Herbs and spices have been added to recipes for hundreds of years. Yet some cooks don’t ever go beyond adding basics such as salt and pepper to dishes when cooking. Spices can add unique flavor profiles to foods and can be light and delicate when added or bold and zesty. One thing to keep in mind: 1 teaspoon of dried equals about 1 tablespoon of fresh when it comes to using herbs and spices in recipes. For stronger flavor, add them closer to the end of recipe preparation so the heat doesn’t destroy their flavor.

With a little practice, you’ll be experimenting and fusing flavors together, adding new dimensions to your family’s favorite recipes.

Rosemary Chicken

3/4 pound small red-skinned potatoes, halved or quartered if large
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, plus 1 tablespoon leaves
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 teaspoons salt
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Juice of 2 lemons (squeezed, halves reserved)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 skin-on, boneless chicken breasts
10 ounces cremini mushrooms, halved

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. In a saucepan, cover the potatoes with cold, salted water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until tender, about 8 minutes; drain and set aside.

Stack the rosemary, garlic, salt and red pepper flakes on a cutting board, then mince together. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Stir in the juice of one lemon and the olive oil. Add the chicken and turn to coat.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, skin-side down, cover and cook until the skin browns, about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken; add the mushrooms and potatoes to the skillet and drizzle with the juice of the remaining lemon. Add the rosemary sprigs and the squeezed lemon halves to the skillet; transfer to the oven and roast, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through and the skin is crisp, 20 to 25 minutes.

Cumin Beef Stir-Fry

1 pound sirloin steak
3 tablespoons toasted sesame or canola oil plus additional oil for cooking
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons tapioca or arrowroot powder

For the stir-fry:
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons ground peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 cup coconut aminos
2 teaspoons red fish sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
4 green onions, green parts only cut into 2 inch pieces
Prepared noodles of choice

Place the steak on a cutting board and tenderize with meat mallet. Slice into thin 1/4 inch strips that are about 3 inches long.

Place the sliced sirloin steak in a large bowl with the 3 tablespoons toasted sesame or canola oil, salt, pepper and tapioca. Toss until well combined and set aside to allow it to marinate for 20 to 30 minutes.

To stir-fry: Heat a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon or two of oil and, in batches to prevent overcrowding the skillet, sear the beef until a golden brown crust begins to form, about 2 minutes a side. Transfer cooked beef to a side plate and continue until all of the beef is browned and set aside. If your skillet seems dry, you can add more sesame oil, as needed.

Add an additional teaspoon of oil (if needed) and the toasted sesame oil. Add the onions, red pepper flakes, ground peppercorns, cumin and garlic. Toast spices, stirring, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes being careful not to burn.

Add the beef and toss until well coated in the spices. Add coconut aminos, fish sauce, rice vinegar and green onions. Stir to combine. Cook, stirring, until the sauce has just thickened, 2 minutes. Serve hot over hot noodles.


Capered Salmon with Thyme

Four 6-ounce salmon fillets
Olive oil, for brushing
1 lemon, sliced and seeded
2 teaspoons dried thyme or 4 fresh thyme sprigs
3 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons jarred capers, drained
1 garlic clove, grated
Sprigs of thyme for garnish, optional
Extra lemon for garnish, optional
1 box orzo, prepared as directed

Heat the oven to 325 degrees.

While the oven heats, in a shallow dish mix together 4 cups room temperature water and 3 tablespoons salt. Place the salmon in the water and wait for 15 minutes.

Place a large sheet of aluminum foil on a baking sheet and brush foil with olive oil. Pat each piece of salmon dry and place on the foil. Sprinkle each fillet with salt and pepper. Place lemon slices and fresh thyme around the salmon. Close and seal the foil around the salmon.

Bake the salmon for 10 minutes, then open the foil packet so steam can release and bake for 3 to 6 minutes, until pink at the center. The internal temperature should be between 125 to 130 degrees in the center. A 1-inch thick fillet should cook in about 12 to 15 minutes total.

As salmon bakes, melt the butter over low heat. Once melted, add the capers and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes.

When the salmon is done, squeeze with lemon juice from remaining lemon slices. Place several lemon slices over orzo and beneath salmon on serving plate. Top with salmon, then place extra lemon slices and additional thyme next to salmon, if desired. Serve hot.


Gingerbread Apple Cake

3 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup butter, plus more for preparing pan
1 cup light brown sugar, packed, divided
2 tablespoons water
1 pound Granny Smith apples, unpeeled, thinly sliced and divided
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup dark molasses
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon ginger, grated and peeled
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 cup heavy cream

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch round or 9-inch by 9-inch square pan and line bottom with parchment; butter parchment. Heat 1 tablespoon butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. Cook, without stirring but swirling skillet often, until large bubbles start to form, about 2 minutes. Pour caramel-like mixture into prepared pan and tilt coat bottom of pan.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in same skillet over medium heat; add half of apples and toss to separate. Cook, tossing often, until apples are softened and almost translucent, about 4 minutes. Repeat process with another tablespoon of butter and remaining apples. Let apples sit until cool enough to handle, then arrange in overlapping layers over caramel mixture. Set pan aside.

Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg in a large bowl to combine; set aside. Heat molasses, maple syrup, remaining brown sugar and remaining butter in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring constantly, until butter is melted and mixture is smooth. Whisk in eggs and ginger. Stir baking soda into 1/4 cup very hot water in a small bowl until dissolved, then whisk into molasses mixture. Add molasses mixture into reserved dry ingredients and scrape batter over apples, spreading evenly. Evenly drizzle 1/2 cup of heavy cream over batter.

Place cake on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake until center is firm to the touch and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool in pan 15 minutes. Run a knife around the sides of cake to loosen, then remove the sides of pan and invert cake onto rack. Carefully remove pan and peel parchment away from apple layer.



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