For Every Thing… There is a Seasoning
Andy Anderson !
These notes are a compilation of my own experiences with spices, books I have in my library, and the advice of other chef/friends of mine.
So, you ready… Let’s get into the world of spices.
How to Make For Every Thing… There is a Seasoning
- Chef's Note: I really love cooking with spices and herbs... and experimenting with new ways of combining them into great tasting dishes.
As I pen these words, we've just entered my favorite time of the year, and that's Autumn. Fall is an excellent time to play around with spices because with the shorter days, longer nights, and cooler temperatures, the body craves warm, spicy food.
In addition to information on spices, I've included a couple of recipes for each one from our good chefs here at JAP.
- Spices Versus Herbs
Most herbs can be found in just about any grocery stores around the planet, and come either dried or fresh. Herbs, for the most part, are the leaves and the green parts of the plant, while spices are the seeds, bark, and roots of the plant. In some cases a spice or an herb can be both.
- Blooming a Dry Spice
Blooming is a cooking technique where you take a spice/herb, and place it in a hot dry pan, or a pan with some oil (depending on the spice and the recipe). This heating of the spice helps to release the essential oils of the spice and amplify its taste. It is to be noted that most of the flavor is carried to the taste buds by the essential oils of the spice/herb. Heating a spice not only will enhance its flavor, but it can subtly change its flavor (in a good way).
For example, heating up a spice will cause the spice to brown, and deepen its flavor; the same way putting a nice sear on a steak will change the flavor of the meat. This all occurs through the process of browning, or what is called the maillard reaction (are we having fun yet).
The idea is to put the spices into oil, heat to just below the smoke point of the oil. The spices will brown, and the essential oils will emerge from the spices and infuse the rest of the oil. You can then strain the oil and you have spice-infused oil to use in your recipe.
Ah, the sweet science of cooking.
- How to Do it
Whole spices last longer than ground versions, but you’ll need a grinder. A mortar and pestle or a dedicated coffee grinder will work like a charm.
Keep in a cool, dry place. Keep spices away from heat, moisture, and direct sunlight. Avoid tacking a spice rack above the stovetop or oven — heat and moisture can negatively affect spices’ quality. And when sprinkling spices into a dish, pour into your hand before adding them to food: Shaking the jar directly over a steaming pot can cake up the rest of its contents. Another stay-dry tip is to replace the lid immediately after use.
Toss the old ones. Spices don’t actually go bad per se, but they lose flavor as they age. Whole seeds last around three to four years, while ground has a shelf life of two to three years. If a spice looks dull and has lost some of its original color, then give it the boot. And make sure to date the back of the bottle to keep tabs on when it’s time to buy new ones.
This spice is native to Central and South America and the majority of the exports come from Jamaica. It is a dried berry of the pimento tree. Its appearance is almost that of a peppercorn. The best ones are harvested when they are full size, but before they mature. The allspice berry loses its flavor and aroma when it is fully ripe. They have a dark reddish brown color.
Taste: Similar to cloves; however, it is much more pungent and deeply flavored.
Uses: Add to spiced cider or mulled wine, grind up for use with Jamaican recipes like Jamaican Jerk Chicken, add to BBQ sauce to add a nice sweet and spicy depth of flavor, add to desserts and cookies like gingerbread cookies, and dark chocolate desserts.
Benefits: Allspice has been considered a therapeutic spice, as it is an aromatic stimulant and helps to relieve gas and stimulate digestion. It has also been used as a mild anesthetic and pain reliever. Allspice also contains a low level of eugenol, a volatile oil, which is thought to be a mild anti-microbial agent.
Recipe: Homemade Sausage 5 different kinds
Fireman Bob's Cincinnati Skyline Chili
- Annatto Seeds
Annatto is native to tropical regions in Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. Ancient Mayans used it as body paint, and the Aztecs to deepen the color of their chocolate drink. You’ll find it as an ingredient in a brick of cheddar because it's a natural coloring that gives cheese and other foods a bright orange hue. It comes from the Bixa orellana, a tropical plant commonly known as achiote or lipstick tree (from one of its uses). The ground seeds are a common spice in Mexican, Caribbean and Filipino dishes. The seeds are a brick-red color; about five millimeters long, and shaped like little pointed teardrops.
