A world of tastes in your spice cabinet
Okay who else early in their cooking exploits bought one of those fully stocked, rotating, 20-spice racks? Yup, me too. And you know I felt like I had to hang on to those spices. Sure I know they lose their flavor after awhile, but I just kept pushing them farther and farther back in the cabinet thinking, “One day I’m going to need this for a recipe” (yeah, the spice rack deal didn’t last long when I realized how much room it takes up:). Well I’ve finally trimmed my spice cabinet to just a few essentials. The ones that I just can’t substitute in certain dishes. Usually these are the spices that give that authentic zing to dishes I make from other parts of the world. Here are some of my favorites–
This is one of the few spices I’ll pay a little bit more for an authentic variety. I like Penzey’s Hungary Half-Sharp Paprika, which packs more of a kick than what you’ll find at the grocery store (the full sharp has a little too much of a kick for me). I’m pretty generous with the paprika on my Hungarian chicken that I serve over spaetzle (German dumpling/noodle pasta that used to be my middle daughter’s favorite food before she discovered fried rice).
I can’t help but throw in a couple more obscure spices that I can’t live without.
Yes, you could buy roasted, dried ancho chiles and add those to dishes too (and I often do use) but for the flavor of ancho chiles without all the work I sprinkle in the ground variety. I haven’t found this spice outside of Mexican grocers except at Savory Spice. I buy it in bulk. Like cumin, toss this spice into your favorite Mexican dishes.
These are getting easier to find, but I always toss mustard seeds into fresh vinaigrettes or when a recipe calls for mustard I’ll throw some of these in too (I like them in rice when I serve pork dishes). The tiny seeds pop in your mouth when you eat them and have sweeter, brighter flavor than pourable mustard. They aren’t a mustard substitute, but just a fun addition.
These ideas came to mind as I was checking out Patriotic Things to Do in the Summer with your kids on Motherboard. One of the tips was to explore cultures throughout the world by making dishes from those countries. Love it.
Your turn–What are some of your ‘can’t-do-without’ spices?