'Tis the Season

Use herb and spice blends you mix yourself to take dishes from so-so to sublime.
By Julia Dowling Rutland

Great cooks use seasonings the way artists draw from their palettes. Just as colors layer upon each other in a painting, herbs and spices blend for a culinary masterpiece. Fresh seafood is the perfect blank canvas for seasoning. With so many varieties of fish, each subtly or distinctly flavored, the possibilities are endless. Use these blends to enhance many foods--or bottle them to give as homemade gifts.

Simply brush melted butter over a fillet and sprinkle with an herb or spice blend. Place in a hot oven or on a grill for about 10 minutes per inch of thickness. When seasoning very mild fish, such as sole, use small amounts to avoid masking the delicate flavor.

The Sweet BBQ Rub works ideally with a full-flavored fish, such as salmon. It contains a sweet-hot balance accented by the smoky essence of grilling. Try it on chicken and pork, too; their longer cooking times allow the sugary rub to caramelize for rich color and taste.

Exotic fragrances of coriander, cardamom, and fenugreek distinguish our Asian Blend. Sprinkle it lightly on fish, shellfish, and mild meats, such as chicken. Stir it into soups; the cooking water of rice, lentils, or beans; or a pot of boiling pasta for a subtle hint of spice.

In contrast, the Southwest and Louisiana blends incorporate robust ground red pepper. The Southwest version adds cumin, as well; try it on meats headed for tacos or fajitas. Both blends work nicely as rubs on fish or chicken, stirred into soups, or sprinkled on vegetables.

The zesty Lemon Blend perks up seafood, adds a bright citrus element to steamed vegetables, or becomes a garnish atop gazpacho. And it can dress the rim of a Bloody Mary glass. Cheers!