Taste: A mild, slightly sweet, peppery, and musky flavor with a flowery scent.
Uses: In fish, meat or veggie dishes where you want a bit of coloring and a very Central American/Yucatán taste. Some dishes include cochinita pibil (a pulled pork dish), and Filipino-style tamales.
Benefits: Annatto's have high bixin levels. Bixins are powerful carotenoids like the kind found in carrots. One of the most powerful benefits of carotenoids is their ability to protect eye health. Carotenoids like bixin enter the eye and help them to absorb harmful rays and prevent cataracts and premature blindness. The carotenoids are also potent antioxidants. Antioxidants prevent the signs of ageing by fighting off the free radicals that destroy cells.
Note: The annatto seeds are extremely hard (I think it takes a diamond cutter to grind them). Unless you have one heck of a strong spice grinder, purchase this spice pre-ground.
Recipes: Chicken Pancit Canton
PERUVIAN PORK & CHICKEN CHILI -CORNMEAL DUMPLINGS
With round pointed leaves this plant resembles peppermint. Basil now grows in many regions throughout the world, but it was first native to India, Asia and Africa. It is prominently featured in varied cuisines throughout the world including Italian, Thai, Vietnamese and Laotian. Whenever possible, choose fresh basil over the dried form of the herb since it is superior in flavor. The leaves of fresh basil should look vibrant and be deep green in color. They should be free from darks spots or yellowing.
Taste: A fresh basil leaf eaten directly from the plant has an initial subtle peppery flavor. The taste then evolves into a slightly sweet flavor and also has a delicate menthol aroma as well.
Uses: Use chopped basil with garlic and olive oil to create a simple, dairy-free pesto. Place basil leaves on top of tomatoes slices with mozzarella to create a colorful Summer salad. Add basil to stir-fries to give them a Thai flair. Purée basil, olive oil and onions in a food processor or blender and add to tomato soups. Make basil tea by infusing chopped basil in boiling water for eight minutes.
Note: Since the oils in basil are highly volatile, it is best to add the herb near the end of the cooking process, so it will retain its maximum essence and flavor.
Benefits: The plant contains flavonoids, which provide protection at a cellular level. In addition its eugenol component is useful as an anti-inflammatory, and is considered good for cardiovascular health.
Recipes: FISH IN A SACK (PAPILLOTTE)
Succotash - Dee Dee's
- Bay Leaf
The bay tree is indigenous to Asia Minor, from where it spread to the Mediterranean and then to other countries with similar climates. According to legend the Delphi oracle chewed bay leaves, or sniffed the smoke of burning leaves to promote her visionary trances. The bay leaf is oval, pointed and smooth, 2.5 – 8 cm (1 to 3 in) long. When fresh, the leaves are shiny and dark green on top with lighter undersides. When dried the bay leaf is a matte olive green.
Taste: Warm and quite pungent when broken and the aromatic oils are released. It’s said to have a slightly bitter and strongly aromatic aftertaste.
Uses: Bay leaves are widely used throughout the world. It may be best known in bouquets garnis or used similarly in soups, sauces, stews, daubes and courts-bouillon’s, an appropriate seasoning for fish, meat and poultry. Bay leaf is often included as a pickling spice.
Benefits: In the Middle Ages it was believed to induce abortions and to have many magical qualities. It is used to keep moths away, due to to the lauric acid content which gives it insecticidal properties. It is used in treating high blood sugar, migraine headaches, bacterial and fungal infections, and gastric ulcers. Bay leaf has also been shown to help the body process insulin more efficiently, which leads to lower blood sugar levels. It has also been used to reduce the effects of stomach ulcers.
Recipes: Pam's Split Pea Soup for 2
Spicy Fish & Potato Cakes
- Caraway Seeds
A spice made from the dried fruit of a plant known as Carum carvi. A member of the parsley family, caraway seeds are not technically seeds, but fruits. Nevertheless, they're commonly referred to as caraway seeds in the culinary arts.
