Part 3 of 5
When working with home cooks, Lior Lev Sercarz, chef and spice master at La Boîte, invites them to have a conversation with him about what it is that they cook and to tell him a little bit about their lifestyle. Do they have a lot of time to cook? Do they just whip three things together? Do they reheat food the next day? With this information, Lior helps home cooks identify opportunities for integrating spices into their everyday lifestyle by showing them ways to accessorize their familiar dishes with spices that might be new to them.
“Everything you consume throughout the day, morning to night, liquid, cold snack, sweet, savory, is an opportunity where you can add spices. You could pause and think, I woke up and I am making myself a cup of coffee, should I try adding cardamom, cinnamon, clove or nutmeg?” asks Lior. “Do a test, and if you don’t like it, that’s fine. However, chances are you will like it, and then, maybe not every day, but every couple of days, you will have your cardamom coffee; that’s one easy way to start. It’s about pausing one second, trying that one familiar preparation with a tiny bit of spice and having it become part of your everyday life.”
Once home cooks are comfortable experimenting with more spices, Lior coaches them to think about the flavor profile of the dish first. He encourages them to start seasoning their food before cooking and then season all the way through the cooking and plating process. Too often, people try to season at the end, which is too late.
“It’s very hard to get to the end of the cooking process and then start to season the food. It’s just not going to penetrate all the way. If you are not working with raw meat or fish, taste and adjust the seasoning as you are cooking. The more you season throughout the process, the more you’ll get to a finished dish. Even then, I recommend you consider adding a tiny little bit of uncooked seasoning on top before you serve it to highlight even more that spice flavor.”
Lior encourages cooks to purchase the best ingredients they can afford, store them properly and use them often.
“Spice is like any other ingredient in your kitchen, you should pay attention to it. The fact that they are dry and keep for a very long time is not necessarily a good thing. It’s why people hold onto spices for too long. I invite people to pay attention to whatever they have, and store it properly. Run an inventory of what you have and what you don’t have the same way you do with any other ingredients in your kitchen,” advises Lior. He also suggests discarding spices that have been around too long and are not being used.
“If there are things you just don’t use, then just don’t buy them again. There are no must-have spices in a kitchen,” says Lior. “It’s whatever you use, whatever you like, that’s what you should have.”