Italian Spice Mix, or not
Long ago I was told “Italians take pride in their food, wine and opera. Bad tenors and boring sauces get the loudest whistles (boos) yet they’ll still drink the wine.” Fresh herbs and spices are the rule around the northern Mediterranean seaboard mostly because many herbs grow naturally in the area. Since Italian cuisine relies upon simplicity, the use of mixes and garlic is frowned upon. Actually more than frowned upon; there is an anti-garlic revolt going on now in Italy. Garlic and potent mixes could overpower the flavor and hide a chef’s shortcomings.
When I was experimenting with tomato sauces for pasta and pizza I discovered, as the Italians did, that “simple was better.” I now use just one or two herbs or spices when I create Italian meals. Here are some ideas to think about:
- Use fresh ingredients especially tomatoes, and most herbs.
- Use flat leafed parsley in most recipes, curly parsley only for a garnish.
- Dried oregano (“wild marjoram”) has more flavor than parsley.
- Crush dry herbs and seeds just before using them.
- Rosemary is used in soup and stews.
- Fresh, sweet basil is used in tomato sauces and along with a single bay leaf in soups and stews.
To read more about Italian spices and herbs visit http://www.calascio.com/spices&.htm
A generic mixture called Herbs de Provence is used throughout Europe as a rub on grilled fish and meat or to flavor soup, stews and vegetables. Savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, and oregano were the most cited ingredients as I researched this. Maybe we can get Gabriel to enlighten us about European Cuisine.
Here is a simple recipe for Italian spice mix. Make a small quantity so you can make fresh batches every month or so.
- 4 tablespoons dried basil
- 3 tablespoons dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- add onion or garlic powder to taste.
- Combine all ingredients and store in a tightly sealed container.
- Measure what is needed for the recipe,
- Grind mixture to release flavor before adding to other ingredients..
- For tomato sauce, try to find or grow fresh basil.