Taste: Caraway seeds have an intense anise (licorice) flavor.
Uses: Caraway seeds are frequently used in baking. The seeds found in most types of rye bread are caraway seeds. Caraway seed is also used in flavoring curries, sausages and even liqueurs. They're sometimes used in pickling and brining as well. It pairs well with garlic, and also with pork and cabbage. British seed cake is traditionally made with caraway seeds, as is the flavored Scandinavian spirit aquavit.
Benefits: The leaves of the caraway plant can be used as an herb, much like its relative, parsley. In addition, the root of the caraway plant can be eaten and is similar to a parsnip. They are rich in dietary fiber… fiber binds to toxins in the body and help to protect from colon mucus membrane from cancers. They are also rich in flavonoids and antioxidants. In addition, they are an excellent source of iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, and zinc.
Recipes: Stir Fry Cabbage with Noodles
Swiss Cheese Bread Wedges
Cardamom is one of the world’s ancient spices. They are recognized by their small seedpods, triangular in cross-section and spindle-shaped, with a thin, papery outer shell and small black seeds. It is native to the East originating in the forests of the Western Ghats in southern India, where it grows wild. Today it also grows in Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Indo China and Tanzania. The ancient Egyptians chewed cardamom seeds as a tooth cleaner; the Greeks and Romans used it as a perfume. Vikings came upon cardamom about one thousand years ago, in Constantinople, and introduced it into Scandinavia, where it remains popular to this day.
Taste: Warm and eucalyptus with camphor and lemony undertones. Black cardamom is blunter, the eucalyptus and camphor suggestions very pronounced.
Uses: The pods can be used whole or split when cooked in Indian meals. Otherwise, the seeds can be bruised and fried before adding main ingredients to the pan, or pounded with other spices as required. The pod itself is neutral in flavor and imparts an unpleasant bitter flavor when left in dishes. It’s used in Dutch ‘windmill’ biscuits and Scandinavian-style cakes and pastries, and in akvavit. It’s used in curries, and rice dishes. It is a flavoring for Arab and Turkish coffee.
Benefits: Cardamom has made its way into Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for mouth ulcers, digestive problems, and even depression. Cardamom is related to ginger and can be used in much the same way to counteract digestive problems. It is said to help in shortening the effects of a cold or flu, lowering blood pressure, reducing bad breath, and protecting against the growth of, and even killing some forms of cancer.
Recipes: Mango'ana Peach Cardamom Breakfast Smoothie
STARBUCKS SPICED HOLIDAY COFFEE
- Cayenne Pepper
If you are a hot salsa or chili fan then you probably already know about the cayenne pepper. These ripe fruits of the Capsicum genus are widely used as a popular spice, but cayenne peppers also are dried and powdered.
Taste: HOT, HOT, HOT, OUCH, OUCH, OUCH
Uses: Use it to roast with nuts for a spicy taste. Add to soups and stews; especially in the Winter to keep warm. Add to hot chocolate drinks… just like the Aztecs.
Benefits: Cayenne stimulates digestion and muscle movement in the intestines, which helps restore deficient digestive secretions and aids absorption of food nutrients. Cayenne also stimulates circulation and blood flow. It improves the absorption and circulation of the other herbs throughout the body. Cayenne can clear the sinuses and cause sweating. It can actually can raise the body temperature, as it stimulates circulation and blood flow to the skin. It has become a popular home treatment for mild high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol levels. Cayenne preparations prevent platelets from clumping together and accumulating in the blood, allowing the blood to flow more easily. You can use cayenne peppers topically as a pain-relieving muscle rub and joint liniment. The source of the heat is capsaicin, the fiery phenolic resin found in most hot peppers. Capsaicin causes nerve endings to release a chemical known as substance P. Substance P transmits pain signals from the body back to the brain.
Recipes: Orange Pepper Jelly
COFFEE & CAYENNE RUBBED SIRLOIN STEAK
- Chia Seeds
Thousands of years ago, chia seed was a staple in the diets of ancient Mayans and Aztecs. The word chia is derived from the Mayan language, meaning “strength,” and Aztec warriors relied on chia seed to boost energy and increase stamina.
