An Aromatic Cook’s Paradise

Herbs & Spices: The Cook’s Reference, by Jill Norman, (DK), 336 pages, release date 5 May, 2015

As my kitchen will attest, I’m an herb and spice enthusiast. My cooking tends not to be subtle, and I’m always looking for interesting flavors that will stand out in a dish. For this reason, Jill Norman’s Herbs & Spices has quickly made a place for itself on my “favorite cooking books” shelf. This book has any number of features that make it enjoyable both to peruse and to use.

• First off, Herbs & Spices is published by DK, the absolute masters of photo-illustrated books. There just aren’t any pages composed of text alone. Each entry is illustrated by multiple pictures of the herb or spice under consideration, showing it in its original form and in the varying forms in which cooks use it.

Herbs & Spices has multiple uses. Besides photos, each entry includes tasting notes, buying and storing suggestions, tips for growing one’s own, and a set of culinary uses.

• Because Herbs & Spices is organized in categories, it’s easy to look for a particular sort of flavor. In the herb section there are chapters for citrus/tart herbs, minty herbs, oniony herbs, and half a dozen others. In the spices section, one finds nutty spices, acidic/fruity spices, pungent spices, and more.

Herbs & Spices has an entire chapter devoted to salt, just the thing for folks like me who can’t resist buying interesting salts or salt samplers, but then don’t know what to do with them.

• One additional pleasure of this book: recipes. The recipe section comes at the edd and is about sixty pages long with two recipes to a page. There are recipes for creating original spice blends, for marinades, for every course, and for using every type of meat—or none. While some of these recipes may be familiar, any number of them will be completely new, even for experiences chefs.

The review copy of this book that I originally received was electronic, but as soon as I’d begun looking it over I put in an order for a print copy at my local independent book shop. Herbs & Spices is a keeper, offering beauty, practicality, innovation, and inspiration between its covers.

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