With more and more of us cooking for ourselves to save money these days, it makes sense to assemble an assortment of basic herbs and spices. It's an easy, economical way to add fun to your cooking and flavor to your food. Whether you're reorganizing your cupboards in a flurry of cleaning or newly interested in the world of spices, it's a good time to freshen your spice rack and make sure you have the basics.
Just a few common spices will enhance almost any dish you make. “Simple dishes become deliciously elegant when paired with the right herbs and spices,” says Ellen Bouchard, bulk category manager at Frontier Natural Products Co-op. But which spices should you choose as basic staples for your kitchen?
The spices you’ll reach for the most will depend on your personal preferences, of course. To discover your favorites, you may want to buy from bulk bins, so you can experiment with small quantities. Combine herbs and spices to complement each other and perk up the flavor of other ingredients. Most spices and seasonings are available in organic versions -- use them to boost the flavor and nutritional value of your meals. Always use a light touch -- your seasonings should accent dishes, not dominate them.
"The question of which spices are the best to keep on hand has as many different answers as there are cooks," says Bouchard. But there are some constants. Here are her recommendations for eight spices no kitchen should be without:
Penne with Tomato and Herbs
Preparation time: 10 minutes. Cooking time: 40 minutes
1 pound penne, cooked al dente
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons garlic flakes
1 28-oz. can chopped tomatoes, with liquid
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried parsley
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese- optional
In large non-stick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic, tomatoes, basil, oregano, and parsley and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the herbs have plumped and the flavors have blended nicely, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Toss pasta with the hot sauce to rewarm, and serve immediately. Pass cheese separately.
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