When picked and processed they look very much like a poppy seed.
Taste: A bit of a nutty taste.
Uses: They can be used to make a healthy pudding, thicken soups or gravies, and make grain-free crackers. And you can even make your very own homemade Chia Pet. Now, that’s what I’m talking about.
Benefits: They pack an excellent nutritional punch because they’re made up of protein, fat, and dietary fiber. They promote healthy digestion, reduce blood pressure, they’re rich in Omega-3’s, and can help with diabetes, and heart disease.
Recipes: Refrigerator Jam
Super Strawberry Jam
Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several trees of the genus Cinnamomum that is used in both sweet and savory foods. The sweet, woody scent of cinnamon has been known from almost the beginning of time as one of the warmest, most soothing fragrances on the planet. It’s been used for millennia as a spice, a medicine, and an extremely valuable trade commodity. Chinese botanical textbooks mentioned it as early as 2,700 B.C., and Biblical references are numerous.
Taste: Cinnamon has a sweet, yet somewhat bitter taste with a musky, woody fragrance. To me, cinnamon represents the sweet, sugary taste of Autumn.
Uses: The uses are only limited by the chef’s imagination. Use it for sweet desserts: everything from rolls to ice cream. Add it to hot chocolate on a cold Winter’s eve. Cook it with apples and serve it with your favorite pork chops. And how can we forget snicker doodles.
Benefits: A teaspoon a day can help to lower bad cholesterol. It has been shown to help treat type-2 diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels. It has anti clotting effects, helps to relieve arthritis pain, helps to eliminate headaches, and can aid in weight loss
Recipes: Chocolate, Chocolate, Expresso Pecan Tart
Cin's Homemade Extracts (Vanilla, Cinnamon and Cinnamon-Nutmeg)
Cloves are considered one of the world's most important spices. They are the dried, unopened flower bud of a tropical evergreen clove tree. They are reddish brown and nail-shaped and, as a matter of fact, their name, clavus, comes from the Latin word for nail. Cloves are sold whole or ground and can be used to flavor a multitude of dishes ranging from sweet to savory.
Taste: Cloves have a flavor much like cinnamon, but not so hot. It’s similar to nutmeg, but a bit stronger. Cloves are pretty intense, so a little goes a long way.
Uses: Since cloves have a very intense flavor, especially those that have been ground, care should be taken when deciding how much to use in a recipe so as to not overpower the flavors of the other ingredients. Pierce an onion with whole cloves and add to soups, broths or poaching liquids. Adding ground cloves and curry powder to healthy sautéed onions, garlic and tofu will give this dish an Indian-inspired zest. Impart a warming note to apple cider by adding ground cloves and cinnamon. Spice up fruit compote by adding ground cloves. Add clove powder, walnuts and raisins to your favorite Thanksgiving stuffing recipe.
Benefits: Eugenol, the primary component of clove's volatile oils, functions as an anti-inflammatory substance. They are an excellent source of manganese, a very good source of vitamin K and dietary fiber, and a good source of iron, magnesium, and calcium.
Recipe: Simmering Holiday Potpourri gift in a jar
Apple Barbecue sauce
- Coriander (Cilantro)
Native to the Mediterranean and the Orient, coriander is actually related to the parsley family. It's known for both its seeds and for its dark green, lacy leaves. The flavors of the seeds and leaves bear absolutely no resemblance to each other. Choose leaves with an even green color and no sign of wilting.
Taste: The seeds of the coriander plant have an extremely pungent (some say fetid) odor and flavor that lends itself well to highly seasoned foods. The leaves taste a bit like celery leaves - it has that sort of bitter taste that is mild enough to be pleasant. It is actually one of my favorite tastes.
Uses: Whole coriander seeds are used in pickling and for special drinks, such as mulled wine. Ground seed is used in many baked goods (particularly Scandinavian), curry blends, soups, etc. The leaves are used in soups, stews, and in an abundance of Latin cooking.
