One of the joys of cooking has to do with the wonderful smells that come from your kitchen and flow throughout the house. Cooking with herbs and spices makes those smells and flavors come alive like no other addition. Everyone loves the food so much more when it’s well seasoned. There are ways to get the flavors to explode without overdoing it. One way is to avoid adding all seasonings at once. Food should have layers of flavors, so adding one herb or spice at a time, giving it time to combine with the other ingredients before adding another one is a good idea. Another important factor is to always measure your herbs and spices and start with small amounts. You can always add more, but you can create a disaster by adding too much from the start. Herbs and spices are also medicinal, so they are a very healthy addition to your daily food intake.
Most herbs are best when used fresh. The flavors are fresher, smell great, and are perfect for roasting or sautéing. Popular herbs are basil, oregano, parsley, bay leaves, cilantro, basil, rosemary, and thyme. Plus, you can grow your own herbs easily right in your window sill. Dried herbs are great infused with oils or other fats. Crush the herbs first then add to the oil and let the flavors sit over night before using for best results. This is a great way to create wonderful dressings, sauces, and condiments. There is no exact science to how much to add, just add a bit, give it some time to combine, then give it a taste. Tasting food as you cook it is the only way to ensure the best flavor experience for anyone who will eat your creations.
Spices are usually dried but you can use them in their whole state as seeds or roots with fabulous results. A great example of this is ginger root and garlic. Nothing tastes better than fresh ginger root over dried ginger, and fresh garlic, any day in recipes. Popular spices are peppercorn, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cayenne pepper, chili powder, curry, cloves, cumin, garlic, five-spice powder. Spices give dishes a flavor punch. They go great with sweet or savory dishes and can mean the difference between a successful dish and a flop. As with herbs, a little can go a long way. Try adding a little of a spice to a dish before adding more to ensure the flavor is right. When trying out a new spice you might want to just flavor parts of a dish and taste before adding more.
The best thing to do is open your mind and palate and start experimenting with different flavors and cultures. Curries for instance, are really a combination of different spices, so you can have a variety of flavors of curry. Try out making your own curries to see what you like. You can make curried rice to go with a main course of roasted chicken and veggies. Or, mix in your favorite curry combination into mashed potatoes for a little added oomph to your basic mashed potatoes dish. Above all, don’t be shy to try cooking with herbs and spices. Your family will be glad you did.