Can you suggest a flavor profile?
October 1, 2014 7:59 PM   Subscribe

I like to keep cooked or par-cooked food in the fridge, then throw together dinner. For example, I heat up some browned ground beef, cooked spinach, whatever other veggies, with taco seasoning and serve with guacamole, and I have "Mexican." I swap out the taco seasoning and guac for Worcestershire sauce and Parmesan cheese, and I have "English." Swap it out again for Italian seasoning and I have.., um... Italian. But that's my entire repertoire for this kind of meal. Can you suggest other flavor profiles?

I am a good cook. I'm not looking for recipes. I make these kinds of quick meals several times a week, and I'm looking for distinctive, relatively easy and quick ways to make them taste different. The combos are usually half meat and half veg, by volume, with seasonings and other goodies (like guac or sour cream or parm cheese, etc.). I'm looking for more seasonings and add-ins that I can use to mix things up and create distinct flavor profiles. I'm not specifically looking for "ethnic" combinations, any kind of flavor profile would be great.
posted by OrangeDisk to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 81 users marked this as a favorite
Asian soup: You can add veggies etc. to Asian noodles; ramen is a super fast example of this; just add extra water & decide how much flavor packet you want to use vs. your own parsley and soy sauce.
posted by amtho at 8:08 PM on October 1, 2014

Beefy mac? Macaroni and cheese with ground beef. Can also do it italian style with ziti noodles and Parmesan cheese. I add garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Sloppy Joes too. Ground beef with diced onions, peppers, celery and a can of tomato soup. Add spices such as pepper, a little bbq sauce, garlic, oregano, to taste.

I find adding mustard or mustard powder to ground beef dishes changes the taste from the usual. I am a big spicy person so jalapeno peppers diced always adds a special flavor profile.
posted by 724A at 8:22 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 1) Dill weed and paprika is an awesome combo with egg, cheese, meat, potatoes, tomato soup, pasta -- almost anything, really.

2) Going east Asian, try mixing in a sweetish (hoisin) or umami-bomb (black bean) sauce, plus some bird's eye chilis or crushed chilis for a little heat.

3) Switching to south Asia, cruise your supermarket or local ethnic grocery and see if they have Patak curry pastes. While making your own will taste better and cost less (and would certainly be something to aim for one of these days), Patak offers a perfectly acceptable variety of mild to spicy pastes, plus some chutneys you can have on the side. Just heat up the paste in a pan, stir in the beef and other ingredients, and you have something curryish. These pastes store well in the fridge after opening.

4) If you have a slow cooker, slice some onions, add some butter, and cook very good caramelized onions overnight. These are wonderful as a sweet, rich base for all kinds of soups, stews and curries, and can even be slipped under the breast skin when roasting a chicken to protect the white meat. But they can certainly add a lot to your ground beef meals as well. The onions will keep several days in the fridge and can be frozen.
posted by maudlin at 8:22 PM on October 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

This is where I like to recommend The Flavor Bible.
posted by sevenless at 8:31 PM on October 1, 2014 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Ground cumin, ground coriander and a cardamom pod (optional) will give you a northern Indian flavour.
posted by salad at 8:34 PM on October 1, 2014 [5 favorites]

Throw in some garlic, fish sauce, soy sauce, chili flakes, and a ton of basil leaves, and you have Thai Basil Beef. (I usually use ground chicken for this. In any case, brown the garlic first in oil, then throw in the rest of the stuff, heat till the basil wilts. I buy the big blister packs of basil from Trade Joe's for $2.49 and dump the whole thing in there.)
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:34 PM on October 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


Shopping List:
pack of cherry tomatoes
two cucumbers
bag of baby carrots
large package of hearts of romaine
one lemon
one package of full-fat greek yogurt
2-4 chicken breasts; buy them precooked or just shake on a seasoning mix and saute them up
bag of pita bread
package of hummus
one package of feta
jar of kalamata olives or an assortment from your market's olive bar

Peel both cucumbers and scrape out the seeds. One gets sliced into nice salad-or-sandwich sized chunks; one gets grated with a box grater. Mix the shredded cucumber with the juice and zest of the lemon and the greek yogurt for a sort of tzatziki sauce. That's it. That is all the cooking you need to do.


