A Little Something to Change Food into a Gourmet Meal
What would cooking be like without herbs and spices? Wars have been fought, lives lost, lands discovered and histories written, all in the name of spices and herbs. In fact, a rule of history is that the country that controls the spice trade is the richest and most powerful in the world.
Spice is a general term referring to all of the seasonings which are derived from the bark, buds, fruit, leaves, roots, seeds or stems of particular trees and plants. Many spices are tropical.
Whole spices are preferred by gourmet food lovers, so they can have their fresh ground flavor during cooking or meal preparation. For example, many people have their own pepper mill for that gourmet dining experience. Ground spices are purchased nearly anywhere.
There are at least 25 spices and seasonings that are basic to any gourmet kitchen. These include allspice, caraway, chili, cloves, curry powder, ginger, mustard, nutmeg, paprika and pepper.
A spice tip: to retain flavor, store whole or ground spices in airtight plastic or a glass container.
Herbs are soft plants that grow in more temperate climates. These can be purchased dried and ground. You can also find these growing wild, or you can raise them in your own garden. Herbs include basil, bay, coriander, chervil, oregano, parsley, sage, tarragon, thyme, rosemary, and dill.
Used properly, herbs are a healthy addition to any meal. For example, combinations of basil, dill, marjoram and other herbs can replace salt in sodium-reduced diets. Herbs also contain nutrients of their own. Many experts claim that herbs have healing and medicinal properties.
Cooking tip: use only one strong herb in each dish. Strong herbs include basil, dill, marjoram, rosemary, sage and tarragon. These can be combined with milder herbs like chervil, chives, parsley and savory.