Flavor Flav, Part 2

Hope you enjoyed Part I of Flavor Flav, and how to enhance the flavors of your Whole30 cooking. Welcome to Part 2, where I’ll share another five of my favorite ways to spice up my cooking.

6) Fresh Herbs 

Most home cooks have a spice rack with at least a few common spices and herbs, but you can really up the flavor of your food by using fresh herbs in your cooking. I love using fresh herbs as the centerpiece in a salad instead of relying entirely on baby spinach, kale, mesclun, etc. It gives the salad so much more variety and bite.

If you’re new to fresh herbs, start out easy with some basics. Add thyme to almost any meat, fish, pasta, or veggie and enjoy the lemony freshness. Chop up some parsley and use it as the universal garnisher. 

For other ideas, try adding chiffonade basil leaves to salad vinaigrettes for a sweet flair, use mint in Middle Eastern dishes especially lamb, add dill to seafood dishes for a bright pop of flavor, and don’t forget to add cilantro to Mexican, Thai and Indian dishes (unless you’re one of the unfortunate souls who are genetically inclined to think cilantro tastes like soap).

Below I’ve included a recipe for my favorite herb salad.

7) Coconut Aminos

In the Paleo and Whole30 world, coconut aminos are a must in Asian cooking. Coconut aminos is a sauce made from coconut sap and is most commonly used as a soy-free, gluten-free soy sauce or tamari substitute. Aside from being convenient, it’s also packed with vitamin C, B vitamins, minerals, and, as the name suggests, amino acids.

Use coconut aminos like you would soy sauce and/or tamari, and add it to marinades, stir-fries, soups, dipping sauces, and even salad vinaigrettes. Find more uses for coconut aminos here.

Below you’ll find one of my favorite vinaigrette recipes that uses coconut aminos.

8) Salsa

Everyone loves salsa (and chips!), but most people don’t think of salsa as a health food. But salsa made with fresh vegetables and/or fruit, herbs, spices and peppers definitely qualifies as a health food. There are even tons of store-bought brands that fit the bill and are Whole30 compliant, but fresh salsa always tastes better in my opinion.

Salsa is a great replacement for high-sugar ketchup, tastes great on virtually any meat, fish, or egg dish, and can be dressed up in a variety of different ways. I love a good mango salsa over fish, but your options are limitless.

Salsa on eggs makes for a great combo
Get creative with your taco toppings.

9) Harissa

Harissa is an aromatic chili paste commonly used in Middle Eastern and North African cooking. Like pesto, harissa is pretty easy to make at home, but you can find a Whole30 compliant brand at specialty markets or the ethnic section of your grocery store.

Harissa is traditionally made with hot chile peppers (often smoked), olive oil, garlic, cumin, coriander and other spices. It’s great as a marinade for meat or as a nice smoky condiment for eggs. You can also mix harissa with other ingredients to amplify the flavors of your condiments. For instance, mix harissa with extra virgin olive oil for a tasty dip for raw crudités (or bread, if you are not on Whole30). Or, add it to mayonnaise and spread it on your burger buns instead of ketchup. And my favorite non-Whole30 combination – mix harissa with hummus and serve with pita bread.

Typical weekday breakfast: eggs with harissa and homemade tomato sauce, avocado, sweet potato, and fruit.
Typical weekday breakfast: eggs served with harissa and homemade tomato sauce, avocado, sweet potato, and fruit.

10) Flavored Olive Oils and Vinegars

One of the easiest ways to spruce up a salad or lightly cooked dish is to use flavored olive oils and vinegars. Luckily, I found a local olive oil bar that sells delectable and reasonably priced flavored olive oils and vinegars. Once you finish a bottle, you can refill the same bottle at a discount and pick from any of the original or flavored olive oils and vinegars. So far, my favorites are the blood orange balsamic vinegar (tastes like dessert and is mind blowingly good with chocolate) and the jalapeño olive oil (shocker).

Use flavored olive oils and vinegars just as you would traditional olive oils and vinegars. Certain flavors pair particularly nice together, but feel free to experiment.

You can also get creative and infuse your own olive oils with herbs, spices, aromatics, citrus, and even nuts. Stick to good-quality oils and fresh ingredients for the best results. You can read more about infusing your own oils here and vinegars here.

Simple Herb and Seed Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (remove stems)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves (remove stems)
  • 3/4 cups fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
  • 3/4 cup fresh dill leaves, broken up into small pieces
  • 2 TBSP slivered almonds
  • 2 TBSP cashews
  • 2 TBSP hemp seeds (or substitute sunflower or pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest
  • 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 TBSP fresh orange juice
  • 3 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Toast the almonds and cashews. You can do this in a preheated oven at 350 °- spread the nuts on a baking pan and toast for approximately 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden. Or, you can do toast the nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat for 5-10 minutes until nuts are golden brown. Let the nuts cool.
  2. Gather the herbs and mix with the nuts, orange zest and chili flakes in a bowl.
  3. Whisk together the orange juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Pour dressing over herb and nut mixture. Toss and serve.

Mustard Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1 small shallot, finely diced
  • 1 TBSP coconut aminos
  • 1-2 TBSP raw honey
  • 1 TBSP coarse grain mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 (or more) cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Whisk together all ingredients except for olive oil until combined. Slowly whisk in olive oil until desired texture and taste is achieved.
  2. Alternatively, add all ingredients to a mason jar. Screw on lid tightly and shake until combined.
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