Originally posted by
Thanks for such a detailed response!! Follow up question to this: what herbs/spices are most invaluable to you?
I traditionally use garlic, onion, curry and paprika but I'm not too familiar with many others.
You're welcome! I just wanted to make sure and share all the yummy things that I've found without meat.
I have really extreme tastes when it comes to food. I can tell you the stuff I use, but you may not like the same flavors. I usually like a lot more seasonings than most people, except for salt. I avoid adding salt because most things seem just right without any more added. It all depends on the flavors you like though.
There's a handful of "go-to" blends that I like to use in almost everything. Practically every flavor of Mrs. Dash: Table Blend, Lemon Pepper, Extra Spicy, Tomato Basil Garlic (good in pasta sauce), Caribbean Citrus (good in everything); McCormick Perfect Pinch Savory All-Purpose Salt Free (a bit like seasoned salt without the salt); Simply Organic All-Purpose (mostly an herb blend); Simply Organic Chili Powder (This is the only one I've ever found that doesn't contain salt and it's fantastic - excellent in taco salad or anything Mexican. It has chili powder, cumin, oregano, coriander, garlic, allspice, and cloves. AND it's all organic.); and the last thing I use regularly is lemon, lime, or citric acid. Citric acid is an odd one. It's usually an ingredient in the sour coating on candy. It's VERY sour. I usually use it if I don't have a fresh lemon or lime, or if it just isn't sour enough. I REALLY love the sour flavor. It's really good in hummus, if you like it to have a nice tart lemony flavor.
As far as individual herbs and spices, the main ones we use are fresh ground pepper, garlic, oregano, basil, thyme, marjoram, coriander (this is ground cilantro seeds), parsley, cumin, turmeric, sumac (This is from the middle eastern grocery store, it's typically sprinkled on kebabs [though not by me]. It has a delicious earthy, tart flavor, almost pomegranate-like.), nutmeg (Fresh ground is the best, if you have a microplane. You can buy one or two whole ones from the bulk spice section at Whole Foods. They look like mini walnuts.), cinnamon, cloves, cardamom (this is a yummy, sweet flavor, similar to cinnamon and cloves, yet completely different, if that makes any sense), and allspice (this is also similar to cinnamon and clove, yet different). The group including and after cinnamon are all really good winter spices. They're a little sweet and super good in desserts, but I also love using them in savory dishes.
Since you mentioned curry powder (good stuff!) you might like some of the Indian Garam Masala blends. Check the ingredients and you'll probably see some things you like. Garam Masala literally means "spice blend" so they're pretty varied, but we've yet to find one we don't like. I think we have four different ones in the cabinet right now.
If you haven't tried Thai Curry Paste, I highly recommend it too. This is one of my favorite flavors! The green curry paste is SO delicious as a coconut milk sauce, but the red is pretty awesome too.
Another indispensable item for us is Hungarian Half-Sharp Paprika. We got ours from the Spice House in Chicago, but I think you can find spicy paprika other places too. It's delicious. It gives things a nice kick without burning your mouth off (if you don't add too much).
You already mentioned onion, so I'm sure you already know that sautéed onion works in almost everything. And it makes the whole house smell amazing! Especially if you add a little butter to the oil. I could probably eat sautéed onion in everything.
The other thing I use quite a bit of is fresh cilantro. It's a very strong flavor, so it isn't for everyone, but if you like it, it's REALLY good in lots of stuff. We usually put it on taco salads, Pad Thai, scrambled eggs, & sandwiches.
My final essential ingredient, though arguably not really a seasoning, is cheese. Cheese is the reason I'm not vegan. You can make anything
taste fantastic if you smother it in cheese. LOL!
The way I figure out what I like is I just sniff the bottles of whatever is in the spice cabinet and if it smells like it will work, I'll throw it in. Usually I end up with some crazy stuff, but it's always delicious. It's not the most organized method, so if you're into structure, cookbooks might work better for you.
I hope you find some stuff that works for you! Good luck!
[Edited to correct my description of coriander. Originally, I wrote that it was dried cilantro, but my husband corrected my mistake. It's actually ground cilantro seeds
. I learned something new today.]