Cooking With Herbs And Spices

You are a busy cook - you want good tasting, healthy food with minimal preparation time. The outstanding variety of herbs and spices readily available today let you enhance the flavor of many types of cuisine. You can add tremendous taste to meats, fruits, and vegetables without adding unwanted calories, sugar, and fat. Since most of us use dried spices in lieu of fresh, it is important to maximize and extract all the flavor possible from what we use. The purpose of this article is to show six ways to maximize the flavor of herbs and spices used in your recipes.

* Ground spices quickly release their flavor in recipe, while whole spices take significantly longer. Use whole spices in recipes that cook for a long time, such as those prepared on the low setting in a crock pot. Ground spices work best in recipes that cook more quickly, because some will turn bitter after prolonged cooking.

* Avoid adding spices and herbs directly from the bottle into a steaming pot. Moisture and heat will cause loss of flavor, and often causes the remaining product to cake and become essentially useless for fine cooking. Measure them directly into a spoon or cup and add to your recipe.

* For added flavor, buy whole spices and seeds and grind them with a tabletop coffee grinder, or a pepper mill. Freshly ground herbs and seeds release an extra aroma and flavor - remember how much better pepper tastes on your salad when it is ground fresh at your table?

* To remove whole herbs or spices during or after cooking, tie them in cheesecloth, or place them in a tea strainer. This way, you can easily remove them when the flavor is right.

* Toast seeds such as sesame, cumin, and peppercorns in the oven or on top of the stove. Stir occasionally while toasting. This enhances their aroma and flavor.

* Preserve the flavor of bottled herbs and spices by storing them in a cool, dry place away from light. Avoid storing in cabinets around moisture or heat, such as above the stove or dishwasher, or near a sink or microwave oven. In general, avoid storing them in the refrigerator. Be sure to check your stock about once a year for freshness. Crush some between your fingers or with a spoon - if you can smell little or no aroma, discard and purchase fresh. Most whole herbs and spices will retain their flavor for about a year, while dried and ground versions are better if used within six months.

Shop carefully for herbs and spices - the quality can vary greatly depending on where they were harvested, storage conditions prior to bottling, and the quality of the packaging. Many cheap products have odd foreign matter in them that does not help give the best flavor to foods.

Using herbs and spices in cooking helps you prepare delicious dishes and meals, while reducing sodium, fat, and sugar. They add zest and flavor to unsalted and reduced-fat foods, and help you prepare healthy meals that taste great. Try substituting herbs and spices called for in recipes with something different, such as marjoram in place of oregano, savory instead of thyme, or cilantro in place of parsley. Experiment, have fun, and happy dining!

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About The Author, Eldon Beard
Eldon Beard is a Manager with Watkins Products. Enjoy the finest quality Watkins Herbs and Spices , along with a tasty variety of other gourmet food products.