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spices-to-live-byIn a previous blogpost, I talked about “Sally’s Top 10 Spices,” but I actually have many more spices that I use frequently.  My first ten included: bay leaves, chili powder, cinnamon, cream of tartar, cumin, nutmeg, peppercorns, saffron, salt, and vanilla beans.  Now, I will branch out to include a variety of spices that crowd my spice shelf.

And by the way, those spices are lined up in alphabetical order, from A to Z. That way, it is easy to find what you need quickly. Many spices come in both whole and ground form.  Whenever possible, buy the whole spice and grind it yourself in a small food processor or spice grinder.  Ground spices should be bought in small quantities as they start to lose their potency after 6 months. Let’s discuss some of the more popular spices below.

And, what is the difference between a spice and an herb?  Herbs are usually from the leafy part of a plant while spices are from dried bark, root, fruit or seed.

Popular Spices to Include in Dishes

1. Allspice: this dark brown, round berry tastes like cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon; it comes from Jamaica and is used in both sweet and savory dishes.

2. Cardamom: these pods come in green or black and can be used in both sweet and savory dishes as they have a spicy-sweet flavor; there are about 17 to 20 tiny seeds per pod.  Native to India, they are a member of the ginger family.

3. Cloves: this reddish brown dried unopened flower bud adds a deep, sweet aroma to dishes; sold whole or ground, it is nail shaped.

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4. Ginger: the plant has a knobby appearance and peppery sweet flavor; I much prefer fresh gingerroot to the dried form, especially in Chinese stir-fry dishes; use the dry form in baked goods, soups and curries.

5. Mace: smells like nutmeg, as it is part of the nutmeg seed; orange-yellow in color, ground mace is also used in baked goods and savory dishes, like allspice and cardamom.

6. Paprika: sweet red pepper pods are ground to make paprika; Hungary and Spain produce popular paprikas, but only Hungary uses this spice as more than a garnish.

7. Turmeric: used mostly for Indian cooking.  In its powder form, this spice gives food its yellow-orange color and is related to ginger; also used in American mustard for color, it has a pungent, bitter flavor.

For more on spices and foods, check out Sally Bernstein!

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