Spices and herbs enhance the flavor of your food. So, you’ll want to pick flavors that complement each other. The key to spicing things up is that less is more. Avoid adding too much all at once. Instead, add a little ata time andadd more to taste. Here’s a good way to start using some common spices, and when to add them to your cooking.
Dried vs. Fresh
Dried are better when you add them at the earlier in the cooking process, this gives them a chance to rehydrate. Basil, bay leaves, dill, fenugreek, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, and thyme are all herbs that work best when they’re dried. Because they have a stronger flavor you end up using less of them than you would fresh herbs. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of fresh oregano, you need only 1 teaspoon of dried, since 3 teaspoons equal 1 tablespoon. Fresh herbs are best when used at the end of cooking, to add a lot of flavor and to finish off your dish. Basil, chervil, chives, cilantro (coriander), dill, mint, parsley and tarragon are all great when added at or near the end of cooking your recipe. They are beautiful and aromatic garnishes, too.
This is a popular Italian seasoning but is also widely used in Southeast Asian cuisine. It has a strong scent that is a little like licorice. Fresh basil is most often in pesto and in tomato and mozzarella in Caprese salads.
In this case I’m talking about dried and powdered cayenne chilis. This is definitely a hot spice that you want to start out with a little and slowly add more to taste. Cayenne pepper works well with all types of meat, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Add it to vinegar-based sauces or combined with lemon in marinades.
Dill is a member of the celery family. The leaves are commonly used on salmon. It also goes well in stews and even yogurt recipes like tzatziki . Pair it up with vegetables like cucumber and carrots.
Cilantro is also known as coriander or Chinese parsley. The leaves are often used in salsa and guacamole while the seeds are used in garam masala and some Indian curries. There is a slightly citrusy taste to cilantro. Put it with lemon and lime in different marinades.
There is a woodsy flavor to this herbwhich works well with roasted meats like pork, chicken, or even on salmon. If you want a more subtle taste, then add it to sauces and marinades. It blends well with mushrooms, tomatoes, and spinach.
There is a slight peppery flavor to sage, that is the perfect compliment to poultry. It also pairs well with sweet fruits and vegetables like apples and squash. But, did you know it can also help kick things like sausage up a notch. This can be added to slow cooking things like stews and sauces, and added from the start without worry about it losing its flavor. It’s a powerful spice and will hold up to long cooking times.
This member of the mint family is often sold in small bundles and goes well with parsley and bay seasoning. So don’t be afraid to use it in recipes that need those two seasonings to give it a little extra kick. Try it out in bean dishes, vegetable dishes, or with eggs.
This member of the ginger family is a bright orange spice often used in curries. Add it to stir fries and rice to enhance their flavor. Make a tofu “scramble”? Add a pinch of turmeric to give the tofu a more egg-like color.
Parsley is often used as a garnish but is delicious when added to pasta dishes. Don’t be afraid to sprinkle it over chicken or fish. Add a little parsley for not only color but also flavor at the end of cooking mashed potatoes.
It’s important to taste your food throughout cooking to determine if it needs more of something. Remember you’re not trying to mask flavors with spices and herbs – you’re looking to enhance the flavors. Don’t start adding every spice in your spice cupboard just because you think it’s going to make it taste better.
How to Make Your Own Spice Mixes
okay- I didn’t give exact amounts for the following spice mixes. I think it’s more fun to experiment and see what you like best. If you are more comfortable with a recipe, check out allrecipes.com.
Start with a basic mix: garlic powder, dried parsley, onion powder, salt and black pepper.
Mexican Spice Mix– Start with the basic mix then add chili powder, Mexican oregano, cumin and dried cilantro.
Asian Spice Mix– Start with the basic mixplus 5 spice powder, cayenne, and dried ginger.
Indian Spice Mix– Start with the basic mix plus curry cumin turmeric, coriander, ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon.
Greek Spice Mix– Start with the basic mix plus oregano, paprika, basil, cinnamon, black parsley, rosemary, dill, marjoram, thyme, and nutmeg.
Italian Spice Mix– Start with the basic mix plus basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary.
Thai Spice Mix– Start with the basic mix plus cumin, white pepper, dried lemongrass, dried ginger, dried mint, lime zest.
What are some of your favorite spice blends?