7 Herbs and Spices to Heat Things Up
By Kate Gardner
I'll admit it. Beyond salt and pepper, I don't know a whole lot about how to season food. If a recipe calls for an herb or spice, I toss it in, but I'm never sure how it's going to affect the flavor of the food I'm making. I'm definitely not one of those cooks who can add a bit of this and a bit of that and come up with something really good. I do know that cooking with herbs and spices can make food healthier while relying less on salt and fat for flavor.
Herbs and Spices
Fortunately for me, CookSmarts.com has a handy, easy-to-read article, "The Ultimate Infographic Guide to Spices." Here are seven spices to get started.
Basil - This sweet herb is used for chicken and pork, as well as potatoes and tomatoes. It is often used with garlic, rosemary, and thyme.
Bay leaves - Bay leaves have a bitter taste, which may not sound so great, but are often added to soups and sauces to help lighten the flavor. They are used with other spices like oregano, sage, and marjoram. But don't eat the bay leaves -- just cook with them.
Cayenne pepper - Spicy cayenne pepper brings some heat to your dishes. Use it on beef, fish, or chicken, and in soups, sauces, and marinades.
Ginger - Ginger has a sweet, warm flavor that goes well with just about any protein. It is also good with squash, carrots, and citrus fruits. It is often combined with garlic powder.
Oregano - Oregano has an earthy flavor and shows up in salad dressings, sauces, rubs, and marinades (as well as being good on a number of meats). Use with bay leaves, chili powder, or thyme.
Cinnamon - Cinnamon is often used in sweet dishes, like desserts. It has an earthy, sweet taste that also tastes good with beef and lamb.
Rosemary - Fragrant and earthy, rosemary works well with mushrooms, peas, potatoes, chicken, lamb, and pork. Use it with oregano, thyme, or basil.
Keep It Fresh
True story -- last week I threw out coriander that expired in 2008. I don't think that's good. Better Homes and Gardens tells us how to buy and store your spices. Most herbs and spices are sold in their dried, pre-ground form in the baking aisle at your grocery store. If you really want to bring the most flavor to your food, buy herbs fresh or grow your own. You can also buy certain spices whole and grind them at home. Put the stems of fresh herbs in water, cover them loosely with plastic, and store in the refrigerator. Store spices in an air-tight container and put in a cool, dry place.
Let's get cooking!
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