An Introduction to Italian Seasoning
If you were to open up a random pantry or spice cabinet, chances are very good that you would find a jar of Italian seasoning. This seasoning is incredibly common, due in part to its versatility and in part to the fact that Italian cuisine is a popular favorite. Read further for information regarding the ingredients, recommended uses, and other useful tips regarding Italian seasoning that any home chef should know.
This seasoning is a blend of several Italian herbs. Generally, these herbs consist of basil, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, and of course oregano. These are herbs commonly used in any Italian dish, so it is no great wonder that every grocery store carries jars of this concoction.
Different varieties are also widely available in most stores, or in the privacy of your own home.
Many people like an extra boost of garlic, and this can be easily achieved by adding garlic powder to already purchased standard Italian seasoning. People seeking to heat things up will often purchase red pepper varieties, or simply add red pepper flakes to their own. This is a popular choice for marinara sauces and can really enhance your dish.
Other popular spices that are easily added and blend well include parsley, cilantro, coriander, and onion powder. Sometimes a variation consists of making a homemade batch that is missing some of the traditionally included herbs.
Italian seasoning is incredibly versatile and lends itself to a cornucopia of different foods. Obviously this herbal blend is best suited for traditional Italian dishes such as bruschetta, pizza, and various pasta sauces, but it would be a shame to limit yourself.
This seasoning blend is wonderful for all different types of meat. It can be used as a rub to spice up your poultry, lamb, pork, beef, and fish, or mixed in with a marinade. Some people also choose to sprinkle a bit on the top of their meat prior to baking or roasting. The options are infinite.
Side dishes also get a helping hand from this seasoning. Soups can be brought to a completely different level by sprinkling a bit in the stock. It is also commonly used to create a variety of vinaigrettes, and is therefore also used by some to enhance their salads.
If you want to impress some company or your loved ones by having a fancy dinner, get some Italian bread and mix this seasoning on a plate with some olive oil. The bread can then be dipped in the oil (common practice at many fine Italian restaurants). For a more casual setting or situation, it can be mixed with butter to create a delicious, earthy spread for crackers or bread as well. A dash of garlic powder and some grated parmesan makes it even better.
Most spices seem geared for use with meat, sauces, and stews, but Italian seasoning also lends itself to vegetables as well. Sprinkling a little on potatoes and then roasting them will be sure to draw a crowd around the oven as the scintillating aromas waft through the kitchen and into the house. Zucchini, eggplant, and tomato also go well with these herbs. Be sure to experiment on some old recipes that need an update.
Although Italian seasoning will not spoil or go bad in the traditional sense, it will lose its flavor after a period of time, particularly if it is not stored properly. Ideally you should store the mix in an airtight jar or container and keep it away from extreme heat, direct sun, and humidity. Pantries and spice racks in cabinets make an ideal place for most spices. If kept in a prime location, your herbs should maintain a fresh flavor for two years.
To test for freshness, take a dash of the herbs and crush them on a flat surface. If you can smell a strong, earthy aroma emanating, then they are still fresh. If, however, there is no increased smell or the herbs appear muted in color, it’s time you invest a few dollars and replace your Italian seasoning.