Friday, March 6, 2009
The Transformative Magic Of Herbs And Spices
There are times I amaze myself (in both positive and eye rolling ways..not sure which one this story is :) )
So a few years back I has this, to me, culinary epiphany.
I was thinking about different types of cuisines. I was thinking about the ingredients, when it hit me: The key to a dish being Thai or Mexican or Italian or whatever was in part from the ingredients but primarily from the combination of herbs and spices.
Light bulbs turned into lightening bolts. I felt absolutely brilliant.
...then realized that probably everyone on the planet had figured that one out and I was just slow on the uptake.
Whatever...I'm going with the former.
Want a Mexican dish? Put in chili powder, cilantro (in it's leafy form) and it's seed/spice cumin, onions, tomatoes, salt, lemon, chilies, parsley and oregano. Onions, tomatoes, avocados, mangos, green and red peppers. If I want a more South American influence, I'll add garlic and cinnamon in addition to the above.
Asian Fushiony Thai? Ginger, garlic, cilantro, pepper paste, basil, lime leaves (I hear they are illegal here, but I can still get them so maybe you can, too), mint. Lime, green onions, shallot, papaya, mango.
Italian? Basil,bay, oregano, marjoram, garlic. Tomato, onion, green pepper, fish sauce, tamari.
Indian? Cumin, turmeric, mustard seed, tamarind, coriander, amchoor, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, asafoetida, garam masala, kalanji, saffron, fennel, mint, hot peppers. Sometimes garlic, onion, lemon, lime.
Frenchy? Tarragon, chervil, chives, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
Mediterraneanish? Oregano, olive oil, onion, garlic, parsley, feta, olives
I know there are other herbs and spices that each cuisine uses, but I have these in my kitchen. There are foods that are better pairings for the different kinds of cuisines, but I'm not going to go into that today. Suffice it to say that I have made many basics then, changed them into a completely other dish, simply by playing with the spices and adding things to go along.
Wonder what I'm talking about? Check out the mutable magic of Tabouli....
Herb Garden from here
Spices from here