12.02.2009

I have been teaching a few cooking classes lately and I find that many individuals struggle with how to season foods. We can all open our cabinets in our kitchens and find a plethora of herbs and spices that we use all the time or don't use at all.

Most herbs and spices, if you have not used them for more than 6 months, toss them. They lose potency and flavors change. Herbs will lose their flavor even faster than spices.

I usually recommend about 5 savory flavors and one sweet flavor to arm your cooking cabinet with: Peppercorns (yes, you must grind them!), garlic powder, lemon pepper, chili powder, sea salt and cinnamon. Try to avoid "salts" of spices, it only cuts the flavor intensity and it also adds more salt to your diet. The powders (onion and garlic) are much more flavorful. All of these "basics" will work with many different meats and dishes. Cinnamon is also a great all-around spice for baking, cereals, breads, coffees, yogurt, etc. Did you know that cinnamon can also help control blood sugars and cholesterol levels?

Some seasoning basics:
1. Go on the lighter seasoning side - start off small, you can always add more but you cannot take it away
2. Stronger the flavor, the smaller amount you need - reference garlic powder vs garlic salt
3. Pre-season and re-season while food is still hot - warm foods will uptake flavors faster than warm foods. Season before you cook and add a little more once the food has reached temperature to give it a little flavor blast.
4. Go extra, extra light on salt, EVEN SEA SALT. There is no "healthy" salt. Work with other flavors than salt, you will be amazed how you really can bring out flavors in food without salt.

One of my new favorite herbs that I have been using is Gourmet Gardens squeezable herbs. These are amazing! They come in a tube and they are the next best thing to fresh. One of the greatest things about them, they keep in my freezer for up to 6 months.
www.gourmetgarden.com. Check them out!