No doubt, you have heard many a TV chef rant about using only fresh herbs and spices in your cooking. In many cases fresh may, indeed, be better but, in my experience, dried herbs and spices work just fine most of the time.
I have a whole pantry full of dried herbs and spices. Some I use regularly, others I use less often. Many I use almost everyday. They make my homemade soups and stews complete and they also help to spruce up jarred sauces. Here is how I use these culinary helpers.
Stews and Jarred Sauces
I rarely make homemade spaghetti sauce, instead I use a favorite jarred variety. Adding a pinch or two of dried basil and oregano along with about a teaspoon of jarred minced garlic adds a punch of flavor to any jarred tomato-based sauce. In homemade stews I always add two to three bay leaves to ehance the flavor, and give it that wonderful aroma. I use tongs to remove the bay leaves before serving.
One of my favorite avenues for using dried herbs is homemade soups. Adding dried thyme leaves to my potato soup gives it a wonderful flavor and makes it smell so good it is impossible not to taste it. I also add celery salt, garlic and onion powder as well as poultry seasoning to this soup. Poultry seasoning is actually a mix of sage, thyme, marjoram, savory and rosemary. It also adds great flavor to chicken nuggets when added to the flour before coating the nuggets.
Chili and Tex-Mex Dishes
When making chili the chili powder you use can really make a difference. There are several different varieties. I use Ancho chili powder. I also add ground cumin, cilantro and crushed red pepper flakes to my chili. I often use these same spices in other Mexican style dishes such as enchiladas and tacos.
I love oriental food. One of the herbs I use when making oriental dishes is ginger. It is a little sweet, a little spicy and adds a little bit of a heat kick to many different recipes. I use it in powdered form or from a jar. You can find jarred ginger in the produce section of your grocery store. For a simple seasoning for stir fried vegetables I combine dried ginger, garlic powder, dried minced onions, red pepper flakes and toasted sesame seeds. Then I drizzle the vegetables with a little soy sauce, sesame oil and olive oil before sprinkling with this mixture of seasonings and then stir frying. It is delicious.
Fresh herbs and spices may, indeed, be better some of the time but I find the dried variety work just fine most of the time.