November 2019

Welcome back, foodie friends!

Next up, we’re diving into the world of S P I C E S.
There’s a whole world of food to discover when you cook with spices.

There is so much depth that can be built by adding a few complimentary spices to a dish, and truly, it is one of the most amazing things to me that humans have cultivated spices since the ANCIENT EGYPTIANS.
Thanks King Tut!

I get questions all the time, asking, “How do you know what spice pairs with what cuisine or what ingredient? How can I learn? What do I do!?” …The last question usually sounds a bit manic.

Consider these questions when you cook:

What sounds familiar to you when you hear a spice?

This could be a cuisine that comes to mind right away or a specific food item that reminds you of a spice. Tacos? You’re calling to see if cumin and chili powder are invited to the party. Authentic Indian? Garam masala and cardamom are my main squeezes. Greek food? I need oregano, STAT.

This way is an easy reminder that you already know which spices you’ve been tasting, it’s just a matter of playing a fun matching game.

What do you want the final outcome to taste like?

Using spices can achieve different notes in your food that maybe wouldn’t have been apparent without the help of spices. Take cinnamon for example. Though most would think that you use it only in baking, cinnamon actually brings out a wonderfully subtle spice and woodiness to certain foods such as a chutney, while also tying in hints of sweetness because of its aromatic qualities.

There are many notes to both spices, as well as herbs, and as you cook more over time, your taste buds will be able to analyze what spice you might be missing and exactly which one to use to complete the puzzle.

If you’re going to start getting spicy in the kitchen, here are my 2 tips.

  1. Measuring spoons are your friend.
    Listen guys, I know that they’re finicky and annoying to clean, but start understanding the measurements of spices –especially if you’re following a recipe. It’s a good kitchen habit and it allows you to learn 2 important things: restraint + potency levels.
  2. Start in small doses and build over time.
    This goes hand and hand with your trusty measuring spoons. Cooking is all about tasting your food and building layers of amazing dimension. Almost all spices taste slightly different when they’re heated, so if you throw 3 dashes of cayenne in your stew at the beginning and are wondering why it’s “not spicy yet”…try again in 10 minutes.

Don’t be afraid to make a mistake either — I’ve had my fair share of over-spicing, under-spicing, using garlic salt instead of garlic powder. *yikes* Yes, cooking is an ongoing lesson, but no one will ever be mad about your tasty results when you succeed.

If you haven’t guessed by now, my next few posts will feature easy recipes that include spices in some very classic uses, but also some fun twists too. oh yeah, don’t forget…

Here’s a helpful chart to understand which spices pair with which cuisines.

Cuisine TypeMain actor: Supporting roles:Easy Application
MEXICAN CuminChipotle chilli, garlic powder/garlic, Mexican oregano, paprikaProteins for tacos — shrimp/beef, posole soup, mole sauce
ITALIANBasil/ParsleyBay leaves, thyme, oregano, rosemaryPesto, pork + veal meatballs, marinara sauce
CARRIBBEANAllspiceGinger, paprika, garlic, cloves, nutmegJerk chicken, Jamaican patties, oxtail
INDIANCorianderGaram masala, tumeric, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, Tikka masala, chickpea curry, chicken biryani
CHINESEChinese five spiceStar anise, Sichuan peppercorns, fennel, white pepper, chilis Chinese hotpot, stir fry, szechaun chicken
GREEKOreganoRosemary, dill, onion powder, cinnamonSouvlaki, roasted lamb + meats, tzatziki
MIDDLE EASTERNCuminNutmeg, cardamom, sumac, star anise, baharatHummus, falafel, kofta, stuffed grape leaves

There are so many ideas and common spices that work with cuisines for a reason–people have been doing this for hundreds of years. If you ever have any questions on what spices should pair with what kind of food, feel free to ask me, I’d love to learn myself and help out my foodie friends!!