Spice it Up: My Top Ten Most Used Herbs & Spices

2016-01-13-19.09.09.jpg.jpgMy collection of spices is kind of ridiculous. I have a ton of spices from all sorts of various cuisines, from saffron, to za-atar, and herbes de provence to Szechuan pepper. It’s pretty safe to say I love spices. Here are my top ten most used spices!

Cumin

I’ve been known to say that Indian food and Mexican food have way more in common than most people think. Whether you agree with me or not, those two cuisines share not one, not two, but THREE spices/herbs on this list (see also chili powder and cilantro) and cumin may be the most used. Cumin has a warm, earthy flavor that tastes great as a component in curries or taco seasoning.

Chili Powder

While there are a large variety of chili powders on the market, I always try to choose a salt free variety. Unlike ground chiles, chili powder is actually a blend of spices which often includes cumin, garlic and oregano in addition the base of ground chiles. Homemade hash browns without a little chili powder? Not in my house! It’s a necessity in The Hub’s delicious veggie-filled three meat chili.

2016-01-13-19.09.42.jpg.jpgSweet Paprika

There are many varieties of paprika, but the most commonly used in our household is generic sweet paprika, and we use a LOT of it. While paprika is most associated with Hungarian cuisine, the chiles used to make it originated in the Americas. It’s so much more than a colorful sprinkle on top of deviled eggs. (In fact, you couldn’t pay me to eat deviled eggs, so I think putting paprika on top is a total waste of good paprika!) It’s often used in Spanish and Portuguese cuisine (one of my favorite spice mixes, Frango Grelhado seasoning uses a lot of paprika and bay leaf) and is used to color foods as well.

Oregano

Do you know how many of your favorite foods contain oregano? Your favorite pizza joint couldn’t live without it, and Greek cuisine just wouldn’t be the same without its earthy, delicate sweetness. Mexican food? There’s oregano there too, but the more pungent Mexican oregano. The simplest use? A simple salad dressing of oil, vinegar and oregano.

Cinnamon (Cassia)

While cinnamon is vital to some of the most delicious baked goods known to man, my preferred usage is in savory dishes like tagines and curries. Lately, I’ve been eating a lot of it on top of cottage cheese and jam. Yum! (Note, most cinnamon we know in the United States is actually cassia, a close botanical relative of true cinnamon. They’re basically interchangeable unless you’re looking for a very specific flavor profile.)

Red Pepper Flakes

Want the merest hint of spiciness added to a fresh dish for emphasis? Red pepper flakes are great for that! Commonly used in Italian cuisine, I often sprinkle just a tad onto sauteed veggies for a hint of heat without the overwhelming burn of cayenne. Also great added to taco meat!

Fresh Parsley

The key flavor in The Hub’s favorite salad, tabbouleh, parsley adds a fresh burst to almost any cuisine. Throw it in at the last minute for maximum impact.

Cilantro_03

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Fresh Cilantro

Like cumin, cilantro is used in a multitude of world cuisines, most notably Indian, North Africa, Mexican, South American and Southeast Asian. Love it or hate it, this pungent herb is divisive, with some finding it tastes soapy. I love it in earth curries, Thai soups, and my favorite Mexican Salsa, Pico de Gallo.

Fresh Dill

Tzatziki, my creamy, garlicky condiment of choice, wouldn’t be what it is without fresh dill. (Some would argue that mint is the key, but screw that, this my my blog and I like dill-y tzatziki, damn it!) Dill is the perfect accent to cucumbers, hence dill pickles, and sprinkled into fresh mashed potatoes with sour cream? Yes please!

Fresh  Ginger

Sweet, spicy and refreshing, fresh ginger is always in my house (even if it’s in frozen cubes in my freezer). I use fresh ginger exclusively in savory foods like stir fries, tagines and satays. Plus, steep some fresh ginger in a cup of hot water to stave off nausea.

So what are your most used herbs and spices? Do you like it bold, or on the tame side? Let me know in the comments!

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9 comments

  1. I would say my top ten spices that I use are garlic, oregano, cumin, onion, cinnamon, bay leaf, rosemary, salt (used carefully), freshly ground black pepper (and white, green, and pink peppercorns as well), and chili flake/powder.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for including us in your post. Now that Fresh Ginger has become a staple of yours, I’d suggest adding Turmeric to that list of fresh spices as well. It adds earthiness and bright yellow color to everything (including your fingertips…and cutting board. LOL So careful with handling!). And of course, that whole anti-inflammatory, antioxidant super food thing it has going on. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wanna hear something weird? I used to go lightly with the cumin on food because it made my diet soda taste strange to me, and life was all about the Diet Coke. But I guess now that I’ve nearly ditched my diet soda habit {at home, anyway} I can go wild with the cumin! Huh!

    Liked by 1 person

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