Salt and pepper? Are you trying to put us to sleep? Instead, try using some of the unsung (but totally awesome) spices that are probably just sitting in your spice rack. Here, five of our favorites.
The gorgeous yellow spice might seem intimidating, but you don’t need to make a complicated curry to use it. A dash brings a warm and peppery flavor to your dish–oh, and a bright gold color.
Turmeric comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant and has a tough brown skin and a deep orange flesh. Turmeric has long been used as a powerful anti-inflammatory in both the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine. Turmeric was traditionally called “Indian saffron” because of its deep yellow-orange color and has been used throughout history as a condiment, healing remedy and textile dye.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas
Add turmeric to egg salad to give it an even bolder yellow color.
Mix brown rice with raisins and cashews and season with turmeric, cumin and coriander.
Although turmeric is generally a staple ingredient in curry powder, some people like to add a little extra of this spice when preparing curries. And turmeric doesn’t have to only be used in curries. This spice is delicious on healthy sautéed apples, and healthy steamed cauliflower and/or green beans and onions. Or, for a creamy, flavor-rich, low-calorie dip, try mixing some turmeric and dried onion with a little omega-3-rich mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Serve with raw cauliflower, celery, sweet pepper, jicama and broccoli florets.
Turmeric is a great spice to complement recipes that feature lentils.
Give salad dressings an orange-yellow hue by adding some turmeric powder to them.
For an especially delicious way to add more turmeric to your healthy way of eating, cut cauliflower florets in half and healthy sauté with a generous spoonful of turmeric for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
Try: Adding it into to your roasted cauliflower seasoning.
You know you have a package of Hungarian paprika just sitting in your pantry. So reach your hand all the way back and give it some sunlight. The sweet red-pepper flavor will add just enough heat to bland or salty dishes.
A red powder made from grinding dried sweet red peppers; used as a garnish and seasoning. The color varies from bright orange-red to deep red, depending on the peppers used. Most commercial paprika comes from Spain, South America, California and Hungary. Hungarian paprika is thought to be the finest, and will be labelled as from the Szeged region. In Hungary there are six classes or types of paprika ranging from delicate to hot. To maintain the stronger taste that consumers expect, some spice companies add cayenne to heat up Hungarian paprika. Commercial food manufacturers use paprika to add color. If a food item is colored red, orange or reddish brown and the label lists “Natural Color,” it is likely paprika. Paprika releases its color and flavor when heated. Thus, sprinkling ground paprika over colorless dishes may improve their appearance, but does little for their flavor.
Paprika is intimately associated with Hungarian cuisine especially paprikash and goulash. Many spiced sausages incorporate it, including the Spanish chorizos. Paprika is often used as a garnish, spinkled on eggs, hors d’ouvres and salads for colour. It spices and colours cheeses and cheese spreads, and is used in marinades and smoked foods.
It can be incorporated in the flour dusting for chicken and other meats. Many Spanish, Portuguese and Turkish recipes use paprika for soups, stews, casseroles and vegetables. In India paprika is sometimes used in tandoori chicken, to give the characteristic red colour. Paprika is an emulsifier, temporarily bonding with oil and vinegar to make a smooth mixture for a salad dressing.
Try: Sprinkling a little on top of your mac and cheese.
This guy adds a warm aromatic–almost nutty–taste to curries and soups. And it supposedly stimulates your appetite, so definitely make sure you made enough food.
Although the small cumin seed looks rather unassuming, its nutty peppery flavor packs a punch when it comes to adding a nutty and peppery flavor to chili and other Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes as well playing an important role in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine where it is a key component of curry powder. Both whole and ground cumin are available year-round.
Cumin seeds resemble caraway seeds, being oblong in shape, longitudinally ridged, and yellow-brown in color. This is not surprising as both cumin and caraway, as well as parsley and dill, belong to the same plant family (Umbelliferae).
A Few Quick Serving Ideas:
The combination of cumin, black pepper and honey is considered to be an aphrodisiac in certain middle Eastern countries. Whether or not this potion will actually inspire Cupid’s arrows, it is certainly a tasty combination that can be used to flavor vegetables, chicken and fish dishes.
Make a cup of warming and soothing cumin tea by boiling seeds in water and then letting them steep for 8-10 minutes.
As the taste of cumin is a great complement to the hearty flavor of legumes such as lentils, garbanzo beans and black beans, add this spice when preparing a recipe with these foods.
Take plain brown rice and magically give it special pizzazz by adding cumin seeds, dried apricots and almonds.
Seasoning healthy sautéed vegetables with cumin will give them a North African flair.
Try: Mixing in a couple teaspoons to your guacamole recipe.
Coriander, commonly known as Dhania in the Indian Subcontinent and Cilantro in the Americas and some parts of Europe, is an herb that is extensively used around the world as a condiment, garnish, or decoration on culinary dishes. Its scientific name is Coriandrum Sativum L. Its leaves and fruits have a recognizable and pleasant aroma and are commonly used raw or dried for culinary applications.
And while you’ve got the cumin out, why not also mix in the coriander, which plays really well with both curries and ginger, adding a subtle, spicy orange flavor.
Its uses in global food preparation is only the tip of the iceberg. Unbeknownst to many people, coriander is packed with potential health benefits that most people completely miss when they toss this garnish into the garbage after eating their meal. It has eleven components of essential oils, six types of acids (including ascorbic acid, better known as vitamin-C), minerals and vitamins, each having a number of beneficial properties.
Try: Adding some to your carrot-ginger soup.
The health benefits of cayenne pepper or mirchi include weight loss, good digestion, strong immunity, good blood circulation, treatment of heart diseases, dyspepsia, inflammation, headache, and throat congestion.
Cayenne pepper belongs to the Capsicum family and its botanical name is Capsicum annuum. It is the red or green chili pepper that is used to add flavor in food. It is also a source of calcium, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber.
It’s hot. It’s spicy. It’s the last-minute fix to any bland dish and adds depth of flavor to rich foods like chocolate and cheese. Just remember: A little goes a long way.
Cayenne pepper is also known for its immune boosting potential: besides the anti-inflammatory effects of capsaicin, cayenne is also an excellent source of carotenoids, including beta carotene – a powerful antioxidant that can help prevent free radical damage. Its high levels of vitamin A (two teaspoons of cayenne pepper provide 47 percent of the daily value for vitamin A) support immune function as well.
Cayenne pepper can be used fresh or dried. Fresh green or red cayenne peppers can be used in a fashion similar to fresh jalapeños: as a garnish or chopped up and added to dips, sauces, soups and main courses. You can lower the spiciness level by removing the seeds. Do this while wearing gloves and avoiding contact with the eyes and face to minimize transferring the painful irritants to sensitive areas. You can also dry fresh, ripe red cayenne peppers. Simply wash and place on a wire rack until dry and brittle, which takes about three weeks. These whole, dried peppers can be stored in a sealed container away from light for up to a year.
Dried cayenne pepper is more versatile and works as well as fresh in most dishes. For true cayenne lovers, the challenge is not finding foods that the dried pepper enhances; rather, it’s finding any that it cannot improve. It can be added to cocoa for a bit of spice, and when paired with lemon juice works with virtually all vegetables. Dried cayenne should be kept in a tightly sealed glass jar, away from direct sunlight. It will last for up to three years.
Try: Making your own cheese crackers with a punch.