Discover a world of flavor that exists outside the salt shaker. Fresh herbs, spices, vinegars and other flavorings can really jazz up any food.
You may find it difficult to know which herbs and spices to pair with certain foods. There are no wrong combinations – just experiment with one herb and a simple food – sprinkle basil over eggs or fresh cilantro over corn. Here are a few tips:
- Use delicate herbs, which have tender leaves, with delicate veggies – such as basil and mint with zucchini or tomatoes.
- Try heartier herbs, which have thicker sturdy leaves, with heartier vegetables – such as thyme, rosemary or sage with potatoes, rutabagas or carrots.
Using Citrus Juice and Vinegars
If you taste a dish and it seems like it needs something more – reach for an acid. Acids like vinegars and citrus juices – orange, lemon or lime -- are known to add ‘sparkle’ to food. Add the zip of red wine vinegar to cooked beans. A tablespoon of lemon juice is delicious with almost any vegetable and fresh herb – and especially over any type of fish.
How to Store Fresh Herbs and Spices
It can be frustrating for fresh herbs to go bad before you use them. Try storing mint, cilantro and parsley in a bouquet. Right after you bring them home from the store, snip the ends of the herbs and place them in a jar or glass with about two inches of water. Then store in the refrigerator covered with a plastic bag – snip a few holes in the bag to allow some moisture to escape.
- Fresh basil is too delicate for the cold, so it can sit in the middle of your table as a centerpiece or on your kitchen counter without a plastic bag. Be sure to change the water every other day in your counter or refrigerator herb bouquets.
- Woodier herbs with sturdy woody stalks, such as rosemary, thyme and sage, should be wrapped loosely in paper towels and placed in a zip-top plastic bag, then stored in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer. If stored properly, fresh herbs can last more than a week.
- If you won’t use fresh herbs within a week, roughly chop and place about a tablespoon in each slot of an ice cube tray. Cover with water and put in your freezer. Freeze until firm and then empty the cubes into a zip-top freezer bag. When you're cooking, add a couple herb ice cubes to pasta sauces, soups or cooked vegetables for an extra flavor burst.
How to Store Dried Herbs and Spices
How do you use and store dried herbs and spices? They're great to use in dishes that cook 30 minutes or longer, like soups, stews or casseroles, because they need to be cooked longer than fresh herbs to bring out their fullest flavor. Another great way to swap out the salt in recipes.
Dried herbs and spices can lose their flavor over time, so store them in a cool dark place away from heat and humidity so the flavor and aroma are maintained longer. Mark the date on the bottom of the spice container using masking tape.
- Store spices together according to the global cuisine in which they are used; for example, store coriander, cumin and chili powder together so you remember to add them to tacos, chili and Mexican-flavored scrambled eggs. Store curry powder, turmeric and fennel together to add to Indian-spiced roasted potatoes, carrots and chicken. Oregano, garlic powder and mint make a Greek spice rub for lean beef or roasted zucchini.
- Make sure you store all dried herbs and spices in a dark, dry place away from heat sources, such as stoves or appliances. Don't keep a spice rack close to the stove.