Your list of must have spices will depend on your upbringing. If you enjoy a specific countries cuisine then you know you can’t do without those spices and you’ll also experiment more with those same spices in other foods. But everyone still wants to know just what spices they should keep on hand? Every starter chef has asked this question at some point or another, only to find the standard black and white, boring list that everyone else has.
Salt and pepper have reigned long enough and are slowly being picked off by other, more tasteful spices. But it’s still quite impossible for me to cook without them. Basil and oregano are on top for me along with sage. The only problem with these spices is they become commonplace and are grow familiar to the tongue. Few people know that the tongue has over 10,000 taste buds, so it is safe to say that the tongue can grow tired of the same spices day after day. Here are 5 new spices that every kitchen should keep on hand to really spice up a meal.
- Garlic – While this may be on everyone’s typical list it always amazes me how many cooks I run into that don’t use garlic as much as I do. We have it on handin many forms and I use it in most dishes. I’d find it near impossible to cook without it. lol
- Bay Leaves – While these delightful leaves are commonly found in kitchens worldwide, they are hardly ever used except for gumbo and the occasional turkey on Thanksgiving. This spice is rich in vitamin A and C and was once used to crown Roman Gladiators – reason enough. Next time, try bay leaves in your soup, casserole or roast, the longer the cook time, the more flavor will be pulled from the leaf. Just make sure to remove the leaf before eating, otherwise you will get a shock of strong, woodsy flavor when you bite down.
- Mustard Seed – Just like the common condiments, these little balls are bursting with a spicy and noticible flavor. Coming in a variety of colors and flavors, it will do good to try them all. Grinding up the seeds adds a beautiful color and taste while cooking rice. Using whole seeds while oil is warming, allows the seeds to pop open, releasing their sharp flavor to permeate the oil. Ground mustard seeds also go well on meats such as chicken and lamb; add a little mustard seed and brown sugar to your breading mixture and you have an extremely tasty and crunchy crust when baked.
- Ginger – Stir fry is one of my favorite things to make. There is always some kind of vegetable in the bottom of the veggie drawer or back of the freezer to get tossed up with a quickly thawed meat. There are just a ton of options and it’s something I can ask the kids to get to cutting up if I’m running behind. Since we try to eat a little better and I need to go lower sodium, ginger is a great option for adding flavor without calories.
- Cumin – I found this spice quite by accident just a few years ago. It has allowed me to stop needing to use those store bought taco seasonings for my Mexican dishes. This is an ancient spice used in the Mediterreanian region for 1000’s of years. I keep this handy in the seed and ground form. I love to toast the seeds myself and grind it. It makes the house smell amazing. Fajitas, enchiladas, tacos, just about every dish has had a makeover in my house after finding this spice.
The next time you reach for your normal bland spices, slap your hand with the wooden spoon and remember to reach for something that will give your taste buds a kick. Shop the spice aisle for some sales on spices you haven’t tried before. I love to grab a tablespoon from the bulk section if I’m unsure about a spice. It’s a great way to try it inexpensively. Remember to write your experimental recipes down so you can make them again when everyone loves them!
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