A quick note on spices

June 7, 2010

I had planned to make a magnetic spice rack for the kitchen (an idea that came courtesy of Mattie, and was elaborated upon by my friend Jack, who showed me this).  But then I found this old thing, mold-wracked and hidden in the back of a drawer, and I felt at once a wave of both joy and sadness, because I knew I had found the right sort of spice rack for my uses, but that meant I didn’t get to make one.

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It’s got ten bottles in it.  I realized (and I’m rationalizing here) that the problem with a wall-mounted spice rack is that you don’t actually use all of those spices on a regular basis.  Some spices (like cardamom and cloves, as in the picture in that Kitchn post) just don’t get used that often (and unless it’s an Indian kitchen, I don’t think cardamom and clove get much mileage).  I mean, think about it – you probably only use four or five herbs and spices in your core cuisine set.  Look at how I’m stretching it here – I put lemongrass powder in there!  I NEVER use lemongrass powder.  It’s there only because I had enough of it to fill the bottle.

Here’s what’s in my spice rack right now, in order of my approximate priority of usage:

  1. Kosher salt
  2. Italian seasoning (rosemary, marjoram, thyme, basil, oregano)
  3. Garlic powder
  4. Cumin
  5. Cayenne pepper
  6. Pepper flakes
  7. Curry powder
  8. Chili powder
  9. Lemongrass powder
  10. is empty.  I’ll probably grind up some black pepper and put it in there, bumping it up to 2.

And let’s be honest.  How often do I use curry powder?  Not so terribly often.  #6 is where my usage almost completely peters out.  I use a lot of spices, but only a smallish number are in truly heavy rotation.  Most of the other flavors come from aromatics and backbencher herbs and spices like cinnamon, fennel, coriander, and whatnot.  Or I use fresh herbs, like cilantro or mint.

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I’ll make this easy on you – I don’t ask what your top 10 spices are.  What are your top 5?

-D

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3 Responses to “A quick note on spices”

  1. Heather said

    What about dried Rosemary or Dill? Or Basil!

    • David R said

      Well, first of all – just because I don’t have the spices in the rack doesn’t mean they’re not in the cabinet; my spice collection is pretty big and unwieldy.

      And I’m less likely to use basil or rosemary on their own as I am to use them together with the other herbs in your classical Italian seasoning. But I do have ’em both in the cabinet.
      -D

  2. Aaron said

    Have ignored the blog for a little bit but I am back! And officially Commenting:

    1. Thyme. I didn’t use to use so much, but it’s really necessary in broths, soups, and most braises that I make, so it ended up jumping a lot of spots!
    2. Cumin. This probably used to be #1 back when I was in my original stir-fry kick.
    3. Italian Combo. I never buy the mixes, I just keep rosemary, basil, parsley, oregano on hand (missing the marjoram but whatever I guess). That way I get to use them separately too. That could even be separated into 4 spots on the spicerack dood.
    4. Cayenne. Everything should have cayenne in it. Even pancakes. Especially pancakes.
    5. Paprika. How is that not even in your top ten? One of my favorite easy meals is broiled drumsticks, carpeted with paprika and garlic powder.
    6. Garlic powder.
    7. Coriander. I didn’t have this with my other spices for quite a while and I highly regret that decision.
    8. Bay leaf. Usually, if I’m using thyme, I can also use bay leaf.
    9. Cinnamon. You should check out more savory recipes that use cinnamon, they’re super.
    10. …? Misc, I guess. I don’t really use any of the other ones that often.

    I do want to say that I think you’re cheating by putting kosher salt and black pepper on a spicerack. Those things should get their own containers! And pregrinding pepper is sacrilege!

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