Cupid did his magic with arrows, we mere mortals entice our subjects through culinary magic (among others things)-- with aromatic flavors and scents through the use of spices, herbs, food flavorings, salt and the piquant heat of peppers, and of course, aphrodisiacs. The following chart includes herbs, spices and minerals used in preparing simple, gourmet, exotic and/or cultural dishes.
On a blistery cold winter's night soup becomes my comfort food and this Thai Curry Chicken Soup with sweet potato surely did the trick. I consider this an easy recipe with one caveat--you may need to invest in an array of Asian spices that you might not typically find in your pantry such as Thai Curry Paste, Nam Pla or Nuoc Nam Fish Sauce, and all kinds of chilis. But trust me, once you have these exotic flavors as part of your repertoire you will search for more Thai recipes to explore the seductive flavors of this cuisine.
Ajowain Seeds, also known as Carom or Bishops Weeds are mostly used in Middle Eastern cooking. Similar to celery seeds in appearance, when ajowan seeds are crushed they impart a thyme-cumin fragrance.
Use to flavor and season breads, beans, pastry, biscuits, vegetable.
Allspice, also known as Jamaica Pepper, is the dried, unripened fruit of a small evergreen tree. It releases a flavor of a peppery blend of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. It is an assertive spice so use sparingly. Despite its name this is a spice not a blend. Jamaican Allspice is considered the best.
Ancho Pepper is a dried green Poblano pepper. The flavor is somewhat sweet with a little heat (medium). The outer skin has a rich, sweet, raisin-like flavor while the inner veins of the pepper are quite hot.
Uses: Adds flavor, heat and color to sauces, chili, and BBQ sauce. Also works well with meat and seafood dishes.
Anise or Aniseed is a dried ripe fruit of a flower with a sweet licorice like flavor. This spice comes as seeds or crushed/ground; roasting will enhance the flavor.
Use in: soups, desserts, cookies, breads, cheese, savory stews, and drinks. It works well with seafood.
Arrowroot Powder is a white powder and like cornstarch it has no flavor, and is used as a thickening agent for sauces, puddings and pie fillings.
Raw, asafoetida has a strong bitter taste and a pungent aroma, however when cooked it changes and imparts an onion like flavor, with a strong odor – use sparingly.
Use in rice dishes and soups.
Aux Fine Herbs is a term for a mix of fresh finely crushed herbs typically parsley, chervil, chives, and tarragon)
Use in soup and soup stock
Basil is best when used fresh. European basil has a light anise taste, while domestic basil is sweeter and stronger.
Use in: pesto sauce, salads, soup, stuffing, bouquet garni, as a garnish, on sandwiches.
Bay Leaves are most commonly used in sauces and soups. The dried leaves of the evergreen bay laurel tree, bay leaves boast an aromatic, spicy flavor. The Turkish bay leaf is the one most using for cooking.
Use in: sauces, soup, stuffing, stews, tomato sauce and chili
Bell Peppers come in different shapes and the colors. The colors vary based on when the pepper is picked; the green color is the first stage of a pepper’s life and yields the sharpest flavor. Red, yellow and orange peppers are picked a few days or weeks later and give way to a more mellow flavor.
Black Pepper, the strongest of the green, white and black peppercorns that come from the same plant, is sold finely ground, coarsely ground or cracked.
Used in Japanese dishes such as soups, sauces, and sprinkled over tofu dishes.
Dried kelp and dried bonito flakes are used to make the Japanese soup stock “dashi” which is the foundation of many soups and sauces. You can find Instant dashi granules at Japanese stores (or I would imagine online).
Bouguet Garni are similar to Aux Fine Herbs, however the herbs used to flavor foods are enclosed in a cheesecloth, immersed in a soup or stew and discarded before serving.
Use in sauces, soup, stews.
Caraway Seeds impart a nutty flavor. A member of the parsley family, caraway seeds are actually a fruit but so often termed a seed, we’ll go with it.
