Next to my stove-top I have a large spice drawer. Sometimes it’s organized, most of the time it’s not. Sometimes the lids fall off and that’s why there is oregano stuck to a blob of molasses, or is that honey? Sometimes I refill the cute little labeled jars and sometimes it’s a collection of mismatched messiness. Above the spice drawer I have a spice cabinet. First shelf is for extra savory spices like chipotle powder & sesame seeds. The second shelf is for baking supplies like cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla , and such … The third shelf is for odds and ends like Pomegranate molasses and toasted sesame oil. I try to keep everybody on the their proper shelf … I try. I have at least 50 spices if not more in my spice drawer right now, but that doesn’t mean I use them all or even suggest that you have that many. Honestly, by the time I use some of them they are old and need to be replaced.
My preference is organic spices. Not only do they taste better but you don’t want dried concentrated chemicals on your food or in your body, right? Not to mention most supermarket herbs and spices can be genetically modified (GMO) and irradiated .
I cook everyday, for myself, for my family, for work … in my dreams and on the treadmill. These are the top 10 spices I use the most on the daily…
Yes, it’s #1 and it’s the one thing I cannot live without. EVERYTHING needs salt, even your sweets need a little salt to bring out their flavor. For everyday cooking I use Kosher salt and Coarse Sea salt. For a finishing salt (sprinkled on salads, deviled eggs, steak or fresh fruit or veggies) I use Maldon Sea Salt. If you have never tried it, your missing out – buy some today.
2. Black Pepper
I like to grind my own pepper to about a medium coarse. If you have never ground your own pepper, give t a try, you won’t be disappointed. I also like Trader Joe’s Black Peppercorn Mill. For steak or heartier meats I like to use a peppercorn mix.
3. Garlic Powder
Fresh garlic rules supreme, but there is no shame in using garlic powder. JUST BEWARE of jarred garlic, YUCK! I use garlic powder on meat, fish, chicken, in dry rubs, soups and stews.
Ground cumin hmmm … I have a love hate relationship with it. Just the right amount is best, don’t get carried away. Cumin is a powerful spice that can overpower your palate if you use too much. Unless your cooking Indian food… then go for it. I use cumin on meat, chicken, chili, and it is a friend to most Mexican food.
Mediterranean or Mexican dried oregano are my favorite. I use it generously in all my Italian recipes and Mexican food. It is a bold earthy flavor that is great in marinades, sauces, and meatballs. I also love oregano on breakfast potatoes and sprinkled over the top of pizza and soups.
4. Italian Seasoning
This one is iffy… I do use it a lot, but I want to encourage you to buy a good quality Organic Italian Seasoning. Cheap blends can often be bitter and musty. Most Italian seasonings are a blend of Marjoram, Thyme, Rosemary, Savory, Sage, Oregano and Basil. I use Italian seasoning in tomato sauce, meatballs, salad dressing, potatoes. It is a really nice blend to use on grilled summer vegetables and casseroles.
5. Herbs de Provence
I absolutely love herbs de Provence! I use this blend of spices more than any other. Oh the floral & earthy aroma of lavender, savory, rosemary, thyme… It takes me a way to a happy place. I use herbs de Provence on potatoes, steak, chicken , pork, vegetables, scrambled eggs & quiche.
6. Smoked Paprika
“Smoked” is key. Regular old paprika doesn’t really add much flavor but smoked paprika adds a lot of flavor and color. It’s not the star seasoning in most recipes but it enhances the flavor of everybody it’s working with. I use smoked paprika chicken, potatoes, mixed into bread crumbs, and in chilies & marinades.
7. Cayenne Pepper
I love a dash of heat and cayenne pepper is just that … HEAT. You can add just a touch to enhance the flavor or add a lot for some major spice. I use cayenne pepper in blackening seasoning, soups, chilies, mayonnaise, salad dressings, and marinades.
8. Chili Powder
There are so many great chili powders to choose from, but mild chili powder is a staple in my pantry. Paired with smoked paprika or cayenne, this basic chili powder is all you need for a great chili con carne, enchilada sauce, or for taco seasoning.
9. Ground ginger
Fresh ginger is always my first choice, but I don’t always have it on hand. Ground ginger adds a warm, spicy & sweet bite. I like to use ground ginger with carrots, roasted or in pureed soups. I use ground ginger on pork, chicken, and beef – especially when I am cooking Asian inspired dishes. Soy sauce, garlic, and ginger are very happy together.
10. Bay leaves
Dried bay leaves are a must have especially in the fall and winter kitchen. The bay leaf’s flavor is a subtle background herbal tea-like flavor, but although subtle it’s one spice that shouldn’t be left out. It shines in stews, soups, and braises. The flavor develops over time simmering in these slow cooking recipes. I use a bay leaf in stocks, broth, soups, rice pilaf, chilies, stews, and braised meat & chicken.