Make the most of culinary herbs and spices.
Here's one that's full of our favorite recipes because we wrote the book! It is also full of information, helpful hints and ideas for using herbs and spices in your kitchen.
For a long time I was an advocate of buying seasonings in bulk from a wholesaler. The fact that I happened to sell them this way served to reinforce my opinion. You do get a better price and higher quality. Problem is, quality suffers as it takes you two years to use up a pound of dried parsley (which, by the way, comes in a bag about the size of a pillow case).
I've come up with three keys to avoiding this problem.
1. Buy from a busy purveyor. Look for a reputable mail-order house that deals only in herbs and spices (see links). Health food stores are often good sources for loose seasonings but if their containers are dusty from disuse, better go somewhere else.
2. Set up a mini-cooperative among your friends. Mail-order wholesalers may have minimum purchases that are beyond what you will use in the next six months or even a year. Organize a circle of friends to split quantities with and you will all save money.
3. Buy small quantities frequently. Sometimes we have to sacrifice paying a little more for quality. Pass up that quantity discount if you know in your heart you are buying a lifetime supply.
You will find shopping for herbs and spices is great fun for the senses. Be bold; taste them. Take in the deep, rich colors and the intense aromas. You will be able see and smell the difference in quality over time.
This is a great opportunity to experiment. Try something new each time or just get a familiar seasoning in a different form. The more you know, the more you will be able to enhance your cooking.
Terms you should know
whole—this is the original form—think of peppercorn, seeds or cinnamon sticks
cut and sifted—c/s—herbs that have the stems removed, are chopped and passed through a sifter—think of basil and oregano
fine cut—same as above but the sifter is smaller, not quite ground
leaf—herbs are stripped from stems—think of tarragon or thyme
ground—a powder—think of cinnamon or ginger
granulated—the texture of sugar—a great way to get garlic and onion
Remember: Consider weights carefully. A quarter pound of dill weed will be a much larger quantity than a quarter pound of granulated garlic.
photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Buying Dried Herbs and Spices
by Sandra Bowens
This pocket-sized treasure is packed with information that is as helpful at the market as it is in the kitchen.
Where to buy herbs and spices
Penzey's for high quality and a wide assortment
San Francisco Herb Company for buying in bulk on a budget
La Tienda for hard to find Spanish foods and seasonings
Pendery's is famous for a wide variety of chiles