|My Spice Cabinet|
You'll see from the picture that I have quite a collection. They are not all "favorites". Many are just used occasionally.
Let's talk about the "must have" herbs and spices first. Of course, the main "must haves" are salt and pepper. I keep both kosher salt and table salt on hand. For black pepper I always have peppercorns and ground pepper. Our family is big on Italian flavors, so many dishes will use typical Italian herbs and spices. My must haves are basil, oregano, parsley and red pepper flakes.
For Southwest flavors and barbecue my must haves are chili powder, cumin, and garlic powder.
For soups I need bay leaves and for baking I need cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and vanilla.
Herbs and spices don't last forever. You'll want to be sure you are keeping them in a relatively cool, dry place. Monitor their freshness. You'll want them to be vibrant in color and fragrant when you use them.
Here are five tips to think about when cooking with herbs and spices.
1. Remember that dried herbs are stronger than fresh herbs when you are using the dried form. About one teaspoon of dried herb is equal to one tablespoon of fresh.
3. The flavor of spices can be enhanced by toasting them in a dry skillet for 1-3 minutes before adding them to your dish.
4. When cooking a dish for several hours think about adding your herbs closer to the end of the cooking time for best flavor.
5. Start slow when experimenting with a new herb or spice. I usually use half of what is recommended to give my family a chance to get used to the flavor. If they like it I'll add a bit more the next time.
Stocking your pantry with your essential spices will make it easier for you to make flavorful dishes. What are your essential herbs and spices?