Spices and Herbs: Delicious and Cost-Effective Flavor Enhancers

If you look at much of the cuisine around the globe, you'll notice that it's very simple but delicious. Beans and rice in Mexico, for example, or lentils in India. Why are these base dishes so yummy? The answer is simple: the seasonings. Herbs and spices have long been used as a cost-effective way to make even simple fare impossibly delicious, and that's as true now as it's always been. Here are a few you can use in your at-home cooking to take the taste to the next level.

Garlic

Garlic is a common flavor in dozens of cuisines around the world. Used in everything from traditional Italian Bolognese sauce to Middle Eastern hummus, garlic is an essential addition to anything that needs a flavor boost.

Citrus

Citrus is a frequently overlooked flavor that can completely overhaul a dish. For best results, try mixtures of the following citrus flavors: orange, lemon and lime zest; lemon zest and mint; orange zest, scallions and fresh cilantro; and lime zest and chipotle powder, which is particularly delicious on shredded chicken for tacos.

Herbal

Herbal flavors are standard in butter, roasted root vegetables, roasted birds, and dips. Common gotos include sage, rosemary, thyme, paprika, fennel and fresh dill.

Earthy

Earthy tastes are common in ethnic cuisines and can include the flavors of ginger, cinnamon, and black pepper; cardamom, coriander and bay; and cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and mustard seeds.

Sweet

Sweet flavors dominate simple baked dishes, such as cinnamon crumble coffee cake, and can take an ordinary pie from good to great. Standard combinations include cinnamon, ginger powder, nutmeg and clove; orange zest and cocoa; and green cardamom and vanilla.

Make Your Own

Exciting "make-your-own" spices include garam masala (a mixture of cumin, coriander, clove, cinnamon, cardamom, and pepper) and pumpkin spice (a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and clove), both of which have a host of unique uses.

Salt and Herbed Salt Blends

Popular in everything from dips to chilis and even roasted poultry and fish, salt and herbed salt blends add mouth-watering flavor to everyday dishes.

The Secret to More Delicious Cooking

The chef's best-kept secret is simple: Great meals start with great herbs and spices. By learning to use exotic and familiar herbs and spices in everyday dishes, it's easier than ever to make a delicious meal without breaking the bank.

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