The majority of meals would not be recognizable if we did not utilize the flavor of spices. It is of the utmost importance to explore spices and expand your knowledge of when and how to use them successfully.
Utilizing spices is important for food service in senior living facilities because taste buds tend to decline with age, so the more flavor we can give to seniors’ meals the better. Spice is important in other foodservice operations such as restaurants, because it's one of the biggest things consumers are asking for.
Spices are made from aromatic, dried buds, flowers, fruits, seeds, berries, barks and roots. They can add both flavor and antioxidants to foods and can play a vital role in weaning palates away from salt. Follow the tips and guidelines below, experiment and explore with a variety of spices, and soon you will be a spice expert in the kitchen!
Common spices and their complementary foods:
• Allspice (472741): Has the taste of several spices together – pepper, clove and nutmeg. Can be used as both a savory and sweet complement. Commonly used with beef, baked squash, cooked beans and anything containing apples. A little allspice goes a long way.
• Cinnamon (472271, 472248, 472251): Can be found in sticks or ground and is sweet, spicy and extremely aromatic. Goes well with apples and other fruit, beef and chocolate as well as in curries and stews. Great for baking as well as flavoring teas and coffees.
• Ginger (472371): Can be found fresh in root form, ground or dried. Hot, sweet and lemony. Works well in stir fry, marinades and baking as well as sprinkled on fruit salad or dusted over carrots, squash or sweet potatoes prior to roasting.
• Nutmeg (472391): Can be found whole or ground, and much like allspice, a little goes a long way. Nutmeg is strong and sweet and is often used with cheese sauces, quiches, sautéed spinach and other greens as well as a filler in pastries and sweets.
• Paprika (472481, 472491, 472001): It’s not just for that red color on deviled eggs! It is often used to “wake up” grain dishes, seafood and vegetable stews as well as to flavor hummus and dips. Paprika can be sweet, hot and smoky.
• Pepper (Featuring Whole - 472518): Comes in both peppercorn and ground forms. Use it to flavor pasta dishes, soups, stews, vegetables and more. Try a little on top of melon or peach slices for a spicy dessert.
Tips for incorporating spices:
• Start by adding a little spice (1/4 tsp or so) to familiar foods and expand from there.
• Tasting a spice by itself will not give you a full flavor profile. Try breaking a marshmallow in half, placing some of the spice on the sticky part and then tasting it. This will give you a much better idea of how that spice will affect a dish.
• Once you master the addition of one spice, you can graduate to combining several spices and come up with your own flavor combinations. More often than not, spices are actually grouped together to create the flavor in many recipes that we are accustomed to.
Tips for storing and replacing spices:
• Store spices in a cool, dark cupboard away from direct heat, sunlight and moisture.
• Keep lids secure so containers are air tight.
• Pour a little of each stored spice out and observe the color. If the vibrant color has faded, so has the flavor.
• Perform a sniff test. If the aroma is not fragrant, it is time to replace the spice.
• Whole spices need to be replaced every 4 years.
• Ground spices need to be replaced every 2-3 years.
• Seasoning blends need to be replaced every 1-2 years.
• If your spice has a best buy date, follow that guideline.
• Don’t feel guilty tossing and replacing spices. It won’t do you any good trying to enhance flavor with an out-of-date spice.