Thyme to sort through the spice cabinet!
I like to mark a date on the calendar to do a little cleaning out of the spice cabinet and get rid of old spices and dried herbs. No judgment here, but I have been to people's houses that have spices in their drawers and pantries older than their college age kids… Dried herbs and spices are good for about a year, stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. And in most every house that I step foot into, including my own, they are stored just to the side of the stove top or right above it. Do as I do and do yourself and your family a flavor favor, once a year I go through and pull out all of dried herbs and spices, open up the containers and smell them, if they smell like what they are and you can remember buying them, keep it. Write a date on the back of the container and move on to the next. If you are not even sure why you bought something and or when you bought it, pitch it! Dried spices and herbs are essential to a cooks pantry, we all love fresh herbs and we are blessed to have great farmers markets and local grocers to buy what we need virtually any day of the year. However dried herbs play an important role in cooking especially in sauces and slow cooked dishes where fresh herbs can actually take on a washed out or even dirty, earthy flavor that causes a dish to be muted and lack vibrancy. I am a fresh herb ambassador, who wisely utilizes my dried herb arsenal and keeps my pantry stocked, locked and loaded with piquant, pungent and vibrant spices and "fresh" herbaceous, dried herbs. You may be asking yourself what the difference is between dried herbs and spices? Spices tend to be from dried seeds, berries and or nuts and in the case of chile powder, dried peppers that are ground, cracked or sometimes sold whole for you to grind for an even fresher experience. I like to buy whole spices when possible and toast them lightly before grinding them in a spice mill. Herbs are primarily
plants and leaves sold ground or whole, an important tip with dried herbs is to rub them in the palm of your hand before adding them to your dishes to release more flavors...
Now there are way too many spices to list and unless you are going to get
into some deep, authentic, ethnic cooking, way to many for you to
stock in your pantry. Herbs have a much smaller Rolodex and yet there
a couple you need not bother yourself with until you come across a
recipe that calls for dried sorrel…
I do not replace fresh Garlic with dried or granulated, they have their own uses in rubs and dried spice blends but fresh garlic cannot be replicated in my humble opinion.
The following list should act as a good guide to stocking your spice
cabinet but is not limited to these items, here is my A-Z of dried herbs
and spice list;
All Spice- which ironically enough is not a blend of "all" the spices but great in sausages, baked goods, ham glaze and a wicked Gin and Tonic
Anise- I prefer Fennel, but Anise does have a place in Indian cooking and baked goods like Biscotti. Look for Anise to make a breakout in 2023…
Basil Leaves- pasta sauces, salad dressings, soups, but DO NOT for a single second think you're making pesto out of dried basil.
Bay Leaves- stews, soups and sauces, when ground is a vibrant accent to fish fry and my fried green tomato recipe
Baharat Spice Blend- Not a clever name for this dynamic blend, it’s literal translation is “Spice” in Arabic, great with roasted meats, beans and vegetables a real catch all of flavor.
Caraway- Sauerkraut, Our Delicious Rye bread for our Rueben, sauce Mornay (dairy loves Caraway)
Cardamom- baking and delicious in a dry rub for pork
Celery Seed- coleslaw dressing, bloody marys and potato salad
Chile Powder- So many options here, New Mexico, Guajillo, Light, Dark, I like them all and that may be another newsletter in and of itself, great for dry rubs, Chili and Mole
Cinnamon- ground and sticks for baking, chutney, and spiced cider
Clove- ground and whole, for baking, pickling and baked hams but be cautious
Coriander Seed- guacamole, salsa, dressings and dry rubs (A.K.A Cilantro Seed)
Cumin Seed- Soups, Mexican foods, rubs, BBQ, our delicious seeded rye for our Rueben
Curry Powder- curry duh! Chutney, chicken salad and dressings
Dill- sauce, fish dishes, homemade Ranch, best added in the last few minutes of cooking
Fennel seed- Sweet Italian Sausage, pasta sauce, meat dishes, dressings and soups my secret blackening spice
Fenugreek- Spice blends, sauces, traditionally used in breads in the Middle East. Has a robust Maple aroma and flavor.
File powder- Gumbo... Not much else
Garam Marsala- A pungent spice blend most well known for its use in curries.
Ginger Ground- baking, chutneys, dressings and soup. I use it in our exceptional dog foods for an aid in digestion. No one wants Bowser ripping off little stink bombs…
Juniper Berries- Gin, I like Gin!! Corned Beef, Rubs and Pickles
Mace- baking, bananas fosters and Todd Nog, If you missed it, it will be back around next year!
Marjoram- pasta sauce, soups and dressings it is a wild, more mild oregano
Mustard Seeds- pickles, mustard, relish our insanely good Brussel Sprout Kraut
Nutmeg- Sausages like our Hoppy Brat, baking, Bechamel sauce and coffee drinks
Oregano- pasta sauce, dressings and soups
Paprika- Goulash, dry rubs or blackening spice and of course sprinkled on deviled eggs!
Parsley- sauces and soups, best added in the last few minutes of cooking
Poppy Seeds- baking, coleslaw, breads and dukkah, yep Dukkah…
Rosemary- roast chicken, stew, soups, bean dishes
Ras el Hanut- A blend of anywhere from 20-40 different spices, blended together to make an aromatic, robust seasoning for soups, stews, rubs, roasts and even in baked goods… Also considered an aphrodisiac, gentlemen!!
Sage- gravy, soups, stuffing, turkey and brown butter sauce
Star Anise- dressings, Asian marinades and chutneys, Significantly different from the aforementioned Anise that will have its moment in 2023
Shichimi Togarashi- Japanese 7 spice blend… sushi, rice, dressings, rubs
Sumac- bright, lemony, even wild raspberry in profile. Great in rubs, beans and dressings
Thyme- sauces, roasts, soups, stews and meatloaf
Turmeric- vibrant and obvious, a popular dried powder that is used in curries, soups, rubs and tea… An anti-inflammatory as well as a dyeing agent… keep that in mind when you use it!
Wasabi- I prefer fresh, but that can be hard to have on hand when the hankering for sushi hits…
Za’atar Spice- has become very popular to finish a soup, on yogurt in a spicy, savory situation, great on fish and chicken. I am a Za’atar man…
You might have noticed salt and pepper were not on this list, that is because, one, salt is not an herb or a spice it is a mineral, and two both of them sit on my counter by the stove, not in the spice cabinet, as they are essentially in everything I cook. I also use as many different types of peppers as I can. Aleppo, Black, Espellete, Calabrian, crushed red…
As I said by no means do you need to throw away everything in you pantry that was not on this list, but you should if it does not have any benefits left to offer your cooking.
*I know I am going to receive a few emails about the toasting of the spices before grinding, so, in a small sauté pan on the stove top over a medium heat or in the oven at 375* toast the seeds till lightly golden in color or darker than when you started. Watch the pan carefully, this can happen quickly and burnt spices taste, burnt.
Remove from heat and cool slightly. Take a spice grinder or coffee grinder, grind the spices to your desired coarseness or fine powder and add to your recipe for a more robust and bright outcome.