Taped to the inside doors of my kitchen cabinets are my herb and spice reminder lists They’ve been added to many times and desperately need to be made more legible for questioning eyes.
Eons ago, my first list began with basic combinations:
Mint — lamb
Caraway — cookies, cabbage
Fennel — fish
Tarragon — eggs
Basil — tomatoes
Thyme — clam chowder
Savory — string beans
Cumin — chili
It still amazes me how few people use herbs and spices. They heap on salt for decades and then when the doctors says, “Cut back on your salt, your blood pressure is soaring,” they have no idea what to add to their food to make it more enjoyable.
I discovered that sad truth as a caregiver for shut-ins over an educational period of eight years. Since their diets seldom allowed salt, my little tote bag of herbs and spices added exciting flavor to each meal I prepared for those sweet souls.
During the summer months, when my garden was full of herbs and edible flowers, I would also prepare a quart or so of herb croutons to further stimulate their appetites.
Since they always had unsalted butter and bread on hand, I used the following baking advice and then added a few finely minced herbs and spices to the warm croutons:
HERB CROUTONS are so easy to make. Butter on one side, six slices of bread and then dice. The new butter and olive oil spreads add great taste and cuts down on cholesterol. Preheat oven to 375. With an occasional stir, brown on cookie sheet for about 10 minutes. While still hot, drop baked croutons into a paper bag containing your own creative herb and spice combination and then shake. Allow to cool on cookie sheet before storing.
A few basic herbs to choose from: basil, chives, parsley, chopped seeds of caraway, dill, fennel, anise and garlic powder. If “fresh” herbs are not available, not to worry, dried herbs go a hundred miles and are far less troublesome. (If possible, slightly grind your combination.)
How much of each? Again, be creative and use anywhere from 1-3 teaspoons of each in equal or unequal portions. Remember, less is more in the beginning; however, if taste buds are almost dead, more won’t hurt.
If salt is not a problem, a salt, paprika, grated cheese combination, mixed in a warm bowl, is always a crowd-pleasing crouton for salads or snacking.
Anyway, nothing excites the taste buds or burrows great food memories deeper than adding the right combination of herbs and spices to any dish.
As many great chefs well know, titillating combinations can easily become one’s culinary signature.
If you don’t have one already, spice up your holiday cooking by beginning a Cabinet List; and, then create a personalized culinary signature to bag and add to your gift-giving holiday baskets of edible goodies.
Leba also writes the “Upon Reflection” column that runs bi-monthly in the Sunday edition of the Banner. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org