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Old 08-13-2007, 11:45 PM   #1
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Herbs and Spices

I'm not sure as to what forum this belongs in so I'm putting it here; feel free to move if necessary. I recently did some spice shopping and have a vast majority of spices for most common recipes. My only concern is I don't particularly understand why spices are coupled with eachother, what they should taste like, what dishes they're good for, etc. If someone could give a run down on spices and herbs and what they're good for or what they should taste like, anything along these lines would be great that way I'm not just following a recipe but rather understand what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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Old 08-14-2007, 01:15 AM   #2
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The herb and spice bible might be a good investment.

Here is a link to common spices and uses. It is for common stuff though, nothing to exotic.

Here is a list of common items, and appropriate spices to use on them.
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Old 08-14-2007, 07:55 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m1i2k9e
I'm not sure as to what forum this belongs in so I'm putting it here; feel free to move if necessary. I recently did some spice shopping and have a vast majority of spices for most common recipes. My only concern is I don't particularly understand why spices are coupled with eachother, what they should taste like, what dishes they're good for, etc. If someone could give a run down on spices and herbs and what they're good for or what they should taste like, anything along these lines would be great that way I'm not just following a recipe but rather understand what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Here's another chart that gives a little more info: Herb & Spice Chart
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Old 08-14-2007, 08:51 AM   #4
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I'll over simplify. Unless I really fall in love with a mixed spice, I rarely buy them, prefering the simple spice/herb and combining my own. Exceptions are cavendar's greek, lawreys, old bay, and curry powder (which I shop for location to location when I move) for specific purposes.

I like thyme and sage for poultry, pork and fish. Also for chicken and turkey stock.

Cumin for anything Mexican.

I really find that basil is one herb that is useless dry.

Oregano and sage are every bit as good dry as they are fresh. Actually I think oregano is BETTER dry than out of my garden.

Oregano goes into Mexican, Italian, and Greek foods.

Cilantro is another that I feel is useless dry. Fresh it goes into both Mexican and Asian cuisines. Be careful with it, because it has a very sharp flavor that many do not like. If I'm cooking for myself, I use a lot of it. But I check when I'm cooking for company.

I've yet to meet a cuisine that doesn't go with garlic. Yumm yumm.

Mint is one of those herbs that can be both sweet and savory. If you can get it fresh, it can be chopped into a fruit salad, and used in any southeast Asian dish (Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, Thai) for a fresh flavor. Also with yogurt and cucumbers for middle eastern fare.
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Old 08-14-2007, 09:29 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Claire
I'll over simplify. Unless I really fall in love with a mixed spice, I rarely buy them, prefering the simple spice/herb and combining my own. Exceptions are cavendar's greek, lawreys, old bay, and curry powder (which I shop for location to location when I move) for specific purposes.

I like thyme and sage for poultry, pork and fish. Also for chicken and turkey stock.

Cumin for anything Mexican.

I really find that basil is one herb that is useless dry.

Oregano and sage are every bit as good dry as they are fresh. Actually I think oregano is BETTER dry than out of my garden.

Oregano goes into Mexican, Italian, and Greek foods.

Cilantro is another that I feel is useless dry. Fresh it goes into both Mexican and Asian cuisines. Be careful with it, because it has a very sharp flavor that many do not like. If I'm cooking for myself, I use a lot of it. But I check when I'm cooking for company.

I've yet to meet a cuisine that doesn't go with garlic. Yumm yumm.

Mint is one of those herbs that can be both sweet and savory. If you can get it fresh, it can be chopped into a fruit salad, and used in any southeast Asian dish (Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, Thai) for a fresh flavor. Also with yogurt and cucumbers for middle eastern fare.
I agree with you Claire. Dried parsley, basil and cilantro should NEVER be used. The taste and aroma are nowhere near what these herbs taste and smell like when fresh. See for yourselves: pick up a piece of fresh Italian parsley, rub in between your fingers and smell. Try this with dried parsley and it'snot even a close second. You can actually change the entire character of a dish by using these herbs dried. Never iin my kitchen!
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Old 08-14-2007, 10:14 AM   #6
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Check out Penzys. Not only do they sell very high quality stuff at great prices, they also describe each herb and spice and often say what they go well with.
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Old 08-14-2007, 10:44 AM   #7
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Thank you everyone for your quick responses. It has been of great assistance to me!
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Old 08-14-2007, 11:12 AM   #8
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I agree with just about everything but ...

Dry basil has many appropriate culinary uses. In long-cooked sauces and soups it's better than fresh, IMO.

My garden grown dry basil from last summer is still very vibrant and I use it all the time. I also have a garden full of fresh basil which I use as well.

It all depends on your source. Old supermarket dry basil will probaby be about as good as sawdust. But from your garden or from Penzeys or Spice House or other high quality purveyor it can be very good.

It's important to buy good quality, fresh herbs and spices and not in quantities that you won't use up within a year (or 6 months, some say).
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Old 08-17-2007, 12:57 PM   #9
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browse the net and you can collect vast amounts of information instantly. I'm an indian, so i use herbs and spices in almost every dish of mine. Indian cooking and herbs and spices go hand in hand
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Old 08-17-2007, 01:31 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Claire
I really find that basil is one herb that is useless dry.
I thought this, too, till I came across a recipe for pan-fried tilapia with 1/2 tsp. each of salt, pepper and dried basil combined with 1/3 cup of flour. Dredge fish in seasoned flour, add 1 tbsp. each of butter and oil to a hot pan, and cook the fish for about 3 minutes per side. Serve with lemon wedges.
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