Uses: breads, muffins, scones, deserts, vegetables, potatoes, coleslaw, stews and soups.
Cardamon is sweet in flavor and a member of the ginger family. It is one of the more expensive spices and comes as seeds or ground. Cardamom is best stored in pod form; once the seeds are exposed or ground, they quickly lose their flavor.
Use to flavors your coffee, desserts, fruit compotes and waffle or pancake batter, works really well with honey.
Turn up the heat with Cayenne Pepper, a ground red pepper that is relatively hot. Mostly used in powder form, when a savory dish needs an extra kick you can turn to Cayenne Pepper.
Uses: Goes well with eggs, vegetables, meat, poultry, and seafood. Use in sauces, soups, dressings, salsas, chili and so much more! Often used as an ingredient in hot sauces and in Cajun-Creole dishes.
Celery Seed is the dried fruit of the wild celery plant, which is related to, but not identical, to the vegetable celery plant.
Use in: soups, stews, chowders, pickling brine, coleslaw, bouguet garni, and curry spice blends. Sprinkle over vegetables, seafood and add to Bloody Marys.
A delicate, mild herb, Chervil, a member of the parsley family, imparts a sweet aromatic flavor akin to an anise-basil like flavor. Best when used to finish a dish or used in a recipe with a short cooking time.
Use in: soups, poultry, seafood, vegetables, salad dressings.
Mixed in the East Coast Bay area, ingredients may vary: salt, mustard seed, bay leaf, paprika, celery, chili pepper, black and red pepper, dill weed, dill seed, caraway, allspice, cardamom, thyme, ginger, mace, cinnamon, savory and cloves.
Use in: crab dishes, seafood, poultry, beef, cocktail or BBQ sauce, topping on foods such as popcorn, eggs and salads.
Chili Pepper, a hot spice, is available in many forms such as chili powder, chili oil, chili paste, and chili sauce. Chili powder is a ground up mixture of spices/powders such as coriander, cumin, oregano, cloves, garlic, onion, etc.
Chili Powder is a mixed seasoning. The ground, dried fruit of one or more varieties of chili pepper, chili powder is used to add heat to dishes.
Uses: mexican dishes, salsas, chutneys, sauces, Chili. Used in many recipes to spice up poultry, meat and seafood dishes.
Chipotle Peppers are dried, smoked, Jalapeños with a distinct smoky,almost chocolate flavor and a hot spicy kick.
Uses: mexican dishes, guacamole, salsas, chutneys, and sauces. Heat up your poultry, meat and seafood dishes with this all time favorite.
Chives, a member of the onion family, possess a delicate, mild peppery onion flavor.
uses: salads, soup, sauces, dips, potatoes, seafood, and as a garnish
In its purest form chocolate has a bitter taste. After it is roasted and ground the resulting product is chocolate or cocoa. Various ingredients including sugar, vanilla and flavored liquors yield bittersweet, semi-sweet and sweet varieties.
Uses: drinks, desserts, sauces such as Mole, chili, I recently saw Chocolate pasta. And let’s not forget chocolate body sauce for the truly adventurous.
Cilantro, Fresh or Dried. Also called Chinese Parsley, fresh cilantro is one of the most aromatic herbs you can find next to basil and rosemary. Cilantro is the leaf of the Coriander plant.
Use in: salads, salsas, dips (Guacamole), soups, vegetable dishes. Used in many international dishes.
Cinnamon comes in both stick and powder form. It imparts a sweet flavor that blends well with other flavors.
Used in Many Indian dishes. Uses: hot and cold drinks, desserts, chili, spice rubs, sweet potatoes, over pancakes and french toast. Can also cook with beef and stews; and of course this is a classic mixed with chocolate.
Cloves come ground or whole and are the strongest of all aromatic spices, emitting a strong spicy, floral fragrance. Use sparingly otherwise you will find your dish carries a bitter taste.
