Here in Wisconsin it is time to start drying some of the herbs we raised this summer as we prepare for winter. Because herbs and spices have such an effect on the taste of the foods we enjoy we like to grow those we can, all year. Using Herbs and spices for Seasoning Your Food can work magic by changing a bland item into a culinary masterpiece.
Herbs, spices and other seasonings are a natural and healthy way to add a lot of flavor to your recipes without adding a lot of extra calories. With a little practice, you can create an endless variety of delicious recipes, such as Mediterranean-inspired favorites bursting with the fresh flavors of lemon, garlic and rosemary and spicy Mexican dishes featuring cilantro, cumin and chili powder.
Of course, your options won’t end there. A wide range of herbs, spices and seasonings are used throughout the world to make food taste better, and in some cases, last longer. Over time, certain flavors have come to represent the culinary identity of the areas where they originated. In large part, the seasonings you choose will define the direction of your own culinary development, as well.
With a little creativity, you can put a fresh spin on some of your favorite tried-and-true recipes by simply swapping out the herbs, spices and seasonings you use. For example, if you add fresh or dried basil or oregano to diced tomatoes, chopped onion and finely minced garlic, you have the makings of a wonderful red Italian pasta sauce. On the other hand, if you replace the basil and oregano with cilantro and lime juice, those same ingredients become the foundation for a fabulous homemade salsa recipe.
To help inspire you, the following chart shows some of the most popular culinary ingredients based on geographic region.
Most Popular Kitchen Seasonings From Around the World
Cuisine: Popular Herbs, Spices & Seasonings
thyme, French tarragon, rosemary, basil, sage, mint, marjoram
saffron, smoked and regular paprika, rosemary, thyme
mustard, rye, caraway seeds, borage
cilantro, chili powder, cumin, Mexican oregano,garlic, annatto seed, coriander and epazote
five-spice powder, star anise, fennel seed, cloves, cinnamon, ginger
Of course, this chart is far from comprehensive, but it can serve as a good reference point for assembling your own collection of must-have herbs, spices and seasonings.
Keep in mind, some herbs, spices and seasonings, such as salt, black pepper and garlic, have an almost universal appeal that isn’t limited by geographic borders. Chances are you will notice those items popping up in recipes from all over the world. As a result, you may want to keep an adequate supply of these basic ingredients in your own pantry or spice rack. I use freshly ground black pepper because the flavor is so much more intense that the already ground pepper you find in your local market. I also use sea salt and himalayan salt when seasoning our food because of the extra nutritional value they add to a dish over the table salt sold in most stores. You should be able to find almost all of the above products at your local health food store and even perhaps at your local supermarket. However if you can not find something, visit Chef Williams Nutrition Store If it is something I use I like to offer it to others. I make a few cents on each sale which helps support my blog post, and you get a great product to enjoy.
You will also see a lot of crossover among dishes from countries that border one another. For example, French, Italian, Greek and Spanish dishes often feature many of the same herbs, such as basil, rosemary, oregano and thyme. Of course, this isn’t surprising when you consider how these populations interacted with and melded together over the course of history. Depending on your personal tastes and cooking habits, these ingredients may be good to keep on hand, as well.
While assembling your own collection of herbs, spices and seasonings from around the world, remember you can save money by growing your own. Fresh herbs are super easy to grow from seed or from cuttings in your own garden and many can be brought indoors for year-round enjoyment. However, if growing fresh herbs isn’t your thing, many popular fresh and dried varieties are readily available. Dried herbs can be a great alternative to fresh, but take note of expiration dates and suggested storage methods. Dried herbs, spices and seasonings can be quite expensive, so buy smaller amounts at one time if you won’t be using them often. To learn how to get started raising an indoor herb garden I posted an article that might help, you can read it at: My Indoor Herb Garden It works for some herbs and it helps others such as rosemary remain fresh all year.
- 6 medium tomatoes
- ½ of a white onion, sliced into 4 slices
- 2 large green jalapeno peppers, halved and seeded
- 2 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
- ½ teaspoon Mexican Oregano, crumbled
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- Fire up your grill and grill the tomatoes, onion slices, jalapenos and garlic, turning often until they all have charred spots on all sides.
- Remove the pieces to a plate as they are ready. Some will be ready much sooner than the others.
- When they are all finished , remove the outer skin of the garlic, then chop all the vegetables or give them a quick whirl in a food blender..
- In a small skillet, toast the oregano for a few seconds to get that aromatic smell, Add it to the salsa along with the cumin,salt, olive oil and vinegar. Mix well.
There are many great foods that only require a little rearranging to switch from one country to another….In this case, change the jalapenos with bell peppers, the cumin with basil and you have the makings of a nice pasta sauce….of course you can tweak it a little more, like changing the rice vinegar for balsamic vinegar, and maybe adding a few capers, it’s up to you. The Idea is that you can do so much by seasoning your foods a little different each time you are in the kitchen you will be surprised just how creative you can be…….so enjoy and create……In your kitchen You are the Chef.