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Herbs & Spices Spotlight10

Common Herbs in Soap

Monday March 14, 2011

Herbal SoapBesides making whatever you're cooking taste even better, herbs are also great additions to, yes, your daily shower.

Soapmakers know that adding herbs to soap can contribute wonderful color and texture to the finished product -- not to mention offer various benefits to your skin. Read up on some of the most common herbs used in soapmaking so you know what to look for on your next trip to the store (or to consider mixing into your next homemade batch).

Photo: Getty Images / Trinette Reed

AeroGarden Sale: Frugal Find or Silly Gadget?

Thursday February 26, 2009
AeroGarden Pro Series
Image Courtesy of PriceGrabber

I've long been fascinated by AeroGrow's AeroGardens, which use soil-free aeroponic technology to bring year-round gardening indoors. But I'm most impressed by the array of available herb seed kits, which make it possible to grow hard-to-find herbs like chervil, epazote, and savory right on the countertop.

With all the collective belt-tightening, this might not seem the best time to invest in a kitchen gadget that ordinarily runs between $100 and $230. But right now, AeroGrow is discounting all of it's AeroGardens by at least $20, and throwing in the Herb Appeal collection and free shipping when you shop on their website. Considering that in the long run it's cheaper to grow herbs than to continually purchase them, I'm wondering if this wouldn't be a good time to finally spring for one. Cooking for Kids Guide Stephanie Gallagher gave the AeroGarden a great review, but I'd love to hear from others. Do you have an AeroGarden, and if so, how do you feel about it? Have you considered buying one, but decided against it? Comment below, or share your thoughts in my forum.

From the Herb & Spice Forum: What Is Your Dream Spice Rack?

Saturday February 21, 2009
The Mount Butler's Pantry
© Flickr user davedash3

I recently wrote an article on spice cabinet organization, and ever since, I've been imagining artful displays of herbs and spices in some future perfect kitchen. It's just been fleeting images of magnetic spice boards, and a kitchen herb garden la the HGTV dream home, though -- nothing that's coalesced into a strong vision of my ideal kitchen storage situation.

But forum reader Starr asked " What is your dream setup? ," and I can't get her question out of my head. I've been so preoccupied with the icky industrial linoleum floor in my apartment kitchen that I'd forgotten to imagine the possibilities. Starr "...dream[s] of having an old fashion still room, a walk in pantry with a small sink, and shelves for drying, storing and making herb and spice blends..." Sounds divine. What's your perfect setup? Are you living your dream, or dealing with a kitchen challenge? I'd love to hear about it, and discuss your herb and spice storage ideas (and ideals!) in my forum.

Curry Roasted Cauliflower

Tuesday February 17, 2009
Curry Roasted Cauliflower
© 2009 Miri Rotkovitz

Moroccan Food Guide Christine Benlafquih recently polled readers to find out How Precisely Do You Measure Spices?. I wasn't sure how to answer at first. If I'm baking, I'm quite careful to measure ingredients precisely, because baking success relies so much on food chemistry. If I'm trying a new recipe, I'll measure as well, because I don't think it's really possible to evaluate a recipe without following it as it's written. And if I'm developing, testing, or writing a recipe, I'll definitely measure precisely, because I want whoever follows that recipe to have the best shot at a delicious result. But like many of those who responded to the poll, I don't tend to measure much when I'm doing everyday cooking -- I just play around until whatever I'm making looks/smells/tastes right.

Usually I'm happy with my improvisational nature in the kitchen. But sometimes I get frustrated, because I'll hit on a great recipe, but won't be able to recreate it, or I'll have an idea that seems to elude execution. I had some great curried cauliflower while visiting the Berkshires a few years ago, and despite countless efforts, I just couldn't seem to figure out how to make it. Then Benlafquih's spice measuring poll inspired me to get out the measuring spoons and approach things more systematically. This Curry Roasted Cauliflower is the happy result. Lighter than the cream-laden recipe that inspired it, this cauliflower gets its complex flavor from roasting-induced caramelization, and just the right amount of curry powder. From now on, I'll always know how to spice this dish right. And I couldn't have done it without my measuring spoons.

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