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Herbs and Spices

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What are your favorite herbs and spices and what do you use them in?

I love CUMIN, which defines Mexican, Indian, and Tex-Mex cooking for me. Cumin + beans is divine, and it goes into all my bean dishes (except white bean dishes). A pinch added to hummus makes it SO GOOD. While it's best fresh-toasted, I even like it cheap and pre-ground, just so that I have some cumin on hand. My favorite "yellow" seasoning.

THYME also goes into almost everything I cook. Meats and soups almost HAVE to have a dash of thyme. Like cumin, I think it adds a wonderful complexity without making the meal taste like itself. My favorite dried "green" seasoning.

CINNAMON is a part of almost everything sweet I make. I even choose cinnamon over chocolate frequently (like a snickerdoodle over double chocolate chip cookie). It's wonderful in oatmeal and porridge and rice pudding and almost any fruit-based dessert (maybe not lemon, but you get the drift...) I like it even more with CLOVES and GINGER. (But I hate nutmeg. Blech. XD )  Plus, it can even be savory with Indian or Middle Eastern cuisine.  Cinnamon is my favorite "brown" spice.

And of course FRESH BASIL is incredible. Especially with tomatoes. Fresh basil added to anything with tomatoes will be immediately elevated to ambrosia status, IMHO. Especially fresh tomato, basil, and mozzarella salad with a homemade balsamic vinegarette.

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No, I'm a librarian (who likes learning languages along with cuisines).

I purchased a bottle of Garam Masala not knowing what it was or what to do with it. I just liked the name. It smells terrific and it mentions that it is used in traditional Indian cuisine.

Anyone know of this spice and what it is used for. How about some recipe suggestions?

Original Post by ms_joanna:

Marjoram are nice to have on hand, but for me Marjoram is so intensely flavored any more than a teeny bit will overwhelm everything else. Does anyone else think so? I

I agree with you about the marjoram. I grew some last year for the first time. I love it, but it must be used very sparingly or it overpowers.

Moonikins, garam means 'warm' or 'hot' in Hindi (from Persian garm, related to the English word warm) and masala means 'spice mixture' (from Arabic masalih 'ingredients'). The word garam here refers not to the taste, but to the "heat" it's believed to generate in the body. In Ayurvedic and Unani medical theory, "warm" foods are believed to increase metabolism while "cool" foods decrease it. Spices are all considered "warm" because they stimulate the digestion. The idea is to keep hot and cold in balance for optimum health. "Garam masala" brings together the spices that are considered particularly stimulating. Hot chili pepper is not one of them though.

Garam masala almost always includes cumin, black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves; it usually also includes coriander, cardamom, and ginger, and possibly other spices. In traditional Indian cuisine, a separate garam masala is made up for each individual dish, it isn't necessarily the same combination of spices every time. For example, an Indian cook I know makes a special garam masala for her biryani recipe that uses only black cumin, cloves, and cardamom. She grinds these up together. In India garam masala is traditionally homemade instead of storebought, made by roasting whole spices and then grinding them right before use for maximum flavor.

It's good in any sort of hearty curry, whether meat or vegetables, especially when the result will contain a thick gravy-like sauce richly perfumed with freshly ground garam masala. Bon appétit...


Try a teaspoon of Garam Masala in veggie soup...Mmmm

I grew up in eating traditional Asian dishes, so my favorites lean towards that end:

  • fresh garlic
  • fresh cilantro - smells unbelievably delicious and light
  • fresh ginger
  • fresh sweet basil
  • fresh red chilis - tons spicier than ground pepper, just the way I like it! :)

The dried versions seem....lacking to me. In fact, I never saw anyone use dried herbs until I moved out with my more American-ized roommates for college.

The Penzeys site includes these suggestions for garam masala:

"Garam masala is an all-purpose blend called for in many Indian dishes. Very good on fish, and traditional on cauliflower. Also nice on lamb, pork, poultry and potatoes."

I can definitely vouch for it being excellent in cauliflower and potato dishes.

