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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Penzey's Spices

Look what I got! These are each spice mixes from Penzey's sent to me by a friend who knows me well. For years I have enjoyed the Penzey's catalog, which is full of information about the herbs and spices they sell and recipes to boot. But better than the catalog is actually visiting a Penzey's store, something I did for the first time this Summer on my birthday with my sister in Portland.

Spice stores are wonderful places filled with endless jars and bags to tempt you. At Penzey's there isn't anything that you can't get a whiff of at the store. Walking around you experience what real fresh spices are all about. Too often spices are purchased at the supermarket where they are overpriced and not very pungent. Then we take them home where they languish until they lose all color, scent and flavor.

I buy some spices from bulk bins at Rainbow Grocery, a few exotic peppers from The Occasional Gourmet, especially my favorite the hard to find Marash pepper and a Ras el Hanout from Yum! because I find Paul's blend the best in tagines. But after shopping at Penzey's I purchased several items I hadn't had in stock in quite a while, if ever. Which did I purchase? I'll share my list.

The toasted onion is great for those times when you wish you had sauteed more onion than you did. Just toss in a spoon or two of the stuff and soups or stews take on more sweet oniony flavor. The Balti seasoning mix comes with a recipe right on the front of the package and is great for making an Indian dinner that is not a curry. The Vietnamese cinnamon is the strongest I've ever found and inspired endless breakfasts of cinnamon toast. The ginger was also very pungent and prompted me to experiment with gingerbread cookies.

How will I use my new spice mixes? I'm not sure yet, but I will have fun finding out!

UPDATE: Wow! I mixed the Singapore spice with butter and rubbed it under the skin of a chicken then roasted it. It was terrific, a great solution when fresh herbs are scarce. The chicken tasted lemony with subtle hints of ginger and pepper.