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Old 05-19-2012, 07:38 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Andy M. View Post
I'd bet when making molÚs in Mexico, they toast the spices to get max flavor. I frequently toast a ground spice to enhance its flavor if its been sitting for a while.

Fact is, if toasting spices brings out their natural oils and therefore their flavor, it should be done regardless of cuisine.
That's true - I've made moles and other Mexican sauces where dried chiles are toasted and then ground.

hermes14, as you've seen, there are a wide variety of ways to use fresh and dried herbs and spices. Experiment and learn what you like. It's all good
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Old 05-19-2012, 11:03 PM   #12
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I eat many salads and soups, and with my current limited knowledge of herbs and spices, I believe that they can't be eaten raw (e.g., dried thyme, paprika, etc), is this indeed the case, do they need to be cooked?
No, that is just completely wrong. As I type this I'm trying to come up with an example of a dried spice that cannot be used uncooked, or a fresh spice that can't be used dehydrated. Usually it's just a question of freshness of leaf spices and herbs vs. the stale taste of dried spices and herbs.

For example, all of these fresh spices and herbs can be added to salads: thyme, rosemary, mint, coriander (cilantro), basil, chili peppers (often sliced or minced), sage, oregano... and of course pepper... the list is endless.

Note that spices have differing strength depending on whether they are dried or fresh. Other spices are smoked or otherwise treated which can change their taste. Also note that many leafy herbs in flake form should be ground with mortar and pestle or at least rubbed between your hands to release the taste before using them. Note also that leafy or less processed herbs and spices are usually preferable to finely ground spices because their flavor will be better. This is why it's always preferable to buy peppercorns vs. buying ground pepper. Grind it yourself and the oils have less chance to evaporate, oxidize or degrade.

IMO salads can be transformed by use of fresh spices and herbs when used properly.
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Old 05-20-2012, 08:13 AM   #13
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As you'll learn, here in DC, everyone has an opinion. For my taste, dried herbs are best if put in when cooking, so that thy can be reconstituted, fresh are better put in the end (bay leaves being a big exception), when the fresh color and bright taste can be better appreciated.

Spices, to me, are another ball of wax. Sometimes sauteeing them in a bit of oil can bring out the flavor. If you're making a long-cooking dish, though, it may not be necessary.
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Old 05-20-2012, 11:59 AM   #14
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Two things to note about herbs. One is that the dried versions are very concentrated, far more potent by weight than the fresh. Take care not to use too much dried.

The second is that different fresh herbs, if you want them to retain some visual presence in the dish, can tolerate different amounts of preparation. Some will become pretty much mush if chopped too fine. If you want the herbs to be seen, as well as tasted, chop it rather coursely, stopping before it loses its character. For instance, I generally want basil to be seen in tomato dishes and salads, so I just roll the leaves and slice them into thin strips. Other, like rosemary, when used as a fresh herb, are so tough that they should be as finely chopped as possible.
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Old 05-20-2012, 12:05 PM   #15
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Dried versions can also be weaker, particularly the more powdered they are and the longer they've been on the shelf.

Leave that spice or herb in your kitchen cabinet long enough and it can lose most of its taste. I hazard a guess that most people don't even know how long it has been since they opened a spice/herb bottle. Since I began labeling date opened using a permanent marker I've sometimes found spices/herbs that I've had several years, way too long for them to have their original qualities.
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Old 05-20-2012, 01:23 PM   #16
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Dried versions can also be weaker, particularly the more powdered they are and the longer they've been on the shelf.

Leave that spice or herb in your kitchen cabinet long enough and it can lose most of its taste. I hazard a guess that most people don't even know how long it has been since they opened a spice/herb bottle. Since I began labeling date opened using a permanent marker I've sometimes found spices/herbs that I've had several years, way too long for them to have their original qualities.
Yeah. That's true if they get old. I think that's a real consideration when considering buying dried when there's a regular source for fresh. The fresh herb seems expensive, but in terms of not using stale stuff, it's cheaper. Good news is the ones you rarely or never buy fresh, cloves, peppercorns, and cinnamon sticks, have four-year shelf lives in the bottle. Nutmeg, ground cinnamon, and turmeric, are generally used in things that you can predict your frequency of consumption and not buy more than two years worth.

And since a lot of us are probably spice hoarders, they can be frozen to long extend their useful lives almost indefinitely. With some of the really good deals available on bulk spices, that's worth considering.

But nothing beats a little culinary garden or herb pot.
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Old 05-20-2012, 01:44 PM   #17
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That would be the day that peppercorns ever went bad in my house!

I use both dried and fresh. Depends on the dish, depends on availability of fresh and willingness of wanting to drive over and get some.
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Old 05-20-2012, 05:39 PM   #18
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Two things to note about herbs. One is that the dried versions are very concentrated, far more potent by weight than the fresh. Take care not to use too much dried.

The second is that different fresh herbs, if you want them to retain some visual presence in the dish, can tolerate different amounts of preparation. Some will become pretty much mush if chopped too fine. If you want the herbs to be seen, as well as tasted, chop it rather coursely, stopping before it loses its character. For instance, I generally want basil to be seen in tomato dishes and salads, so I just roll the leaves and slice them into thin strips. Other, like rosemary, when used as a fresh herb, are so tough that they should be as finely chopped as possible.
If I am using dry rosemary, I grind it. I really don't like getting poked in the gums by those nasty little twigs.
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Old 05-21-2012, 12:33 AM   #19
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But nothing beats a little culinary garden or herb pot.
Until you need some some thyme and you realize it is pouring rain, and your umbrella is in the car...
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Old 05-21-2012, 12:47 AM   #20
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Until you need some some thyme and you realize it is pouring rain, and your umbrella is in the car...
Happened to me tonight, I wanted fresh thyme, but didn't want to go out in the rain, so we went Thyme less.... Lol!
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