Uses: hot drinks, mulled cider, chocolate dessert and drinks. Fastened to onions to flavor soups and broths.
Coriander Seeds are seeds of the herb Cilantro (Chinese parsley) that present a mild sweet, lemony-citrus, nutty flavor when crushed.
Use in: pickle brine and marinades, flavoring for desserts such as apple pie and sweet pastries, a key spice in Garam Masala and Indian curries.
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes are dried and crushed red chile peppers. They add a nice smokey, medium-hot kick to your dishes.
Uses: Sprinkled over pasta and pizza, in sauces, spice rubs, marinades, sausages, soup and stews.
Cumin, mostly associated with Indian, Thai and Mexican dishes, imparts an aromatic yet bitter taste. It is a key ingredient in curry powder and chili powder, comes whole as seed or ground.
Use in: soups, stews, curries, chili, salad dressing, vegetable dishes.
Curry Powder is a blend of many spices, making each curry unique. There are sweet curries, hot curries, strong and/or mild.
Uses: many Indian dishes, sauces, dressings, and spice rubs. Use with meat, poultry, seafood and vegetables dishes.
Dill comes fresh and as dried leaves--it is best when used fresh and raw. This herb has a delicate flavor that is quite agreeable with salads. If using dill in a hot dish add it just before serving--it loses its flavor in the heat.
Use in: salads, salad dressing, marinades, and sauces. Try Fresh dill and Gravalax and seafood dishes.
Dill seeds have a more potent flavor than fresh dill. taste a bit like caraway seeds and are used as a spice.
Uses: Salad dressings, flavoring for pickling
Fennel smells like licorice / aniseed, adding a sweet fragrance to dishes. The bulb, foliage, and seeds of the fennel plant are widely used in many of the culinary traditions of the world. Dried fennel seed is an aromatic, anise-flavored spice.
Use in: egg and fish dishes, sausage, marinades, soup, bread, sauces
Fenugreek Seeds emit an aromatic strong bitter flavor (use sparingly), while toasted fenugreek seeds yield a more nutty flavour. It is typically used in Indian dishes.
Uses: Ingredient in curry powder, vegetable dishes, pickles, chutneys.
Five Spice Powder or Chinese Five-Spice powder is a convenient seasoning in Chinese cuisine. It incorporates the five basic flavors of Chinese cooking — sweet, sour, bitter, savory, and salty. It is a spice mixture of Sichuan peppercorns, fennel, star anise, cinnamon and cloves. Uses: soup, stir-fry. seasoning for beef, pork, chicken or duck. Used in Cantonese Roasted Duck
Garam Masala is a blend of ground spices common in the Indian cuisine, whose literal meaning is 'hot (or warm) spice'. Add at the end of the cooking process or sprinkle over your dish. Ingredients vary; may include cardamom, roasted cumin, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, coriander, and other spices.
Uses: Many Indian dishes, flavoring for meat dishes, curries, soups.
Garlic is a must for every pantry. So many dishes rely on garlic for its rich flavor. Pop a whole garlic in the oven, squeeze out the pulp from each clove, spread on some crusty bread and watch a true aphrodisiac at work. Roasting garlic mellows out the flavor and brings forth its nutty flavor. Added bonus—its medicinal qualities.
Garlic salt and Garlic Powder is a mixture of dried ground garlic and table salt, often used as a substitute of garlic. It should not be mistaken with minced garlic, granulated garlic, or garlic powder, which are just ground dried garlic, sold as spices.
Use with:vegetables, meat, poultry, seafood, pasta, rice, potatoes…just about anything.
