Which Spices Will You Likely Be Cooking With in 2015?
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McCormick released their annual Flavor Forecast and highlighted international spices and Mediterranean dips as trending in 2015
Say hello to Shawarma-spiced everything!
Flavor forecasters are really trying to predict the biggest trends in food for next year. Some of the up and coming trends include umami vegetables like mushrooms and tomatoes, smoked spices, and a sour/salty combination like mango curry lime salt.
The number-one culinary spice trend, according to McCormick, is actually a host of global spice blends. As the world shrinks, we become more open to international foods and spices, like Shawarma spice blend and Japanese blended spices. Keep an eye out for more juices, sauces, and purées mixing and matching on restaurant menus like McCormick’s listed Spiced Shrimp with Roasted Corn Purée, Plum Sauce, and Farro Salad recipe.
Check out the rest of the list, and decide for yourself if you’ll be splurging on sour salts as a culinary New Year’s resolution.
Which Herbs and Spices Are Commonly Used in Thai Cooking?
These flavors help define dishes like pad see ew, lemongrass chicken, and Massaman curry.
Known for its light touch, aromatic elements, and occasional punch of heat, Thai cuisine prizes four essential flavors, which you&aposll find in most dishes: salty, sour, spicy, and sweet. The ingredients used to build these flavors are often herbs and spices𠅊nd they frequently take the form of a paste. Traditionally cooks made their own curry pastes but now many recipes call for store bought versions of these red, green, or Massaman curry pastes. The base of these pastes is garlic and green or red chilies. Fish sauce and soy sauce are other common flavorings, used in cooking or for final seasoning. The most commonly used spices for Thai cooking are below.
Like anise, coriander, or kolianthro (koh-LEE-ahn-throh) is a member of the parsley family. Native to the Mediterranean and the Middle East, it's used as a medicine as well as in traditional Greek cooking. It has a strong, earthy flavor, but much of this is leached during the cooking process, leaving a more delicate taste.
This spice is made from the seeds of a species of wild sour cherry, and it has a unique fruity taste. Mahlepi (mahk-LEH-pee), the Greek word for mahlab, used in tsoureki, a traditional sweet bread associated with Greek Easter, as well as in cookies and other pastries.
6 Spice Combinations for Tasty Food
Tons of rebels looking to level up their cooking have asked about re-creating their favorite dishes from around the world. I’ve got good news for you! It’s not as difficult as most people think.
Regional dishes taste the way they do because they are made from the spices and ingredients local to that community. Your ancestors didn’t need Super Processed Stir Fry Sauce™ to make dinner. They used whole foods to create delicious dishes, and we’re going to do the same.
Here are 6 simplified spice combinations that you can use to take your healthy meals from bland to bold. Each is measured for a pound of food:
- Oregano: 1 Tbsp (15ml)
- Olive Oil: 2 tbsp (30ml)
- Lemon juice: 2 tbsp (30ml)
- Oregano: ½ Tbsp (7ml)
- Garlic: 3 Cloves (½ tsp or 2.5ml powdered)
- Basil: ½ tbsp (7ml)
- Tomatoes: 1 diced can
- Cumin: ½ Tsp (2.5ml)
- Curry: 1 tbsp (15ml)
- Coriander: ½ tsp (2.5ml)
#5&6) Chinese/Japanese (this makes a marinade or stir-fry sauce):
- Ginger: ¼ tsp (1ml)
- Tamari: ¼ cup (59ml), can also use coconut aminos or soy sauce
- Rice Vinegar: 2 Tbsp (30ml)
- Garlic: 3 cloves (½ tsp/2.5ml powdered)
- Dash Red Pepper Flakes
- Sugar (Honey): 1 tbsp (15ml)
#7) Thai (this makes a marinade or stir-fry sauce):
- Coconut milk: 1/2 cup (118ml)
- Tamari: 1/4 cup (59ml) (coconut aminos could also be used)
- Fish Sauce: 2 tbsp (30ml)
- Green or Red Curry Paste: 1 Tbsp (15ml)
- Cilantro: Handful of fresh chopped
For the complete set, add these to your shopping list (herbs and spices are dried):
- 2 limes
- 2 lemons
- Can or jar of diced tomatoes
- Coconut aminos or soy sauce
- Rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- Chili Powder
- Red Pepper Flake
- Garlic Powder (or fresh bulb of garlic, your choice)
- Curry powder
- Ginger powder
If you go to the store and buy these 15 items, you’ll be set to make a wide variety of dishes from all over the world.
