Mexican Herbs and Spices And More
Flavorful Herbs, Spices, and More
Chili powder might be the first spice to come to mind when you think about south of the border cooking, but there are so many more ways to give flavor to your homemade dishes, as you will discover. Popular spices include cinnamon, coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, paprika, and chili powder. These can be used as they are or combined to make spice mixtures and tasty spice blends. You can also use garlic powder or onion powder if you are making quick, easy recipes, although for an authentic result you will probably want to use fresh garlic and onions.
Using Fresh Herbs in Mexican Cooking
Fresh herbs add color as well as flavor to your food and Mexicans love to use herbs in their recipes. Cilantro is perhaps the most popular herb used in south of the border recipes, followed by oregano. Cilantro, oregano, and parsley are aromatic and can be used in soups, salads, casseroles and more. These fresh herbs are also used for garnish. A dollop of sour cream topped with a sprig of fresh cilantro makes a wonderful garnish for plenty of different recipes, and some chopped herbs look good sprinkled over a bowl of soup. Epazote is another local herb, although you might need to go to a specialty Latin grocery store to find that one.
Balancing Out the Flavors
A lot of people wrongly believe all Mexican food is spicy, or features heavy flavors. This is incorrect. Although some dishes are spicy, others are aromatic and delicate-flavored instead. Making a Mexican dish does not mean throwing copious amounts of chili powder into something, although chilies (both fresh and in powdered form) do star in a lot of south of the border dishes. The key thing about making authentic Mexican recipes is the careful balance of herbs and spices, to offer that typical flavor. While a lot of new cooks will follow a recipe to the letter, the more Mexican dishes you make the more familiar you will become with what you like, so you might wish to increase the amount of some spices or decrease others.
Put a spoonful of chili con carne in your mouth and what do you taste? The first flavor to hit your palate might well be the chili powder but if it is a good chili recipe you will probably be able to identify cumin and oregano as well, in additional to garlic and other flavors. If all you taste is chili powder then it is not an authentic Mexican recipe, because you will be missing the perfect balance of different seasonings, all supporting one another and contributing to the dish as a whole, to give it that authentic flavor.
Collect Tasty Herbs and Spices
Whichever cuisines you like to cook, it is always worth keeping a cupboard full of herbs and spices, remembering that these lose freshness over time, even quicker if they are exposed to light or heat, so do not buy too much of each item. Fresh herbs are always love to use, and you can either buy cut fresh herbs or potted fresh herbs. Even if you have no outdoor space to grow herbs, you will find that they do well on the countertop or on a sunny windowsill if that is all you have. A sprig of cilantro or basil can finish off a meal beautifully, improving the presentation and adding a colorful accent to the dish.
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