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Herbs & Spices: How to Use Those Dust-Collectors

From Our Chefs

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If you’ve ever bought an unusual spice only to have it sit unused in your cabinet for years to come, this article’s for you! SAGE Food Service Directors share their best tips on how to use up any unfamiliar spices collecting dust in your cupboard.

  • Allspice is great in dry rubs for barbecued meats.

  • Anise is excellent for rice pudding or fruit salad. Any desserts including a syrup are great with a little touch of anise.

  • Use apple pie spice in oatmeal, baked goods, whipped cream, or pancake batter w/ apples, or on vanilla ice cream!

  • Use caraway to make Pumpernickel, season Gouda, or accompany a cheese platter.

  • Celery salt complements gazpacho and anything made with cold tomato juice.

  • Chinese five-spice powder adds unexpected depth to plum preserves, chocolate cake, and roast chicken.

  • For all stews with beef or poultry, stick cloves in a whole peeled onion for flavor and an attractive garnish.

  • When making whipped cream or meringues for a next-day event, add cream of tartar to keep them nice and fluffy for at least 24 hours.

  • Dill adds brightness to house-made ranch dressing, poached fish, and mustard-based potato salad.

  • Fenugreek adds depth to curry, tomato sauce, mashed potatoes, and roast chicken.<

  • Garam masala is the key ingredient in paneer, chicken, and vegetable masalas. It’s also a tasty addition to oatmeal cookies and compound butters.

  • Crystallized ginger is a welcome addition to banana and other quick breads, sugar cookies, granola bars, ginger snaps, fruit crumbles, and baked apples. Dip it in dark chocolate for a sweet treat, or eat it plain to ease carsickness during your summer travels.

  • Ground mustard is good in dry rubs, salad dressings, soups, and cream sauces. Try adding it to your next baked macaroni and cheese.

  • Harissa works best as a condiment for tagine or Moroccan

  • Juniper berries pair well with braised pork, or to infuse a simple syrup for cocktails or mocktails.

  • Flavor a pana cotta, creme brûlée, or ice cream with lavender. Prepare as directed, but steep the lavender in the cream while you heat it up, then strain it out before adding the cream to the recipe.

  • Mace and nutmeg add delicious depth to potato purees, Mornay sauce, and béchamel.

  • Marjoram can be used in stews, with roast chicken or beef, and in scrambled eggs or quiche.

  • Paprika lends a smoky-sweet intensity to corn on the cob, roast potatoes, hummus, scrambled eggs, and latkes.

  • Poultry seasoning amps up stuffing, turkey meatloaf, and herb breads.

  • Brew pumpkin pie spice with coffee, mix it into whipped cream, pancakes, or pumpkin ravioli filling, or sprinkle it over roast root veggies.

  • Steep saffron in stock for a fantastic paella or bouillabaisse. It also pairs well with fennel, orange, vanilla, lemon, and even chamomile.

  • Sage is excellent with poultry. Try it in a chicken stew with heavy cream and cider, with a side of boiled potatoes and sautéed or flambéed apples for dessert. Delicious!

  • Sumac with lemon juice can be used as a rub for grilled shrimp and chicken. To make a tenderizing marinade for chicken skewers, mix it with Greek yogurt, lemon, and honey.

  • Tarragon works well in beurre blanc or béarnaise sauces, and with scrambled eggs.

  • Use white pepper anywhere you’d like a subtle taste of black pepper without the color, like mashed potatoes and cream sauces.

When in doubt, remember that fresh herbs are great folded into a savory quick bread, or finely chopped as part of an herb salsa. And many dried spices—savory or sweet—can be used to flavor versatile foods like bean soups, rice, salad dressings, popcorn, and spiced nuts.


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