A well stocked spice rack goes a long way in a kitchen. Salt and Pepper are no substitute for quality nutmeg to add an interesting little twist to a dish. No matter what you’re cooking you can always make it better with the right spices. But it is important to also get quality spices not the dollar store spices that are ever so close to expiration. If you are not sure what spices to use then check the side of the labels they sometimes offer good advice. www.foodtv.com has a ton of free recipes and some good information on what spices to use when.
The start of every good spice rack should be a quality salt and pepper grinder set. Don’t be cheap and invest in a nice set that will last a long time. We purchased a Peugeot set and love it. A little extra money in spices goes a long way. I would also invest in a spice grinder which is no more than a coffee grinder but used exclusively for spices, that should run you about $7-8. Now for the fun stuff. Since I write movie articles in a top ten format here on Helium I’ll do the same with spices (excluding salt and pepper). So with no more delay here is my famous Top Ten Spices:
1) Annatto seeds – I know what your thinking… Are you serious. YES! These hard little babies are perfect for adding color to any dish. They don’t taste like much and are super inexpensive. Stock up.
2) Crushed Red Peppers – Great for adding some spice, just a pinch. This is essentially the same stuff they offer at pizza joints to bring a little extra bite in your pie.
3) Whole Cloves – Sweet, yummy, and just plain fragrant. This is where a good spice grinder comes in handy because both cloves and annatto seeds are hard and need to be broken down.
4) Saffron – Pay the extra dough and get some, it really makes a difference in rice, but I must confess me and my girlfriend love Indian food and typically there is a little saffron cooked with the rice. This spice is a must have for Spanish dishes.
5) Vanilla Bean – Wow this stuff is expensive just like the saffron. But worth it for desserts especially Flan. You can usually find a good deal at places like Trader Joes and WholeFoods.
6) Garlic Salt – I don’t know why you would never have fresh garlic in your house but just in case this is a must. You should invest in a garlic press which makes incorporating fresh garlic in your dishes a lot easier. Garlic Salt is excellent for a meet rub.
7) Bay Leaves – One goes a long way. A lot of soups will call for a bay leave, just make sure you don’t eat it.
8) Celery Salt – It’s been rumored that Celery Salt tastes good on everything… I’ve used it on hot dogs to meat rubs to vegetable dips.
9) Rosemary – Fragrant and yummy. This is your go to spice for chicken. An easy side dish is rosemary garlic mashed potatoes. After you boil your potatoes, drain them and return the pan back to the stove with the burner on medium. Throw in some rosemary (about tbsp), olive oil (about 1-2 tbsp), and one clove of garlic (pressed). Toast the the rosemary and garlic till slightly brown (about 2-3 minutes) then return the potatoes to the pan. Turn off your heat and make them the way you always make them (milk & butter) and instant great dish.
10) Cinnamon – C’mon, cinnamon and sugar toast. Plus apples and other baked goods require this spice.
OK this should get you going. I recommend a coffee grinder that you use only for spices. Also get a garlic press. Well, that’s about it, enjoy the experience.