Picking a spice for a dish is like picking the right pair of shoes. Both say you have great taste, can turn anything ordinary into extraordinary and have the potential of making your ass look smaller. In fact, using herbs and spices can add vitamins and nutrients to a dish without the need to add extra sugar or fat. And they'll enhance the flavor of any dish faster than you can say Szechuan Pepper.
How to Cook with Spices & Herbs
Ground Spices. As a rule of thumb, a tablespoon of whole spice = one teaspoon of ground spice. Ground spice is best used in recipes that cook fast because they release their flavor quickly. Note that some ground spices will turn bitter if they're cooking for a long time. Examples of ground spices are: Cumin, Curry, Turmeric, Coriander, Cinnamon.
Dried Herbs. Before adding dried herbs to a recipe, brush the leaves with your fingers to release volatile oils and increase the flavor. Dried whole spices and herbs release flavor slower than ground or crumbled and are best used in longer cooking dishes such as soups and stews.Examples: Bay leaves, Basil, Thyme, Rosemary, Oregano.
Fresh Herbs. Usually added toward the end in cooking to preserve their flavor. Use fresh herbs three times as much as you would normally with a dried herb. More delicate herbs should be added a minute or two before the end of cooking or sprinkle them on food before it's served.Examples: Basil, Tarragon, Dill, Parsley, Mint, and Majoram.
Seeds. Toast seeds in the oven or on the stove and stir occasionally. This enhances their aroma and flavor. Examples: Sesame Seeds, Cumin Seeds, Peppercorns
Bitchworthy Tip: Avoid adding spices and herbs directly from the bottle into a steaming pot because moisture and heat can cause loss of flavor and the remaining product to cake. Measure them into a spoon or a cup and add to your recipe.
Get a Great Rack. Although some recipes require a roundtrip to Vietnam, most dishes call for the usual suspects. Here's a list of commonly used ground and dried herbs and spices (of course, it's all about personal taste). And, don't forget, buy organic.
To help preserve the flavor of your herbs and spices, store them in a cool, dry place away from light. Don't store above the stove or dishwasher where there's moisture and heat. Get cooking spice girl.
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