Benefits: Coriander seeds have a health-supporting reputation that is high on the list of the healing spices. It helps to control blood sugar, cholesterol and free radical production. Coriander (also called cilantro) contains an antibacterial compound that may prove to be a safe, natural means of fighting Salmonella.
Recipe: Chicken Pad Thai
Coconut Milk Soup w Chicken
Currently, one of my favorite spices to work with in the kitchen. This ancient spice dates back to the Old Testament. It’s shaped somewhat like a caraway seed. Cumin is the dried fruit of a plant in the parsley family. Its aromatic nutty-flavored seeds come in three colors: amber (the most widely available), white and black (both found in Asian markets). White cumin seed is interchangeable with amber, but the black seed has a more complex, peppery flavor. Cumin is available in seed and ground forms.
Taste: Cumin is a member of the parsley family, but rather than a bright and crisp flavor, cumin is known for it’s smoky and warm taste.
Uses: Cumin is particularly popular in Middle Eastern, Asian and Mediterranean cooking. Among other things, it's used to make curries, chili powders and kümmel liqueur.
Benefits: Cumin seeds are an excellent source of iron. Research shows that cumin stimulates the secretion of pancreatic enzymes, compounds necessary for proper digestion and nutrient assimilation. Cumin seeds also have anti-carcinogenic properties.
Recipe: Stacked Beef Enchiladas with Ancho Chile Sauce
In 1st-century Rome, dill was a good luck symbol, and has been around for thousands of years. The plant grows up to a height of about three feet and has feathery green leaves called dill weed, marketed in fresh and dried forms.
Taste: Its taste is subtly tangy and fresh, aromatic and the perfect balance between savory and sweet. And surprisingly enough, it tastes a lot like a dill pickle.
Uses: Dill weed is used to flavor many dishes such as salads, vegetables, meats and sauces. Fresh dill does, however, quickly lose its fragrance during heating, so should be added toward the end of the cooking time. It's most often used in the United States as part of the pickling mix in which dill pickles are cured.
Benefits: The activity of dill's volatile oils qualify it as a "chemoprotective" food (much like parsley) that can help neutralize particular types of carcinogens. Dill has also been studied for its ability to prevent bacterial overgrowth. It is a very good source of calcium and therefore important for reducing bone loss. Dill is also a good source of dietary fiber and a good source of the minerals manganese, iron and magnesium.
Recipe: Super Quick Potato Salad
Dilly Dilly Bread Dip
Fennel is a plant whose leaves look very much like dill thin, waving filaments of bright green. Not only are the leaves edible, but also so are the seeds, bulbs and even the pollen. The Fennel bulb, looks like a cross between an onion and the base of a bunch of celery,. R
Taste: It has a mild anise/licorice flavor with a texture not unlike celery.
Uses: An excellent spice for everything from braised chicken to sea bass. The bulb is used in many seafood dishes, and different types of slaw dishes and dressings.
Benefits: Fennel has strong antioxidant properties. The bulb is an excellent source of vitamin C. In addition it is a good source of fiber, and may help to reduce elevated cholesterol levels. And since fiber also removes potentially carcinogenic toxins from the colon, fennel bulb may also be useful in preventing colon cancer. Fennel is also a very good source of potassium, a mineral that helps lower high blood pressure, another risk factor for stroke and heart attack.
Recipe: Fireman Bob's Scottish Stew my way...
Overnight Slow-Roasted Fennel Pork
Mace is the bright red membrane that covers the nutmeg seed. After the membrane is removed and dried, it becomes a yellow-orange color. It's sold ground and, less frequently, whole (in which case it's called a blade). Mace is used to flavor all manner of foods, sweet to savory.
Taste: This spice tastes and smells like a pungent version of nutmeg. It is strongly aromatic, spicy and warming.
Uses: Mace is used in soups, cream sauces, lamb, chicken, potted meats, cheeses, stuffing, sausages, puddings, ketchup, baked goods, and donuts. It is used in French, English, Asian, West Indian, and Indian cuisines, and the spice blends garam masala, curry, and rendang.
