An overview of what I try to keep fresh on hand, and the first purchases I make when I'm starting over in a new city.
Herbs and spices are integral to setting up any kitchen arsenal. As someone raised in a house serving Italian/Italian-American and Southern dishes, I've built a reliance on a handful of flavor profiles. Herbs and spices can widen your array of dishes and the dimensionality of your cooking greatly. Discovering new layers of flavors and adding depth with subtle, floral herbs alongside rich, earthy spices just broadens your options so much. I really have loved getting to grow my own herbs each summer and getting to share in that with my family and loved ones who haven't had the same exposure or experiences. Growing your own herb garden can also serve as a great gateway and stepping stone to your own vegetable and fruit gardens. They're also incredibly easy to get kids into the kitchen or exploring more about sustainability and where food comes from—and believe me, if you can get kids excited about foods that grow, even briefly, you've had a little win for the day!
Onto the list!
Black pepper grinder
Crushed red pepper flakes
Additionally, I am a huge fan of the pastes: ginger paste, stir-in garlic paste, and Thai 5-seasoning paste in particular. While these are not the *exact same* as creating your own garlic and ginger paste, the flavor is incredibly close (I think closer than buying minced garlic), and it saves so much time. Additionally, when it comes to fish, steak, or tofu, I've been known to just use these pastes to straight up lather the protein on the surface. Rubbing the garlic into the steak before a healthy dose of salt and pepper never fails for me.
Let's be honest—this was mostly an excuse for me to take pretty photos of food. And I absolutely loved it. Sorry about the lame post today, I just love fresh herbs and I love how they look!
I should add: if you do tend to use dry herbs often, give them a chance to bloom before incorporating them fully into a meal! To bloom them simply means lightly cooking them in fat over heat so that the fat-soluble flavor is maximized before adding it to the rest of your recipe. This will help add a depth and dimension to the flavor. Additionally, you don't have to buy Morton seasonings. It's important to keep your herbs and spices within their date of expiry.
Finally, you can dry your own seasonings! At the end of summer when the basil starts to die, the weather gets too rough for your rosemary, and you're maxed out on mint, if you don't want to freeze them in ice-cube molds with oil or make your own pestos, you can dry your own spices. If you don't have a dehydrator, you can lay out the spices on a cookie sheet on the lowest heat setting on your oven. Leave the oven open ajar to prevent overheating, and rotate/turn over the herbs to ensure complete drying. Once they're crispy and breakable they're done!
Alternatively, you can air-dry by hanging the bundle and wrapping them in a brown paper bag OR by laying them out on a cookie sheet with a cheesecloth on top. These methods can take up to two weeks, though, and that leaves a lot more time for mold to develop and grow.
Weird to end with this note on mold growth, but that's the herby post!