A dash of this and a shake of that can add interest and variety to the simplest of dishes – provided you match the right herb or spice to the right dish!
Herbs and spices also effectively replace salt as a flavoring in many dishes which is good news for those who need to cut their sodium intake. Herbs and spices contain negligible sodium and calories in the small quantities usually used for cooking.
Most herbs and spices are available dried. You can make sure they are fresh by sniffing for a strong aroma. Because they lose their flavor if stored for a long time, it’s best to purchase only small amounts for short-term use.
Many fresh food markets now stock a selection of fresh herbs. Fresh herbs have unique aromatic qualities which enhance the flavor of a dish more richly than many dried herbs.
Herbs and spices are best stored in airtight, dark-colored containers in a cool part of the kitchen away from direct sunlight and the heat of ovens and stoves. This will prevent premature aging and loss of the natural oils and, consequently, flavor.
Fresh herbs should be stored in the refrigerator. If they are not used within 2-3 days, they should be frozen, then used as required without thawing.
To bring out the best flavor, chop or crush fresh herbs just before adding to food. Try using scissors instead of a knife to chop herbs – it maximizes flavor even more. If a more subtle flavor is desired, herbs may be added whole, then removed prior to serving.
When converting between fresh, dried and ground herbs and spices use the following measures of exchange:
1 tablespoon fresh herbs = 1 teaspoon dried herbs = 1/3 teaspoon ground herbs.
Which herbs and spices?
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The following guide indicates those herbs and spices which best compliment particular foods, but it's by no means complete! If you're feeling adventurous, try your own mixing and matching and see what new flavors you can come up with.
- Stock, Vegetable: Bouquet Garni, Parsley, Sage, Tarragon, Marjoram
- Cheese (Ricotta/Cottage): Chives, Tarragon, Dill, Mint, Parsley, Basil
- Eggs: Parsley, Tarragon, Chives, Paprika, Mustard, Basil
- Beef: Bouquet Garni, Mustard, Paprika, Garlic, Marjoram, Cumin, Horseradish
- Lamb: Rosemary, Mint, Garlic, Sage, Oregano, Marjoram
- Pork: Oregano, Marjoram, Sage, Ginger, Cloves, Nutmeg
- Poultry: Paprika, Sage, Bouquet Garni, Parsley, Tarragon, Basil
- Fish: Oregano, Tarragon, Sage, Fennel, Chives, Ginger
- Liver: Thyme, Basil, Bay Leaf, Tarragon, Caraway Seed
- Stews & Casseroles: Bouquet Garni, Garlic, Parsley, Sage, Tarragon, Paprika, Basil, Marjoram
- Curries: Nutmeg, Saffron, Fenugreek, Coriander, Ginger, Garlic, Cumin, Turmeric, Cloves, Cardamon, Lemon Grass, Chili
- Marinades: Garlic, Ginger, Cloves, Cumin, Chili, Mustard
- Pasta: Oregano, Basil, Parsley, Garlic
- Rice: Saffron, Turmeric, Coriander, Ginger, Cardamon, Cloves
Vegetables & Salad:
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- Cabbage: Caraway, Nutmeg, Dill, Fennel
- Carrots: Allspice, Fennel, Caraway, Dill
- Cauliflower: Dill, Tarragon, Caraway, Nutmeg
- Cucumber: Mint, Dill, Parsley
- Dried Beans: Garlic, Cumin, Chili, Paprika
- Green Beans: Basil, Garlic, Dill, Tarragon
- Green Salads: Fresh Thyme, Basil, Bay Leaves, Marjoram, Mint
- Peas: Mint Sage, Tarragon
- Potatoes: Chives, Dill, Mustard, Sage, Oregano, Parsley
- Pumpkin: Nutmeg, Fenugreek, Cardamon, Cloves, Ginger
- Spinach: Nutmeg, Basil
- Tomato: Oregano, Garlic, Basil, Parsley, Thyme
- Fruit: Mint, Allspice, Ginger, Cloves, Cardamon
- Desserts: Vanilla, Cinnamon, Cloves, Aniseed, Lemon & Orange Rind