Benefits: Mace contains some anti-oxidant compounds essential oils, minerals, and vitamins. It contains concentrations of essential oils, vitamin A, vitamin C, carotenes, iron, calcium. It has anti-fungal, anti-depressant, aphrodisiac, digestive, and carminative properties. Nutmeg and mace oil contains eugenol, which has been used in dentistry for toothache relief. The oil is also used as a local massage to reduce muscular pain and rheumatic pain of joints.
Recipe: essex spice cakes
Spicy Mango Chutney
Native to the Spice Islands, this seed from the nutmeg tree (a tropical evergreen) was extremely popular throughout much of the world from the 15th to the 19th century. When the fruit of the tree is picked, it is split to reveal the nutmeg seed surrounded by a lacy membrane that when dried and ground becomes the spice mace. The hard egg-shaped nutmeg seed is grayish-brown and about one inch long. Nutmeg is sold ground or whole. Whole nutmeg freshly ground with a nutmeg grater or grinder is superior to that which is commercially ground and packaged. When Columbus sailed from Spain looking for the East Indies, nutmeg was one of the spices for which he was searching.
Taste: The flavor and aroma are delicately warm, spicy and sweet.
Uses: Nutmeg is excellent when used in baked goods, milk-based or cream-based preparations like custards, white sauces or eggnog and on fruits and vegetables; particularly potatoes, spinach and squash.
Benefits: During ancient times, Roman and Greek civilizations used nutmeg as a type of brain tonic. Nutmeg is also an effective sedative. If you suffer from digestion-related problems like diarrhea, constipation, bloating, flatulence and so on, nutmeg can effectively offer you relief. As a tonic, nutmeg can clean your liver and kidneys and remove toxins. If you have difficulty sleeping at night, drink a cup of milk with some nutmeg powder.
Recipes: Peachy Keen Custard
Apple pie stacks
This herb, sometimes called wild marjoram, belongs to the mint family and is related to both marjoram and thyme. Mediterranean oregano is milder than the Mexican variety, which is generally used in highly spiced dishes. Fresh Mediterranean or European oregano is sometimes available in gourmet produce sections of supermarkets and in Italian or Greek markets. Choose bright green, fresh-looking bunches with no sign of wilting or yellowing. The word oregano is Greek for "joy (or delight) of the mountain.”
Taste: Oregano is similar to marjoram but is not as sweet and has a stronger, more pungent flavor and aroma. On the palette it has a warm/bitter taste.
Uses: Oregano goes extremely well with tomato-based dishes and is a familiar pizza herb. Use it with other herbs and a good extra-virgin olive oil to create a dipping sauce for bread. It can be used to flavor soups, stews, chicken and fish. It is a very versatile spice.
Benefits: The volatile oils in this spice include thymol and carvacrol, both of which have been shown to inhibit the growth of bacteria. Oregano contains numerous phytonutrients—including thymol and rosmarinic acid—that have also been shown to function as potent antioxidants. an excellent source of vitamin K, a very good source of manganese, and a good source of iron and calcium.
Recipe: Mediterranean Pasta & Sausage Skillet
Chicken Parmesan by Nor
Paprika is a powder made by grinding aromatic sweet red pepper pods. The pods are quite tough; so several grindings are necessary to produce the proper texture. Most commercial paprika comes from Spain, South America, California and Hungary. Pimenton is a special Spanish paprika made from peppers that have been slowly smoked and dried over oak fires. The process gives the peppers a rich, smoky quality. There are three versions of pimenton—sweet and mild (dulce), bittersweet medium-hot (agridulce) and hot (picante).
Taste: The flavor of paprika can range from mild to pungent, to hot; the color, from bright orange-red to deep blood red.
Uses: The rich coloring of paprika enhances the visual appeal of foods. Hungarian paprika is specified in a recipe, you'll need to find tends to be mild, and sweet, while the Spanish variety generally imparts a much spicier heat to foods. Paprika goes well with just about any savory food, including eggs, meat, poultry, stew, wild game, fish, shellfish, soup, boiled and steamed vegetables, rice, and creamy sauces. For most recipes, the paprika is added near the end of the cooking process, since heat diminishes both the color and flavor.
