Thursday, November 15, 2007

How to Use Herbs and Spices

When cooking, the use of herbs and spices is a very common technique that cooks rely on to expand upon the taste, flavor, and afterthought of a dish. Below you will find a few suggestions on how to best use herbs and spices when preparing meals and following a recipe.

Substituting Dried Herbs for Fresh Herbs

Since dried herbs possess a stronger flavor than fresh leaf herbs, you will need to adjust your habits when adding dried herbs to a recipe that calls for fresh herbs. Simply substitute 1/3 of the amount to adjust the strength in taste. You don’t want your final results to carry an overpowering favor.

Better Flavor Release

When cooking with dried herbs, crushing them in the palm of your hand (or between your fingers) will release more of the flavor in a quicker manner. This works well with strong-flavored herbs, such as rosemary and sage. Combining a strong-flavored seasoning with a couple of mild-flavored ones is a good way to balance out the flavor in a recipe you feel is too strong in taste.

To get the most flavors out of your dried herbs, it is suggested to purchase the whole herb leaves rather than ground or powdered selections because they are able to hold their flavor longer when stored. Before using, pulverizing the dried herb leaves will effectively release their flavor.

Substituting Whole Spices for Ground Spices

If you should need to substitute a whole spice for a ground spice, you should use 1 ½ times as much as the recipes suggests. In the case of doubling a recipe, the herbs and spices should not be doubled. Instead, increase them by 1 ½ times and then taste for preference – adding when needed.

Seasoned Meal Limits

When preparing dinner, it is highly suggested not to season more than one dish using the same herb. As you arrange your menu, a good rule of thumb to follow is to refrain from using herbs in all of your dishes. Two or three is good enough, but not necessary.

Limit Strong-Flavored Herbs

When preparing your dishes, it is recommended to use only one strong-flavored herb at a time per meal. Examples of these kinds of herbs include rosemary, tarragon, sage, marjoram, thyme, basil, mint, and dill. Despite this limitation, it is still OK to combine a strong-flavored herb with an assortment of mild-flavored selections, such as parsley or chives.

Grinding and Crushing Herb and Spices

When preparing a dish, the grinding or crushing of herbs and spices should take place immediately before cooking because this is when the best level of aromatic flavor is released, causing the flavor of a dish to truly blossom.

Mortar and Pestle

One of the best tools for crushing a small amount of herbs or spices is the mortar and pestle, which provides quick use and allows cooks to control the coarseness of the grind.

Spice Mill or Coffee Grinder

When preparing a large amount of herbs and spices, investing in a spice mill or coffee grinder makes the task rather convenient and quick.

Using Spices for Baked Goods

If you have grinded your own spices for baked goods recipes, you should sift them after grinding to eliminate any "woody" bits and pieces.

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