The tasteful alternatives to salt and pepper in any dish you create are herbs and spices. These bits of crushed leaves or ground-up bark not only complement meats and vegetables but add an infusion of flavors that gives certain foods their unique taste. After all, what is spaghetti sauce without basil and oregano? You cannot have garlic bread without the garlic. And eggnog without nutmeg is simply a soft custard drink. With all the different herbs and spices available, there is no end to the creative ways to spice up your culinary experience.
Choose a recipe you are familiar with to begin cooking with herbs and spices. Any dish which has a protein and vegetables works well for seasoning with herbs. Read the entire recipe before beginning.
Select herbs or spices which complement the flavors of the meat. For instance, bay leaves add a good flavor to beef roasts, while rosemary works well with lamb or chicken. If you are preparing an ethnic food, choose spices used traditionally for those specific foods: chilies, cilantro and cumin for Mexican, or ginger and anise seed for Asian cooking.
Season the meats prior to cooking to infuse the flavor into the meat like a marinade. Use dried herbs and spices to create a rub and apply to the outside of the meat. Allow the meat to stand for 30 minutes so the flavors seep into the cut of meat. Cook as directed in the recipe.
Flavor any vegetables used in the recipe by sauteing slightly with the spices and herbs. You may also create a bed of herbs in a steamer and lay the vegetables on top so the flavors penetrate the vegetables. Use the spiced vegetables as directed in the recipe or serve as a side dish.
Substitute the salt called for in the recipe with a powdered mixture of the herbs you are using. You may also create your own mixture which complements the flavors already in the dish.