When you first start cooking, you may have only the vaguest idea of what seasonings complement which foods. Often the only way you can learn is by
experimenting, and so every time you open the refrigerator door and forage for a meal, your creativity is tested. Herbs and spices make a huge difference
in the flavor of food and can be especially useful if you want to make delicious but low fat meals. If, however, you're just getting started in the
kitchen, you probably have no idea where to even start shopping. The supermarket isn't going to let you stand at the shelves and open all the jars to
smell the contents, so you need to know what to look for before you shop.
Here are some general guidelines. You can buy ready-made spice mixes, too, which can save you some time until you feel brave enough to try making up your own combinations.
Chicken: tarragon, thyme, rosemary, garlic, lemon pepper, barbecue spice, onions, white wine
Fish: dill, thyme, parsley, lemon, garlic, white wine, capers, salsa
Beef: garlic, rosemary, cloves, paprika, lemon pepper, black pepper, barbecue spice, Worcestershire sauce, red wine, Italian dressing, teriyaki sauce
Vegetables: lemon pepper, thyme, dill, cayenne, parsley, rice or balsamic vinegar, paprika
Certain ethnic cooking styles have characteristic flavorings, and if you like those foods, you may want to make sure you have the appropriate ingredients on hand. Chinese and Japanese cooking often uses soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame and peanut oils. Thai foods frequently contain curry, mint, coconut milk and garlic. For Italian dishes you want basil, oregano, rosemary, capers and garlic. For Mexican try chili powder, cumin, cilantro and various chilies. Use a certain amount of caution as you season.
It may not take much to make your food taste the way you like it. Nor should you feel that you have to use everything on the list. Start simply and learn what works for you.