Salad - dress a bed of romaine with the tzatziki sauce, top with tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, chicken, feta and olives. Optional toasted pita on the side.

Sandwich - Spread a warmed pita with hummus on one side and tzatziki on the other then stuff with tomatoes, cucumber, chicken, feta and olives

Snack - Dip carrots, cucumbers, spears of romaine, tomatoes, and/or chunks of pita bread in the hummus and tzatziki

Lettuce Wraps - Spread leaves of romaine with hummus and then toss everything else on top of it - good with lots of feta

What I Usually Do With It: Just make a plate of everything and roam around the plate dipping stuff and cramming stuff in my mouth.

originally posted here
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:42 PM on October 1, 2014 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Ginger/garlic/soy sauce/splash of black vinegar or rice vinegar

Lemon/feta/parsely/sundried tomatoes

Goat cheese/lemon/tarragon/spring veggies


smoked paprika/pickles/onions/mustard/capers/caraway seeds



These might be helpful:
Cheat sheet to flavor profiles
Learn to cook by flavor profiles
Creating flavor profiles
posted by aka burlap at 8:44 PM on October 1, 2014 [15 favorites]

Best answer: I do a similar thing. A few times a week I have quinoa, some sort of meat and some sort of veg in a bowl as my main dinner course. Here are some flavors that I like....

- Coconut milk, curry, turmeric, cashews
- Garam masala, cubed butternut squash, paprika, sour cream
- Ginger, garlic, rice wine, sesame seeds, soy sauce
- Grated cheddar, apple slices, candied walnuts, plain yogurt
- Yogurt, lemon, dill, garlic, fenugreek
- chili powder, pepper, celery salt, chourico, hot sauce
- Way too much garlic, butter, white wine, extra spinach
- Rosemary, parmesan, black pepper
- Lemon juice, parsley, tahini, olives
posted by jessamyn at 8:44 PM on October 1, 2014 [18 favorites]

Best answer: From my well-loved, well-used, hard-to-find The Flavor Principle Cookbook, here is a distilled version of her basic 12 food principles:
1. Soy Sauce +
a. sake & sugar = Japanese
b. garlic-brown sugar-sesame seeds = Korean
c. garlic, molasses, peanuts = Indonesian
d. sherry & gingerroot = Chinese
also: Black bean & garlic, miso & garlic

2. Sweet Sour: cross cultural flavor combinations with sweet & acidic foods.
Also Hot & Sour

3. Curry spices = India

4. Lemon - Parsley = Near and Middle East

5. Lemon-Oregano = Greek

6. Olive oil + tomato +
a. garlic = Southern Italian
b. saffron = Spanish & French
c. mixed herbs, thyme, basil, oregano, garlic = Southern French, Provencal, Mediterranean
d. cinnamon and lemon = Middle East, Greece, Balkans

7. Wine-Herb = French
a. Wine vinegar & herb, basis of vinaigrette
b. Wine vinegar & garlic = Northern Italy

8. Butter, Cream, Wine, Stock = French

9. Chicken fat & onion = European Jewish cooking

10. Cultured Milk (sour cream or yogurt) plus herb & spice = cross-cultural
a. Sour cream - dill = Russia, Scandinavia & Hungary
b. Sour cream - caraway = Russia, Scandinavia, Germany & The Ukraine
c. Sour cream - paprika = Hungary
d. Sour cream - allspice = Scandinavia
e. Yogurt - dill or mint = Turkey, Greece, Balkans, Iran & India
f. Cheese - herb = cross cultural

11. Lime & Chili = Mexico

12. Tomato-Cumin-Chili = Mexico
posted by lois1950 at 9:00 PM on October 1, 2014 [34 favorites]

Sweet soy (ketyap), ginger, some sambal, a bit of cumin and coriander: Indonesian.
posted by monospace at 9:03 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Super easy, just add curry pastes -
I actually really like Tom Yum paste in stirfries, even though it's supposed to be in soup (usually works out better, dollar for quantity), with a little coconut milk/cream.

