Cooking 101: Spices

While I was in Boston this summer working for the Boston Ballet, a few of my incredible coworkers gave me some great ideas as to what I should blog about. I like to call these “Bloggable Moments.”  One of the suggestions was a post about spices. A lot of them did not have any idea what to do with spices. My one dear friend swears by Lowry’s Seasoning Salt and it’s her go-to spice. I love her too much to let her go out like that.

I adore spices. They have a way of taking a dull, ordinary dish and making it incredible. As one who cooks with abandon, it never occurred to me that people didn’t know how to use spices. This post is the first in a series of posts that will teach you how to cook with spices. Enjoy.

Ginger – Ginger is lovely. It’s spicy, warming, and aromatic. It is known to help metabolism and soothe nausea. Here it is shown in the dried, ground form and the fresh form. I throw large chunks of ginger into my juicer with my other veggies. In its whole form, it is also good in marinades. Dried ginger is found in chai and in my Chai Latte Dessert Loaf.

Rosemary – My Teacher Poet friend Saeed Jones says there is not much rosemary and mint don’t make better. I am inclined to agree. Rosemary smells amazing and is great for roasting veggies with EVOO. It is also good on chicken. It’s got a great flavor that stays with whatever you put it on. Here it is dried and fresh.

Bay Leaves – Bay leaves have a great, strong flavor. They add a robust flavor to soups, stocks, stews, and homemade tomato sauces (or gravies as it is known in Jackie’s household.)  My bay leaves are not the freshest. They should look a little more dried and a lot less dead. I’ll get more soon.

Mint – Mint is amazing. It’s a cooling herb and it also helps soothe the belly. It’s a great digestive aid. It’s refreshing and energizing. You can use mint to brew teas, in quinoa salads, on chicken as a marinade, or in salads. I am on a mint kick this week. You’ll be seeing a lot of recipes using it.

Coarse Sea Salt – I never use table salt. Strange as it sounds, it’s too salty for me. I have two different kinds of sea salt in my cabinets. This one is coarse. I use it to salt my water when cooking rice or pasta. I also use it when making guacamole or hummus. You can also put it in a grinder and grind it into your dishes.

Basil – Basil is commonly found in Italian cooking.It’s sweet and light and goes well in salads. It is a staple in homemade tomato sauces. Basil is also great in raw salads.

Cumin – Cumin is commonly used in Indian cooking. It kind of smells like feet, but it adds a kick to your dish like no other. In my opinion, cooking with cumin makes dishes feel and taste earthy.

Cloves – Cloves are extremely strong. They are used to hold on pineapples on hams, which robs them of their full potential. It’s spicy and it takes no prisoners. It is used a lot in Indian dishes and it’s a staple in garam masala. Cloves also have an antiseptic effect. I had an infection on my soft tissue over my wisdom tooth a few months ago. I made a tincture of ground cloves and tea tree oil mouthwash and stuck it on there every night. It hurt, but it cleared it up in about a week.

This is a good start to get you all thinking about opening your mind and your cabinets to receive new spice. I hope you’ll explore some of these.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Nicole says:

    Very well done, I appreciated the details about the spices.

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