Happy New Year! With your newly invigorated resolution mindset in full gear, I thought we’d start out the first day of 2014 with something extra practical. Stocking your spice drawer (or rack.)
People often ask me how I come up with fresh recipes week after week. I tell them it’s natural to me, because I’m always on the lookout for edible inspiration.
Whether I taste something at a restaurant that inspires me to try a new flavor combination, or I’m digging through my fridge to squeeze out one more meal before I have to go back to the grocery store… I’m always looking for ways to create intriguing dishes in a new and inviting way.
One thing that never fails to inspire me is my spice drawer.
If I have a couple chicken breasts, or a butternut squash that needs to be eaten, I simply open my spice drawer and scan through the inventory. Generally two or three spices will jump out at me, as just the right flavors to breath life into my dish.
So today I thought I’d share a list of my favorite go-to herbs and spices, plus a few spice tips. It’s not a bad idea to have an assortment of herbs and spices available, so when inspiration strikes, you don’t have to run out to the store.
My Go-To Spices
- Ground Cumin
- Ancho Chile Powder
- Cayenne Pepper
- Ground Mustard
- Dried Tarragon
- Dried Thyme
- Dried Dill
- Dried Oregano
- Nutmeg, Whole or Ground
- Ground Cinnamon
- Whole Cardamom
- Curry Leaves (I keep in the freezer)
- Ground Coriander
- Garlic Powder
- Curry Powder
- Bay Leaves
- Culinary Lavender
- Herbes de Provence
- Moroccan Ras El Hanout
- Garam Masala
- Pumpkin Pie Spice (for when I’m in a hurry)
- Crystalized Ginger
- Various high quality peppercorns and natural sea salts
These are things I always have on hand. I find having a wide range of options allows me to let my creative juices flow freely, without being inhibited.
I also want to mention I don’t buy table salt at all. Ever.
I buy high-quality unprocessed natural sea salts, because they offer lower sodium and greater flavor, without all the added chemicals. If you have a sensitive palate you can most definitely taste the difference in good salt, so I feel it’s worth the extra money.
Spice Tips and Tricks
Herbs and spices lose their potency over time. It’s best to use them within a year of being purchased. If you have spices in the back of your pantry that have been there for 15 years, it’s probably best to cut your losses and throw them out.
However, if you have spices that are a little old and seem to have lost their zip, you can refresh them by roasting them in a skillet. Simply pour the spices into a dry skillet and place over medium heat. Toss and watch closely. The moment their aroma intensifies, it’s time to remove them from the heat. You can burn spices, rather easily. Roasting spices works especially well with spices that start with C… cumin, cayenne pepper, chile powder, coriander, and so on.
If your herbs seem a little stale, pour them into a mortar and crush them with the pestal. Crushing the dried herbs brings the last of their remaining oils to the surface for once last hurrah.
That’s my spicy perspective today.