Tired of the basics of cooking at home? There are plenty of herbs and spices to make any meal stand out. All you need to know is how to use them.
Common mixes like jerk seasoning, curry powder and poultry mix join more obscure mixes like za’atar, tajín and ras el hanout as some of the best spice compounds in the world. Find out what they contain and how to use them with this manual guide.
Greek table seasoning
If you’re a fan of gyros or kebabs, you’ve probably tried a Greek table seasoning or two. A blend of Mediterranean flavors, Greek Table Seasoning includes paprika, oregano, cumin, onion, rosemary, marjoram, and thyme (and sometimes saffron). Besides being the perfect blend for Greek dishes, use Greek Table Seasoning to sprinkle in salads or on sautéed vegetables to inject some old-school flavor into any recipe.
Along with the complex and elegant blend of flavors of the Greek table seasoning, it’s a trip to ancient times. Sitting at the center of primitive trade routes, pepper and cloves arrived from the Far East while red saffron stalks arrive via myth – three stamens from three drops of blood when Hermes accidentally killed his lover Krokos in part of disc.
Say goodbye to corn syrup barbecue sauce and sugary ketchup at your next meal. Instead, institute nuanced spices and complex flavors to your meat and/or carbs with harissa sauce.
Originating from the northwestern Maghreb Arab region of Africa, the main ingredients of hot pepper paste/spice are roasted red peppers, Baklouti peppers, garlic paste, caraway seeds, coriander seeds , cumin and olive oil to envelop the flavors.
If that sounds spicy, it is – but don’t burn your tongue. Harissa Sauce brings a subtle heat to make chicken wings, burgers and salmon dance on the tongue. For a dash of dressing or to flavor bland vegetables, brush on harissa from New York Shuk’s Middle Eastern Pantry.
Want to add some extra spice to your kitchen? Add a little Berbère, a North African spice blend of cayenne, paprika, Urfa pepper, coriander, cardamom, ginger and fenugreek.
The word “berbere” means “hot”, derived from the Semitic Amharic language of East Africa. Common to Ethiopia and Eritrea, whether or not the spice blend is spicy depends on the blend you use.
Whether or not the Berber blend brings the heat, the elaborate spice pairs well with just about anything. Sub berbere in recipes that call for a pinch of cayenne pepper or red pepper. Sprinkle the spice blend over sautéed vegetables to bring out your edibles, use it to season meats and poultry, or add a kick of flavor to stews and dishes.
Jamaican Jerk Seasoning
Where the heat of harissa is a vine, the jolt hits your palate right off the bat. Sprinkle some jerk seasoning (along with a little lime juice) over the components of your meal.
Originating in the New World, Jamaican jerk is one of the oldest spice blends. Its tradition borrows cooking techniques and styles from former African slaves in combination with Taíno traditions. The once-enslaved Maroons, who populated the inland mountains of Jamaica, developed the jerk seasoning over the decades. Jerk is seasoned, smoked and grilled meat with a wide variety of spices, alliums, herbs and peppers.
This native Jamaican spice blend combines onion, garlic, allspice, scallion, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon and more to deliver a vibrant shine of the Caribbean on the tongue. Jerk seasoning is traditionally sprinkled on grilled chicken, goat or pork, but it also works with potatoes and vegetables.
From the old blends, we move on to one of the newer blends on the list. That hasn’t stopped the Mexican tajín from becoming ubiquitous across the country.
Owner Tajín has a fairly short history, only dating back to 1985 (and not even being available in the US until 1993). When it was invented in Guadalajara, Mexico, it didn’t take long for the tart red powder to become a household name – or, as Mexican food historian Gustavo Arellano put it in New York Times, “Tajín is a way of life”.
Made from a blend of dehydrated lime, salt, arbol, guajillo, and pasilla peppers, the blend brightens fruits and vegetables like mango, corn, cucumber, and pineapple around the world Latin. Tajín is not limited to producing, however. The spice blend also brings out the best in chips, popcorn and, of course, glass rims to complement the Michelada any time of the day.
The name of the Yemeni spice mix hawaij (pronounced “huh-why-adge”) simply means “mixture” in Arabic. This generality results in two types of hawaij – salty and sweet. Salty spices (any combination of cumin, cardamom, coriander, turmeric and black pepper) are added to dishes like vegetables. The aromatic sweet substance, which may include cardamom, ginger, cloves, anise, fennel, cinnamon, nutmeg and/or cloves, is used in the preparation of coffee and the baking of desserts, in addition to stewed meat dishes.
Herbs of Provence
About its name, Herbes de Provence comes from Provence, France, which borders the Mediterranean near the Italian border. Now found in North American kitchens across Europe, Julia Child in fact played a vital role in the introduction and popularization of the spice compound, a blend of the region’s finest endemic spices and herbs – oregano, bay leaf, fennel, chervil, tarragon, thyme, marjoram. , savory, rosemary and/or basil.
With this combo, the mix is one of the most utilitarian herbal concoctions. Add Herbes de Provence to fish, chicken, cheeses, olives, vegetables and even sauces to bring a green, earthy flavor to almost any dish. then this is a spice blend you’ll always want to have on hand.
There are few American spice blends better known or more characteristic of a particular region than Cajun spices. Hailing from Louisiana, the Cajun spice has helped New Orleans earn a reputation for offering some of the best food in the country. While there’s an almost endless diversity of dishes and styles in the region, there’s nothing more authentic than a typical Cajun bite.
The word Cajun comes from the Acadians, French settlers who first settled in Acadia in northeastern Canada. The pioneers, however, were driven out by the British during the Franco-Indian War in the mid-1700s. Many displaced Acadians ended up in Louisiana, then French territory. Their cooking traditions intertwined with the hot ingredients available in the region – garlic, cayenne, red and other peppers – in concert with Native and African American cooking traditions.
If you haven’t experienced its vibrant bite yet, Cajun spice can be used on just about anything, from slow-cooked barbecue to fish to vegetables. (Cajun is similar to its regional Creole cousin, but the latter does not typically call for tomatoes in recipes.)
Za’atar is a Middle Eastern herb related to mint. Referring to za’atar in the kitchen, however, it’s only part of an enduring mix that can bring a tangy, earthy nuttiness to anything it comes across.
With a blend of oregano, sumac, sesame seeds, thyme, marjoram, dill, orange peel, hyssop, carroway, specific zaatar recipes vary, often to match preferences taste. In Middle Eastern dishes, you will often find za’atar over hummus or labneh. Za’atar can also be spun with oil and brushed with grits and pita bread and grilled. The spice can also be rubbed on meats or tossed on vegetables to bring out their green flavor.
Note: if you use the zaatar in a cold dish, be sure to bloom it with heat to release all its flavors.
Cooking can be intimidating if you approach it with too much caution and too little knowledge. Come armed with some information, however, and you can turn this into a wonderful culinary laboratory.