Or, cooking 101.
Food is always better when properly seasoned. You'll enjoy cooking a lot more once you've mastered the herb and spice basics. The food will taste better, smell better, and impress your friends/family/coworkers/pets. Hooray!
I'm going to go over the seasonings I keep in my kitchen and use frequently. You don't necessarily need all of these to cook - I just tend to go a little nuts. ;)
These will also be listed in alphabetical order so you can find what you're looking for easily!
Have any suggestions for ways to use a certain herb/spice or a herb or spice that should be added? Tell me in the comments section. Let's collaborate! :D
( I apologize for the duplicate pictures and the one that I stole from wikipedia. Turns out I need to go shopping for a few things. ;) )
Step 1: Herb basics!
Most herbs can be found dried or fresh and can be used either way with ease. Herbs are considered ro be the leaves and greener parts of the plant - the seeds, bark, roots, etc. are normally considered a spice. Some plants are both. :)
Fresh herbs are great for garnishes and they provide bold flavor. They have great aromatic qualities and work very well for roasting and sauteing, or for chopping and mixing into foods such as mashed potatoes. Yum!
I haven't had a ton of luck growing herbs... well, except for mint. Mint is very low maintenance! I tend to buy fresh herbs and store them in the fridge in a ziploc bag with a slightly damp paper towel wrapped around the stems. Parsley, cilantro, and basil have all stayed nice and fresh with this method. :)
Dried herbs are best when used with oil (or butter, fat) or water - this way they can infuse the oil or cooking liquid. Make sure to crush the herbs with your fingers or saute them a bit to wake them up. Crushing a bunch of them in a mortar and pestle also works very well.
I tend to use more when I use a dried herb. Most dried herbs lose a significant amount of spunk when dried - especially basil, oregano and sage. Rosemary and thyme hold up a little better.
This is why it's so important to keep tasting during cooking!