I end up cooking at other people’s houses a lot. I’m not quite sure why that is, other than the fact that I love being in the kitchen, and find it hard to be a spectator when cooking is happening. Even when I’m a guest, I just can’t help myself. One thing I’ve noticed, however, in my endeavors is that not ONE of my friends has an adequate supply of spices and herbs to suit even basic recipes. This includes even people I consider amazing cooks. I have lost track of the number of times I’ve exclaimed “How do you not have garlic powder??? Really????”. I’ve threatened them all repeatedly with a blog dedicated to them. So, you know who you are. This one is for you.
I am leaving for a much needed vacation in two days (look out Aspen Food & Wine Classic, here I come). It’s my first “big girl” trip all by my lonesome. I’m thrilled, but before I go, I have to clean my house for my pet sitter. My house usually reflects my state of my mind, which at this point is cluttered and looks like the scene of a natural disaster. Needless to say, this is going to be a project.
In the spirit of putting off what I actually should be doing, which is a pattern with me you may have noticed, I decided to organize my spice shelf. The 17 year old who will be watching my house will have a real need for that, right? I immediately pulled everything out, and started organizing. Baking spices, spice blends, extracts, seeds, powders, salts, exotic spices, hot stuff, and green stuff. Aside from deciding that I may have a bit of a spice addiction, I also discovered that I have a LOT of really cool spices and herbs; 78 different types to be exact. That’s not counting doubles, I have more clove ground and whole than one woman has any right to. But I know why that is …
A few years ago, my friend Katie introduced me to Penzey’s spices. It was a situation not dissimilar to the many that prompted this blog. I was baking at her house and I pulled out a baking spices gift set that someone had given her for her wedding 3 years ago. They, as old as they were, smelled better than ANY spices I have ever run across. I have since been obsessed with the variety and quality Penzey’s has to offer – not to mention affordability. A spice catalog is not too different from a shoe store in it’s ability to make me over-buy. I wholeheartedly recommend ALL of you check this company out. You will not be disappointed.
Armed with the list of my spices and some experience I’ve compiled a bare minimum list of herbs and spices that everyone should keep around the house. This should at least get well on your way, maybe even inspire your next meal. I know searching through my spice shelf has inspired mine.
- Cinnamon – ground and stick
- Nutmeg – whole and ground
- Ginger – ground
- Cloves – at least ground, but I also encourage you to have whole cloves too
- Vanilla beans
Yellow, Orange, and Red Stuff:
- Curry powder
- Ground Mustard
- Chili Powder
- Cayenne Pepper
- Crushed Red Pepper
- Something quick and easy for grilling – I like the Montreal Blend for steak, The Gourmet Collection paprika lemon/lime for chicken and shrimp
- Pizza/taco seasoning blend (again, I love Penzey’s for this)
- Italian seasoning blend good for all purpose cooking
- Garlic Powder/Salt
- Onion Powder/Salt – Penzey’s makes a shallot salt that I have pretty much replaced my onion salt with
- Coarse Kosher salt
- Peppercorns – once you go freshly ground pepper you won’t go back
- Bay Leaves