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I prefer to make my own blends thanks


Fat Guy
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I've noticed that across many categories I prefer to make my own blends rather than buy things blended by others. For example:

- I'd rather have many different spices, and use them in combination to season chili, than use a blended chili powder.

- I'd rather have several different types of frozen vegetables than use a packaged "vegetable medley."

- I'd rather put together my own set of cookware than use the set a manufacturer sells.

- Similarly, knife sets -- they're the worst. All those useless knives in the set are like the green peppers you have to pick out of the vegetable medley.

You know what I'm saying?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I've noticed that across many categories I prefer to make my own blends rather than buy things blended by others. For example:

- I'd rather have many different spices, and use them in combination to season chili, than use a blended chili powder.

- I'd rather have several different types of frozen vegetables than use a packaged "vegetable medley."

- I'd rather put together my own set of cookware than use the set a manufacturer sells.

- Similarly, knife sets -- they're the worst. All those useless knives in the set are like the green peppers you have to pick out of the vegetable medley.

You know what I'm saying?

I dig. I like more cumin than most chili blends provide. Veg-all is an unfortunate blend - not all too unfamiliar to school cafeterias, and who needs a 10" saute pan, a 10" saucier, and a 10" skillet in one set.

However, I am digging the mammoth bag of herbs de Provence that my ladyfriend imported to me from her last trip to her motherland.

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Well, Duh! Of course you're right --- free will and free choice everywhere. With some sentimental favorites allowed, please don't show me a matched set of knives -- some manufacturers do one blade better than another. Store bought chili powder or masala just means you haven't had gastronomic experience or are a teeny tad lazy.(Thasso K) Veg medleys -- well, the succotash can be good -- the broccoflower crinkle carrot stuff just doesn't taste like much. I don't think I own two pans from the same maker, except for a ton of gorgeous Mauviel copper purchased when I was twenty and given a nice employee discount from Crate and Barrel. I don't use it much anymore because most of it needs to be retinned at vast cost.

I blame wedding registries for the young -- they are encouraged to ask for matchy stuff. (Mind you, it's a pleasure to cook with my son-in-law's complete set of virgin Globals.) For the mature I blame the siren call of complete sets of shit at Costco or Williams Sonoma. If you can afford it, it must be a rush to buy 500 bucks of All Clad on sale and toss the old, perfectly good stuff. Or go on a Le Creuset binge because the little pumpkin shaped casseroles are so damn cute.

But in the end, people who cook every day know what they need. A cast iron frying pan. a stockpot and saucepans from Target (or inherited from your mother-in law) a swell high-end sautoir. These orphan pot and pans become your old friends. I wouldn't pick my friends from a matched set on My Space, and I'd be even less likely to pick my cookwear that way. Geez, I couldn't buy my twice-annual Stekka non- stick omelet pan from Ikea (2.99) if i had to buy a set... of what?

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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So you believe that you're more of an expert than the food scientists that created the blends. You're probably right since you know your own palate but you represent the upper tip of the bell curve. Take this to it's logical conclusion. Why would you go to a restaurant to eat their clam chowder if you know you like yours with less celery? Blends represent an abdication of choice because you acknowledge that you lack the expertise to choose.

PS: I am a guy.

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It's not so much a question of expertise as it is an inherent problem with one-size-fits-all solutions, which in mass marked food production almost by definition are lowest-common-denominator solutions. I'm sure that, given a single, focused application, a team of engineers with good palates could come up with something nice. But they're making these spice blends to be used on everything, and they're targeting average tastes. In addition, I doubt they're totally focused on excellent taste. I'm sure they're also on a cost-cutting mission: if one component of the blend is more expensive than the others you can be sure the focus of the research is to determine how little of that they can use and what cheaper ingredients they can replace it with -- they'll sacrifice flavor to save a cent per unit because they sell ten million units.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I doubt they're totally focused on excellent taste
I'd agree they're focused on excellent economics. Although I wonder if the Penzy's blends, e.g., might be a little better than the mass brands. :unsure:
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Yes, I think a lot of the seasoning blends tend to be rather one-dimensional, with one flavor clearly dominating and the others barely recognizable -- they don't actually give the benefit a blend of seasonings should give. Needless to say, blended spices are pre-ground and already mixed, so there's no possibility of grinding fresh spices or toasting them individually before use or anything like that.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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For the mature I blame the siren call of complete sets of shit at Costco or Williams Sonoma.  If you can afford it, it must be a rush to buy 500 bucks of All Clad on sale and toss the old, perfectly good stuff.

