How well do you know your spices? Some lend an earthiness and warmth, some are fiery, and some soothe. Here we point up some well-known and lesser-known spices and how best to use them.
- Allspice—Allspice, the fruit of the allspice tree, gives off a hint of several spices, including cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Sold in ground form, it enhances the flavor of beef, fish, and poultry, and it also used in desserts, soups and stews, and sauces.
- Anise—The flavor of this versatile, ground spice resembles that of licorice and has a wide variety of uses that include flavoring meats, fish, and poultry, as well as breads, fruits, vegetables, and sauces.
- Basil—Sold (or grown) fresh or dried, basil is an herb with a fresh, sweet, leafy flavor. Aside from use with proteins, it’s often used to flavor breads, vegetables, soups, stews, and sauces. An innovative chef might use it in a dessert to create a savory flavor profile.
- Bay leaves—With bay leaves, an herb, a little goes a long way. Toss one into soups and stews to add a woodsy flavor. Bay leaves can also be used with proteins and breads. Be sure to remove it before serving.
- Caraway—Caraway offers a unique blend of anise and dill and has a sharp taste. Most of us are familiar with this spice used in bread, but it’s often used to flavor pork, poultry, and vegetables.
- Cardamom—Cardamom is a popular spice in Indian cuisine and is aromatic and sweet. Aside from use in desserts, breads, soups, stews, and vegetables, it’s also frequently used to make a special blend of tea or coffee.
- Cayenne—Hot and spicy, cayenne is sure to heat up the flavor profile of any dish, including fish, sauces, soups, stews, and vegetables. It can also be used to flavor roasted nuts and legumes and vinegar.
- Cilantro—A California favorite, cilantro is best used fresh. This herb resembles parsley and is also known as Chinese parsley or coriander leaves. It’s used often in Asian and Mexican cuisine. Add it to sauces and marinades, fish, poultry, and vegetables. It could also be used to flavor butter, salsa, and even margaritas.
- Cinnamon—Nothing warms up the palate like cinnamon. Best known for its use in breads and desserts, cinnamon also enhances pork, nuts, vegetables, and sauces. Lately it’s been touted for its health benefits, too.