TOSS MOST OF YOUR SPICES—ESPECIALLY THAT GROUND CUMIN.
Ground spices die quickly. So give them a whiff—if they don’t smell like anything, they won’t taste like anything. And if they don’t taste like anything, you’re cooking with a flavorless, brown powder.
After measuring your dried spices and herbs to add to your dish, crush the ingredients for added flavor.
An easy method for testing herb and spice combinations is to mix them with small amounts of a mild cheese, like cream cheese. Allow them to sit for at least an hour, then sample your blends, noting which flavors you most enjoy. Be sure to label the samples so you’ll know how to duplicate or modify each to suit your taste.
As a beginner, you may want to stick with herbs and spices that are known to complement each other. Common flavor families include:
Bouquet Garnis — basil, bay, oregano, parsley
Herbal — basil, marjoram, rosemary, thyme
Hot — chili peppers, cilantro, cumin, garlic
Pungent — celery, chili peppers, cumin, curry, ginger, black pepper
Spicy — cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, star anise
Sweet — allspice, anise, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg