Dried (or fresh) spices and herbs-your favorites

What dried spices and herbs are in your pantry? Which are your favorites? How do you combine them? What dish might you typically use them for? East or west, let the twain meet--looking for inspiration. Fresh herbs ok too.

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17 Comments

Meatballs&Milkshakes March 23, 2012
I'm a big aleppo pepper fan too. It's so much less hot with more flavor, which my stomach appreciates. Also a big fan of herbes de provence on just about anything. For the rest of my herbs, I always use fresh rather than dried.
 
ChefJune March 23, 2012
I love to use herbs and spices, both fresh and dried, and in the case of spices, toasted. For me, it's more a case of what don't I like. and that would be fresh cilantro. I'm also cautious with cumin. for me it can get too overpowering.

I really love adding a small percentage of Sichuan peppercorns into my pepper mill. Without making things "hot," it adds a dimension I find appealing.

My go-to "secret ingredient" for many dishes is dried herbes de Provence. I especially like the blend sold at Polcari's Coffee Shop on the corner of Salem and Parmenter in the North End of Boston. Yes, they send it to me! ;)

My favorite fresh herb is marjoram. Since it's not always available in reasonable quantities in stores, I grow my own.

Love also to play with different salts. Been doing that since 2004, when I first enjoyed Michael Laiskonis' Egg filled with Chocolate Mousse and topped with Maldon Sea Salt. The pink salt from the Murray River in Australia has an amazing affinity for ripe heirloom tomatoes!
 
healthierkitchen March 23, 2012
I have a large spice collection and many fresh herbs growing and some dried, but by far my favorite of the things I've tried in the last few years is Aleppo pepper. I started using it about 3 or more years ago, hadn't heard about it before and found that I just love it. It is not only great in Turkish and middle eastern dishes. I use it in lieu of cayenne or fresh peppers in many recipes as well. It has some heat, but is not too hot for wimpy me and provides a slghtly smoky touch.
 
creamtea March 23, 2012
I agree, I love Aleppo pepper. I find it a little "fruity" when fresh. I always use it to perk up eggs, sometimes on salads, and always instead of generic red pepper flakes.
 
la D. March 23, 2012
I love crushed aleppo pepper flakes too! They have a depth and fruity note that regular crushed red pepper lacks. Great answer!
 
Panfusine March 22, 2012
I'm in a phase where my spice blend usage has become agnostic to the cuisine its used for.At present, I 'm experimenting a lot by incorporating middle eastern/north African spices into Indian cooking. My latest from last week is a traditional rice dish from the arid Thar desert regions of Rajasthan using spices from the Sahara desert, viz, north african spice blends like Harissa & Ras el Hanout.
http://www.panfusine.com/2012/03/gatte-ke-pulao-sahara-desert-version.html
 
creamtea March 23, 2012
Silk Road cooking! I enjoyed that blog entry, Panfusine.
 
LLStone March 22, 2012
I recently cooked for a ski vacation - approx 20 skiers each night. I took some spices, because I think they are expensive to buy for a one-week vacation. I used the following more than anything: fennel, cumin, basil, and thyme. While we had some other spice blends, I used the above more than anything else (outside of salt/pepper/citrus). BTW, we ate dinner, breakfast and packed lunches for $42 per person for the week! They thought I was crazy for saving the broth from the chicken taco/burrito for the ribollita, but I think I proved my point!
 
SKK March 22, 2012
Every summer I buy organic lavender, let it dry and then grind it for uses in any recipe needing lavender. Love it! Also found some Tonka Beans here in the US and have those in my cupboard now. A little bit of that goes a long way. Two other spices I have added I learned about here at Food 52 are Grains of Paradise and Quantre Spice. And I learned here there is Mexican Oregano which is distinct from Italian Oregano and I have that also.

Also every summer I buy chilis at the Farmer's Market and dehydrate and grind them so I always have wonderful chili spices. And yes to everything that has already been said.
 
creamtea March 22, 2012
these are great! It's great to be able to consider and try out new possibilities. I love all these answers.
 

Voted the Best Reply!

I am totally in love with Central American spice regimes right now.
cumin, coriander, annatto, garlic and citrus/ wine vinegars

and I have been loving cumin, ginger and garlic together and tweeking with little things with it like citrus, chiles, dried fruits, nuts, cilantro, mint, and basils
 
lloreen March 22, 2012
I have an herb garden, but i often use dried herbs de Provence for salad, fish, chicken...just about anything. Asian 5 spice for pork or chicken...garam masala added at the last minute to roast cauliflower
 
la D. March 22, 2012
I'm with @drbabs- Middle Eastern spices are my favorite.

I love dried chiles in all forms: whole, crushed flakes, and powdered. Here is a recipe for Coffee-Baked Sweet Potatoes sprinkled with a cinnamon-chile mix
http://www.food52.com/recipes/15975_coffeebaked_sweet_potatoes_with_chili_spice_crme_frache_lime_cilantro

Or a Moroccan Carrot and Olive Salad with chile and black sesame

http://www.food52.com/recipes/14296_moroccan_carrot_and_olive_salad

I toss whole (lightly crushed) cardamom pods and a cinnamon stick into breakfast preparations of grains like couscous and quinoa

http://www.food52.com/recipes/14303_charentais_melon_with_spiced_quinoa_yogurt_and_pistachio
http://www.food52.com/recipes/16320_couscous_with_citrus_yogurt_and_almonds

I also use fennel seeds often to lend their anise flavor to pasta sauces with tomato or soups. Saffron is a favorite too- in rice, soup, or I've even baked saffron bread rolls.

 
drbabs March 22, 2012
One of my favorites is za'atar. It's a combination of thyme, sumac and sesame seeds and is used in middle eastern cooking. I discovered it on this site and I use it in tabouli, with fish and pasta, on flatbread, in soups. The roast potato recipe on this site is wonderful. Here's a link to the Food52 recipes using za'atar:
http://food52.com/recipe/Za'atar
 
BoulderGalinTokyo March 22, 2012
While I love this combination, be aware that some people can be allergic to sumac. My entire face swelled up.
 
drbabs March 22, 2012
Thanks for telling me!
 
healthierkitchen March 23, 2012
za'ater is really good sprinkled with a little olive oil on parsnip and then roasted.
 
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