The Garlic Chive, or Chinese Garlic Chive emits a much stronger flavor then your regular chive—it is much more like garlic than the mellow flavor of a chive. You’ll know when you open your refrigerator door these babies are in there. The stems can be woody so trim tough stems before use. Use in: soups, stews, dumplings, stir fry
Ginger: Fresh Ginger imparts a strong fragrant spicy flavor. You can add ginger to cruciferous vegetables (broccoli and Brussels sprouts) to cut the “cabbage” flavor. Uses: Great spice for salmon and seafood, desserts, vegetables, cold and hot drinks, juice
Ginger, powdered is often used as a flavoring for sweet and savory dishes and yields a different flavor than fresh ginger.
Use in: desserts, cookies, gingerbread houses
Ginseng is a type of aromatic root, highly prized by Asian cultures as an aphrodisiac and a medicinal herb. While recognized more for its medicinal qualities, it is also incorporated into cooking and teas.
Uses: Teas, energy drinks/shakes, rice, stir-fry dishes
"Graines Ã roussir" is a West Indies spice mix made up of cumin, fenugreek and mustard. Often used in the creole cooking
The hottest pepper in the world, about 60 times the heat of a jalapeno, it starts out with an innocent fruity, floral flavor followed by an intense heat. Note: wash your hands when handling this pepper and DO NOT touch your eyes during food prep.
Used as an ingredient in hot sauces, sauces, salsas, chillis.
Herbs de Provence are a mixture of dried herbs from Provence typically containing rosemary, marjoram, basil, bay leaf, thyme, and sometimes lavender flowers and other herbs. The proportions vary and Thyme usually dominates the taste. Uses: To flavor grilled fish, meat, vegetables, soups and stews.
Horseradish refers to the grated root of the plant mixed with vinegar. Horseradish has a biting flavor and aroma. Prepared horseradish, commonly used in Bloody Mary’s, is white to creamy-beige in color. It will keep for months refrigerated but eventually will start to darken and should be replaced. Horseradish is a key ingredient in Bloody Mary cocktails
Indian five-spice, not to be confused with Chinese Five-Spice; is a mixture of equal parts of fennel, cumin, whole brown mustard seed, fenugreek, and nigella.
Italian Seasoning is a blend of herbs that vary in blends depending on the manufacturer / chef. Ingredients can include oregano, parsley, marjoram, garlic powder, dried basil, dried thyme, dried rosemary, black pepper, onion powder and red pepper flakes.
Uses: Flavoring for pizza, tomato sauce, soups, stews, salad dressing
The most popular pepper, thanks to popular Mexican cuisine, the jalapeno pepper has the richest flavor of all the small chiles. Can be green (mature) or red (sweeter).
Use in: Mexican dishes like quacamole, sauces and salsas. Heat up your special soup, seafood, poultry, meat, and vegetables dish with this little HOT pepper.
Juniper berries impart a strong, slightly sweet “piney” flavor. Typically sold as dried berries, they are used whole or crushed. Remove the berries before serving your dish.
Uses: Juniper berry sauce or marinades served over quail, veal, rabbit, pheasant and other meat dishes. Best known as the primary flavoring for Gin.
Kaffir Lime: Essential to many Thai dishes, the leaf is a wonderful aromatic addition to foods. Dry and frozen kaffir lime leaves are also available.
Use in: soups. stir fry, curry and salads.
Lavenderis newcomer in most American kitchens, unlike the French who have been using it for many years as a flavorful ingredient typically found in herbes de Provence. English lavenders (i.e. pink lavender Melissa) have the sweetest flavors and are favored for culinary use.
Use in: desserts, jams and jellies, grilled lamb and poultry; flavoring for citrus drinks such as lemonade.
Lemon Grass is a pungent, lemon-scented herb that blends well with garlic, chili peppers and cilantro. Fresh lemon grass is preferred for its full flavour, however you can also buy this in dried form.
Use in: soups, stews, curries, chili and seafood dishes.
Lemon Verbena is a fragrant, sweet, lemony herb. You can use lemon verbena in place of lemon zest in recipes.
Use in: teas and baked goods, custards, fruit salads.
