here a couple of example of ways I’ve used citrus in my recipes:
So there you have it! A super easy cooking tip to boost the flavor in your cooking. All you need is a little splash of vinegar or a squeeze of fresh citrus.