Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Spices, Herbs, and Seasonings

Spices 101. I'm only familiar with about half of these spice combinations. I got the rest from the Penzeys website, because they tend to know what they are doing with spices. Don't ever go into a Penzeys unless you wish to come out with a lighter wallet. They seduce you through the nostrils.

Spices, Herbs, and Seasonings

A dish as simple as baked chicken can be made to taste many different ways simply by rubbing it with different sorts of spices. The difference between a European stew and an Indian curry is basically just the spices.

Technically, an “herb” is a dried leaf. “Spice” is a ground up stem, seed, or other part of a plant. “Seasoning” is salt and black pepper. However, this distinctions aren’t particularly important, and are frequently used in this book interchangeably.

Keep all spices and herbs tightly sealed. If you have extra, store the excess in the freezer. Ideally, ground spices and herbs should be used or thrown away after being open for a year. But as long as the spice still has a strong smell, it’s still perfectly good to use. If the smell has weakened, you can often just add more of the spice.

Cuisines from different parts of the world are defined by certain combinations of spices, and if you use these combinations, you can give your cooking an Asian flavor, or a Mexican flavor, etc. The following are some possible spice mixtures that you can make in advance and keep sealed in a jar, to be conveniently rubbed onto meat, sprinkled over vegetables, or mixed with oil and vinegar into a salad dressing. Or, you can use these combinations as inspiration when you are wondering how to flavor a dish. Some of these, such as Chinese Five-Spice, are commercially available. Some, such as French Four-Spice, are very specific regional mixtures. Others, such as curry, come in many different combinations.

Taco - dried onion, dried garlic, cumin, oregano, chili powder.
Adobo - dried garlic, dried onion, lack pepper, cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper.
Pumpkin Pie - cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, nutmeg.
Chinese Five-Spice - star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel seed, and Sichuan pepper.
Italian - basil, oregano, garlic, thyme, rosemary.
Lemon Pepper - lemon peel, black pepper, dried garlic, dried onion.
Curry - ginger, garlic, cardamom, star anise, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, cumin, black pepper, fenugreek, allspice, chili powder, cloves, onion, mustard, fennel.
French Four-Spice - pepper, cloves, nutmeg, ginger.
Parisian Bonnes Herbes - tarragon, basil, chives, dill, chervil, pepper.
Old World Seasoning - paprika, sugar, pepper, onion, garlic, caraway, dill, marjoram, bay leaf, basil, rosemary, thyme.
Greek - dried garlic, lemon peel, pepper, marjoram, oregano.
Turkish - pepper, garlic, cumin, oregano, paprika, cilantro, cayenne.

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