Add a Little Spice to Your Life

Add a Little Spice to Your Life
by KC Kudra

Spices add flavor and make food more palatable. Even just adding plain salt and pepper makes our food better than it would be without them. Garlic adds another strong dimension to our food. Without spice, our food is unappetizing and without flavor. With spice, it can be a sensual delight.

With more exposure to other cultures, we are experiencing more of their cuisines, and their regional spices. It is not uncommon to experience the foods and spices of Mexico, China, Italy, and India in a single week. The week after that, maybe you will try something from Morocco or Afghanistan. Regional spices are becoming more available all the time, and as we taste these new combinations, it wins us over. Suddenly we have added a new favorite to our cupboard.

Keeping Spices

When was the last time you bought spices? That bottle of cayenne from 1998 is not good anymore, no matter how full the bottle is. Spices fade over time, in both color and flavor. To preserve your spices as long as possible, keep them in a place away from moisture, bright light, heat, and oxygen. While it is convenient to reach into the cupboard and sprinkle some on your food while cooking, try to store them away from your kitchen appliances. Steam can cause dampness and deterioration. Airtight containers such as glass or tin work best to keep moisture at bay and preserve the flavorful oils in the spices.

Plant Stuff

Did you know that not all spices are created equal? Each spice has a different life span. Be sure to go through the spices in your cupboard occasionally to check their quality. Examine the color and aroma. Has either of them faded? Whole spices will keep longer than ground spices. It also depends on which plant part the spice comes from.

For whole spices, remember that leaves and flowers may last up to a year. Roots, seeds, and barks can retain their goodness for over two years. Ground spices have a shorter life span. Leaves, seeds and barks will be good for about six months, while roots will remain fresh for up to a year.

Ethnic Cooking

There are many ethnic recipes that require special spices to give them their unique flavor. For example, if you want to make chicken enchiladas, you may need cumin, chilies, cilantro and garlic to create an authentic Mexican flavor.

If you wanted to make something from Morocco, you may need allspice, cumin, coriander, or cinnamon. If you want to try Cajun, you would need both hot and sweet paprika, and both white and black pepper. If you want to try your hand at something Japanese, you may need chili flakes, mustard seeds, or furikake.

Have fun exploring the vast world of spices. You are sure to find something new that you really like. Keep an open mind when trying spices. For example, you may find that Afghani food is really good, while maybe; Thai food is not your favorite. Unless you give them a try, you will never know.

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