These spice combinations can be used for chicken, fish, eggs, beef, or pork roasted, sauteed, steamed, or microwaved veggies stir-fries, and more!
For a very minimal monetary investment and one trip to the grocery store, you can have a different dish from around the world every day of the week!
Perhaps the most frequently used herb in Italian cooking, parsley is a true team player, enlivening the flavors of everything around it. Although fresh parsley is sold in in both flat-leaf and curly varieties, Italians prefer flat-leaf (it&aposs often labeled Italian parsley, actually) for its more robust flavor. Though the dried version is primarily made with flat-leaf, our food editors do not recommend dried parsley. Use fresh parsley in pasta dishes, sauces, and soups, including the famed minestrone it&aposs also an exceptional finishing herb for practically anything from a seafood salad to a lemony risotto.
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Herbs, Spices, and Seasoning Guide
It is hard to imagine what cooking would be like without the unique flavors provided by herbs, spices, and the many seasonings available.
For centuries Herbs and Spices have been an integral part of many of the world’s great cuisines. Today we take for granted black pepper and the other spices over which wars where once fought. At one time only kings and other wealthy people could afford such a delicacy as cinnamon. Today all supermarkets and most small grocery stores have well-stocked spice shelves offering a wonderful selection of herbs and spices.
The term “spices” is often used broadly to include all seasonings. Spices come from the bark, roots, leaves, stems, buds, seeds, or fruit of aromatic plants and trees which usually grow only in tropical countries. Pepper, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, ginger, saffron, and turmeric are spices.
Herbs are soft, succulent plants which usually grow in the temperate zone. Until recently cooks have had to make do with very few fresh herbs, such as sage, parsley, and thyme. Nowadays you can also find fresh basil, coriander, chervil, tarragon, rosemary, and dill. Since herbs are at their best when they are young and freshly picked, it is well worth growing your own.
Check out and use this Herbs, Spices, and Seasoning Guide.
Herbs, Spices, and Seasoning Guide
How To Preserve Fresh Herbs:
The faster the herbs dry, the more flavorful the resulting dried herb will be.
Conventional Oven: Place clean dry herb sprigs on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at the lowest setting until herbs are dry and brittle. This should take about 12 hours. Strip leaves from stems & place in small airtight storage containers.
Air Drying: Tie small bunches of herbs with string and hang upside down by the stems in a dry warm spot out of direct sunlight. Be sure air circulates freely around the bunches. Let dry till leaves are brittle. This usually takes a few days to a week, depending on the thickness of the leaves. Pick off the dried leaves & store in tightly covered containers in a cool, dry place about two weeks or till dry and brittle.
Microwave Drying: Pick when the dew has just gone off. Put on paper towels on a plate in the microwave. Zap on high for a minute to start (at that point they appear “wet”). Stir them, zap again for another minute, move around again, and zap approximately 30 seconds more or until they are dry and crumbly. Rub between your hands to break up, pick out any twiggy parts and put in small jars or baggies.
Freezing Herbs: Wrap in foil or plastic wrap. You can also chop clean herbs, place in ice cube trays & fill with water. When needed remove herb ice cubes and drop into hot cooking liquid. You can also wrap bunches of fresh herbs in foil or plastic wrap and freeze them for several weeks. You should expect some discoloration of frozen herbs. Mark the date on the container of your dried herbs. They can be kept for one year. Heat, moisture and light rob herbs of flavor. You can also make herb butters and herb vinegars.
Making Herb Vinegar
The following are the guidelines that I have perfected over the last 18 years of teaching and making herb flavored vinegar. The method used is for a mild delicate flavored vinegar that is pleasing to the eye, as well as delicious used in cooking.” – by Alleta HustonHerb vinegars have a long shelf life. Use herb vinegars in vinaigrettes and marinades or to add zest to cooked vegetables.
Hints For Using Herbs and Spices:
Substituting dried herbs for fresh herbs: Dried herbs are stronger in flavor than fresh leaf herbs. When adding dried leaf herbs to a recipe that calls for fresh ones, substitute 1/3 the amount called for in the recipe .
When using dried herbs, crush them in the palm of your hand or between your fingers. This will release the flavor quicker. Use only one strong-flavored herb (rosemary, sage, winter savory, etc.) in a food. A strong-flavored seasoning may be combined with several mild-flavored ones. Whole herb leaves are a better choice than ground or powdered herbs because they hold their flavor longer in storage pulverize just before using.
