Spices are medicinal, flavorful, luxurious and yet common. They add color, texture, aroma, flavor and even nutrients. More than just being used in the food we eat, they also adorn table tops, drying racks, marriage bouquets, and gardens across the world. Their intoxicating scent brings you on a journey of discovery for all your senses. When you pluck an herb from the ground and rub it between your fingertips, the oils stain your skin. Then, you crush, chop, mince, or tear these treasures from Mother Earth. When you add them to your salad, soup, or international fair the flavor erupts on your tongue like a potent identity marker, branding your memory and taste buds together.
When cooking and enjoying a meal, spices are possibly the most widely underestimated and underused skill we have in the kitchen. Fresh or dried, herbs and spices have the power to transform a meal. Being intrigued by their individual profile and combined power, spices are often overwhelming to me when creating meals. Which flavors go best together, and how do I know which ones will compliment the meat or vegetables I am cooking that night? My spice rack is filled, yet I don’t really know how to use them. If you share my struggle, than this article is for you!
Gatherhaus sat down with Yia Vang from At the Table for a little Spice and Herb 101 lesson. He is so fun to learn from in regards to food and life and fellowship. Here is a fun short cheat sheet to help bring new life to your dishes!
10 THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE KNOWN ABOUT HERBS AND SPICES
- The reason herbs smell is actually to repel bugs.
- The difference between herbs and spices is not whether they are dried or fresh, but the fact that herbs come from the leafy part of the plant where spices typically come from the root, bulb, bark or seeds.
- Herbs and spices were traditionally used to preserve food before the refrigerator was invented.
- When adding herbs and spices to a dish, crush it in your hand first to release the oils inside. It brings out the flavor more.
- Spices help differentiate your pallet making eating more enjoyable.
- Most folks under utilize salt and pepper. It is a spice that should be added in the beginning, middle and end of the cooking process. Unless otherwise stated.
- Salt binds spices together.
- It also brings out moisture and flavor as it is a natural dehydrator.
- When salt hits your tongue, it opens your taste buds. (think salted caramel or chocolate)
- Salt opens your pores and lets the spice take root.
- Garlic Powder
- Chili Powder
- Black Pepper
FOOD PAIRINGS AND SUGGESTIONS
Chicken and Pork are meats that can take on any spices. Think of them as a canvas with endless possibilities when it comes to adding whatever spices you want.
Pork or Chicken:
– 2 Tsp Paprika (Smoked)
– 1 Tsp Granulated Garlic
– 1 Tsp Coriander
– 1 tsp Cumin
– 1 Tsp Oregano
– 1 tsp Cayenne Pepper (Optional)
– 1 Tsp Salt
– 1 Tsp Ground Pepper
Add a little oil to help it stick to the meat. If you let it sit overnight the seasoning can permeate into the meat.
Try something a little wild and different:
– All spice
– Star anise
– White Pepper
Use these instead of Cumin and Coriander to change up flavors.
- Cocoa powder
- Coffee ground fine – adds a bitterness
Beef is a dense meat so it can handle good rich seasoning. Remember you want to enhance the meat, not the spice.
Finish it with lemon juice or lemon zest.
These are the Holy Trinity for veggies, but don’t forget
For a grand finish, once veggies are grilled, squeeze lemon on top or apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinaigrette.
Enjoy exploring with herbs and spices to enhance your next family dinner or dinner party! Remember, adding a mild oil like Canola or vegetable oil to your dry spice will turn it into a paste allowing your flavor to go further and get in all those great nooks and crannies. Enjoy and Bon appetite!