Mace and Nutmeg can be used interchangeably as Mace is the covering of the nutmeg seed. Both present a nutty flavor and are used mostly for baking. Freshly grated nutmeg and mace will yield a more intense flavor, Use as flavoring for Apple pie, in eggnog, sweet potatoes, sauces, soup, stuffing, desserts and vegetable dishes.
Marjoram is very similar to oregano, although Marjoram ha a more delicate sweeter flavor.
Use in: salad, salad dressings, soup and chowders, sausages, lamb, beef, pork, chicken, fish, tomato dishes, stuffings, and breads.
Mint is sold fresh in sprigs or dried as minced leaves. It imparts a fresh, aromatic, sweet flavor with a cool after taste.
Uses: teas, beverages, jellies, syrups, candies, and ice creams, savoury dishes, salads, sauces, vegetables (particularly peas), rice pilaf, fruits and chocolate
Mustard comes in powder or seed form with yellow being the most common, although the seeds grow brown and black too. Dry mustard is used in salad dressings, egg and cheese dishes.
Use in: salad dressing, pickling brine, meat and seafood dishes, vegetables, sauces, soup. Indian cuisine.
Nutmeg and Mace can be used interchangeably as Mace is the covering of the nutmeg seed. Both present a nutty flavor and are used mostly for baking. Freshly grated nutmeg and mace will yield a more intense flavor.
Use as flavoring for apple pie, in eggnog, sweet potatoes, sauces, soup, stuffing, desserts and vegetable dishes.
Onions can be fried, sauteed, grilled, and roasted. There are many varieties each with unique flavors and tastes: white onions, pearl onions, Vidalia onions, Walla Walla, yellow onions, red onions, shallots, chives, leeks and scallions.
Uses: sauces, dressings, salads, soups, meat, poultry, seafood, pasta, potatoes, rice and you name it!
Oregano can be used fresh or dried. Unlike most other herbs this dried herb is often more flavourful than the fresh.
Use in: tomato Sauce, vegetables and meat dishes, salad, salad dressing, marinades and sauces.
Paprika is made from dried sweet red peppers and possesses a mild sweet flavor. It is also recognized as a “spice coloring”. The finest paprika is from Hungary. Best known for spicing up European dishes such as goulash and chicken paprikash.
Used in poultry and Meat rubs. Sprinkle as a garnish on colorless foods.
Parsley is one of the most popular herbs for cooking and garnishing foods. Flat-leaf parsley tends to have a better flavor.
Uses: works well with vegetables, pasta, meat, poultry, seafood, sauces and stocks.
Pepper—what food doesn’t benefit from a good grinding of pepper? Pepper comes finely ground, cracked or coarsely ground. While black pepper is the most common, you will also find red, pink, green and white varieties. Be creative here, try watermelon with a dash of black pepper, or strawberries and ricotta cheese served with a balsamic/pepper sauce.
Uses: You name it!
The Poblano Pepper is a relatively mild chili with a bell pepper flavor. Commonly used in Mexico, it is often used for stuffed pepper dishes and holds up to grilling. Remember to remove the skin before cooking. The poblano pepper is known as Ancho when dried. Use in: soups, sauces, chili, stuffed Poblano dishes (chili relleno)
Poppy Seeds are very small in size with a nut-like in flavor.
Use in: baking goods, breads, vegetables and salad dressing.
Rose Water is mostly used in Persian cooking. Perhaps best recognized for its use in marzipan, which is a sweet confection made from ground almonds and sugar and traditionally flavored with rose water. Use in: sweet drinks, baked goods, yogurt dishes
Rosemary can be used as fresh or dried leaves. Fresh rosemary is one of the most wonderful scents you will find from an herb. When using fresh rosemary strip the leaves from the main branch and chop the leaves before adding to a recipe. Rosemary is found in bouquet garni, herbes de Provence, and seasoning blends. Use in: soups, Stews, stuffing, vegetables, meat, poultry and lamb, marinades and rubs
The most expensive spice in the World,saffron is the stigma of the purple saffron crocus, of which there are only 3. It blooms for 2-3 weeks and takes about 200,000 stigmas to make a pound. Mostly used for color, saffrom imparts a warm spicy, bitter flavor. Use sparingly otherwise there is a medicinal flavor. Use in: soups, curries, seafood, rice, vegetables and sweet baked goods
Sage has a slightly pepper, bitter flavor. Fresh is best, but dried is good. Use in: soups, stews, marinades, flavoring for Sausage and stuffing, pasta dishes. Works well with vegetables and roast meat and poultry
While this is neither spice nor herb, this mineral is used in so many recipes and comes in a variety of forms, I have included it.