Substituting whole spices for ground spices: When adding whole spices to a recipe that calls for ground spices, use 1 1/2 times as much as the recipe call for.
Increasing a recipe: When doubling a recipe, do not double the herbs and spices. Increase them by 1 1/2 times and then taste, adding more if necessary. In general, always taste for seasoning before adding salt.
Menu Planning: Don’t season more than one dish in a meal with the same herb. Also, every dish on the menu does not need to be herbed – two or three at the most is enough.
Use only one (1) strong-flavored herb (rosemary, sage, basil, mint, dill, marjoram, tarragon, thyme, etc.) in a dish at a time. However, a strong-flavored herb may be combined with several mild-flavored ones (chervil, chives, parsley, savory, etc.) for delightful dishes.
Grinding and Crushing Herb and Spices
Grinding or crushing herbs and spices immediately before cooking releases the aromatic flavor of the herb or spice and will deepen the flavor of any dish.
For crushing a small amount of herbs or spices, a mortar and pestle is quick to use and you can control the coarseness of the grind. For large batches of herbs and spices, a spice mill or a coffee grinder is convenient and quick.
To simply crack or crush some spices without grinding them to a powder, place the spices in a sturdy plastic bag and then set on a cutting board. Bear down with the bottom of a heavy saucepan or a heavy wooden rolling pin.
If you are grinding spices to add to delicate baked goods, sift them after grinding to get rid of any woody bits and pieces.
Buying Herbs and Spices
Most herbs and spices are sold both whole and ground. It is preferable to buy whole spices and grind them yourself. Shop in a busy store for your herbs and spices. Busy stores are more likely to move their inventory rapidly and thus have fresh herbs and spices. Consider buying high-quality spices from reputable mail-order companies. I, personally, have found that they are always very fresh and aromatic.
Don’t buy herbs or spices that look faded or uneven in color.
For whole spices, check that there is very little powder or broken bits in the container.
For ground spices, the finer the grind, the better the quality.
When buying spices and herbs from a large bulk bin, make sure there is plenty of aroma.
Don’t buy more than you can use with 6 months to 1 year.
What is bouquet garni?
Bouquet garni (boo-Kay gahr-NEE) are little bundles of herbs and spices tied together with twine or wrapped in cheese cloth. These packets of herbs and spices are added to soups, stocks, sauces, braises, or any dish with a lot of liquid and requiring a long simmer. This technique keeps all the herbs and spices together, making for easy removal when the dish is cooked. Some cooks leave a few inches of twine on the bouquet garni and tie the end to the pot handle for easy removal. Others let the package swim freely in the pot.
How much is a sprig?
Unless a recipe specifies a length of a sprig, a sprig is about a 4-inch piece of stem with the leaves still attached.
How much is a bunch?
A small bunch of herbs is equal to a small handful of sprigs, a little less than 1 inch in diameter, 3 to 4 inches long and about 1-half ounce by weight.
A large bunch would be equal to a medium-size handful of sprigs, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 1 ounce by weight.
Handling and Storage of Herbs and Spices:
Whole spices will keep their flavor indefinitely as long as they are kept in tightly closed containers away from heat and light. Herbs in leaf form will keep longer than herbs in ground form. Ground spices and herbs will keep their flavor for up to a year after purchase (whether opened or unopened, as long as they were fresh when purchased and kept in tightly closed containers in a cool place. If kept at room temperature, in a pantry for example, herbs and spices will keep for only 6 months.
Never store herbs and spices next to or above the stove (this will shorten their life). To tell if a herb or a spice has lost its flavor, smell it – if it has no aroma, it should be discarded.
Shelf Life and Storage of Herbs:
Herbs do not “go bad”, they lose potency. Heat, light, and moisture damage the dried botanicals. Proper storage for medicinal and culinary herbs requires glass containers, well-sealed, away from moisture, heat and light. Do not store herbs or spices in plastic, vinyl bags, aluminum or tin containers. Avoid keeping herbs near the stove, in the refrigerator, or in the bathroom.
With proper storage, you can expect the following shelf life:
whole, dried herbs – 2 years
Growing Fresh Herbs
Nothing is better than the flavor of fresh herbs!
Why not grow your own and have fresh herbs when you need them?
Herbs are very easy to grow in your garden or even in a kitchen windowsill. Most herbs can be started from seeds, but it is much easier to buy small plants for a head start.
