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TIP OF THE DAY: Freeze-Dried Herbs In Everything

The trick to adding more flavor to everything you eat, with negligible calories—and the ability to cut back on salt—are spices and herbs.


  • Spices are the dried seeds, buds, fruit or flower parts, bark or roots of plants. They are usually of tropical origin.
  • Herbs are the leaves and sometimes the flowers of plants, usually grown in a climate similar to the Mediterranean.
  • Aromatics: In culinary terms, both herbs and spices fall into the category of aromatics. (Now you know what those Top Chef contestants were referring to!)
    Today we’re focusing on herbs.

    A few months ago we received a shipment of Instantly Fresh freeze-dried herbs from Litehouse, and have been happily adding them to just about everything.



    Two of the numerous freeze-dried, “Instantly Fresh” herbs from Litehouse.

    Litehouse freeze-dries every herb you could need for daily cooking: basil, chives, cilantro, dill, garlic, ginger, Italian herb blend, jalapeños, lemongrass, oregano, parsley, poultry herb blend, red onion, sage, salad herb blend, spring onion and thyme.

    What does all this choice mean? That you have some “herbing” to do!

    Whether you’re cooking breakfast eggs, making soup, mashing potatoes, broiling, roasting, sautéing or simply reheating or microwaving—think of what herb would brighten the dish.

    You don’t have to go exotic. A basic complement of basil, chives, garlic, oregano and parsley will do.



    Cole slaw, potato salad and protein salads
    (chicken, egg, tuna, etc.) all benefit from
    added dill, plus parsley. Photo courtesy
    Cheesecake Factory.



    Freeze-drying is a dehydration process used to preserve perishables. The food is quickly frozen and the surrounding air pressure is then reduced. This allows the frozen water in the product to go directly from the solid phase to the gas phase, avoiding the liquid phase.

    The process delivers more of the taste, aroma and nutrition of fresh herbs, compared to conventional drying.

    And the unopened food can be stored at room temperature without refrigeration for years. The greatly reduced water content inhibits the action of microorganisms and enzymes that would otherwise spoil or degrade the substance.

    When freeze-dried herbs are rehydrated by contact with moisture (the liquid in the recipe itself or other ingredients in the recipe), they reconstitute into a close approximation of their former fresh selves.


    So your task this week is to look at everything you serve and match at least one herb to it (don’t hesitate to use two or more):

  • Bread: create your own bread dippers by adding herbs to olive oil and add a green herb to garlic bread
  • Main Dish: anything goes
  • Pasta: beyond the Italian basics—basil, oregano and parsley—try other herbs like dill, rosemary, thyme and sage
  • Pizza: ditto!
  • Sandwich/Wrap have fun with it!
  • Sauce/Condiment ditto!
  • Side Dish: once you sprinkle herbs onto potatoes, rice and vegetables, you’ll be hooked
  • Soup: what looks like a nice garnish really adds a flavor boost
    When you come across dynamite pairings, share them with us!

    Some plants yield both an herb and a spice.

  • Cilantro is the leafy herb of the same plant that gives us the popular spice coriander seed.
  • Dill weed (an herb) and dill seed (a spice) also come from the same plant.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Truffle Salt


    The more flecks of truffle, the tastier the
    salt. Black truffle salt from Fusion.


    The winter truffle season is nearing its end. But if you didn’t get enough (or couldn’t afford any), there’s a way to enjoy truffle flavor all year round: truffle salt.


    To make truffle salt, small chips and bits that break off from whole truffles during handling are mixed with sea salt. Truffle salt is sea salt that has been laced with fragrant pieces of black or white truffle.

    Black truffles have earthier aroma and flavor; white truffles are lighter. Depending on the origin of the white truffles, they can have garlicky notes. Most people have a personal preference for one or the other where fresh truffles are concerned; but once salt is produced, the variations become more subtle.

    Unlike truffle oil, the flavor of which is usually synthesized*, truffle salt typically has pieces of real truffle—although the flavor may be enhanced with truffle oil.