A rosemary-like herb and a member of the mint family, savory imparts a peppery flavor with a minty-thyme kick.
Use In: salads, soups, tomato sauce, stuffing, eggs, and sauces for veal, fish and poultry.
Serrano Pepper, a blazing hot pepper, about five times hotter than the jalapeno. Remove the veins and seeds before use.
Use In: vegetable dishes, soups, stews, salsas, quacamole and many Mexican dishes.
Sesame Seeds are flat, lightly sweet seeds. When toasted their flavor intensifies, imparting a nuttier flavor. Try ground and added to dipping sauces.
Use in: breads, rolls, baked goods, cookies, pastries and chocolate creations. Chicken pork, beef and vegetable dishes.
Shallots are part of the onion family. They have the sweetest, mildest flavor of all the onions therefore can be used in a wide range of dishes.
Use In: salads, salad dressings, egg dishes, vegetables, meat, poultry, lamb and many other dishes.
known for its sour, citrus flavor, sorrell is used as a vegetable and an aromatic herb.
Use in: soups, sauces, potatoes, vegetables, eggs, fish.
Star Anise gets its name from the star shaped pod that holds its seed. With a sweet aroma, star anise releases a taste of aniseed or licorice. It is a dominant flavor of Chinese Five-Spice powder and a key ingredient of Sambucca.
Use in: seasonings, soups, fruit compotes, jams, vegetable, egg, roast pork and beef dishes.
Tamarind is usually found dried or packaged as a paste with or without the seeds. It comes in brown pods that contain small seeds and a very tart, tangy pulp and typically is used in cooking as an acid or souring agent.
Use in: dressing, chutneys, soups, stir-fry, grilled lamb, beef, rice and beans.
Tandoori Spice is a custom blend made up of 1 tablespoon each of garlic salt, paprika / 2 tablespoons each of cayenne, ground coriander, ground cumin and ground ginger / ½ teaspoon ground cardamom and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon (1/2 cup). Use in flavoring for vegetables, meat, poultry, and rice
Tarragon has a strong, aromatic scent and flavor reminiscent of anise--use sparingly. It is often used in French cooking. Use In: Sauces (béarnaise sauce), dressing and flavored vinegar, salad dressing, chicken, fish and egg dishes
Thyme, the ultimate French herb has a pungent and mint-like in flavor. Use In: Soups, stews, stuffings, sausage, meats, stews, fish, poultry and game. Thyme is used as part of bouquet garni, herbes de Provence, and curry blends.
Turmeric, known as a coloring agent, is bright yellow orange and usually sold as a ground powder.
Use In: chutneys, pickles, rice and mustard (its what gives mustard its yellow color)
Vanilla is most commonly used for producing sweet, delicate extracts and flavors. It comes in two forms: the more subtle flavor of the vanilla bean and vanilla extract—the best is Pure vanilla extract.
Use In: baked goods, puddings, cookies, eggnog, ice-cream and let's not forget egg-creams.
Wasabi comes in paste and powder form and has an extremely strong flavor. Its hotness is more like hot mustard than a hot pepper, producing vapors that "tingle" the nasal passages as you smell it or eat it. Also known as Japanese horseradish, Wasabi is the fiery condiment served with sushi or sashimi, usually accompanied with soy sauce.