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Find the Perfect Balance of Flavors

Jun 3 2021
3 min read
close-up of hand squeezing lime on a taco

It’s time to rethink what healthy eating can be — not bland or “so-so,” but tasty and full of flavor.

At Canyon Ranch, we’re just as interested in making meals satisfying and delicious as we are in making them nutritious. That’s why we carefully craft the flavors of our dishes, designing recipes from scratch to change your perception of just how good good-for-you food can be.

How do we do it? It’s simply about balance. As a dish takes shape, we work to incorporate four key taste elements: sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. When each is present, even in a minor way, you maximize the flavor dimensions of your dish without having to add fat and excessive amounts of salt.

Food simply tastes better and leaves you feeling more satiated. While our chefs have decades of experience, you can absolutely achieve this balance at home, too.

Sweet

You might think you need to add sugar to increase the sweetness of a dish, but that isn’t the case. Look for foods that have a natural sweetness to them, even if that means thinking outside the box. Add a few small pieces of carrot when sautéing onion and garlic for marinara sauce. Or toss some mango chunks into salsa. For augmenting Asian-inspired foods, mirin (a sweet sake) can do the trick. And a pinch of evaporated cane juice (a natural form of sugar) or a drop of honey goes a long way.

Sour

A sour flavor complements and balances the sweetness in a dish and tends to bring out food’s inherent taste. Think about how a squeeze of lemon boosts the natural flavor of a salmon fillet, or how a tangy vinaigrette makes salad vegetables pop. A hint of sour in the form of vinegar, lemon, or lime juice does a great job of bringing otherwise muted flavors to the surface.

Bitter

There are many options for creating bitter flavor, so you can really get creative. Molasses is a multipurpose option, because it is bitter with a tinge of sweet. Olives and greens like radicchio, arugula, and kale all add a touch of this flavor while providing added nutrients. Even choices like concentrated pomegranate juice can add little bitterness, along with some fruity astringency.

Salty

To avoid adding too much sodium, it’s wise not to be heavy handed with ingredients like salt and soy sauce. But just a little hit of this flavor, strategically incorporated into your dish, can do wonders. For example, if you’re grilling a piece of chicken, don’t hesitate to add a little salt (and pepper) beforehand. Why? If you use salt at this point in the preparation, you’ll be less likely to add it when you’re at the table.

Sea salt is your best option; a natural flavor enhancer, it contains minerals (which iodized and Kosher salts don’t have) that act on your tongue to open up your perception of flavor.

Experiment with bringing this four-flavor punch to your dishes.