    *Given the high cost of good truffles, most truffle oils are not made by infusing actual truffles but from synthetic flavors that approximate the flavors and aromas of natural truffles. Some of these truffle oils are excellent, and provide truffle flavor and aroma at an accessible price. There is nothing wrong with using synthetics; without them, there would be no truffle oil, truffle fries, most truffle risotto, etc. As a comparison, most perfumes these days are not made with distilled flower petals, but from synthetic aromas.


  • Butter: sprinkle atop of a bar of butter or a ramekin of butter for the table (you can also buy ready-made truffle butter, a terrific product [read our review]
  • Cheese: on a grilled cheese sandwich, goat cheese, queso asado
  • Dessert: with anything chocolate (brownies, cookies, candies, ice cream), crème brûlée—sprinkle on top instead of sea salt
  • Eggs: in scrambled, omelet or deviled eggs, or a sprinkle on simple hard-boiled eggs
  • Fish: atop grilled fish, seared scallops
  • Meat & Tofu: atop steaks, chops or deluxe burgers
  • Olive Oil: in a dip for bread and crudités; use a pinch in a Champagne or wine vinaigrette
  • Pasta: use with any white sauce, butter or oil dressing; with mushroom ravioli
  • Pâté & Foie Gras: a natural pairing, even with chicken liver mousse
  • Potatoes & Rice: baked, fries, mashed and roasted potatoes; risotto
  • Vegetables: roasted, sautéed, steamed
  • Snacks: homemade pretzels (including cheese pretzels—recipe), hummus, popcorn


    First: truffle salt is pricey, but you only need a pinch. A jar may cost $20 or $25 but will last a long time. Don’t let the sticker shock discourage you.

    Different brands use different truffles, with varying intensities of truffle salt. Your retailer may only have one brand. A good brand of truffle salt will state the percentage of truffles on the label. Look for 5% or more.

    One brand of black truffle salt you can rely on is Cassina Rossa, imported from Italy. Urbani sells a quality white truffle salt, also imported from Italy.

    We typically bring jars as host/hostess gifts. They are much appreciated.



    Truffle salt is a great gift for a gourmet cook or foodie. Photo courtesy Dean & Deluca.





    TIP: Add Turmeric To Foods

    Turmeric is a rhizome with edible roots that grow underground horizontally. It’s related to ginger, which it somewhat resembles in external appearance.

    Most Americans know turmeric as a deep gold spice that gives its intense color to curry powder. It’s been used for millennia to impart its color to foods. In the last century, it was used to give ballpark mustard its bright yellow color.

    Turmeric has a peppery, bitter flavor and a mild aroma with a hint of its cousin, ginger, a note of orange.

    More recently, turmeric has been discovered to be a potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancinogen. It may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease. Its active ingredient, curcumin, is extracted and used in clinical studies for arthritis and cancer. (More on turmeric’s health benefits.)

    HOWEVER: Turmeric can stain! It is also used as a dye. Don’t get it on your clothes, and scrub pots and pans immediately after cooking with a large does of turmeric.


    Turmeric root. Photo courtesy Malaysian Kitchen.


  • Beans: Add to bean and legume dishes.
  • Butter: Add to compound butter, drawn butter or other melted butter, to use on corn, lobster, etc.
  • Dips: Add to mayonnaise, sour cream or yogurt based dips.
  • Eggs: Add a dash to deviled eggs, omelets and scrambles.
  • Marinade: Combine with lemon in a chicken marinade.
  • Meat: Add to burgers, chili, meat balls, meatloaf, Sloppy Joes.
  • Rice: Add turmeric when cooking rice, or afterwards as a seasoning.
  • Salads: Mix into tuna, egg and other protein salads; into macaroni salad and potato salad; and add a pinch to salad dressing for green salads. Try a brown rice salad with raisins and cashews; season with turmeric, cumin and coriander.
  • Soups & Stews: Add to stews, lentil soup, pea soup and other hearty soups.
  • Vegetables: Delicious with sautéed kale, spinach and other greens, sautéed onions and roasted cauliflower or potatoes and mashed potatoes.

