Spice & Advice

How many times have you made a new recipe and it was just “blah”? No real flavor, nothing exciting. It happens to me all of the time, I’ll make chicken and rice and it taste just as bland as it sounds. So that’s why we’re here to share our chefs’ advice on using herbs and spices in recipes, and we’ll even share some of our own favorites!

Herbs and spices can be tricky, they don’t all go well together and it is extremely easy to use too much and overpower your meal. So here are some tips that our Chefs here at Chartwells have to share!

Chartwells’ Campus Executive Chef, Mat Belzano, shares that when using multiple spices:

Layering flavors by adding the spices at different cooking times can really change the flavor profile of a dish.

Belzano also adds that you can’t be afraid to try something new, you have to get out of your comfort zone! Here is a little life advice:

If you want succeed in life you must be willing to break away from your comfort zone, and food can be the perfect start to that process.

He shares that he actually uses a spice called Garam Masala which is commonly used in Indian cuisine, and it has become one of his favorite spices to work with. Have you tried Garam Masala? Here is an amazing Tikka Masala Soup recipe that uses not only Garam Masala but many other spices as well, check it out! Get outside of that comfort zone!

Brough Dining Hall Executive Chef, Scott Hicks, shares his love for Mediterranean cuisine as well as his love for… salt? That right. Salt.

If I were stranded on a desert island and could only have one spice, it would be Kosher or Sea salt.  This is a non-negotiable item in my personal and professional kitchens.

Hicks continues to say that when using salt, you should never taste the salt, it should simply accentuate the flavors of your dish. With his favorite spice being salt, his favorite herb is actually basil! Chef Scott shares that, “when using dried herbs, they need to be added towards the beginning of the cooking process in order for the essential oils to reactivate.  Fresh herbs should be added near the end of cooking so that you don’t “cook out” the oils. Who knew?! And a little life advice–

Don’t over-generalize cuisines, there is more to Mediterranean than Caprese salads!

Here is a rockin’ Mediterranean eggplant pasta recipe using both basil and salt! Tying back into what Chef Mat said, don’t be afraid to try something new and different, you’d be surprised what herbs and spices can do to a meal!

Lastly, Fulbright Dining Hall Executive Chef, Flint Adams, tells us that his favorite herb is Thyme and his favorite spice is between White Pepper and Smoked Paprika. He suggests pairing Thyme with any meat, especially game such as duck. Adams does give us a warning about Tarragon:

Tarragon comes to mind when I think about strange flavors.  It often doesn’t play well with other herbs and can lead to a sort of dissonance in the dish.

Check out this recipe that uses Thyme when preparing pan roasted chicken! A little life hack from Adams not only adds to your dish but also your home? You heard it here first!

Steeping whole herbs in oil fills your house with a fantastic aroma and the resulting herb oil allows you to incorporate a distinct floral note throughout your dishes.

I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve learned a lot from our amazing chefs here at Chartwells! I use to always make bland food to avoid ruining it with the wrong spices or too many herbs. However, I have out-grown this worry and found my new favorite spice to be garlic salt! It goes with everything and I have no idea why I hadn’t cooked with it before. I put it on grilled or baked chicken and I am never disappointed, plus it pairs well with most of the herbs I have at home which keeps me trying new combinations. My life advice? If your food doesn’t taste amazing, you’re probably not excited to eat it. Play with new flavors and start experiencing your food in a whole new way!

Wellness intern Kayleigh Beane says her favorite herb is either basil or lavender, and she loves combining them both to make basil lavender lemonade! This recipe is so fun I couldn’t help but share it. Lavender lattes and ice cream are becoming super common, have you tried either yet?