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Season in Layers

Take the richness of herbs and spices to new depths by adding them to a recipe gradually.

The cookbook is now available for purchase! To find out more about it as well as take advantage of special website pricing ($8 off--use discount code U9KGY74Z) visit the Spiced Right e-store at CreateSpace. We got a glowing review! Check it out at the Chef Talk website.


Season in Layers

by Sandra Bowens

We all know that herbs and spices are what make a dish interesting or different. Lemon chicken or tarragon chicken are still just chicken without the additional flavors. But you can add further depth to a dish by seasoning in stages, or layering, throughout the cooking process.

Layering works especially well in longer cooking stovetop recipes like soups or braised meats. Let's use a pot of chili as an example. Start by browning the meat. Drain it and then add chopped onion and bell pepper. After cooking and stirring for a few minutes, add the first layer of spices.

Use about one third of the amount of seasonings you think will use for the whole recipe. Sprinkle it over the meat and veggies and mix it in well. This meeting with the heat of the skillet heightens the initial flavor as well as deep-seasoning the base ingredients. The second spice layer will go in with the liquids.

In the case of the chili, add another third of the spices with the tomato sauce and beans. Simmer as long as desired and then add the last layer of seasoning about 15 minutes before the cooking is through. This final layer brings a certain brightness to the dish.

Saute first

You may see recipes that call for cooking the spices in oil or a dry skillet as a first step. Common in Indian cookery, this is done to take away the "raw" taste and make them more digestible.


Toasting seeds or spices in a dry skillet will create a much deeper flavor. Try using these toasted seasonings as a garnish to top a dish that has been prepared with the same untoasted spice.

Another trick is to heat oil and a spice or combination of several in a skillet over low heat. This creates a seasoned oil that may be used as the base for a dish or as a garnish. Try cooking garlic and crushed red pepper in plenty of olive oil as a simple sauce for spaghetti.

Use fresh and dried combos

You can really punch up flavors by using a combination of the same herb in fresh and dried forms. When you use an herb in a dish where it will cook for more than a few minutes, a dried herb may be preferable.

Consider fennel seeds in your meatballs and then sprinkle some snipped fennel leaves (from a bulb of fresh fennel) over the top of the final dish. Or rub a roast with dried marjoram and finish with a handful of fresh leaves over the top after you've cooked it.

Try it, you'll like it

Experiment with this trick of layering the next time you whip up a pot of something on the stove. You will taste the difference.



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Other articles you might enjoy:

1. What Goes with What? Q&A Page

2. Handy Herbal Glossary

3. Nifty Herb and Spice Gadgets

4. Compound Butters Rescue Plain Foods

5. Guidelines for Seasoning with Herbs and Spices


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