The great debate will always rage on for the essential spice spot in the kitchen. What spices should I keep on hand? Every starter chef has asked this question at some point or another, only to find the standard black and white, boring list that everyone else has.
Salt and Pepper have reigned long enough and are slowly being picked off by other, more tasteful spices. Basil and Oregano moved in for a stay at the top while Rosemary and Sage followed suite. The only problem with these spices become commonplace and are growing familiar to the tongue. Few people know that the tongue has over 10,000 taste buds, so it is safe to say that the tongue can grow tired of the same spices day after day. Here are 5 new spices that every kitchen should keep on hand.
1. Crushed Mint – Mint is a very romantic spice. It is the Romeo of spices and is sensuous on savory dishes, such as lamb and vegetables, while also a welcome deviation on deserts and fruits. The versatility of mint goes beyond food and adds a touch of class to almost any drink, including teas and other adult beverages. Studies show that mint also helps to produce stomach acid, thus aiding in digestion, which is a great thing if you like to eat. Another known fact about mint is that it repels rodents.
2. Bay Leaves – While these delightful leaves are commonly found in kitchens worldwide, they are hardly ever used except for beans, gumbo and the occasional turkey on Thanksgiving Day. This spice is rich in vitamin A and C and was once used to crown Roman Gladiators – reason enough. Next time, try bay leaves in your soup, casserole or roast, the longer the cook time, the more flavor will be pulled from the leaf. Just make sure to remove the leaf before eating, otherwise you will get a shock of strong, woodsy flavor when you bite down.
3. Mustard Seed – Just like the common condiments, these little balls are bursting with a spicy and noticible flavor. Coming in a variety of colors and flavors, it will do good to try them all. Grinding up the seeds adds a beautiful color and taste while cooking rice. Using whole seeds while oil is warming, allows the seeds to pop open, releasing their sharp flavor to permeate the oil. Ground mustard seeds also go well on meats such as chicken and lamb; add a little mustard seed and brown sugar to your breading mixture and you have an extremely tasty and crunchy crust when baked.
4. Herbs De Provence – Herbs De Provence are, essentially, the Swiss Army Knife of the spice rack. This one combo-punch packs all of the common spices, such as basil, marjoram, thyme, sage, savory and rosemary. This mixture gives a full and robust flavor to any meat, including Venison, Bison and other strong meats. It is also quite tasty on anything grilled. A little HDP on your skewers ties everything together and makes the meal memorable.
5. Pumpkin Spice – This spice came in fifth place, just besting its partner in crime, Cinnamon, due to the unique memories it invokes. Pumpkin Spice is mostly used during the holiday season, which makes it a dual spice, used for both baking and cooking. Pumpkin spice is phenomenal in pancakes and waffles to add that “wow, this is amazing” factor that hits you in the back of the throat. It can also be used in slow cooker recipes such as pot roast or chili.
The next time you reach for your bland spices, slap your hand with the wooden spoon and remember to reach for something that will give your taste buds a kung-fu kick to the roof of your mouth and back.