Secret Ingredients: 5 DIY Herb and Spice Blends You'll Love
Italian Tomato Sauce Blend
“Italian seasoning” in the spice section of the supermarket is a blend of dried herbs such as basil, oregano and parsley — tasty, but a little one-dimensional. This blend, including a bit of sugar, garlic and onion powder and a touch of chili flakes, adds layers of flavors to any Italian dish. Use a heaping tablespoon of it in a meatloaf mixture or in your next batch of meatballs. You can also sprinkle it over pizza or pasta or an Italian sub; best of all, it’s the only thing you need to season a quick pot of rich tomato sauce.
Ranch dressing is so easy to buy you probably don’t even think you could make it at home. For a very minor effort, you’ll be rewarded with far fresher flavor and no additives or preservatives. This tangy ranch mix is based on buttermilk powder, an ingredient readily found in the baking aisle of nearly any supermarket. If you can’t find it, you can leave it out, but be sure to use buttermilk and not milk if you’re making ranch dressing out of this mix.
To make ranch dressing or dip, mix 1/2 cup mayonnaise and 1/2 cup milk (or buttermilk) with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the mix, depending on how strong you like it. This seasoning mix is great as a dry rub for fish or chicken, and you can also sprinkle it on hot buttered popcorn or oven fries.
Even though you can buy a container marked “curry powder” in any grocery store, in classic Indian cooking, spices are always custom mixed for freshness of flavor. This mild and fragrant curry blend is a good starter to help explore what flavors you prefer. If you like it hotter, add a little more cayenne; if you like it sweeter, bump up the cinnamon and nutmeg a bit.
To make a simple chicken curry for dinner, sauté a sliced onion, two minced cloves of garlic, some minced fresh ginger, and a pound of sliced chicken breasts in a tablespoon or two of oil. Add 2 tablespoons of the curry blend and a 15-ounce can of coconut milk (low-fat is fine). Simmer gently for 15 minutes, until slightly thickened and serve over hot rice.
There are endless variations on barbecue seasonings and rubs and this is a terrific blend to experiment with. Once you try this out, you may find that your own tastes lead you into different flavor combinations. As long as you don’t make it too salty, it’s hard to go wrong. What makes this one special, however, is the inclusion of smoked paprika, also known as pimentón. Once a specialty ingredient from Spain (the best ones come from La Vera), it’s now widely available. If you don’t have it, double the amount of regular (or sweet) paprika; but adding it makes any barbecue taste naturally, addictively smoky, no grill needed.
This Egyptian condiment (also spelled duqqa or dukkah, and pronounced DUE-kah) can be as complicated or simple as you like. Many versions include a variety of nuts, such as pistachios, almonds and cashews, but hazelnuts are the classic choice. For a brighter flavor, you can also add a handful of crushed dried mint leaves along with the sesame.
It’s often served with pieces of warm pita, to be dipped in oil and sprinkled with the dukka, and it’s wonderful atop sandwiches or sprinkled over roast vegetables. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself eating it by the spoonful out of the jar — it’s that good. Don’t halve this recipe, or it won’t grind properly in your food processor.
Slow-roasting the tomatoes gives the tomato sauce for this lasagna recipe an intense depth of flavor—which is then enhanced by the umami in onions, Parmesan and spinach. The lasagna noodles are layered into the lasagna uncooked; the moisture from the fresh spinach cooks them perfectly as the lasagna bakes in the oven.
Made with starchy baking potatoes -- flavored with garlic, fresh herbs and Pecorino Romano cheese -- and tossed with just a little extra-virgin olive oil, these fries emerge from the oven crisp and delicious. For a fun twist, season fries with Zingy Mustard Ranch Mix instead!
A relatively inexpensive cut of meat, a brisket needs to tenderize overnight before it's baked. Here we use a full-flavored, smoky barbecue dry rub (feel free to substitute this for Smoky BBQ Rub), then it's slowly baked and basted. Brisket cuts are notoriously fatty, but the flat "first-cut" section is a far better choice for healthy eating than the fattier "point cut." It may be worth calling ahead to make sure your supermarket or butcher has one on hand.
You can make your own tasty pita chips in a matter of minutes. Just cut pita bread into wedges (stale pitas work very well), brush them with a little olive oil and bake. Not only do homemade pita chips save you money, you'll also cut calories by 16 percent. Season the chips with Hazelnut Dukka.
Spice up your food (literally!) with five homemade herb and spice blends. They take seconds to make but will completely change the way you cook.
Almost everyone has a cabinet or drawer filled with herbs and spices that hardly see the light of day. Instead of using a pinch of this or that, turn those herbs and spices into custom blends that will be your secret weapon in the kitchen. We've got five delicious spice mixes including homemade ranch for salad dressings and dry rubs, a tomato sauce blend and a classic BBQ rub for meats of all kinds. All you have to do is mix them together, store them in a (labeled) airtight container and season away!