I love herbs and spices so much that I decided to write about them again. As I stated in my past posting herbs and spices important role in cooking. I personally know that my recipes would not be the same without them. I do stand by my statement that it is not always necessary to use fresh herbs. Yes, they are great, but also do not have as long of a shelf life like dried herbs. Fresh herbs can also burn or blacken easily which does not always make them ideal for grilling over an open flame or high heat cooking. I still do not advise switching out fresh herbs for dry in a recipe unless you adjust the measurements. Most of the time dried herbs have a more concentrated flavor than fresh herbs and not all dried herbs mimic the flavor of fresh herbs and vice versa. So, you have to be careful when making substitutions.
Black Pepper – I am actually shocked that I left this off of my original list. You will probably see black pepper in almost every recipe that I make! I recently read that it is world’s most traded spice. I have also seen TV commercials that black pepper is a good source of antioxidants. I do not know if that is true, but it was on TV so it has to be right, right?
Peppercorns are a small and dried fruit. They can be used in cooking as the whole peppercorn or ground. I use both forms, but most often use the ground. I prefer to buy the whole peppercorns and place them in a pepper grinder so that I can grind it fresh when I need it. I love the subtle spice that it gives my recipes. I do warn you that if you use whole peppercorns be sure to fish them out of your food before serving. If you bite down on one it can be quite an experience!
Cinnamon – This is another favorite. It has a warm and comforting taste and aroma (think apple pie). It is actually a spice obtained from the inner bark of the cinnamomum tree. It can be found as a cinnamon stick or ground. Depending on what I am using it for will depend on the form I use. I love cinnamon in both savory and sweet dishes. I do not bake often, but use it in baking sweet dishes. I do love Indian and Middle Eastern food and use it often when making those types of cuisine. I love sprinkling a bit of cinnamon on top of a baked sweet potato or apple. I also use it as a topping on coffee and hot chocolate. Yum!
Red Pepper Flakes (aka crushed red pepper) – I am totally my parent’s daughter in that I love spicy food. They go to restaurants and always ask for chilies with whatever they are getting. I am not to that extreme, but do like to spice things up in my cooking. My go to for that is red pepper flakes. They hit your tongue on a different spot than black pepper and have a sharper heat. Red pepper flakes are made from various types of dried peppers. Used in moderation they can add spice to your dish without it being too overwhelming. Whenever I make a pasta sauce I always start out with some red pepper flakes, and it is a favorite topper on my pizza!
Dill – This herb has a very distinctive look and flavor. I love how the delicate fan of leaves looks. I also love how it tastes and smells. I find that people either love this herb or hate it. The aroma totally reminds me of chicken soup whether you are cooking it or not. It is a staple herb in my husband’s grandmother’s chicken soup. In addition to using it in soups and stews it is great with chicken, fish and in sauces.
Oregano – I almost always associate this herb with Mediterranean food, specifically Italian and Greek food. Fresh oregano has a strong and almost floral taste. It is great in marinades, in sauces and with meat. It is one of the key herbs in my Lemon Herb Chicken. Dried oregano has a warm and almost earthy taste. I do not think it tastes much like its fresh form, but it can be in good spice rubs and also on top of pizza.