by Chrysa Smith

My spice cabinet overfloweth.
In fact, it should be purged of those little, metal cans that sit way in the back. I think there’s a cream of tartar and can of whole cloves in there that might be celebrating some sort of silver jubilee.

But what I’ve found over the years, is that once you begin a relationship with these dried potions, it changes your meals—for the better. Let me explain.

I grew up in a skinny household—-no processed foods, no sauces and gravies ladled on top of the dinner plate. And thanks to a mother with a bum stomach, I grew up eating a bit healthier than the average fast-food grabbing, cholesterol-laden, stroke-producing menus that are so criticized today. But, because she lacked either the time, interest or knowledge of how to use these little fellows, the food was bland. And I wanted taste—-orchestration on the tongue, the pallette—something to savor and talk about over the meal, i.e. ‘This is so, so good.’

So, after some experimentation of my own over the years, my veggie/herb garden is also overflowing this year. I’ve got the largest spot dug out and planted with things like corn, peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, basil, lettuce, rosemary. I know it’s not Old MacDonald worthy, but it’s the stuff that I love best. What I can’t grow, I buy—and usually now from a bulk spice shop.

So, I’d love to hear from other herbivores who like using dried leaves on their dishes. But for now,
here are some of my favorite uses:

  • Smoked paprika, along with some garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper, dotted on top of salmon and diced tomatoes—and broiled or baked to perfection.
  • Fennel, either fresh, sliced and sauteed or dried, mixed in with some cannelloni beans and warmed, flavored with a little salt or pepper—served with a variety of fish
  • Rosemary—crumbled on top of some sliced potatoes, topped with olive oil, salt and pepper. It gives a nice, added flavor to the ordinary baked fry
  • Bay Leaf—occassionally throw one into my sliced Idaho spud before I throw it into the oven to be baked. With a little butter, salt, pepper—-lovely
  • Cilantro—goes into anything perceived as Italian—-always chop and add to the seasoning that coat my cutlets—chicken, pork or veal. It’s one of several additions, as I have been using Panko crumbs—-can’t stand to read the labels on the pre-packaged bread crumbs. You need to go to the kosher or organic section to find some that aren’t bio-hazards
  • Dry Mustard—-I add it to roast chicken stocks, glazes and home-made salad dressings—nice flavor

And when I absolutely must cheat, due to time or lack of supplies, I’ll go to my herbs-de-provence mixture for a quick marinade for grilled meats or to another lady for some help—Mrs. Dash. She’s chopped and dehydrated all-natural spices in her kitchen, and served them up for us in a nice bottle. It’s a nice blend that I use with some garlic, olive oil and dash of Worcestershire and Steak Sauce—on any type of beef roast—-yummmy.

What revs up your taste buds? Please let us know, because adding new recipes adds variety, and variety is, as they say, the spice of life.