    Ground turmeric. Add it to salad dressings
    and dips for crudités. Photo courtesy


    Turmeric Tea

    Dr. Weil made a terrific ready-to-drink turmeric tea that unfortunately didn’t catch on. But you can buy turmeric tea bags or make your own tea by simmering a teaspoon of the powder in four cups of boiling water for 10 minutes. Strain through a very fine strainer and drink it hot or iced.

    Add some ginger root for even more flavor and health benefits. You can also buy turmeric-ginger tea bags.


    Try this creative roasted chicken salad recipe from Woodhouse Chocolate.


    For the Dressing

  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon dark cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (you can substitute
    regular paprika)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
    For The Roasted Chickpeas

  • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dark cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
    For The Salad

  • 6 cups mixed baby greens
  • 8 Medjool dates, each cut into 8 slivers
  • 12-16 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 of a small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 roasted chicken
  • 6 slices cooked bacon, cut into 6 smaller pieces each
  • 16 sprigs of cilantro

    1. MAKE dressing: Whisk together the ingredients. Heat the oven to 400°F.

    2. DRAIN the chickpeas and dry them on a paper towel. Discard any stray skins. In a small mixing bowl, toss the chickpeas with the olive oil until evenly coated. Lay them in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place them in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes, or until a nice dark golden brown. While the chickpeas are roasting…

    3. COMBINE the salt, cocoa powder and paprika. When the chickpeas are done, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of this mixture evenly over the chickpeas, moving them around to coat evenly. Save the rest of the salt for the next time you roast chickpeas.

    4. REMOVE the meat from the chicken. Slice the breasts and shred the leg/thigh meat.

    5. TOSS the greens with dressing in a large bowl. Add dressing to taste. On 4 dinner plates, fan out the chicken breast slices. Drizzle a little extra dressing over the chicken. Divide the greens evenly on the plates. Artistically place the dates, bacon, tomatoes and red onion over the salad. (Add some more of the shredded chicken if you like). Sprinkle some roasted chickpeas over and around the salad and top with a few leaves of cilantro.


    RECIPE: Moroccan Turkey Rub

    Moroccan spices add zing to a turkey or
    chicken. Photo courtesy Spice Islands.


    Perhaps you’re not up for brining a turkey.

    Instead of garlic powder and pepper, expand your seasoning palette. This recipe from Spice Islands dishes up a Moroccan flair.

    The recipe is given for a 5-6 pound turkey breast; for a whole turkey, multiply the proportions accordingly.

    You can also use the recipe on a chicken or duck.



  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cumin, ground
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom, ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves, ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 (5 to 6-pound) turkey breast
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted


    1. COMBINE garlic, black pepper, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, turmeric and sea salt in a small bowl. Mix well and reserve 1 teaspoon of seasoning.

    2. RUB remaining seasoning over turkey breast. Roast according to turkey breast package directions.

    3. COMBINE reserved seasoning with honey and butter; mix well. Brush over turkey last 30 minutes of baking time.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Flavored Turkey Brine

    You may be wedded to your preparation of the Thanksgiving turkey. But if you’d like to try something new this year, try brining with a flavored turkey brine.

    Brining is a culinary technique that is regaining popularity because it produces a more moist, juicy, tender and flavorful turkey. Brining locks in the natural moisture of the meat, while infusing mild flavors into it. It also reduces cooking time.

    Some people use a basic salt brine, but spice companies have developed brines infused with fruit, herbs and savory spice flavors. So go for it this year, and see how you like the transformation of your turkey into something more gourmet.

    Marinate time 10 to 16 hours, cook time 3 to 5 hours, rest time 20 to 30 minutes.




    Brine your turkey for more moisture and flavor. Photo courtesy Butterball.