Benefits: Paprika is unusually high in vitamin C. The peppers used for paprika contain six to nine times as much vitamin C as tomatoes by weight. As an antibacterial agent and stimulant, paprika can help normalize blood pressure, improve circulation, and increase the production of saliva and stomach acids to aid digestion.
Recipe: Stuffed Cabbage Rolls & Kraut Hungarian galumpkis
Fresh Corn and Polish Sausage Chowder
There are more than 30 varieties of this herb, the most popular are curly-leaf parsley and the more strongly flavored Italian or flat-leaf parsley. Parsley is sold in bunches and should be chosen for its bright-green leaves that show no sign of wilting.
Taste: Fresh is the word most often used to describe parsley’s taste, but it’s also slightly peppery and almost anise-like when used by itself to season dishes.
Uses: In ancient times parsley wreaths were used to ward off drunkenness. Marinate steak with parsley, chives, tarragon, lemon zest and a bit of olive oil for an easy Grilled Flat Iron Steak. Parsley brightens up and brings a bit of a peppery taste to Lamb and Veal.
Benefits: Parsley is an excellent source of vitamins A and C. Chinese and German herbologists recommend parsley tea to help control high blood pressure, and the Cherokees used it as a tonic to strengthen the bladder. It is also often used as an emmenagogue (herbs which stimulate blood flow in the pelvic area and uterus). When crushed and rubbed on the skin, parsley can reduce itching in mosquito bites. When chewed, parsley can freshen bad breath.
Recipe: Chicken & Andouille Gumbo
Grilled Eggplant Rolls
Pepper in one form or other is used around the world to enhance the flavor of both savory and sweet dishes. The world's most popular spice is a berry that grows in grapelike clusters on the pepper plant (Piper nigrum), a climbing vine native to India and Indonesia. The berry is processed to produce three basic types of peppercorn—black, white and green. The most common is the black peppercorn, which is picked when the berry is not quite ripe, then dried until it shrivels and the skin turns dark brown to black. Among the best black peppers are the Tellicherry and the Lampong. The less pungent white peppercorn has been allowed to ripen, after which the skin is removed and the berry is dried. The result is a smaller, smoother-skinned light-tan berry with a milder flavor. The green peppercorn is the soft, underripe berry that's usually preserved in brine. It has a fresh flavor that's less pungent than the berry in its other forms.
Taste: There's a slow burn in most peppercorns that evolves into a more intense heat. But some can also have strong citrusy aromas; while others smell woodsy, with pine notes.
Uses: White pepper is used to a great extent for appearance, usually in light-colored sauces or foods where dark specks of black pepper would stand out. Other uses: Partially cracked and rubbed into a nice steak or piece of fish. Ground up and put in soups, stews, or just about any dish where you want a bit of heat, but not as intense as cayenne.
Benefits: Because it stimulates gastric juices, it delivers a digestive bonus.
Recipe: Chicken Liver Appetizers
Steak and chips with all the trimings.
Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean area (where it grows wild) but is now cultivated throughout Europe and the United States. Rosemary's silver-green needle-shaped leaves are highly aromatic. This herb is available in whole-leaf form (fresh and dried) as well as powdered.
Taste: Their flavor hints of both lemon and pine.
Uses: Rosemary essence is used both to flavor food and to scent cosmetics. Rosemary can be used as a seasoning in a variety of dishes including fruit salads, soups, vegetables, meat (particularly lamb), fish and egg dishes, stuffing and dressings.
Benefits: A study found that people performed better on memory and alertness tests when mists of aromatic rosemary oil were piped into their study cubicles. Rosemary has strong antioxidant compounds and can help to fight bacteria.
Recipe: Grilled Pork Tenderloins
California Style Shrimp Bake
- Star Anise
A star-shaped, dark brown pod that contains a pea-size seed in each of its eight segments. Native to China, star anise comes from a small evergreen tree. It can be found whole in Asian markets and some supermarkets, and as a ground ingredient in Chinese five-spice powder.
