That one special ingredient you add to the dish

When I make scramble eggs, I put plenty of pepper in, but no salt. I do, however, add parmesan cheese in the last few seconds of cooking. Just gives a little extra dimension to an everyday dish.

Of course, you can add all sorts of stuff to scrambled eggs (sausage, mushrooms, veggies, whatever), but the parmesan cheese goes well with whatever else is in there.


Really enhances a lot of sauces, chowders, stews, soups, and crockpot/pressure cooker dishes. Adds a lot of that lovely umami flavor, along with a touch of ‘salty beef dripping’ savor.

I don’t use actual tomatoes, but I use LOTS of canned tomato sauce and paste. Whenever I use either for anything, I also use cinnamon.

Straight-up MSG to appropriate dishes. Or fish sauce.

Um… beggin’ yer pardon, sir, but that’s what umami is…

Pureed jalapeno to mac & cheese.

Smoked Gouda. Amazing stuff.

Sour cream seems to be good in just about everything. I think there’s even a chocolate cake recipe that’s supposed to be really good. Half & Half (arf and arf) is good to thicken sauces or used anywhere milk is called for. Makes a good sausage gravy, hot chocolate, etc.

Garlic, butter, and onions are the “holy trinity”. Maybe common though definitely special.

Dill and parsnip must go into chicken soup to make it authentically Jewish. You might not taste the parsnip, but it gives it that distinctive taste.

A chopped anchovy – or at least a doot of anchovy paste – added to beef and lamb stews. The umami thing again.

Interesting. I hate eating parsnips, but I’ll try adding one next time I make chicken soup. Can I throw the parsnip away when the soup’s ready?

Dill is a given.

Oh, umami is so much more than brothy & meaty. I’m further clarifying how vegemite adds to my appreciation of umami. Call it ‘meaty’ but that’s too generic for how my taste buds interpret it when umami is presented in its vegemite form. To me it’s beefy, salty, like the concentrated drippings in the bottom of the pot roast pan, or the skillet.

The pure umami taste of MSG found in Accent is quite different; lacking the salt sensation, and I even consider it a stretch to consider it ‘meaty’. Savory, yes. But not meaty. While the umami presented by soy sauce definitely gives us flavors of salt and meat, it does not seem beefy to me. The umami aspects of roquefort and parmesan cheeses on the other hand, are nothing like those found in soy or yeast extracts. And many nuts, especially walnuts are also high in MSG, yet give a completely different flavor dimension.

Trying to restrict describing umami’s flavor/experience to “brothy” or “meaty” seems to me to be far too limiting, when discussing gustatory pleasures.

A surprising number of dishes will benefit from a small can of crushed black olives.

Absolutely. It gets mushy anyway. My kids like it, but I usually toss the veg I make the stock with and dice up fresh carrots, celery etc for the final soup.

One-two parsnips, sliced lengthwise will do for a large stock pot of soup

Onions go in everything. I put the onions on to saute, while I browse through the cookbook to decide what to add to them.

Yogurt, especially the thick Greek stuff, enriches/zings up all kinds of recipes. I use it in place of cream or sour cream, and it adds a yumminess that’s hard to define in the finished dish. It beats the heck out of buttermilk in recipes, too.

A few drops of lemon juice will add brightness to almost any savory cooked dish. Likewise, a few drops of something sweet (I use agave nectar - I always have a bottle on the counter) will balance out an otherwise sharp or flat-tasting sauce.

A little bit of sugar in pasta sauce and chili.

please no.

Had someone put half a jar of that on a bun and hand it to me to eat, was like trying to drink seawater

Red wine vinegar to chili.
Also, if you are cooking in a competition where the public decides on the winner (rather than a panel of judges) add a little bit of sugar to just about any damn thing your making.

Half a jar? Are they nuts? It’s not peanut butter, for Og’s sake. They must have had it in for you. That’s like giving someone a glass of hot sauce instead of a few dashes, or 4 oz. of fish sauce to sip on.

The right ingredient in the right amount.

Along with plain gelatin and Worcestershire. Bumps up a stew to a whole 'nother level.

I like to add a bit of brewed coffee to a pot of baked beans (or even a tablespoon of instant coffee).

A pinch of cinnamon to tomato-based spaghetti sauce.

Dill weed or dried thyme in tuna salad.

Fresh tarragon, chopped apple and walnuts to chicken salad.

A couple/three capfulls of apple cider vinegar to potato salad and a lesser amount to deviled eggs.

Diced pequillo peppers to scrambled eggs.