  • 1 whole turkey (16 to 20 pounds), giblets removed, cleaned and patted dry
    For The Brine
  • 3/4 cup kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup hickory smoked salt
  • 2 tablespoons white pepper, ground
  • 1 tablespoon cardamom, ground
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seed
  • 1/2 gallon vegetable stock
  • 1/3 cup vanilla extract
  • 1/2 gallon heavily iced water

    You can also buy a pre-mixed brine. Photo
    courtesy Spice Islands.


    Vanilla Bourbon Butter

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons Spice Islands Vanilla Extract
  • 2 tablespoons sweet bourbon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 1 green apple, halved
  • 1 yellow onion, halved
  • 1/2 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1/2 bunch fresh rosemary
  • 1 cinnamon sticks

    1. PREHEAT oven to 450°F. Place the first 8 ingredients of the brine in a large pot and simmer until the spices dissolve. Allow to cool completely. Pour the cooled stock mixture into a large container (bucket) and stir in vanilla and ice water. Completely submerge the turkey into the liquid, breast side down, and brine for 10 to 16 hours, refrigerated. While the turkey is in the brine…

    2. MAKE the vanilla bourbon butter. Place the ingredients into a bowl and whisk together until completely combined. Set aside.

    3. REMOVE the turkey from the brine when ready to roast, and pat dry. Stuff the cavity of the turkey with aromatics and rub the skin, both under and over, with the vanilla bourbon butter. Season the turkey with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together tightly, tuck the wings under the back, and transfer the bird to a roasting pan. Place the turkey into the oven and roast for 30 to 40 minutes, allowing the skin to brown. Remove the turkey from the oven and cover the breast with aluminum foil to prevent burning.

    4. REDUCE the oven temperature to 350°F and continue to roast the turkey for 2-1/2 to 3 hours, basting every 30 minutes. 30 minutes before the turkey is ready to come out of the oven…

    5. REMOVE foil from the breast and continue to roast until an instant read thermometer reads 161°F. Remove the turkey from the oven, loosely covered with foil and allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving.


    PRODUCT: Oregano Indio From Mexico

    If you’ve traveled to Mexico and enjoyed the cuisine, you can find most of the ingredients you need to recreate the recipes back home.

    But there’s often a certain something that’s missing. Steve Sando, proprietor of Rancho Gordo specialty foods, believes it’s the different oreganos of Mexico. “Each one seems a little different,” says Steve, “but they all seem a little earthier than their European [counterparts].”

    Rancho Gordo now imports Oregano Indio, also known as Oreja de Raton, or Mouse’s Ear. It is grown by the Oregano Caxtle Cooperative in Tlahuitelpa as part of the Rancho Gordo-Xoxoc Project that helps small farmers in Mexico to continue to grow their indigenous foods.


    Treat yourself to more exciting oregano. Photo courtesy Rancho Gordo.

    “It’s less citrussy than the standard Mexican oregano,” says Steve, “but there’s an indescribable [difference] that makes it infectious. I just can’t stop using it on almost everything.”

    Customers agree, with comments like “amazing stuff” and “very complex flavor.”

    Steve advises to leave a bowl out for inspiration in the kitchen: Rub it into any meat or fish; add it to salsas, marinades, salsas, soups and stews; add to eggs, beans, Greek yogurt and of course, to Mexican recipes.

    In addition to perking up “all sorts of salsas,” Steve mixes the oregano with garlic and olive oil as a rub over pork tenderloin. “The flavor of the oregano is strong but not overpowering,” he explains, “and permeates the whole loin.” He also adds it to a salad dressing of olive oil and pear vinegar; you can also use pear balsamic vinegar.

    At $3.95 for a half-ounce glass jar or a two-ounce plastic bag, Oregano Indio is easily affordable. Consider the jars as stocking stuffers or party favors. They’ll be appreciated by both people who like to cook and people who order a lot of pizza.

    Get yours at



    TIP OF THE DAY: 10 Things To Do With Extra Herbs

    There’s nothing better than fresh herbs to add flavor to your cooking—and herbs are virtually calorie-free. They enable you can use less salt, too.

