I tend to follow recipes the first time trying them unless I know they are going to be bland - then I will add whatever to make them tastier. But those recipes I try for the first time with a long list of ingredients I don't mess with. Sometimes I make notes that say "cook as written" - other times I will make notes as to what I think will make it better in my eyes.
If I don't know a cuisine I will definitely follow the recipe. Once I know it I may change something but what happens more often is I just don't need the recipe as I already understand what ingredients are unique to that cuisine and can wing it.
stinemates, you can get in the habit of using the same spices/herbs/etc. Start following the recipes and you will be amazed that there's more out there than basil, thyme, etc. I got stuck on those Italian herbs too. It was brought to my attention that no matter what I cooked it kind of all tasted the same
. That's when I bought a fairly simple cookbook and started following recipes.
If you like cilantro and lime you'll find these two ingredients are used in a lot of Thai food and even Vietnamese food. Cilantro, lime, and soy sauce became, for awhile, my new basil, thyme, and garlic replacement!
But they sure did work in a LOT of things!!!! Take a flank steak and marinate with cilantro, lime, and soy - make your peanut sauce with a bit of soy sauce and a dash of fish sauce. Add in some fresh cucumbers, fresh bean sprouts, and make a wrap of sorts with butter lettuce leaves with this stuff inside with slices of the steak, drizzle with your peanut sauce..... I think I'm hungry! lol