Ok, Colonel Sanders' secret recipe calls for 11 secret herbs and spices, but nobody is saying you have to confine yourself to using just salt and pepper. Those new to cooking get intimidated by the sheer variety of seasonings out there that many are just too afraid to try them. Fortunately for you, there are ten go-to herbs and spices that are hard to mess up.
#1-Basil: Try to buy fresh when it comes to basil - its just better. Many hotels and restaurants maintain a patch of herbs like basil so that cooks can just get from it as needed - can't get any fresher than that. Basil is the foundation of many meatless pasta sauces, pesto and vinegars.
#2-Thyme: This is one of the most common herbs used with meat dishes, but it's also great in soups, stews, and casseroles. It's a pretty potent herb, though, so add it carefully, as it can overpower a dish easily.
#3-Rosemary: Its fragrance is its strong point. Also strong, use this with caution as it could easily overpower any dish. It is best used for removing the gamey taste of lamb and is perfect for potato dishes.
#4-Garlic: You should never be without this in your kitchen. No matter how you see it, garlic can add so much character to the simplest of dishes. Available as a paste and in granule form, it is still best when used raw.
#5-Oregano: Its numerous uses in soups, pasta sauces, vegetable dishes, pizzas, and roasts says a lot about this herb's versatility. You can be bold with experimenting with this and not be afraid of ruining anything as long as you don't go nuts. Its aroma can give life to ordinary dishes.
#6- Red Pepper: Whether you like your food hot and spicy or simply kicked up a little, red pepper is a great seasoning to have on hand. It only takes a small amount to fire up the flavor, so use it with care. It's great in Mexican dishes and chilies.
#7-Dill: Reminds you of freshly-cut grass, the subtle taste of this herb is like a breath of fresh air. Commonly used in egg dishes, soups, salads, and sandwiches, it more suited to dishes that are intended to be mildly flavoured to highlight the taste of the main ingredient.
#8-Sage: It works well with chicken, pork and lamb dishes - even when combined with other herbs. Also great with potatoes and other vegetables. Lastly, mild cheeses will get a kick from it.
#9- Chives: The most common use for chives is in potato and egg dishes. It's got a fairly strong onion flavor and the color is a nice plus, too.
#10-Mint: This herb not only smells good, it tastes just as nice. Commonly used in combination with chocolate, it also has uses for vegetables like peas and fruits. The bigger supermarkets and specialty stores should have several varieties you can choose from.
That's the list! Ten herbs and spices that no self-respecting cook should be caught without. There are still a lot of other, more exotic varieties but for those just venturing out into serious cooking, these are the foundations that you should build on. Don't worry too much on mixing different combinations and experimenting with different flavors - it's part of the learning process. Go ahead, visit your favorite supermarket's spice section today. Enjoy!
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