Below is the figure depicting the four types of cooking aromatic categories (where an aromatic is any spice, herb or aromatic vegetable) and their maximum suggested ratio of use. The ratio expresses the dominant aromatic category compared to supporting categories. For example, if savory aromatics are dominant, the ratio of use is generally four parts savory aromatics to a maximum of one part of each of the other categories by weight. Note that this is merely a rule of thumb and not a hard rule, applying to dry ingredients only and not to fresh ingredients which contain a varying degree of water.
Next is an abridged listing of the aromatics that make up the four categories. Each aromatic within the four categories functions in relation to another as depicted in the figure above. Savory and sweet balance and harmonize one another while pungent is the insurgent that can enhance in small quantities but overpowers in large quantities, while delicate sits atop and nuances the other three categories. Keeping with our example, if we wish the outcome of our dish to be savory-forward, we should add the largest amount of savory spices, balancing their harshness with sweet spices. If we wanted to nuance or enhance the savory flavors further, we could choose to add delicate or pungent spices, respectively, although it’s not absolutely necessary.
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