Don't forget the main reason for the acquisition of new household chattel amongst the mature set - divorce. Having to give up some of your household goods isn't quite the same thing as throwing the old stuff away.

My beloved, ancient, well-seasoned cast iron skillet went with my husband, because he had brought it to the marriage (never mind that he never cooked with it). I cashed in my American Express rewards points for Williams Sonoma gift certificates, had the rush of getting a set of All Clad for free, and let the old pots go to my husband, too. The psychology of that act had to do with needing something emblematic of a new life, not that I expect it to make much sense to anyone else. :wink:

As far as living with a pre-matched set goes, I now have a 2 qt. saucepan that annoys me no end. It's too narrow and too steep, and I don't know what it would have been designed for. Warming a baby bottle in a water bath? If I'd paid real money for it, I'd be seriously pissed off. The rest of the pots are fine - a sensible and very useful collection (one that I couldn't have afforded had I bought it piece by piece).

And I still need to get a cast iron skillet, although looking at the shiny new ones always makes me kind of sad.

Edited by H. du Bois (log)
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I used to be a stickler for never having herb or spice blends around. As the decades rolled by, I mellowed a bit & tempered my once rigid attitude. There's a time & place for many things in this life.

Indian cooking - I once considered it a Betrayal Of First Principles ever to use a curry powder. As the demands of my then career grew & I had increasingly less time to cook, I found myself in situations where I was craving a hit of Indian spices & the choice was between whipping together a quick curry using a pre-mixed powder & ordering Chinese. I learned that a good blend had its uses.

Mediterranean cooking - I currently have two different Herbes De Provence blends on my shelf. One goes well with chicken & fish, the other enhances rice very nicely. These I use more for variety than convenience.

In both cases I still prefer to use individual spices & herbs appropriate to every given dish, but a few well chosen blends will find their moments.

Now, the motley collection of pots & pans, that'll never go away. They're like old shoes, they've taken me so many interesting places, I can't bear to get rid of them.

Edited by ghostrider (log)

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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For the most part, I agree with what's been said in this thread. A few years ago, while working as part-time Christmas season help at Dean & Deluca, I became acquainted with their Herbs for Meat and Herbs for Poultry. Using those two blends really helped elevate my cooking. I'm now ready to blend my own, but they're not explicit about exactly what's in those blends, so I'm a little concerned about that. I have a feeling I'll be fine, though.

Another thing that stops less experienced cooks from doing their own blends, is the lack of recipes "out there". Cookbooks don't often publish them, and there aren't many on the 'net. If anybody has some you particularly like, please don't be shy about starting another thread. I have been using Sally Schneider's pepper blend, and I really like it.

As for the pots and pans, a few years ago my husband and I abandoned all the ratty pots and pans acquired in our single days, and bought a set of Emeril's All Clad. It was a good excuse to get the crap weeded out of the cabinets, and since we bought the small set, we didn't get a lot of things that we haven't found a use for. The small saute pan hasn't seen much action, but the rest has been used quite a bit. I doubt we'll ever buy another set, but it was a good place to start.

Jenny

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  If you can afford it, it must be a rush to buy 500 bucks of All Clad on sale and toss the old, perfectly good stuff. Or go on a Le Creuset binge because the little pumpkin shaped casseroles are so damn cute.

Well, yes it is. :biggrin: I happen to love my sets of All Clad, Wusthof knives and Le Creuset, including the cute little petite tomato casseroles I recently picked up.

But in the end, people who cook every day know what they need. A cast iron frying pan. a stockpot and saucepans

I know how to cook, but it also happens that the sets I've chosen actually work very well for me. Conversely, I do tend to make my own spice blends and rubs. Those are easy enough to make up and store in tupperware (yeah, more sets) so I can reach for them easily enough when I need them.

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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And I still need to get a cast iron skillet, although looking at the shiny new ones always makes me kind of sad.

Antique store? Great source for all manner of un-pre-matched sets.

Margo Thompson

Allentown, PA

You're my little potato, you're my little potato,

You're my little potato, they dug you up!

You come from underground!

-Malcolm Dalglish

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Spice blends seem like they can be a reasonable compromise for someone in a hurry (although I don't buy them, and I get really annoyed when I see products like "Italian Blend" ... what the hell could that be??)

Cookware and knife sets seem almost universally ridiculous, though. The worst examples of false economy. It just takes that one useless pan in the set to turn the bargain into a bad deal. And I personally think different materials suit different functions ... which rules out any set offered by anyone.

I always beg people to just get the one thing they need most ... a good chef's knife, a good saute pan or poele ... and start from there. Figure out what shapes and sizes they really use the most, and figure out how they like to use them, and then replace the wallmart cookware a piece at a time in order of urgency. Saves any major cash outlays, and helps prevent collosally expensive mistakes.