    Beyond what is called for in recipes, we add them to every meal of the day, from breakfast eggs and grits to salads (snip fresh herbs onto the greens or into egg salad, tuna salad, etc.), to yogurt (including dips and salad dressings) to grains and potatoes.

    You’d be surprised how much better your favorite sandwich or burger tastes with fresh basil leaves, chives and/or other favorite herbs. We grow a pot of basil, our favorite go-to herb, on the kitchen windowsill.

    But what if you end up with more herbs than you can use before they fade? Here are 10 of our favorite ways to use those extra herbs.


    1. Infuse honey, maple syrup, salad oil, vinegar. If you have more than one herb on hand, you can mixed them.


    Add rosemary, basil or whatever you’ve got to olive oil or other cooking oil. Photo courtesy

    Use your freshly herbed condiments on salads, as a bread dip, on pasta and rice, etc. Consider homemade basil honey, tarragon vinegar and rosemary oil. NOTE: Use these infused condiments within five days (put a “use by” label on the jar) because bacteria can multiply. Commercial infused oils sterilize the herbs to prevent this.

    2. Make herb butter. Stir chopped herbs into softened butter. You can keep it in the fridge for several weeks to enjoy as a bread spread and for cooking. Or freeze the butter for future use. One trick is to place the butter in plastic wrap and roll into a sausage shape. Freeze until it starts to firm; then cut into tablespoon-size slices and return to the freezer. Remove slices for as you need them for sauteéeing, to melt atop potatoes, rice and vegetables, etc.

    Herb butter is one type of compound butter. Check out these compound butter recipes.

    3. Amp up conventional condiments. Add chopped herbs to mayonnaise for a more flavorful sandwich spread. Similarly, add them to ketchup and mustard.

    4. Make herb ice cubes for cooking. Add the herbs to an ice cube tray and fill the tray with olive oil, stock or white wine. They’ll be at the ready to pop into sauces, soups, stews, stir-frys, etc.

    5. Make pesto. Basil is a traditional pesto base, but anything can be made into pesto, and you can blend different herbs, along with arugula or spinach. Store the pesto topped with a thin layer of olive oil, in an airtight jar; it will keep for months. Homemade pesto recipe.


    The old-fashioned way to dry herbs. Photo
    © Michaela | The Gardener’s Eden.



    6. Make herb ice cubes for drinks. Add herbs, chopped as finely or coarsely as you like, to the compartments of an ice cube tray and fill with water. Once frozen, you can pop them out and store them in a freezer bag.

    7. Infuse vodka or other spirit. While there are endless fruit-flavored vodkas on the market, delicious herb- and spice-infused vodkas, which are popular in Russia, haven’t taken off with American consumers.

    Toss your herbs into a bottle of vodka and enjoy the infused vodka in shots or savory cocktails, like Bloody Marys and Martinis. Infuse chiles, cilantro, rosemary, sage, thyme: The alcohol kills bacteria growth, so you don’t have to remove the herbs (just be sure they are completely covered by the spirit when you infuse them).


    The method is easy: Crush the herbs in your hand to help release the oils and add the herbs to a bottle of vodka (you’ll have to consume some of the vodka if the bottle is full). Don’t use a bargain brand: The higher the quality of the vodka, the smoother and more flavorful the infusion. Place the bottle in a dark place and infuse for at least three days and up to two weeks.

    Look at other alcohol-herb pairings: bourbon with mint or basil, Limoncello with thyme or whatever inspires you.


    8. Add to breads, muffins and biscuits. Chop the herbs finely, and don’t hesitate to combine fresh or dried fruit with the herbs. Our favorite combinations: blueberry-rosemary muffins and cheddar chive muffins.

    9. Make pie crusts. From quiche to fruit pie, a little basil, thyme or rosemary in the crust can be a most welcome surprise. Use sweeter herbs with fruit pies. For savory pies, add whatever herbs appeal to you: chives, dill, oregano, etc.

