What are your favorite herbs and spices?
My pantry has a shelf dedicated to all types of herbs and spices. I finally set them on lazy-susan turntables in alphabetical order. This has made finding them so easy when I’m ready to add them to a dish.
The beauty of using herbs and spices in your cooking are the flavors that are enhanced by your choices. From baking chicken with fresh rosemary sprigs laid on top and around the pan, to tossing fresh vegetables with olive oil and herbs or spices, I never prepare a meal without them.
When working with clients on their meal planning, the question that comes up the most is how to use herbs and spices in their meal preparation.
What goes with what?
Let’s look at some popular herbs and spices and how you can add them to your dishes.
Cumin – the flowering herb
Cumin is a native middle eastern plant that is used in Mexican and Middle Eastern cuisine. You can use it whole or ground in your dishes. Add Cumin to your meat, fish, black beans or chickpeas, for an earthy flavor.
Smoked Paprika – my favorite
Smoked Paprika is not to be confused with regular paprika. There’s a big difference. This spice has a nice rich smoky flavor and goes well with any meat or vegetable. From chicken to broccoli, you won’t go wrong with a little dash of smoked paprika on your dish.
We grew up eating cinnamon-sugar toast. Slather on the butter, sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar, broil till the sugar bubbles and devour.
What I’ve learned is that there are four different types of cinnamon, which are used for different dishes.
- Ceylon Cinnamon is known as the “true” cinnamon and has a mild sweet taste.
- Indonesian Cinnamon is the most popular cinnamon for basic use.
- Saigon Cinnamon is extra spicy and sweeter than Ceylon and Indonesian.
Ceylon cinnamon goes well with savory dishes. Think sauces and stews. This cinnamon has a subtle flavor, and you will not taste the cinnamon in the dish.
Indonesian cinnamon has a strong cinnamon smell and is used in your pies, pastries, and other sweets. You can use it with your autumn squashes and pumpkin dishes too.
Saigon cinnamon is warm and spicy and goes well with your spicy dishes.
Red Hot Chili Flakes
I’m a fan of hot and spicy and I use chili flakes in many of my dishes. Chili flakes are ground red chili peppers and have a mild to medium heat.
Begin small, a few flakes at a time, and then get adventurous and go big for that hot bowl of winter chili.
You can add to any meat dish. I add chili flakes to my collard greens to give them that little pop of heat.
Parsley is a favorite herb used in middle eastern dishes but is used as a spice. It has a light scent with a slight bitter taste. Add parsley to your soups, sauces and vegetables to help balance out the flavors.
Basil comes in many varieties…
- Sweet Basil has a licorice clove flavor and is the most popular basil. Use sweet basil in your Italian dishes.
- Greek Basil has a mild flavor and can be used as a substitute for sweet basil.
- Thai Basil has an anise-licorice flavor and is used in your Asian dishes.
- Cinnamon Basil has a cinnamon flavor and is used in your spicy stir-fried vegetable dishes.
- Lettuce Basil has a licorice flavor and is used in your salads and wraps.
You can grow basil in a container and have fresh basil all year long. We enjoy growing Sweet and Cinnamon Basil to use in our dishes.
Rosemary is a hardy herb with a lemon-pine flavor. It is an evergreen, which allows you to have fresh rosemary all year-round. I enjoy cutting a few sprigs to lay across my chicken before baking or swiping the stem so that the needles fall across my pan of vegetables before roasting. Use rosemary with your barbecued dishes, casseroles, and stews.
Thyme has a combined grass, wood and floral flavor. It goes well with many dishes like roasted meats, fish, and vegetables. This tiny herb will not overpower your dish and pairs well with other Mediterranean herbs.
Herbs and spices add so much flavor to your dishes and I could keep going with the many different choices we have. Get creative and sprinkle your next pan of roasted vegetables or meat with a new herb and enjoy your dish.
Here’s a helpful guide to print and place in your spice cabinet or on the side of your refrigerator.