Let's Talk About Spices: Introduction

If you ever plan to branch out and create your own recipes or tweak some of your favorites so that you enjoy them more, you're going to need to learn a little bit about spices.

I'll confess, these days I rarely cook using exact measurements of my recipes, I'll tweak the same recipe different ways depending on the day and depending on what I'm feeling like. Most of this isn't done analytically or by painstakingly deciding on those changes, it's tweaking the spices that I regularly use because I know what they taste like and what tweaking them will do.

Over the next few months I'll post several different short posts about some common spices and what you need to know about them. Whether there are good ways to compensate for over adding, or what alternatives are to some of the spices.

Remember, just because a recipe calls for a given spice doesn't mean you have to use it. Often they're just there for flavor, if they do impact the way that the recipe cooks then you can frequently use different options to make the recipe more to your tastes.

Here are a few tips on how to start figuring out the process of using spices.

  1. Figure out what flavors you like together. Think about some of your favorite dishes. Often it's the flavors in them that you enjoy. Some taste better together than others.
  2. Rice is your friend: Rice is cheap and accepts seasonings really well. You can cook a very small amount with a little seasoning. Try using garlic salt with oregano,  maybe try rosemary by itself. A little bit of spice and a little bit of rice can teach you what the different combinations taste like.
  3. Experiment with your favorite foods: The worst that can happen is it tastes worse than you thought it would. I guess that's a bad outcome, but if you're too afraid to experiment then you'll never be able to improve recipes on your own.