    10. Dehydrate the herbs. You don’t need an electric dehydrator. The photo above shows what everyone did in the days before dehydrators: Tie the stems with a string (or elastic band) and hang upside down to dry for a few days. You can hang the bunches on pegs, on a makeshift string or rope line, even clothespin-clipped to a hanger.

    When dry, remove the stems and store in an airtight container. If you like, you can grind them with a mortar and pestle before storing.

    What’s your favorite way to use extra herbs? Let us know.



    PRODUCT: Hot Chili Pepper Seasoning

    Shake it, shake it baby! Photo by Elvira
    Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


    Jilli Pepper is an Albuquerque-based company known locally for its Red Chile Pineapple Salsa, Green Chile Salsa, Red Chile Salsa Mix and Hot Fiesta Pepper.

    The company sent us some of its Scovie Award-winning* Hot Fiesta Pepper, which we find to be a delightful alternative to cracked red pepper or other heat.

    The recipe is a mix of red chili powder, crushed pequin chiles, dried onions, cilantro, garlic and salt—a complex layering of flavors. An all-purpose dry spice, you can use it instead of salt on any number of foods.

    Shake it onto pizza, pasta or rice. Season your eggs. Sprinkle it onto fish, meat or poultry in it prior to cooking. Mix it into dips. Make an olive oil bread dipper or spicy butter or cream cheese spread. Use it to make salsa hotter.

    We enjoyed it on everything from cucumber slices to cottage cheese and yogurt.


    Hot Fiesta Pepper is available online by the case of 12 four-ounce shakers. We like them for small gifting, party favors and stocking stuffers. Get yours at

    This $4.00 gift packs a lot of heat!


    *Hot Fiesta Pepper is a 2010 Scovie Winner in the hot and spice condiments category. The Scovie Awards are given annually to hot and spicy in a wide variety of categories, from barbecue sauce an salsa to beverages and snacke. the name is derived from the Scoville Scale, long used to measure the heat levels of chiles.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Ingredients For Dazzling Desserts

    Dessert lovers: This one’s for you. Today’s tip is adapted from an article by Ann Pietrangel on To get recipes attached to the tips, see the original article.

    Pietrangel interviewed Chicago-based pastry chef and restauranteur Malika Ameen, a Top Chef Just Desserts contestant and proprietor of By M Desserts.

    Ameen recommends five ingredients that she always has on hand to give her desserts that extra something special. They happen to be popular with us as well:

    1. Candied Citrus Peel

    Candied citrus peel—grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange—adds brightness, freshness and texture to cakes and cookies. The peel of the fruit is julienned and boiled in sugar syrup, which preserves it. Here’s a recipe (along with a delicious lemon chiffon cake).

  • Chop and mix candied peel into baked goods: muffins, sweet breads, cakes, sugar cookie dough, shortbread, etc.

    Candied red grapefruit peel, served with a mascarpone dip. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

  • Garnish sorbet, ice cream, lemon meringue pie, even chocolate mousse and chocolate tarts.
  • Garnish citrus-based cocktails.
  • For a simple yet elegant dessert or tea-time treat, serve the peel with a chocolate dip or some lightly sweetened mascarpone (see photo above).
  • As the finale to a fine dinner, serve candied peel with coffee or tea.
    2. Dried Lavender

    “Used sparingly, dried lavender enhances food with a mysterious and distinctive flavor,” says Ameen. She steeps it in cream to pair with berries, makes lavender-infused simple syrup syrup for lemonade and iced tea, and combines it with a crunchy sanding sugar to garnish cookies and pound cake. Here’s our recipe for lavender whipped cream.

    If you’re buying lavender outside of a food store (at a farmers market or general merchandise store, for example), be sure that it is organic. Lavender that is grown for ornamental display or potpourri can be coated with chemical pesticides. You want culinary lavender.


    A vanilla-cardamom-filled whoopie pie.
    Here’s the recipe. Photo courtesy


    3. Ground Cardamom

    This aromatic and slightly sweet spice, a relative of ginger, is one of Ameen’s favorites. While it is known for its use in Indian cooking, it is a popular addition to Scandinavian breads and breakfast pastries, as well as to Middle Eastern desserts.