Taste: Star Anise closely resembles anise, which tastes like fennel tarragon & licorice.
Uses: In Asian cuisines, star anise is a commonly used spice and tea flavoring. It's also widely used to flavor liqueurs and baked goods in Western cultures.
Benefits: Anise, like fennel, contains anethole, a phytoestrogen. Anise has been used to treat menstrual cramps. The essential oil has reportedly been used as an insecticide against head lice and mites.
Recipe: apple spiced bourbon toddys
Roast Pork Tenderloin With Plum Barbecue Sauce
The brick- to dark purple–red berries of a decorative bush that grows wild throughout the Middle East and in parts of Italy. Sumac, is sold ground or in its dried-berry form. Sumac can be found in Middle Eastern markets.
Taste: Sumac has a fruity taste with a slightly sour edge. Some way it tastes like dried lemon flakes.
Uses: It complements everything from fish to meat to vegetables. It adds zing to anything you use it with because of its tartness.
Benefits: Sumac has been used across globe for its medicinal properties and uses. Research has showed that health benefits of sumac are many, some being antifungal, anti microbial, anti oxidant, and anti-inflammatory.
Recipe: Za'atar Cream Cheese Spread and Tomato Fillets on a Bagel
Barilla Stelline Chicken Soup
There are several varieties of this mint-family member, native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean.
Taste: Garden thyme, the most often used variety, gives off a pungent minty, light lemon aroma. Lemon thyme has a more pronounced lemon aroma than garden thyme.
Uses: Whatever the variety, thyme is widely used in cooking to add flavor to vegetables, meat, poultry and fish dishes, soups and cream sauces. It's a basic herb of French cuisine and integral to bouquet garni.
Benefits: The volatile oil components of thyme have been shown to have antimicrobial activity against a host of different bacteria and fungi: Staphalococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli and Shigella sonnei, to name a few. An excellent source of vitamin C, a very good source of vitamin A, and a good source of iron, manganese, copper, and dietary fiber.
Recipe: Pam's Luscious Shroom Soup
Burgundy Stew with Herb Dumplings (crock pot)
Turmeric is the root of a tropical plant with an intense yellow-orange color, and is related to ginger. Though native to the Orient, this spice is now also cultivated in India and the Caribbean. Powdered turmeric is widely available in supermarkets.
Taste: It has a bitter, pungent flavor and an intense yellow-orange color.
Uses: In Biblical times, turmeric was often used to make perfume, a comment on its rather exotic fragrance. Today it's used mainly to add both flavor and color to food. Turmeric is very popular in East Indian cooking and is almost always used in curry preparations. It's also a primary ingredient in mustard and is what gives American-style prepared mustard its bright yellow color.
Benefits: In India, turmeric paste is applied to wounds to speed healing. Sip turmeric tea to relieve colds and respiratory problems. It has been shown to help relieve pain of arthritis, injuries and dental procedures; it’s also being studied for its potential in managing heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
Recipe: Norma's Easy Bread and Butter Pickles
Deep Fried Chicken in French Fryer
- Italian Seasoning
Made from garlic, onion, and herbs like rosemary, oregano, thyme, and marjoram, this blend is often considered a kitchen staple. This blend can vary a ton, with some including red pepper flakes for heat or a wider range of dried herbs.
Uses: Pizza, pasta dishes, hearty meat stews, broth-based soups
- Pickling Spice
This one, made from black peppercorns, mustard seeds, red pepper flakes, allspice, dill seed, bay leaves, cloves, and sometimes cinnamon and ginger, is the go-to blend (when added to a vinegar base) for pickling veggies and eggs.
Uses: Cucumbers, eggs, pepper, beets, sauerkraut, onions
- Pumpkin Pie Spice
Though its name may insinuate that this spice mix actually tastes like pumpkin pie, its got no traces of pumpkin. It does, however, comprise the main seasoning agents used in a traditional pumpkin pie — cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice.
Uses: Pumpkin pie, oats, coffee drinks, cookies