Domestic Details: 5 Spices You Need In Your Spice Cabinet

September 17, 2013 | |

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SpicesHello, friends! If you are confused by the lack of pictures of delicious food on your screen right now, please chillax. I’m doing something a little different today. Get on board because I’m about to drop some domestic knowledge bombs.

Since acquiring my fancy culinary skill set, people constantly ask me all sorts of domestically-themed questions (which I obviously love because it makes me feel incredibly busy and important). Recently, I’ve realized that many friends have the same questions, and that it would be much more efficient to start answering them on the interweb where everyone can benefit. After all, I have so much domestic knowledge, and some of you have so little. It just seems unfair.

I’m sure that a few of you are excellent and knowledgeable chefs and homemakers in your own right (fist bump), but I have a feeling that the majority of people reading this blog could use a little extra guidance. Whether it’s how to use kitchen tools, necessary knife skills, basic cooking techniques, or what ingredients to keep in your fridge, there are so many domestic details that are rarely acknowledged. Fortunately for you, that’s about to change.

Each week, yours truly will be tackling a different aspect of cooking and/or entertaining, in the hope that you absorb some of my wisdom and become increasingly confident in your domestic skills. Bow to your sensei.

This week, I would like to tackle the basic issue of stocking your spice cabinet. A few months ago, I received an email from a friend asking what spices he needed to buy for his kitchen. In his words: “I’m wondering if there are a few common spices used in a lot of recipes that I should have? I can always find things in my Mom’s cabinet, but I have no idea what to put in my own.” I found this to be an excellent question (I applaud your domestic curiosity, Max Gotschall), so I have compiled a list of the five spices that everyone should have in their kitchen, as well as what they taste like and how they are often used. You don’t need 36 different spices in your cabinets, peeps. A select few will go a very long way…

Five Spices You Need In Your Spice Cabinet:

1. Cumin- Cumin is awesome. This amber colored spice is slightly bitter and earthy tasting with a peppery finish. In less fancy terms…cumin smells like taco seasoning. This makes sense because it is a popular ingredient in many Mexican/Tex-Mex dishes and it does taste bomb in tacos. However, cumin is also used in a variety of Asian, Middle Eastern, and South American recipes, and it’s a popular addition to many spice rubs, so it’s bound to get a lot of action in your kitchen. Oh, and there is a medieval belief that if a bride and groom carry cumin during their wedding ceremony, they will be blessed with a lifetime of happiness. If nothing else, buy some cumin in preparation for your future wedding.

2. Paprika- This deep red spice is made from dried and ground sweet red peppers. It has a subtly sweet flavor with a hint of heat that pairs well with pretty much any meat, poultry or fish. It’s also an excellent addition to many soups, stews and rice dishes, so you’ll be reaching for it often. There are several variations of paprika, but let’s not get into that, lest I confuse you with unnecessary (yet impressive) spice knowledge. The straight up paprika that you find in most supermarkets will meet most of your needs, but I like to buy smoked paprika when possible (Trader Joe’s sells a good one) for a little added depth of flavor.

3. Crushed Red Pepper- Sometimes called chili flakes, crushed red pepper is made from dried and crushed red chili peppers. You probably recognize it from the tacky oversized shakers at pizza places. Since I don’t trust most amateur chefs with cayenne pepper (seriously, a pinch means a pinch, peeps), crushed red pepper is a great way to add heat to pretty much any dish. Always start with a small amount and gradually add more (and taste regularly!), as the tiny flakes actually have a serious kick, and some pussies people can’t handle too much spice.

4. Dried Herbs de Provence- This badass mix of dried herbs usually includes dried rosemary, thyme, savory, and marjoram. (Sometimes there’s some basil, oregano, bay leaves and other mild herbs thrown into the mix.) If you’re not the most creative/confident chef, I suggest cozying up to some herbs de Provence ASAP. You won’t necessarily find it called for in many recipes, but this herb mix is pretty much my favorite idiot-proof method of adding major flavor to simple foods. Sprinkle it on chicken or fish, add it to rice, potatoes and roasted vegetables, or use it to liven up simple salad dressings or marinades. So fancy.

5. Cinnamon- I’m really hoping you know what cinnamon tastes like. On the off chance that you’ve never tried it, cinnamon pretty much tastes like Christmas smells. It’s fragrant, sweet, and warm, and it happens to be incredibly versatile. It’s used in a variety of hot and cold beverages, and if you’re thinking about getting into baking (which you should for the compliments alone), cinnamon is a must-have. Cinnamon is also a commonly used spice in Middle Eastern cuisine, and it’s a surprisingly delicious addition to chicken, soups, curries, and grain dishes.

If you are looking to seriously trick out your spice cabinet, consider adding some of the following to your repertoire in addition to the list above: garlic powder, ground ginger, chili powder, dried oregano, ground allspice, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper. Go forth and spice up your life.

*If you have a burning question that you’d like featured on a future edition of Domestic Details, don’t hesitate to contact me or leave it in the comments. Help me help you.

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