Introduction: The Basic Kitchen: Cooking With Spice

So I've been exploring and expanding my culinary tastes. Originally it started out trying to eat healthier, but then I wanted to try new recipes. I recently received a couple of fantastic cooking books that have been extremely helpful. I've learned that spices, used in moderation, can enhance a simple meal. This is such a fantastic life skill.

These spices are the staples I now keep in my kitchen.

Step 1: Parsley Flakes

Parsley is best used when fresh. However, it's difficult trying to keep fresh parsley in the house so I've been used dried. There's a difference, but since I'm not a culinary expert, I don't notice it much.

Parsley is a staple because it goes with almost anything and blends well.

I love parsley in my pasta sauce. I typically use parsley in conjunction with garlic because I find the flavors balance well. I typically use parsley with potatoes, chicken, and fish.

Step 2: Cilantro

Cilantro is a very unique flavor I think. For me, it signals spring and summer. It's light but the flavor packs a punch so don't over do it. I add it at the last minute so the flavor doesn't cook out of whatever dish I'm preparing.

Cilantro is typically used for a cooling effect in a spicy dish. I find it works well with lemon and lime juices, particular in marinades.

Side note - I make a copy-cat of Chipotle's rice with this. I cook my rice with water, like normal, but add in a couple squirts of lime juice. Then, when it's done cooking I load it up with cilantro and serve.

Step 3: Chives

Chives I've found are very similar to cilantro, although with a bit more of an onion flavor.

My favorite place to use chives is fresh potatoes. I've also found that work well in omelets and anything with sour cream.

Step 4: Oregano

There are many varieties of oregano from mild to spicy. The leaf oregano I find in the store tends to have a bit of a kick to it, but a nice one at that.

Oregano is another one I love in my pasta sauce. Also - don't ever use this is desserts. It doesn't work. I tried and failed.

I find oregano goes well with basil. It also is a great pizza topper. It works with fish, but I find it goes so much better with red meats. Fish seems to take on too much of the flavor.

Step 5: Dill

Dill has bit of a sour taste to it. I really only use dill in my pickling recipe. Dill works well with cilantro and surprisingly mint.

Dill can typically be found with fish and eggs.

Step 6: Red Pepper - Crushed

I love red pepper. However, I've made mistakes with it before and it's easy to do so. (Read: I made potatoes slices and added way to too much. you had to douse them in ketchup just to eat them.)

I typically add red pepper at the end, so the heat doesn't invade the rest of the meal. I'm not usually a fan of spicy foods, but this in moderation is a wonderful addition.

This goes wonderful in Mexican food and as an ingredient in a red meat rub.

Step 7: Coriander

Coriander is a new one I've been using. I'm not completely sold on this one yet, but I'm including it because I'm exploring it's possibilities.

Coriander is extremely strong and flavorful, with a sour taste although a bit fruity. I found it balances nicely with garlic and olive oil. I use it in marinades with chicken.

Step 8: Black Pepper

Black pepper is a staple if you don't have anything else. It goes with so much, particularly steak. It adds a nice warmth to any dish, as long as you don't over use it. Lemon and lime juice goes well with it. I will admit, black pepper has a lot of different flavors to it. I think the experts refer to this as "complex". but I think that's why it goes with everything.

Step 9: Salt

Salt is fantastic. A lit bit goes a long way. There are a variety of different kinds, from kosher to hawaiian to smoked and sea. I keep standard salt in the house. Salt lessens bitter, sour, and sweet favors. But it brings out the flavor of the meat itself. I particularly like it with BBQ. It also goes with pretzels and cocktails. I always add a pinch of salt to my water when I make pasta. It gets absorbed into the pasta and flavors it.