    Cardamom pairs beautifully with chocolate: Use it to accent anything from chocolate pudding to brownie batter; add a dash or two to a chocolate milkshake. You can use cardamom pods to brew a delicious cardamom tea.

    Cardamom plants grow wild in the monsoon forests of southern India. They had been gathered and traded for 1,000 years until the British began to cultivate it in the 19th century. Cardamom was called the Queen of Spices. Black pepper, also Indian in origin, was the King of Spices.

    4. Vanilla Sugar

    Vanilla beans are expensive, but they have a second life. Used vanilla beans can (and should) be used to make vanilla sugar.

    Use vanilla sugar instead of plain table sugar to add a lift of flavor as an ingredient or a topping. Try it with baked goods, berries, beverages, cereal and grapefruit, for example.

    To repurpose vanilla beans, simply place one in a sealed pound canister of granulated sugar for at least week. It can remain there infinitely; just shake the jar occasionally. You can add more used pods and can give containers of your artisan vanilla sugar as gifts.

    If you don’t use vanilla pods, you can buy ready-made vanilla sugar as a gift for your favorite baker.

    NOTE: Vanilla powder is not the same as vanilla sugar. Vanilla powder is a combination of sugar and ground vanilla that is used in recipes where a dry ingredient is preferred, instead of vanilla extract. More about the different types of vanilla.

    5. Fleur De Sel

    Sweet and salty has emerged as a flavor hit (although everything old is new again). Salt helps to lift the flavor of other ingredients. That’s why cookies, cakes and other sweets all have a pinch of salt in the recipe.

    Fleur de sel (“flower of the sea”), a fine French sea salt is simply delicious with chocolate. That’s why there are so many artisan brownies, chocolate bars and chocolate chip cookies garnished with it.

    Sprinkle a few crystals of fleur de sel sprinkled over any chocolate dessert to add a burst of flavor and crunchy texture.

    Here’s more about fleur de sel in our Artisan Salts Glossary. Who knew there were so many wonderful salts?



    TIP OF THE DAY: Garnish With Dried Herbs & Spices

    A sprinkle of parsley adds garnish glamour to
    this plate of pasta. Photo courtesy Galli
    Restaurant | New York


    We love garnishing dishes with fresh herbs: We snip them onto everything from breakfast eggs to soup, salad and sandwiches to main courses and sides. But what if you don’t have any on hand? Reach for the dried herbs and spices.

    If you frequent finer restaurants, you may notice that the chef sometimes sprinkles dried herbs or spices as a garnish around the rim of the plate or bowl.

    Why? It ads artistry and color as well as flavor; you can dip forkfuls of food into the garnish.

    You can use fresh or dried herbs or spices, chopped nuts or seeds. How many of the following do you already have in your pantry?



  • Basil, Caraway, Cardamom
  • Celery seed, Chili Flakes, Chili Powder
  • Chives, Cilantro, Cinnamon
  • Cracked pepper, Pink or Green Peppercorns, Cumin
  • Dill, Fennel, Garlic Chips
  • Lavender, Marjoram
  • Nuts: any chopped nuts; pistachios have the best color
  • Oregano, Paprika, Parsley
  • Rosemary, Sage
  • Seeds: Poppy, Pumpkin (Pepita), Sunflower, Sesame
  • Tarragon, Thyme. Za’atar

    Tomato soup with a very light rim garnish, and more garnish glamour in the center. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

    A side benefit of garnishing with herbs and spices: You use them up more quickly, so the flavor doesn’t fade on the shelf.


    To garnish means to provide something ornamental; to adorn or decorate.* With food, it means something that adds flavor or decorative color. One of the classic food garnishes in America: boiled potatoes garnished with chopped parsley.


    See our article, Garnish Glamour, for many ways to garnish both savory and sweet foods.

    *In the law, garnish means to attach money due or property belonging to a debtor.



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