By Lisa Browdy
Whether you're cooking everyday meals or baking special holiday treats, it behooves you to have a set of herbs and spices to work with. Fortunately, here in Oak Park and River Forest, we have some excellent resources for seasonings.
Though not much of a gardener, I grew a little herb garden this summer, and I'm enjoying putting my fresh herbs in pastas and soups. But dried herbs are just as useful, and you can use less of them, since taking out the moisture concentrates the flavor.
Walk into Penzey's and you will have hundreds of spices to choose from – almost too many. I can never tell if the cinnamon from India or China will taste better in my baking. The store and the Penzey's website have lots of recipes to try in every category from salads to stews to sweets.
If you are trying a new recipe with a spice you've never tried before, check out the bulk spices near the homeopathic remedies section at Whole Foods. This is an easy, economical way to get exactly the amount of the herb or spice you need without committing to the whole bottle – and as a bonus, they spices are all organic. I wish I had known about this before I committed to a jar of lemongrass that I used only once.
Buying bulk herbs in small quantities makes sense because the flavor doesn't last indefinitely. It is always a good idea to mark the purchase date on your bottles and replace them every so often. If your spice rack has any remnants from the Clinton administration, it is probably time to give them a heave-ho.
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