Notes from the underbelly

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Now wait a second! How much time does a spice blend really save? These aren't blends of 145 spices. More like five, six or seven in most cases. So what's the big deal? Taking five spices off your spice rack and adding some of each of them to a pot of chili takes, what, a minute longer than using one blend?

In terms of cookware sets, if your sole concern is utility, there's pretty much no good argument for the sets unless your cooking habits exactly reflect the composition of the set, however a lot of folks value a nice display of uniform-in-appearance cookware on the pot rack. To me, there's no set more beautiful than a totally mismatched set of well-used cookware where every piece is right for the job -- but that's just me.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Spice blends seem like they can be a reasonable compromise for someone in a hurry  (although I don't buy them, and I get really annoyed when I see products like "Italian Blend" ... what the hell could that be??)

ITA!

Like "curry powder" - what dish does that make? Especially

stuff like "Madras curry powder".... :blink:

That said, I do use many spice blends for specific dishes

like chana masala that use ingredients like pomegranate

powder that I would rarely use otherwise. The list on

my chana masala spice blend packet has like 15 spices

on it, and it's really a lot easier and I do get better results

when I use the packaged blend and then tweak a little.....

I also will admit to keeping some sambar powder and

rasam powder on hand for days I am really feeling to

lazy to toast and grind the relevant spices, though I

really concur that grinding your own tastes much better....

Milagai

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"Madras curry powder" is used in modern French dishes and such-like.

A good solution to save time is to get a spice grinder and grind your own masalas - garam masala, rai masala, etc. Grind them from whole spices and put them in a clean jar that you are reusing. Your spice blend will be fresher than one you buy pre-ground and pre-mixed, and the proportions of the spices will be to your taste.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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As I was at the market today, I did realize that there are a few blends I use regularly -- lettuce blends in the clamshells or plastic bags.

I like a variety of things in a salad, and to buy the whole heads of the various ingredients -- well, couldn't run through it fast enough, and it would be a veg bin's worth of stuff requiring the same salad night after night.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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I've gone back and forth on those blends. Right now we're in a phase of using a single type of lettuce per salad. I think the supermarket blends tend to look more interesting than they taste. Recently we've been getting these packs of two heads of "live" Boston lettuce from Costco -- they're great. That and red leaf lettuce will get us through the winter. There was an awesome place I went to at some farmer's market where they had all the different types of greens and you could make your own blend and pay per pound. That was the best.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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"Madras curry powder" is used in modern French dishes and such-like.

A good solution to save time is to get a spice grinder and grind your own masalas - garam masala, rai masala, etc. Grind them from whole spices and put them in a clean jar that you are reusing. Your spice blend will be fresher than one you buy pre-ground and pre-mixed, and the proportions of the spices will be to your taste.

I do this with chili powders. Make my own from dried ancho or pasilla, guajellos, cumin and oregano. For a hotter version I'll add moritas a small smoked and dried red jalapeno. In Mexico these are sometimes called chipotle but the real chipotle is a dried smoked green jalapeno. By making my own chili powder I don't have to go searching for all the ingredients when I just want a tsp or so. Way fresher and tastier than anything preground in the stores.

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That said, I do use many spice blends for specific dishes

like chana masala that use ingredients like pomegranate

powder that I would rarely use otherwise.  The list on

my chana masala spice blend packet has like 15 spices

on it, and it's really a lot easier and I do get better results

when I use the packaged blend and then tweak a little.....

"Ingredients. . . .that I would rarely use otherwise" -- that is why I use curry powder. Unless I could buy all the ingredients in 1 tablespoon packets, I would be wasting my money (and time).

I live alone, I make curry maybe once a month. I have trouble even using up the small packet of blended curry powder before it is a year old.

I know my curry is not authentic, but I like it.

sparrowgrass
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i tend to go thru experimentation periods with various cuisines, so yeh, some of the spices don't get used up quick and sit there for a long time. so when you tend to cook only one kind of cuisine or cook large volume, it's good to make your own.

but for 1-2 people it becomes wasteful and requires large storage. i do some of mixes myself too for quick fixes.

there is some overlap - betweet indian and ethiopian and some mediterranean. i do keep some commercial curry for a quick fix, but always add some specific spices that i like, to boost it.

i have a very good book about spices with good recipes:

the cook's encyclopedia of spices by sallie morris and lesley mackley. i've tried many recipes from it and was happy with results. it covers separate spices and mixes across the world and has many examples of usage: breads, soups, stews,etc. i would highly recommend it .

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