Monday, January 05, 2004

Spice Rack Redux

Do you have an old-fashioned spice rack? You know the type I'm talking about. It looks so nice you probably put it on display. Lots of bottles, labeled and filled with herbs and spices. Sadly herbs and spices deteriorate rapidly when exposed to the sun. I know. I had spices lined up on a counter ledge. Every time I went to use them I was dismayed at how weak or faded they were.

There are a couple of things you can do to boost the flavor of spices that you cook with. One thing is to buy whole spices and to grind them when you use them. You know how much better fresh ground pepper is than pre-ground pepper, right? Well if you only grind one other spice, make it nutmeg. You will be amazed at how much better it is freshly ground. I use it in spinach, with cheese dishes, in baked goods. It's quite versatile actually. The one spice you should not grind yourself is cinnamon sticks. Turns out that the cinnamon we get in sticks is not as good quality as the ground stuff. Check out Penzeys for a whopping seven different kinds of cinnamon for purchase. Penzeys also has a terrific catalog of herbs and spices that includes lots of recipes, you can request it online. If you're the type of person who prefers spice mixes to the single spices, they also have a number of those, they make a great gift for someone just getting into cooking, maybe you?

The other things you can do to keep your herbs and spices fresh is to store them in the dark or conversely to put them in containers that protect them from the light. That's what I just did. After receiving several spices from Dean & Deluca in seamless tins, I noticed that they lasted much longer than the spices I had in jars. It was time to make a change. I found seamless tins of all sizes at reasonable prices at The Container Store. You can buy the containers online or in the stores. Labeled and lined up they look very chic and they stack so nicely you'll kiss your spice rack goodbye.