Spicing Things Up

The Food Network’s other name is Food Porn, and it’s addictive.  I like to watch chefs do all kinds of interesting things that I know I’ll never make but find fascinating when prepared from start to finish in nice neat 30-minute segments.   Sandra Lee is one I think is slightly insane with her insistance on using seasoning packets instead of real, yanno, spices.   None of the other FN chefs would dream of that.  But they also have kitchens stocked with every kind of spices and herbs that you could want for any recipe.  It’s miraculous.

spicesMy kitchen is somewhat different.  I tend to use the same basic things over and over, completely forgetting about the curry powder or alspice or some such thing.  Before I moved I tossed out a ton of things that didn’t look familiar and my current spice/herb supply is skimpy.

When I buy a new one, I’ve learned to write the month and date on the container using a sharpie.  That way I can see that my jar of ground ginger is five years old.  Oops, that’s about four years too long.  I just hate the idea of throwing away things I spent good money to buy.  On the other hand, old spices don’t have the punch and flavor of fresh jars and food tastes better when things are fresh.

Quality ingredients matter.  Ina Garten, aka The Barefoot Contessa, always says to buy the best vanilla you can find, that it makes a difference in the flavor of the dish.  And she’s right.  Last month I bought some really good vanilla and the smell alone is hugely different, not to mention the taste.  It’s making me wonder about some of the other things I could have on hand to perk up my meals.

Needing some direction and inspiration, I did some searching and found two really good starting points for ideas:

I think it’s time to weed through the cabinet again – and pick up some new spice, looking for small containers of things I don’t use often and bigger ones of things I go through fast such as bay leaves.   A visit to Edge of the Woods or Trader Joe’s seems to be in order.