Enhancing Foods Flavor with Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices are a healthy and tasty way to add lots of great flavor to food without adding extra calories, salt or fat. In addition, many herbs and spices contain powerful antioxidants which may offer health benefits including reducing inflammation and protecting against chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Though the terms are often used interchangeably, spices grow in tropical areas and come from the bark, buds, fruit, roots, seeds or stems of plants and trees and are usually dried. Herbs grow in temperate climates and are the fragrant leaves of plants. To help you and your family get the most out of herbs and spices, here are a few tips:
- Don’t be afraid to experiment with different herbs and spices. Try using these herbs and spices with the following foods:
- Allspice: stew, tomatoes, gravy
- Basil: fish, lamb, salads, soups and sauces
- Cayenne pepper: soups, casserole, cheese sauces, baked egg dishes, barbequed turkey and lean meats
- Cinnamon: pork, breads, sweet potatoes, squash
- Cumin: chili, stew and beans
- Curry: meat, chicken and fish dishes, tomatoes, sauces and rice
- Dill: fish, chicken, vegetables, potatoes, salads and pasta
- Fennel: lean pork, squash, beets, sauces and seafood
- Garlic: lean meats, fish, turkey, soups, salads, vegetables, pasta dishes
- Mint: salads, potatoes, bulgur, beans
- Nutmeg: potatoes, chicken, fish, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage dishes
- Rosemary: chicken, fish, sauces, stuffing, potatoes, peas, lima beans
- Sesame: salads, breads, chicken, vegetables.
- Add small amounts of dried herbs at the beginning of cooking. Add fresh herbs at the end of cooking and use more than you would for dried since fresh herbs aren't as strong. (A general guideline when using fresh herbs in a recipe is to use 3 times as much as you would use of a dried herb.)
- Purchase herbs close to the time you plan to use them. When growing herbs in your own garden the ideal time for picking is in the morning after the dew has dried but before the sun gets hot.
- Dry herbs can be stored for up to a year to retain their peak flavor. Make sure to store in airtight containers away from heat, moisture, and direct sunlight.
- Fresh herbs can be stored in an open or a perforated plastic bag in your refrigerator crisper drawer for a few days.
- Wash fresh herbs when you are ready to use them. Wash thoroughly under running water and shake off moisture or spin dry in a salad spinner. Pat off any remaining moisture with clean paper towels.
Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: www.eatright.org and UNL Extension in Lancaster County: http://food.unl.edu/