Cooking with herbs and spices has never been more popular. Besides from adding a nice aroma, flavor and visual appeal, herbs and spices make for an excellent substitute to salt and sodium. There gain in popularity has mostly been due to the mass exodus of people moving away from diets high in salt and sodium.
What has sparked your interest in learning to cook with herbs and spices?.
Are you interested in knowing how to add enormous flavor to your favorite foods? Are you seeking to reduce or cut the amount of calories and fat you consume? Do you want to prepare food that is more appealing? Or are you looking to reduce your intake of salt and sodium? Whatever your situation may be, here are the benefits of cooking with herbs and spices.
You can easily see the benefits of cooking with herbs and spices is great.
About Herbs and Spices
What's the difference? It seems as if people use the two words loosely. Herbs are the fresh or dried leafy part of the plant, while spices are formed from the plants seeds...this is the oversimplified definition. Spices are always dried and can be grounded or in seed form. Herbs can be fresh or dried.
Cooking with herbs and spices is ideal because you can add tremendous flavor to your meats, fruits and vegetables without adding unwanted calories, fats, salt and sugars.
More importantly you can be creative in your cooking, because there are many varieties of herbs and spices to choose from.
Herbs and Spices Gain In Popularity
Herbs and spices have a long rich and rewarding history. Since the beginning of time, herbs have been known more for their medicinal values, than for the ability to enhance the flavor of foods. In the early days spices were once considered as a trading commodity and form or money. I guess you could say that people made a killing off of these flavor enhancers. In both cases scarcity made herbs and spices very appealing.
This brings us to the point of modern cooking. Herbs are spices are now readily available and inexpensive. You can pick them up at your local grocery, specialty store or through mail order.
What's Better Fresh or Dried Herbs
Fresh or dried which is better?...it depends. From a monetary standpoint fresh herbs are more expensive than dried. If you're looking to go the cheap route you will want to opt for dried herbs. Dried herbs are more potent than fresh. So if a recipe calls out for dried herbs and you want to use fresh you will have to make a conversion. The same applies for the inverse.
Some products or dishes lend themselves more to fresh herbs. For instance you probably wouldn't want to use dried herbs as a topping for your salad. Likewise, for a less extravagant meal or quick and simple dinner you probably are better off using dried herbs.
You can easily see that the many possibilities for when to use or when not to use fresh or dried herbs can be somewhat complicated. Trust you instincts and over time you will come to know when to use dried or fresh herbs.
However, I do have one caveat in regards to which is better, fresh or dried herbs. It all depends on the specific herb you're using. Some are herbs are better dried and some are better fresh. Check with your local merchant who should be able to steer you in the right direction.
What's Better Whole, Crushed or Ground Spices
Since almost all spices are dried, my advice is to buy whole spices (not crushed or ground). This will allow you to control the freshness of your spices. When it comes to shelf life, whole spices will always last longer than crushed or ground spice. Depending upon the type of herb or spice you purchase, you can expect the following shelf life.
Also, the process of grinding the spice usually equates to more money at the cash register, so more than likely whole spices will be less expensive.
Furthermore, the difference between fresh and ground spices is very noticeable. If you don't think so just ground up your favorite spice and allow it to set for a few days. After about 3 to 4 days compare what you previously grounded to its freshly ground equivalent. I'm sure you'll notice the difference.
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