One of the cooking skills that could benefit your long-term health is a mastery of spices. How can that help, you might ask. It helps by allowing you to explore so that instead of relying on salt which is high in sodium, you can enjoy a mix and match of different flavors from world cuisines.
On top of this, knowing your spices means being able to elevate the taste of your meals. This can help you shift from an eating mindset focused on quantity to one that is focused on quality. This change would be beneficial to weight management and may help you prevent and manage multiple risk factors for lifestyle diseases.
However, since this advice compels you to practice and do something repeatedly – spice mastery doesn’t come overnight – how do you get started?
Let the humble potato be your canvas.
Just think about it. You can practice on pasta, meats, stews or viands but it might be too much to risk the entire meal! The potato is your best bet if you’re looking for something simple and versatile yet accessible and affordable.
On top of this, potatoes are not only a wholesome source of complex carbohydrates that fuel each cell in your body. It is also rich in body-regulating micronutrients such as potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, Vitamin C and the B-complex vitamins.
Try my all-time favorite potato recipe!
My favorite potato recipe is Baked Potato Wedges because it can go with everything! Here’s how to do it in 5 steps!
- Choose the right size of potatoes. Clean and cut them into quarters lengthwise.
Choose potatoes that would fit within your grasp. You don’t want the bigger potatoes because the skin holds the wedge together. If it’s too big, the wedge would be prone to crumbling.
Wash the potato until the water runs clear. And slice it in half, then slice those halves lengthwise, making 4 wedges per potato.
- Boil the potatoes in water with salt and pepper.
Place the cut potatoes into a pot and add enough water to cover them. Add a dash of salt and ground black pepper and place the pot over high heat. Wait for the water to boil then lower the heat to medium and simmer for 10 more minutes.
Drain the potatoes and leave them on the strainer for 5 minutes or until they have cooled enough to be handled safely.
- Lay them on a baking tray and season with olive oil and spices.
Drizzle some olive oil over the potatoes and turn them to ensure that all sides are coated. Then finally, lay them skin side down and prepare your spices.
Before we get to the fun part, remember that if you are having the potatoes as a starchy side dish, add only salt and pepper and a maximum of three spices. This is so that the potato side dish will not overpower the main dish.
In this case, the potato is being served with steak and a salad, hence I seasoned the potatoes with salt, pepper, thyme, parsley, and paprika – for a pop of color too!
- Bake the potatoes until golden brown.
You may bake the potatoes in a preheated oven at 180°C or 356°F until golden brown. However, I prepared this using a toaster oven in consideration for those who don’t have a standard oven.
In my experience, it took 40 minutes in the toaster oven while it takes 30 minutes in the standard oven.
- Serve your fabulous potatoes warm and enjoy your meal!
In this example, I served the potatoes with steak and a mesclun salad, accompanied by a balsamic vinaigrette that goes with everything on the plate.
It’s so delicious! The minimal herbs and spices I’ve used for the potatoes goes so well with the steak that I’ve cooked in butter, garlic and rosemary.
What if I don’t want potatoes as a side dish?
I’m glad you asked! Because I also made a version that would be amazing as a snack with dip. I call this a Middle Eastern Spiced Baked Potatoes with Garlic Sour Cream Dip.
The spices I used on top of olive oil, salt and pepper are curry powder, ground cumin seed, turmeric powder, paprika, garlic powder or garlic bread seasoning, and dried parsley. If I had onion powder, I would’ve added it too.
For the Garlic Sour Cream Dip, I used 2 parts sour cream to 1 part Kewpie creamy mayonnaise. Then I added garlic powder, cayenne powder, salt, and lots of freshly ground black pepper.
Can you suggest other spice combinations that we can do?
Of course! Here are three suggestions at the top of my head:
- For a Korean meal, I would mix together sesame oil, gochujang, some sugar, and black pepper. I will brush this paste on the potato wedges, and top it with toasted sesame seeds and thinly sliced green onions. This would be perfect with grilled meat and a kimchi-based salsa.
- For a Japanese meal, I would boil the potatoes with miso paste and kombu or nori. Then, I would drizzle it with olive oil and top it with furikake, and small strips of roasted nori. Then I’d make a garlic sourcream dip, but replace the cayenne powder with wasabi powder.
- For an American meal, I would mix together 2 parts melted butter and 1 part sriracha, cayenne powder, some sugar, and some salt. I would brush this mixture over the potatoes prior to baking, and every 10 minutes into the baking process. Then I would serve this with a sprinkle of dried or fresh parsley,with the Garlic Sourcream Dip mixed with some crumbled Bleu cheese.
I am very passionate about the entire idea of people learning to cook tasty and healthy meals. For the longest time, I have encouraged people to include lots of herbs & spices in their food so they can develop a sophisticated food palate; I believe that being intentionally interested in discovering new flavors will help in embracing food quality instead of food quantity. It is time to change the mindset wherein feeling full equates to feeling happy about food.
I am so excited to see you practice with herbs & spices using the humble yet nutrition-packed potato. When you do, remember to tag us at @jsrmalong, @missustansiya, and @potatoesusaphl so that we can see all the amazing meals that you’d come up with.