Friday, September 08, 2006

Spice Staples, Storage and Secrets

I'm starting a new cooking meme. Steal it and make it your own! I'm not going to tag anyone, but feel free to tag yourself. I had a discussion a while back with someone about favorite kitchen spices. Here were some of the key points in my email discussion with her that I thought you would enjoy:

"What spices do you ALWAYS have on hand and like to use the most?"

Hungarian Sweet Paprika
Hungarian Hot Paprika
Cayenne Pepper
Fresh Ground Pepper

Garlic Salt
Garlic Powder
Parsley Flakes
Cow-Town BBQ Meat Rubs
Celery Salt
Curry Powder
Chili Powder
Red Pepper Flakes

Sesame Seeds
Minced Onion
Ground Sumac
fresh Rosemary (dried at home)
Tomato Bouillon
Ground Coriander

fresh Pequin Peppers (dried at home)
Bay leaves
Fresh Garlic bulbs

Of course, I have a ton more spices than this... and some that I probably need to throw out because they are old. I just can't bring myself to do it.

"What Fresh Herbs do you Use Most?"
Cilantro would probably take first place after garlic. I prefer using FRESH Thyme, but like to use powder in Thanksgiving Dressing. I also like using fresh Lemon rind rather than lemon pepper or grated dry lemon. I use fresh Rosemary a lot also, and then dry the rest out on the counter and use that up before buying another fresh batch.

"How do you store your herbs?"
I keep my spices in three or four Container-Store metal bins that can easily be pulled out of the cabinet and rummaged through. I have all my reds (hots - peppers, chili powders, curries, paprikas, turmeric, etc.) in one bin, my greens in another, and my baking seasonings (cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, allspice, etc.) in still another. The ones I use almost every week or every day are on the shelf beside them or on the back of my stove in easy reach.

"Do you have any spice advice?"
If you buy spices in international markets such as oriental or Hispanic, you can usually get better deals than you can at regular grocery stores. I found relatively cheap saffron in a Hispanic grocery store. Recently I saw Sumac going for an awful price online through an "import company" because it is hard to locate in regular markets in America (this is a spice that looks darker red than paprika and has a bit of a lemon taste... it is widely used in Greek foods). I went to an Asian grocery store and got a whole BAG of it (more than I can use in five years) for just a few dollars.

I also buy my Thai Tea in oriental markets rather than online. Thai Tea has a wonderful orange color and is made very sweet and strong. It is served over ice with cream at the top. It has an unusual and unique flavor all it's own. It goes really well with HOT Thai dishes, but we like it all the time. You can get it much cheaper at an Asian grocer than you can online (and you don't have to pay shipping, either).

One of my favorite new spice adventures was to add cayenne pepper to the chocolate drink that Starbucks offered a year or so ago. It was called Chantico, I think. They quit selling it, but I have been told they are working on making another product like it. I got the idea from the movie "Chocolate". I never would have thought that cayenne would make chocolate taste so good!!!

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