Someone asked me recently if there were spices I preferred to use in the winter time as opposed to summer. The truth is I never really thought about it. Or maybe I have, but on a subconscious level. In the summer months, I gravitate towards fresh herbs and lighter spices. In the colder winter months, I do tend to use deeper, earthier, ‘warmer’ herbs and spices. Not necessarily because I “choose” to, but more because they lend themselves to the dishes I’m making. So I guess there are, in fact, spices for the seasons.
Warmer months are about new and fresh- basil, tarragon, mint, cilantro, lemon thyme. Herbs added to my food bringing a bright, fresh, slightly sweet green note. Fresh herbs are best added at the end of the cooking, letting their essential oils released through heat, or cutting, flavor the food. If added too early in the cooking process, fresh herbs will lose their flavor in cooking, and you won’t really get to appreciate the added herbaceous notes.
Colder winter months, where I can’t simply walk outside and pick my herbs, is when my spice cabinet gets the most use. I’m also cooking dishes which will take more time on the stove, or in the oven, which plays perfectly into using dried spices. Of course, my spice selection depends on what I’m cooking. If I’m cooking a Mexican style stew with shredded pork, black beans, and jalapeno, I’ll build the background flavor with cumin and coriander; If I’m making an Asian inspired noodle soup I’ll use star anise; a good ol’ beef stew is getting a couple of bay leaves; and let me not leave out the power of smoked paprika, which can bring a little bit of summer grilling into your winter home if used on a roasted chicken.
I encourage you to experiment with different spices and seasonings in your cooking. What’s your “go to” spice? Feel free to share your top spice or favorite seasoning with us, especially if you’re preparing a dish using our restaurant quality beef or seafood! Tag us on social media with #theseasonedcarte for a chance to be featured on our page.