I think it goes better with ground pork or chicken than beef, but it's acceptable.
posted by Elysum at 9:11 PM on October 1, 2014

Ginger, garlic, onion, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil - divabat's version of Malaysian. Add coconut milk if you want a gravy.

Also: CURRY POWDER. Any and all of them. A lot of the packet instructions will ask you to chop 2 tomatoes and 10 carrots and mix X amount of powder with Y coconut milk etc etc yadda yadda, but you don't have to make it so complicated. I've had great luck just tossing in curry powder to ginger/garlic/onion/coconut milk and frying up.
posted by divabat at 10:19 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

This looks like a job for the all-purpose Hungarian recipe. Basically it's browned onions + peppers + caraway seeds + a whole lot of sweet paprika (plus a bunch of optional add-ins, including carrots, tomatoes, sauerkraut and sour cream).

Also, Goya makes some pretty okay premade marinades and seasoning combos that are good for this sort of thing. Like for instance, fry up onions, garlic and green peppers and add some Sazon Goya and a glug of their mojo criollo (which is citrus juice plus spices) and you've got Vaguely Cuban.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:39 PM on October 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

Try some morrocan seasoning? This recipe is close to what I learned, though I seem to remember paprika and cayenne in there too, and that allspice stuff sounds suspiciously fancy. Bloom in oil before adding meat (beef, lamb, chicken). Lentils or garbanzos, summersquash, potatoes, add a tomato if you roll that way.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 11:31 PM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would just keep jars in the fridge, and add as desired from various delicious Indian and Thai pastes. That's two more, I guess.
posted by thylacinthine at 2:05 AM on October 2, 2014

For instant spicy Korean yum, you need gochujang. Also it's good to have some kimchi of some sort and sesame oil.
posted by Mizu at 2:30 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

My two best suggestions are toasted sesame oil, popular in a variety of Asian cuisines, and curry paste + coconut milk. Oh, and try cumin + turmeric + mustard + vegetable oil + optionally yogurt.
posted by Cygnet at 4:18 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh! I forgot smoked paprika! Man, that stuff makes everything delicious, ESPECIALLY greens. Highly recommended.
posted by Cygnet at 4:19 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Barbeque Sauce seems like a natural for you.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:55 AM on October 2, 2014

Tim Ferriss' 4 Hour Chef contains a handy dandy spice chart that tells you how to make basic protein/veggie combinations taste like they're from just about anywhere in the world. I couldn't find just the chart anywhere online, but it's a great resource!
posted by Barnifer at 6:45 AM on October 2, 2014

Here's a complete flavor profile in handy dandy, SciAm approved format.
posted by digitalprimate at 8:26 AM on October 2, 2014

I do a dressing that's lime juice, garlic, fish sauce, sriracha, and a pinch of sugar.

Mix mint and cilantro leaves into your meat and veggies, dress the lot of it with your dressing and then eat it as a room temp salad. ("Vietnamese.")
posted by small_ruminant at 3:52 PM on October 2, 2014

Oh I don't see the flavor profile that is OM NOM NOM MUSHROOMS mentioned. Rough chop and cook down a bunch of mushrooms, humble or exotic, in a shallow pan with your favorite fat, garlic, and salt, a splash of wine deglazing at the end. Apply to everything like a relish. A relish made of nom. (Add sour cream and you have om nom nom stroganoff).
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 8:07 PM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: There are too many great answers to mark all the best ones, so instead I marked the lists of formulas as best. But all the suggestions here are what I was hoping for, thank you.
posted by OrangeDisk at 7:39 AM on October 3, 2014

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