Spices are naturally aromatic and flavorful, but to release even more of their natural flavors there are a few things you should do - depending on the type of spice (and what form it's in) that you're working with.
Whole Spices (ie. seeds, pods, sticks) can be made more intense in flavor by:
- Toasting (dry heat)
- Blooming (moist heat)
How to toast: Place the spices in a small dry skillet and set over medium heat, shaking pan often once they start to become fragrant. Shake/toss until spices are just starting to turn color.
How to bloom: Heat a skillet with a tablespoon of oil (or more if you have a lot of spices) over medium heat until it’s hot, but not smoking. Add the whole spices, shaking pan often and allow them to cook until noticeably more fragrant and little bubbles form around the spices. At this point remove from heat (you don't want them to brown), or add the remaining ingredients to the skillet for the recipe you're making. Depending on the type of whole spices you're using, you'll usually want to remove them from the finished dish before serving.
Ground Spices must be bloomed in oil, as dry toasting can quickly burn them in their powdered form.
How to bloom: In a small dish create a thick paste with the spice(s) by adding a bit of liquid to them (whatever is called for in your recipe - like water, stock, or wine). Add it to a skillet with a tablespoon of oil, and stir over medium heat until very fragrant and all the liquid has evaporated, leaving only the oil.