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Your favorite spices


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I was thinking about this yesterday as I finished off yet another bottle of ginger, followed by a bottle of cumin. What do you tend to use the most of? And why? Is it because you make a specific type of cuisine, or just because you like the flavor?

With cumin, I use a lot because I like salsas and other things that use cumin. Cilantro too, but I can't seem to keep it long enough to use it up.

Ginger, on the other hand--I just love the flavor. I always have fresh, candied, and powdered in my kitchen. Yesterday I made a pumpkin cream pie, with a gingersnap type of crust (using nuts instead of flour), pumpkin cream, and candied ginger chopped up on the top. I probably would have made ginger-scented cream for it too, but my husband might have thought that was too much. I'll buy almost anything if it's ginger flavored. I love the little cookies that look like fortune cooking but with a ginger glaze. And ginger preserves, which are great on scones with cream. And just about anything made by The Ginger People.

I use a lot of cinnamon, too, but it goes in so many things that it's almost as ubiquitous as vanilla.

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Ground ancho chili pepper! I use so much of this, once, Penzey's customer service telephoned me to confirm that I really wanted to buy *10* pounds, as I had ordered on-line the day before. To their credit, they didn't want to sell me more of the stuff than I had meant to order or than I really needed.

Big vats of chili. Big skillets of taco filling. I freeze tubs and tubs of refried beans and sauce for enchiladas and tacos.

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Bay leaves--I make a lot of soups and braises and it seems that every recipe calls for 2 or more bay leaves. Turkish bay leaves are so expensive around here, though, that I've gotten really stingy with them.

The ones I use a lot of because I love them are black mustard seeds, poppy seeds, chili flakes, sesame seeds--anything crunchy really. Also, if we're including herbs and chiles, I always have to have dried chipotles and anchos on hand as well as cilantro. But 10 #s! That's a lot of chile powder to keep around. I probably don't have 10#s of spices, total.

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definately red pepper flakes. I always end up using it when I'm out of fresh chiles and I need to add a bit of heat. I go through the pepper flakes pretty fast. To be honest, I often use it to make homemade salsa as I almost always have fresh tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, limes and onion around but fresh jalepenos? Not so much.

Past that, my dried herbs/spices sit around in the cupboard way past their prime. That's why I like the little containers from Penzey's so much. Problem is, Penzey's is not as close as Jewel.

Fresh herbs/spices - ginger, cilantro, flat leaf parsley and basil.

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Mexican oregano, ground cayenne and chipotle pepper, and Sichuan peppercorns seem to disappear most quickly at our house. When we get on a rib kick, the dry rib rub devours large bags of paprika.

Of course dried chiles disappear the fastest of all, if you wish to count them as spices.

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Bay leaves--I make a lot of soups and braises and it seems that every recipe calls for 2 or more bay leaves. Turkish bay leaves are so expensive around here, though, that I've gotten really stingy with them.

The ones I use a lot of because I love them are black mustard seeds, poppy seeds, chili flakes, sesame seeds--anything crunchy really. Also, if we're including herbs and chiles, I always have to have dried chipotles and anchos on hand as well as cilantro. But 10 #s! That's a lot of chile powder to keep around. I probably don't have 10#s of spices, total.

What do you use black mustard seeds for? I have some because I bought some for a friend, but I really don't know what they're for. I threw some in a curry once and liked their crunch.

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Bay leaves--I make a lot of soups and braises and it seems that every recipe calls for 2 or more bay leaves. Turkish bay leaves are so expensive around here, though, that I've gotten really stingy with them.

The ones I use a lot of because I love them are black mustard seeds, poppy seeds, chili flakes, sesame seeds--anything crunchy really. Also, if we're including herbs and chiles, I always have to have dried chipotles and anchos on hand as well as cilantro. But 10 #s! That's a lot of chile powder to keep around. I probably don't have 10#s of spices, total.

What do you use black mustard seeds for? I have some because I bought some for a friend, but I really don't know what they're for. I threw some in a curry once and liked their crunch.

I don't have any really creative uses for them, they just seem to find their way into lots of vegetable dishes that I make. Nothing complicated, just sautee veggies in a little oil, with some garlic and a generous sprinkling of mustard seeds. I've also done mustard seed crusted fish before, but I don't remember if I used a recipe or just winged it.

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Bay leaves--I make a lot of soups and braises and it seems that every recipe calls for 2 or more bay leaves. Turkish bay leaves are so expensive around here, though, that I've gotten really stingy with them.

I've actually gotten around bay leaves by buying a laurel tree. I actually started it as a 3 inch sapling a couple years ago and now its about 4 ft high and filling out nicely. I keep it in a pot outside in the summer and bring it into the kitchen in the winter. It comes in really handy and I've stopped buying bay leaves, I just grab a couple when I need them. It's super easy and adds another multitasker to the kitchen, which is always a plus.

You may want to consider just buying a couple trees if you really fly through the leaves.

"In a perfect world, cooks who abuse fine cutlery would be locked in a pillory and pelted with McNuggets."

- Anthony Bourdain

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Bay leaves--I make a lot of soups and braises and it seems that every recipe calls for 2 or more bay leaves. Turkish bay leaves are so expensive around here, though, that I've gotten really stingy with them.

I've actually gotten around bay leaves by buying a laurel tree. I actually started it as a 3 inch sapling a couple years ago and now its about 4 ft high and filling out nicely. I keep it in a pot outside in the summer and bring it into the kitchen in the winter. It comes in really handy and I've stopped buying bay leaves, I just grab a couple when I need them. It's super easy and adds another multitasker to the kitchen, which is always a plus.

You may want to consider just buying a couple trees if you really fly through the leaves.

Yes, andiesenji also suggested that I get a potted bay plant, but unfortunately that won't work for me. I live in a small apartment with very little light, no outdoor space and 2 cats who destroy plants. I have a cactus, but they have chewed every other plant I've had to death.

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I will forever be loyal to the Spice House in Chicago. I don't live in Evanston anymore so I have to order online, but they have the greatest spices. Paprika (regular and smoked), cumin, and red pepper flakes are the ones I go through the fastest. It seems like I always have about a tablespoon left of each. They seem to pop up in so many types of cuisine, and they all taste great. Spices are a problem for me, though. My spice rack keeps growing and growing, and in a kitchen with severly limited space, that is starting to cause some issues. A small price to pay for good food.

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What an interesting thread! You can almost know the type of cooking each poster does, just by knowing which herbs/spices they go through.

As for me: herbes de Provence, thyme, cumin, coriander, and Mediterranean oregano

The first two I buy in largish bags so I guess they are the primary herbs around here.

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I've never used either of those. I've never even heard of cassia buds! I'm assuming they're from the tree that produces cinnamon. Fascinating. And here I thought my cupboards contained every spice known to humankind.

I'm editing before someone corrects me--I know cassia and cinnamon aren't the same thing, but cassia bark is used as a substitute for cinnamon.

Edited by Terrasanct (log)
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I have been going thru  fennel pollen and casia buds.  I use the fennel pollen for gelee's and the casia buds I am making ice cream or foams

A little fyi......

Cassia buds are the unopened buds of the cinnamon tree. They are picked right before blooming and dried in the sun.

Fennel Pollen, is like fennel seed but with a sweet back to it and very intense fennel flavor. Very, very low yiled on harvest so it is the same or even more expensive than saffron. Tasting this, just takes me to another place

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