If you someone who is a new cook in the kitchen, you’ve probably seen them struggling with the bare essentials of how to cook tasty food. It looked easy when Mother did it. But now the kitchen is like a hostile territory, full of pitfalls and strange tastes. Well, I can’t give your friend cooking lessons but I can help to improve the flavor of what they cook. Instead of buying an assortment of seasoning mixes good for one or two dishes, tell the new cook to put these spices on their grocery list to create a modest, but well-stocked spice drawer.
Black Peppercorns — Like all seasonings, pepper loses flavor more quickly when ground up. Instead of the pre-ground seasoning, buy whole peppercorns and invest in a small, serviceable pepper grinder.
Garlic Powder — Buy garlic powder instead of garlic salt. When you want the flavor of garlic, you don’t necessarily want to increase the saltiness of the dish. You can always add in the salt to the proportions you want.
Onion Powder — Ditto on the onion powder. Using onion salt means you are really adding in two seasonings at a time.
Basil — Basil is regarded as the queen of the leafy herbs. It adds a pleasant zing to almost any food. Yes, you’ll wnat to buy some fresh occasionally but having it dry on the shelf will be a good backup.
Oregano — Oregano blends well with many other seasonings. This herb is vital if you want to cook anything of Italian origin. Try it sprinkled on green beans or any tomato sauce.
Parsley — Parsley is the quiet, unassuming herb that helps to bring other flavors together. It is also the most tolerated by picky eaters, who don’t want “leaves” in their food but don’t mind a little parsley sprinkled on top. Add to potato or rice dishes.
Rosemary — This herb brings the flavor of sunny Mediterranean isles into the kitchen. It is an excellent flavor with poultry or pork. Goes great on the grill too.
Thyme — Thyme was aptly described as “joy of the mountains” by the ancient Greeks. Its pungent flavor helps to bring in the great outdoors to many foods. I often add this to seasoning mixes.
Bay Leaves — If you plan to make any soups, stews, or simmered meats, you will want bay leaves in your kitchen. They give a subtle flavor that blends well with other herbs.
Ground Cinnamon — Cinnamon lends a sweet, spicy taste to many desserts. Have on hand ground cinnamon to add to fruit dishes, puddings, and hot spiced drinks.
Nutmeg — Like cinnamon, nutmeg add delight to many desserts and brings in a taste of the Caribbean.
In addition to these twelve basic flavorings, they may wish to add one or two that suit their personal food preferences. If they like hot, spicy foods, add chili powder, cumin, and cayenne to the list. If Asian foods are a favorites, add in ginger. If they have roots in Eastern European cuisine, include paprika and caraway. If they have a penchant for gourmet cooking, try tarragon or chervil.