By SARA ARTHURS
Ready to get out of your cooking comfort zone? Chefs at area restaurants, each asked to name one herb or spice to help you do so, offered a variety of ideas.
Some may be ingredients you don’t ordinarily use, while others may be familiar ingredients just used in different ways:
Basil isn’t just for pesto, but can be used in a wide variety of dishes.
“It just smells awesome,” said Chintana Srihakhot, owner of Jack & Jin’s Thai Restaurant.
And, she said, it can be used in absolutely everything.
Among the examples at Jack and Jin’s are basil fried rice, as well as basil stir fry.
For the home cook, Srihakhot recommends trying it with eggs.
2.) Ghost chili
Jared Levi, chef at the Tavern at the Inn, Findlay Inn and Conference Center, suggests the ghost chili.
His recommendation? Make a barbecue sauce with it. Levi did caution, though, that it’s important to treat this type of pepper with respect, and to only use a small amount. “Know how hot it is, for sure,” he cautioned.
The pepper, at one point considered one of the hottest in existence, won’t just hurt your eyes if you touch it. “It will hurt your toes,” Levi said.
Rhonda Moor, executive chef and owner at the Mustard Seed Cafe at the Depot in Bluffton, said many may be surprised at the flavors that can be brought about by adding horseradish.
“Especially fresh horseradish. … It adds to the foundation level,” she said, adding it will enhance all the other first and secondary flavors of the dish. “We add it in many, many things,” she said.
Aside from the restaurant’s mustard blend, this includes many sauces. “Oftentimes, you’ll even find me baking with it.”
Here, too, it’s best that home cooks start conservatively, so as not to be overwhelmed. “But at the same time, just enjoy the surprise,” Moor said.
4.) Star anise
Renz Salanga, owner of Stix Restaurant, suggests using star anise to make broth.
This is versatile, and he said the broth can then be combined with any type of protein desired, and the anise adds to it.
“You don’t need much,” he said.
Don’t eat the anise itself, though, Salanga warned.
5.) Chili powder
A wide variety of spices are used in Indian cooking, but one that Jasvir Bajwa, owner and cook at Punjabi Kitchen, recommends is chili powder.
Chili powder, along with turmeric, is used “in every single dish” at the restaurant.
And, he said, a home cook can do the same thing, with a wide variety of foods possible.
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