You're Definitely Not Replacing Your Spices Often Enough
When your schedule allows for extra leisure time, you may feel inclined to crack open one of your favorite recipe books that you rarely get to thumb through to prepare a nice meal. Aside from a trip to the grocery store, you may also take inventory on which spices you already have. As you rummage through the small jars of coriander, rosemary, and Bay leaf, do you ever stop and try to recollect when it was you first bought that dried spice? If you're not ardent about cooking, it's easy to believe that your spice supply could be a couple of years old.
The question is, do spices go bad—and do they have to be replaced? Brian Bennett, executive chef of meal delivery service Eat Clean Bro, contributed his thoughts on when it should be time to toss out that stash of ground cinnamon or dried parsley.
How long do spices typically last in your cabinet?
"Spices in my cabinet usually only last about three months," says Bennett, who admits to buying spices in small quantities and in their whole form, never ground, except for chili flakes and special curry spice blends such as Gram Masala and Vadouvan, for example.
For a chef, it makes sense that he's mowing through spice jar after spice jar every couple of months, but for the person who doesn't raid their spice cabinet every day, it's more likely they've been holding onto that jar of ground sage for more than two years. If this is the case, Bennett suggests replacing that old spice.
"I would not try to hold any ground spices for more than a year," he says. "Spices will not go rancid, but they will definitely become stale over time."
Who wants to sprinkle flavorless turmeric atop a skillet full of vegetable stir-fry? The purpose of spice is to quite literally spice up a dish that otherwise would be bland on its own, right? Buying whole spices such as cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, and star anise have the potential to last longer.
"Whole spices should last for about two to four years," says Bennett. Whole spices last longer because, contrary to ground, the inside of it has yet to be exposed to oxygen. Oxygen can essentially weaken the aroma and flavor of the ground spice over time, which is why it's important to store spices in airtight containers, if not in the container it was originally purchased in.
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What's the best way to get the most out of your spices?
"Always toast your whole spices to get the most amount of flavor and help extract some of the oils," says Bennett. The chef recommends purchasing a cheap coffee bean grinder to grind whole spices.
In addition to storing ground spices and dried herbs into airtight containers, it's also important to store them away from the stove and from direct sunlight. Don't keep spices in the fridge either, as the humidity could be detrimental to the longevity of the spice. There's also the risk of the spice absorbing surrounding odors in the fridge.
So, while your spices won't necessarily go bad or become inedible, they do lose their potency after some time, so it's important to not hold onto ground spices for more than a year, while whole spices should be replaced every two to four years. If you're looking to whip up some delicious recipes, we suggest you head to the store and re-stock your spice cabinet.
Homemade Pickling Spice Blend
My Homemade Pickling Spice Blend is made with a lot of spices already in your pantry and other are easily available in most markets. This is THE pickling spice blend. The aroma when simmered for a brine is amazing, especially in my Corned Beef recipe!
Warm spices like cinnamon, clove, star anise and cardamom get broken down in a spice grinder, but the other ingredients like mustard seed, allspice, juniper berries, coriander seeds, bay leaves and dill stay whole.
Mix these all together with black peppercorns and store in an airtight jar.
This is my go to whenever I make my own Corned Beef from scratch.
What Is the Difference Between Creole and Cajun Food?
Mardi Gras is swiftly approaching, and with that celebratory holiday comes the consumption of all the amazing dishes that come out of the Big Easy and surrounding lands. Jambalaya, etouffee, crawfish everywhere…truly, you can’t go wrong. Whether it’s Creole or Cajun food, whatever you’re chowing down on is bound to be delicious. However, when it comes to Louisiana cooking, does it matter whether it’s called Cajun or Creole? Are those terms interchangeable? What is the difference between Creole and Cajun cooking (if any)? The answer, it turns out, is important. And don’t dare mix those terms up amongst native Cajun and Creole down in Louisiana.
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If you want a simple answer, there is one: Creole is city food and Cajun is country food. Creole cooking uses tomatoes, Cajun cooking does not. There. Now go about your day.
Of course, there’s more to it than that, and even a few blurred lines. But if you really want to get into the details, there are a lot of important nuances between the people (yes, Cajun and Creole describe both people and cuisine) and their food, and a lot of the influence on the food has to do with the history of the settlement of Louisiana itself.
What Is Creole?
