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Continuing in our series on herbs and spices, Part 2 presents some spices you should always have on hand and some you’ll want to add to create a special meal for family and friends.
- Cloves—Cloves produce a cinnamon-like flavor but much stronger. You can buy them whole or ground. Cloves are used to add flavor to meats and desserts, including fruit. Many chefs insert them into the exterior of hams. They also enhance marinades and sauces and vegetables. Try them, too, in chutneys and relishes.
- Cumin—Whether used in seed or ground form, cumin heats up a dish with its bold, spicy flavor. Cumin is a versatile spice that can be used effectively in most any dish except desserts. It’s frequently used in Indian and Latin American dishes.
- Dill—Dill is an herb, used best fresh, although you can buy and use it in its dried form. It’s long favored by home chefs for use in soups (chicken soup, anyone?) and with fish, especially salmon. And let’s not forget the ever-popular dill pickle.
- Fennel—Fennel seed or ground fennel adds a licorice-like flavor to foods. It’s not as strong as anise. It’s a great addition to soups, meats, breads, fish, sauces, vegetables.
- Garlic—Perhaps one of the most classic of spices, garlic—used fresh, dried, or in powdered form—adds a pungent yet somewhat sweet taste. Many cuisines rely on garlic as a base for meats, fish, vegetables, sauces, soups, legumes, and breads. It also adds zest to butter and hummus for an extra pop of flavor. Roasted garlic is also popular to top vegetables like broccoli rabe or to pair with a cheese like brie or camembert.
- Ginger—Another staple among spices, fresh (ginger root) or dried/ground ginger gives a fragrant hot yet sweet flavor to a wide variety of dishes, ranging from drinks (tea, beer, and ale) and desserts to meats and sauces. You’ll see frequent use of ginger in Asian cuisine, including Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Korean, and Vietnamese. It’s often used pickled.
- Marjoram—Similar to oregano yet sweeter and sharper, marjoram is one of those spices you may forget you have in your spice rack. It’s used mostly in sauces (especially white sauces), soups (especially cream soups), and stews, but many chefs also use it to flavor meats and fish. Marjoram is considered one of the five essential spices to Italian cuisine (along with basil, oregano, rosemary, and thyme).