Daily dinner tasting drab? The key to pepping
up your palate is spices -- those mysterious little jars and bottles
you remember from mom's pantry. Don't be intimidated by these tongue
teasers: A quick tour of the spice cabinet can take you from nutritional
neophyte to galloping gourmet in no time.
Spice vs. Herb
In a nutshell, herbs and spices are nature's little flavoring additives.
They both come from plants, but they differ in a few simple ways:
- Herbs are leaves, typically from plants that grow in a temperate
climate. They can be used dried or fresh.
- Spices come from the other parts of
the plant: roots, bark, seeds, flowers, fruits, and so forth. They're
usually dried and ground before
use. Spice plants tend to grow in more tropical climates.
Occasionally, you'll find a plant that straddles the line, such as anise
or cilantro (known as coriander when it crosses the spice line). Use
the leaves, and you've got herbs; use the other stuff, and you're spicing
Dry vs. Fresh
Technically, you can substitute dried herbs for fresh and vice versa.
Use about one-third the amount of dried herb as you would use of fresh
(e.g., if the recipe calls for one cup of fresh dill, use 1/3 cup of
dried dill). But be advised: the flavor will not quite be the same.
The fresh herbs taste... well, fresh. There's a cleaner, more vivid
flavor that dry just can't imitate. And dried herbs have a depth and
complexity that fresh cannot match. So, yes you can substitute, but
not if you're trying to wow anyone with your cooking.