What gives life and distinction to every meal you’ve eaten, as well as every culture?
You guessed it…herbs and spices…aroma and earth.
Base note herbs are stronger and more willing to share their flavors. These herbs love the dish they are in, and want to make the whole thing better. They can withstand longer cooking periods, continually surrendering their flavor to the dish you use them in. Think stocks, soups, sauces, slow cooked dishes. They consist of thyme, rosemary, bay, summer savory, oregano, chervil, parsley, and cilantro stems.
High note herbs are the vain ones, the ones that believe it is their duty to stand out, have their flavor stand independently, and think they make the dish. Think cilantro leaves, basil, mint, arugula, and tarragon. Any herb you would put into your dish towards the end, or garnish it with.
Spices are what give your dish the deep earthiness which should never be ignored, and come from every other part of the plant besides the leaves. They have to have other flavors to compliment and balance their strong earthiness. Sweet, sour, salty, and bitter, can all be used to balance out spices. Think about all colors of peppercorns, coriander, mustard seed, cumin, fennel, star anise, cardamom, ginger root, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg. Even though technically cocoa powder isn’t considered a spice, I add it into several spice mixes.
I know it takes a little more time, but buying whole spices, toasting them and grinding them is your best bet. The flavor will be fresher, you can smoke some if you want, and you don’t have to worry about additives such as gluten and anti-caking substances.
Seasonings simply consist of different mixes of spices and herbs. Below are several combinations to make your own seasonings. Remember to always use salt and pepper to taste, and that mixes don’t have to consist of just spices and herbs. Become comfortable with several, and then develop your own. You’ll be glad you did.
Taco Seasoning – chili powder, paprika, oregano, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, a little bit of cocoa powder.
Chili Seasoning – cumin, chili powder, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, allspice, sometimes I use cloves.
Lavender Macadamia Nut – minced onions, turbinado sugar, garlic, onion powder, macadamia nut, brown sugar, lavender, basil, thyme, and rosemary.
Herbs de Provence – bay, thyme, fennel, rosemary, chervil, oregano, summer savory, tarragon, mint, marjoram, and sometimes orange peel, and lavender.
Ranch Seasoning – dill, oregano, chives, parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, and maybe a little more dill.
Italian Seasoning – basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, garlic powder, and rosemary.