Secret #1: Dried Herbs and Spices
How many years has that little bottle of cayenne sat in your cupboard? Would you use, say, coffee beans that have been hanging around that long? NO!! OF COURSE NOT! Over time, the flavor and aroma loses its potency and vibrancy. So, here's two of my personal rules regarding herbs and spices. One, buy just a bit at a time from a store that sells them in bulk, like Whole Foods or Smith's Marketplace. They sell enough so that you can be pretty sure the product is fresh, and you'll save a ton over buying jars of spices. Two, whenever you can, buy whole seeds and grind them yourself (i.e. Cumin, Coriander, Fenugreek, etc.). Invest in a grinder dedicated to spice grinding - any old coffee grinder will do. You will taste the difference, I promise!
Secret #2: A Spoonful of Vinegar
I owe the author of "The Accidental Vegan" (see My Favorite Cookbooks) for two very important things: the name of this blog and an appreciation for the magic of a splash of good red wine vinegar. When you've made something savory that tastes well-spiced but needs a boost to really pop, this is my trick. Sometimes if the dish is light colored or more subtly flavored, I use lemon juice instead.
Secret #3: Good Bouillon
You know how sometimes recipes call for vegetable stock or water? Always, always go for the stock or water with bouillon. The flavor of the soup will be deeper and richer. And be choosy about the bouillon cubes. Turns out, my old stand-by "Knorr's Vegetarian Vegetable" has MSG in it - boo! I've now switched to using Rapunzel Brand Veggie with Herbs or Better Than Bouillon Organic Vegetable Base.