Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Three Essential Spices to Keep in Your Pantry

One of the things I have learned over the many years of cooking for my family is to embrace herbs and spices.  It's the little bit of this and the little bit of that when added to a dish that brings an otherwise bland dish to life.  It is what I call "the love".  I remember a time years ago when my husband, two sons and I were sitting around the dinner table and one of the boys asked me what made my dinner so good.  My answer, "It's the love, baby."

A while ago I shared five essential herbs I grow in my garden.  Parsley, chives, mint, basil, and rosemary are herbs that I always try to have on hand in their fresh state.  Growing them in my garden makes that relatively easy for about six months of the year.  In addition to those herbs there are three essential spices that I try to keep on hand in my pantry in their non-ground state. 

Garlic
Garlic
Garlic is closely related to the onion, leek, shallot and chive, and is used around the world for both culinary and medicinal purposes.  While I haven't yet attempted to grow garlic in my little garden I am told it is easy to grow.  My dad used to grow garlic in his garden years ago so I know it is easy to grow in my area. 

The clove is the part of the garlic typically used in cooking.  Its sharp, spicy flavor mellows with cooking and can be described as sweet when roasted. 

Garlic is used as an essential ingredient in many regions of the world.  Medicinally garlic has been found to have antibacterial, antiviral and anti fungal benefits.  When I cook with garlic I usually slice, mince, crush, or roast it.
This handy garlic press helps when you have lots of garlic to crush or are in a hurry.

My Garlic Press
Roasted garlic is delicious on bread or mashed into potatoes and is the key ingredient to make Roasted Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic.  Store garlic in an open container in a cool, dark place and it should keep for about eight weeks.

Ginger

Ginger Root
Ginger in its fresh state is a rhizome, used both for flavoring foods and medicinal purposes.  It is from the same plant family as turmeric and cardamom. 

Fresh ginger is a key flavoring ingredient in many Chinese, Japanese and other Asian dishes.

Ginger may be steeped to make a tea and has been known to settle upset stomachs and ease motion sickness.  Ginger is most often peeled and either grated, minced or julienned when used in cooking.

Watch this You Tube video to learn more about Ginger.



I usually wrap the ginger in a paper towel and store it in my refrigerator in a plastic bag for a week or two.  Longer storage can be done successfully in the freezer.

Nutmeg
Nutmeg is a spice that you may not think much about.  The reason I have included it on this very short list is that I like to tuck just the tiniest little bit into lots of dishes.  It adds a little somethin' somethin' that people have a hard time identifying, yet they know they like it.

You won't find nutmeg growing in your back yard.  Nutmeg is the seed of an evergreen tree, while mace is the dried outer covering of the seed.  Today's nutmeg is imported primarily from Grenada.  I love to use the whole nutmeg and even have this handy dandy Williams Sonoma nutmeg grinder, that I love.  You can use a microplane grater as well, but this nutmeg grinder was given to me as a gift many years ago.

My Nutmeg Grinder
One of the added benefits of this grinder is that the nutmegs can be stored in the lid.  Cool, huh?
So when do you use nutmeg?  I always add it at the last minute whenever I make spinach or a b├ęchamel sauce.  I also will add just a touch in a breakfast muffin or holiday goodies.  You certainly can't have a glass of egg nog without a pinch of nutmeg, can you?  Of course not.

There you have it friends.  Three essential spices you'll want to consider keeping on hand to enhance "the love" in your cooking.

Enjoy!

6 comments:

  1. This is neat stuff, good information. I'm trying to start being a little more 'sophisticated' in my cooking, so the basic pantry information you have here is helpful.

    Allie

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  2. I always stock garlic and usually have nutmeg. I had ginger all the time when I was pregnant because it took away the spinnies I felt (which led to vomiting). Good info!

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  3. I absolutely love garlic. I absolutely need this type of information. I have no idea what to keep in the pantry.
    Thank you!

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  4. I am proud to say that I have all three of these spices....in ready made form! LOL! But I got them! That should count for something right?

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  5. mm i love ginger. i will need to visit the post about the herbs you grow. i need fresh herbs. lol

    I am catching up... way late from #Commenthour 8/10 ;-)

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  6. Found this link while searching Google, thanks

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