A Beginners Guide to Understanding Herbs & Spices

With so many, to choose from understanding herbs and what foods they best compliment can be confusing. Often bought on a recipe by recipe basis, not being fully acquainted with the herb and its uses often leads to an abandoned jar, stocked  full with seasoning that could turn a bland dish to fantastic if you only knew. Fully stocked spice racks serve a greater purpose then it’s homey appeal to the look and feel of the kitchen, although they can be quite intimidating! Herbs and spices add unique opportunities to all varieties of foods and multi-culturally likened. Here is a beginner’s guide to understanding and using the most commonly used herbs.

Basil- popular in tomato dishes, added to pasta, cheese sauces, and some dips. This spice tastes is best when used fresh, and chopped. With just a hint of licorice taste to it, Basil is also good mixed in salads and in egg dishes.

Bay Leaves- Are added to flavor soups, stews, roasts, poultry dishes, and sauces. Add 2 Leaves to slow cooked foods, but  be sure to take out the leaves and throw away before serving. They’ve served their purpose.

Chives- The hint of mild onion flavor adds remarkable taste to cold soups, atop baked potatoes, and as a salad topping. Try fresh chopped chives in place of dried chives for the best seasoning.

Cilantro- A leafy herb, known for it’s welcoming scent and desirable zest, this herb is popular in Mexican dishes. It’s one of the unique ingredients that give Salsa that “come back for more of me” appeal. Added to Sauces, pesto, egg, and rice and bean dishes this herb seems to do magic with its unique flavor! Also known as coriander, purchase this herb fresh, chop it and add it to meals just before serving.

Dill- A spice that is used both seed and leaf. Using leaves in salads, tossed in cooked vegetables, and on fish adds a distinct taste to the dish, the tiny leaves applied just before serving are known as dill weed. The dill seed is often used in brining pickles, in dips, sauces and some salad dressings.

Marjoram- Fresh or dried, the aroma of this spice is strong and sweet. Add to Italian dishes, to poultry or fish, vegetable, and egg dishes. With an Oregano like scent, this spice can be added in place of oregano.

Mint- The word alone speaks for its flavor! Add fresh mint leaves to fruit salads, to sauces, deserts or garnish in a glass of iced tea.

Oregano- Used primarily in tomato sauces, and pizza sauces, this dark green leafy spice is also excellent in poultry dishes and when added to stews.

Parsley- Ah! The most versatile of all spices, there is almost no food parsley doesn’t go well with. Often used in soups, salads, in potato dishes, fish and poultry – don’t be afraid to experiment with this one! Always add parsley to the food just before serving. It also makes a lovely garnish.

Rosemary- A boldly scented spice popularly used on white meats such as pork, lamb, and chicken. Added to potatoes this spice adds a bit of renewed appeal and a certain curiosity.

Sage- Commonly used in stuffing’s, this spice has more to offer then that! Sage is a tasty addition to roasted red meats, Italian dishes, poultry, meatloaf, even sausage.

Savory- A less commonly used flavoring, this spice is often added to poultry stuffing, bean dishes, and cold salads.

Tarragon- Enhances the flavors in fish, poultry, egg dishes, as well as pasta and potato salads. This spice is excellent for cold salads and dressings. The hint of licorice gives this spice its enigma.

Thyme- With it’s strong earthy flavor use this spice sparingly in recipes, add to fresh cooked vegetables, sauces, stews and soups.

There are a few general considerations when using herbs. Dried herbs should be stored in tightly sealed containers and stored in a cool, dark place, and should be thrown out after a year. If you are substituting dried herbs in place of fresh ones, use 1 teaspoon of crumbled herb, or ¼ teaspoon of powdered herb for each tablespoon the recipe calls for. Remember both Rosemary and Thyme are strong herbs, so use them moderately.  Although many of these herbs can be used in marinades always add a touch of fresh herb to the dish before serving, flavor is brought out by heat. If the herb will be used in a cold dish, allow them to sit at room temperature before adding to the recipe. Don’t be afraid to try something new!

Written by JenniferLeigh

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