The Creole people are quite a melting pot of cultures that goes all the way back to the settlement of New Orleans hundreds of years ago. The earliest settlers were French and Spanish, and their descendants, the first to be born in the New World, referred to themselves as Creole. Over time, this definition also came to include the African slaves and their descendants that were brought to the New Orleans area by those early inhabitants. Over generations of immigrants, migrants, and through the end of slavery, the people who could rightfully call themselves Creole grew. It’s now considered a mix of people from French, Spanish, African, and Native American heritage who originate in the New Orleans area.
Because of their proximity to water, their cuisine developed with an eye towards local seafood and French-inspired flavors from the Old World. One of the most direct connections to French cooking is found in a traditional roux , the flavorful base of many dishes. Roux is made with what locals call “the holy trinity” of onions, celery, and green pepper, cooked with butter and flour, which resembles the French mirepoix , the version made with onions, celery, and carrot. With prosperous trade and lots of wealth, Creoles also had access to exotic seasonings that came both from trade and the influx of people from abroad, such as spices from the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe. Their wealth meant they also had more readily available access to refrigeration. This allowed them to use dairy and other highly perishable ingredients, which is why a Creole roux is cooked with butter like the French version, instead of oil. Creole dishes can also be quite fancy with a lot of sauteing and simmering, developed in wealthy households who had servants that could spend a good part of the day preparing meals.
So how to spot a traditional Creole dish? First, look for the roux—it should be prepared with butter. Creamy soups and sauces are more likely to be Creole as well. Tomatoes, another luxury at the time, are often featured prominently in Creole dishes (or at least, if you’re looking at two different jambalayas and one has tomatoes and the other doesn’t, you can reasonably guess which one is the Creole version.) Creole cooking tends to feature fish and seafood more prominently than heavy meats. Seasonings and spices from the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa are abundant, though not necessarily melt-your-face-off hot. Though its origins are French, the influence of all these cultures makes for a truly unique cuisine.
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What Is Cajun?
If Creole are the city folk, then the Cajun are their country brethren. Unlike the Creole settlers, early Cajun settlers didn’t come from the Old World, but instead north from the Acadia region of Canada. When the British invaded New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia, many of the French Canadians fled or were forced out and made their way down to the Louisiana countryside, settling the area now known as Acadiana. Unlike the Creole, they didn’t have the benefit of wealth, trade, and servants at their disposal.
However, coming from French Canada, they did share some of the same basic culinary roots. For example, you see that in their roux: The Cajun version of a roux still uses the holy trinity, but they cook it in vegetable oil instead of butter, originally not having the same access to refrigeration. Similarly, Cajun cooking uses a lot of salt and curing of meat to help it last longer. Their dishes, not as intricate and more likely to be a one pot meal than a day long sophisticated culinary adventure, feature the bounty of the land around them: Meat , pork, and crawfish are abundant in Cajun dishes.
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Therefore, Cajun cuisine, though it shares similar dishes with Creole cuisine, such as gumbo, has telltale characteristics that makes it easy to distinguish from Creole cooking. First, the roux—remember that the Cajun version uses oil instead of butter, and the further south you get, the darker the roux. Crawfish boils are telltale Cajun, as a one-pot meal using the local crustaceans. Cajun food may also use lots of spices, especially cayenne, but not necessarily to fire-hot levels. Ever had Andouille or boudin sausage? You’ll get the flavor of the salt and smoke in the preserves. And in many dishes where you might expect to find loads of tomatoes, you’ll find little or none.
That’s not to say that these rules are hard and fast, nor the only ones. As the years have passed and dishes evolved as Cajuns moved to New Orleans and vice versa, some of these “rules” have been mixed or broken with delicious results. In the end, just don’t forget that Cajun and Creole are not the same thing.
Cajun & Creole Recipes
Chicken and Andouille Gumbo
This is a great example of the flavors from both cuisines being slightly interchangeable. The chicken and andouille, along with the oil-based roux, make it distinctly Cajun. However, tomatoes and okra give it a Creole flair. Get our Chicken and Andouille Gumbo recipe .
Maque Choux (pronounced “mock shoe”) is a delicious vegetarian side dish that uses a classic Cajun ingredient: corn! Made with cream (see, not every cream dish is Creole) and bacon, this goes well with any main course. Get our Maque Choux recipe .
Crawfish can be found in a lot of wonderful Cajun dishes, but to eat it on its own, cooked with potatoes and corn, is something of a treat. It’s more fun with friends, so multiply this recipe out, throw a plastic sheet on the table, and get to it. Get our Crawfish Boil recipe .