These 10 Spices Will Instantly Make You A Better Cook
For all of you out there who think you just can't cook, we have something to tell you: yes, you can. Julia Child wasn't lying when she said anyone can cook. She may have been talking about French cooking, but it's true for all types of cuisine.
There's no magic to cooking. People aren't born with a special gene that helps them whip together dishes. Being a good cook comes from a true love of food and having good ingredients. If you're reading this we're willing to bet you really love food. You probably don't have the necessary ingredients to properly express yourself in the kitchen. Don't worry, that's an easy fix. And it starts with your spice cabinet.
If your spice cabinet is made up of nothing more than salt, garlic powder and onion flakes, you came to the right place. Stock your kitchen with the 10 spices below and you'll quickly see a change in the dishes you put together. These spices, when added to the right dish, will add flavor and punch where blandness existed before. Read on, buy the spices below, and please, get rid of the garlic powder. That's what real garlic is for.
If all you know about pepper is the stuff that comes out of a shaker, just stop. Put down the ground black pepper -- that stuff doesn't taste like anything anyway -- and go buy yourself a pepper grinder and some real peppercorn. Then add it to everything. The flavor will amaze you.
Za'atar is not a spice, but a blend -- it's usually a combination of salt, sesame seed and sumac -- and its the one that you need in your kitchen. A sprinkle of it as a finishing touch on just about everything will do wonders for your dinner.
Allspice is one of the most underrated spices. This spice tastes like a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves -- hence its name -- and is responsible for making so many of our favorite dishes great. It's indispensable in Jamaican jerk recipes and Middle Eastern cuisine in general. It also shows up in pickling recipes, is responsible for flavoring commercial sausage, and is the reason Cincinnati chili has such a distinct aroma.
Paprika brings not only a warmth in color, but also in flavor to your dishes too. It's made from either bell or chile peppers. Paprika is most famous in Hungarian cuisine -- think goulash -- but it's also widely used in Spanish or Portuguese dishes. There are many different flavors of paprika: sweet, hot smoked, plain. We think you should try them all.
Fennel seed is THE spice for anyone who loves fennel or just licorice in general. When added to food, its mild taste imparts a delicate flavor of anise. It's often used in sausage, so adding it to dishes can give them an almost meaty flavor.
Garam masala isn't a spice, but a blend of spices that are common in North Indian cuisine. It's usually a mixture of peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, cumin seeds and cardamom pods. And if you have this in your cabinet, a whole region of cuisine will become available to you.
Sumac is a Middle Eastern spice with a bold lemony flavor. Just a sprinkle of it will instantly improve upon a dish. You can use it as a garnish on dips, atop of salads, or to flavor rice.
Cumin's bright, peppery flavor is one of the reasons Mexican food is so addictive. It's that certain flavor that you love, but can't quite put your finger on. It's also an important component in Indian and Middle Eastern foods. Next time you make refried beans, add a little cumin. You won't regret it.
Flickr: Steven Jackson Photography
Turmeric is responsible for some notable dishes. It gives ballpark mustard its bright yellow color and is instrumental in curries.
Flickr: Steven Jackson Photography
Cardamom's unique sweet-spicy flavor makes it a natural addition to sweets. Add a little to your next cake and you'll see what we mean. While cardamom can be the most expensive spice by weight, you don't need much to impart its bold flavor.