Herbs and Spices
I don’t think it’s a dirty little secret that I have two spice drawers in my small kitchen. I’m always amazed how adding a shake of this or a pinch of that to an otherwise “not quite right” dish can make it fab-u-lous. A while back a friend of mine was asking advice about the taste of some chili she had made. It was ok, but kind of bland. I asked her if she had some cumin but when she took it out I saw that it was an off-the-shelf plastic container. So I ran home and grabbed jars of cumin, coriander, ground chili, cinnamon, clove and some cocoa powder. I doctored that pot of chili up in no time thanks to the magical powders in those jars.
I get my herbs and spices at The Spice House in Evanston. They have several other shops or you can order on line, as my nephew/chef Tim in Texas does. Shopping in this store is like letting a kid loose in a penny candy store. Ground fresh daily and sold by the ounce, the quality in unmatched and costs much less than supermarket spices. They carry a great selection of salts and blends they have crafted and cleverly named to match the flavor profiles they represent. Through great labeling and a very educated sales staff, I’ve learned the subtle differences between Vietnamese “Saigon” Cassia, China Tung Hing Cassia and True-Ceylon cinnamon and when it’s best to use Dutch processed versus natural cocoa. When I’d read a recipe with fennel pollen this is where I found it. And WOW was it good. I brought my office to their knees when I brought in a jar of truffle salt, with pieces of white and black truffle in it, crazy good on popcorn with a little melted butter and white truffle oil.
Taken from Wikipedia, I thought this was interesing and concise.
A spice is a dried seed, fruit, root, bark, leaf, or vegetative substance used in nutritionally insignificant quantities as a food additive for the purpose of flavour, colour, or as a preservative that kills harmful bacteria or prevents their growth.
Many of these substances are also used for other purposes, such as medicine, religious rituals, cosmetics, perfumery or eating as vegetables. For example, turmeric is also used as a preservative; liquorice as a medicine; garlic as a vegetable. In some cases they are referred to by different terms.
In the kitchen, spices are distinguished from herbs, which are leafy, green plant parts used for flavouring purposes. Herbs, such as basil or oregano, may be used fresh, and are commonly chopped into smaller pieces. Spices, however, are dried and often ground or grated into a powder. Small seeds, such as fennel and mustard seeds, are used both whole and in powder form.
Happy Sunday night – hope you’ve enjoyed week one of my musings on food.