Lamb garam masala is excellent! Probably my favorite form of curry.

As for spices and herbs, I don't think many dishes leave my kitchen without at least some garlic!

Other than that, I use paprika, both sweet and the spicy kind, and recently I got some smoked paprika which adds a smoky flavor to foods.

Cumin and ancho go into many recipes from Black bean soup to chili to tomales and tacos.

I frequently use white pepper in all kinds of recipes and frequently use it instead of black pepper.

Of course, parsley, marjorem, dill, rosemary, and thyme are heavy hitters used for a lot of different chicken and vegetable recipes.

I like shallots for seasonings and also dried fennel (both seeds and crushed).

Aleppo peppers are also nice in foods. And brown mustard seeds also add flavor, particularly when toasted.

aovermy-- What are Aleppo peppers? Never heard of 'em.

They're red peppers, originally from Syria that are a little hotter than ancho peppers (which are pretty mild, think more flavor than heat). They're also sweet for a pepper, kind of like sweet paprika. They also have a nice aroma.

I use them in spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, chili, bean dishes, etc.

I get them dried from Penzey's. I'm blessed to have a Penzey's in biking range.
Cinnamon, Pepper, Oregano and Emeril's Essence.

I put at least one of them in all of my home made meals. Yummm

I just remembered! 

I've been trying to find canned chipotles in adobo sauce FOREVER.  My local supermarket doesn't have it (despite the fact that I live in a hispanic neighborhood), neither do the mexican markets or Trader Joes or my food co-op.  Does anyone know where I could find these?

Original Post by litebulb11:

I was wondering if anyone has ever used it, Aerogarden

Yes!  I got one for Christmas, planted the "gourmet herb" garden.  We LOVE IT so much, and it has exceeded all our expectations, so much so that we just purchased a second one, the one with the triple grow lights, and the kit where you can grow from your own seeds rather than one of their kits.  I have to say, my herb garden has THRIVED and is still going strong into the fourth month off one "kit."  I have never been able to grow anything except mold.  Tongue out  I tried an outdoor herb garden a couple of years ago, and managed to very quickly kill off everything in it.  These gardens are available with gobs of kits (one usually free, the rest sold separately), including most nearly every herb you can imagine, as well as some small fruits/veggies, etc., even flowers, and they are constantly adding more.  Highly recommend for anyone without a suitable "grow environment" or a green thumb!  Hehe.

The Aero has made me so psyched about growing things that I'm trying my hand at it the old-fashioned way this summer and have planted vegetables and herbs in several big pots, as well as started a small garden patch!  Fingers crossed!

I also second Penzey's.  They are awesome!  I have been buying from them for years.  My consistent favorites are the Extra Special Bold peppercorns, Lemon Pepper, Adobo, Southwest, Cajun, Medium Chili Powder, Fajita, Aleppo, tons more, and most recently tried the Tuscan Sunset, which is great!  So many great ones, though, hard to name just a few.  Everything I've ever purchased from them has been amazing stuff.

In addition to that, I find that lately, I'm adding cilantro, fresh lime, and/or chili powder or sauce to just about everything.  Cilantro is definitely an acquired taste, but once you acquire it, it seems easy to want to put it in everything!

My biggest surprise has been fresh dill.  I've grown it in my Aero for the last 3 to 4 months, and it is simply fantastic, and gives such amazing and unexpected flavor to so many things.  I've, ummm, gone overboard with it a few times to say the least. 

Thanks to all who gave suggestions for the Garam Masala. I'm going to give it a try. I love the aroma.

My perennial herbs are doing very well.  I lost a couple up here, but was able to take some transplants from the old house and they are doing well.  The lovage came back and I didn't realy care if it came back or not. I think I'm going to move it to the front as a bush.  It gets pretty big and the leaves are an interesting shape.

I started some herbs inside.  I even got the rosemary to sprout from seed. I've heard it's extremely hard to start from seed, but I figured for 97 cents for packet I wasn't wasting much money even if none sprouted.

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