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Herbs vs. Spices
How much do I love spices? I own a board game called Spices of the World, have a well-thumbed copy of The Complete Book of Spices on my cookbook shelf, and it’s widely known that cumin is my all-time favorite spice.
But this month, I’m abstaining from my lovely, aromatic friends while I give the autoimmune protocol (AIP) a shot. I don’t think I have an underlying sensitivity to spices that’s holding me back, but n=1 and all that.
Thanks to ThePaleoMom.com’s comprehensive list of yes/no herbs and spices for the AIP, I was able to make this ultra-sexy note for the front of kitchen cabinet that lists approved seasonings for my AIP month. (Note that this list isn’t complete but merely includes the ones I like the most. See ThePaleoMom.com’s list for everything.)
The ones marked with the exclamation point are approved; the ones next to the giant question mark are the ones for which The Paleo Mom encourages caution. (I’m avoiding those unless I absolutely, positively will lose my mind if I don’t eat them. I have a hard time imaging craving allspice that much, but you never know.)
In case you don’t want to make an index card sign for your kitchen cabinet (although it’s all the rage this season), here’s a quick way to remember which seasonings are approved for the AIP: herbs are 100% go and seed spices are verboten.
So what’s the difference between herbs and spices?
Both herbs and spices originate as plants and are used to flavor foods, but there are distinct differences, and those differences become essential to understand when someone tries to
make your life miserable help you get to the root of your fat-loss issues by suggesting you follow the autoimmune protocol.
Spice: made from dried seed, fruit, root, or bark; used to season and/or preserve food
Herb: leafy green plants used for flavoring foods or for garnish; may be eaten dried or fresh
Armed with a gift card for Penzeys, I went in search of dried herb blends to help see me through these 30 days of spice rehab. Here’s what I found, along with some ideas about how I’ll be using them. I’m trying to view this no-spice experiment as a creative kitchen challenge, and I already have two new recipes to share with you in the coming days. (I should mention that I’m not an affiliate of Penzeys or anything; after trying many different brands, I just like their herbs and spices the most.)
The French Blends
Made from: chervil, minced parsley, chopped chives, tarragon
Flavor profile: slightly sweet-ish from the tarragon and chervil
Tasty for: raw veggies with a light vinaigrette, sautéed veg with ghee, chicken breast
Parisienne Bonnes Herbes
Made from: chives, dill weed, French basil, French tarragon, chervil, white pepper
Flavor profile: herb-y versatility
Tasty on: sautéed veg with ghee, chicken breast
Made from: savory, rosemary, thyme, Turkish oregano, basil, dill weed, marjoram, sage and tarragon
Flavor profile: less sweet than the other two, sturdy enough for cooking and stronger meats
Tasty on: chicken, fish, beef, and pork; I like it more on meat than on veg
My bottom line: The Fines Herbes and Bonnes Herbes are very similar, and I slightly prefer Fines Herbes because I don’t love basil and dill on raw veg. But that’s a quibble; you can use them interchangeably and probably don’t need both. Use Bouquet Garni on roast meat, and use Fines Herbes/Bonnes Herbes for the veggies on the side.
The Onion-Y Ones
Fox Point Seasoning
Made from: salt, shallots, chives, garlic, onion, green peppercorns (peppercorns are borderline for AIP)
Flavor profile: yummy! or more specifically, salty-oniony goodness
Tasty on: chicken and fish, sautéed veg with coconut oil or ghee, butternut squash
Made from: just chives
Flavor profile: mild onion flavor
Tasty on: everything! but especially sautéed broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage… and sweet spuds!
My bottom line: Anything with chives rules. The end.
The Italian Blends
Italian Herb Mix
Made from: Turkish oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme, cracked rosemary
Flavor profile: makes everything taste pizza-ish. YAY!
Tasty on: chicken, fish, beef, and pork; excellent in tuna with extra-virgin olive oil & red wine vinegar
Made from: California basil, Turkish oregano, minced garlic, thyme
Flavor profile: less pizza-ish, more
pasta-ish zucchini noodles-ish
Tasty on: salad with extra-virgin olive oil & red wine vinegar (which I just typed as winegar!); OMG! zucchini noodles
My bottom line: I like having both, even though they’re quite similar, just because then I can alternate.
The Middle Eastern Ones
Made from: cinnamon!
Flavor profile: cinnamon!
Tasty on: butternut squash, sweet spuds, lamb, ground beef
(Note: Cinnamon is OK because it’s made from bark, not a seed.)
My bottom line: By combining cinnamon and mint with garlic and salt, I can whip up quasi-Middle Eastern meatballs. Life is good.
Fresh vs. Dried
Fresh and dried herbs can usually be used interchangeably in recipes, but the flavor will be slightly different. Here are a few tips to get the most flavor from herbs, whether you’re going for the convenience of dried or the bright ping! of flavor from fresh.
The flavor of dried herbs is concentrated, so if you’re swapping dried for fresh — or vice versa — you need to make a modification to the amount. Generally speaking: 2 teaspoons fresh herb leaves = 1 teaspoon dry herb leaves
Crush the leaves
When using dried herbs or herb blends, measure the amount you want to use, then crush the leaves between your fingers to release their flavor.
Fresh herbs like moisture, so store them in the fridge, wrapped in a damp paper towel. Dry herbs like to be in a cool, dark place, so store them in a cabinet, away from heat. (Penzeys recommends that you store Fox Point Seasoning in the fridge to keep it from clumping.)
Recipes From The Archive
Three delicious herb pastes…
Mediterranean Mint and Parsley Pesto (omit cayenne)
Basil Pesto (omit the nuts)
Except for now. Right now, the front row of my
spice herb cabinet looks like this: