Monday, April 6, 2009

The spice of life

I have a theory that all scientists have mild OCD. We partake in repetitive activities, we're anal and we like to organize things. The same applies for my kitchen as it does my lab bench. Don't get me wrong, I'm not perfect. My bench (and home) will often times turn into utter disarray, but then it reaches a certain threshold of disorganization and I go crazy. Like I'll go to Target and purchase awesome containers for all my various grains and lentils. Or I'll go to Bed Bath and Beyond and purchase spice glass jars.

Ahhhh spices. How I love spices. (Spices and condiments- you can never have enough!) A few months ago my cabinet was overflowing with them and it drove me crazy every time I opened the door. And even though I had a little step-rack for them, it was often hard to find what I needed in the mess. So a while back I decided to switch things up and place them in a drawer. GENIUS!!! All spices should be stored in a drawer. Easy access, protects them from the light and they don't all go crashing to the ground when I need to reach all the way back.

All you gotta do is label the tops are you're good to go! If I only had a label maker...

The one bad thing about spices though is their price. Go to Safeway and you're paying $6 for a jar which you'll probably only use a few tsp worth in a year. My secret: Whole Foods. Yes, Whole Foods. I know, most stuff there is uber pricey, but their bulk foods are really a great deal. Not only do they sell flour, grains, cereal, etc in bulk- they also sell spices in bulk. Glorious wall of spices!! You put them in little baggies and you'll be paying pennies instead of dollars!

And if you indulge me for a moment- let me share with you some of my favorite spice/flavor combos:
1. Chinese 5 spice powder on pork tenderloin (check out Whole Foods recipe online)
2. Lavender in cake/cupcakes/creme brule. I made lavender-orange-honey biscotti one time- holy cow they were amazing.
3. Cardamom in anything sweet (slightly sweet bread, butter cookies, baklava). Mix cardamom with orange and you've got an AMAZING combo! (I highly recommend buying the pods and grinding it yourself though. The pre-ground stuff pales in comparison. Just use a coffee grinder to powder the seeds.)
4. Baharat (a Middle Eastern spice mixture) in ground beef.
5. Sumac sprinkled on kabobs, preferably with tons of parsley and cilantro.

Its not a surprise that three out of the five spices are used in a lot of Middle Eastern cooking. My mom never made any meal, especially meat, without a ridiculous number of spices. I'm telling you- I just can't get enough.

Hopefully I've inspired you all to try to add some spice in your life... literally. Although figuratively spicing up your life isn't a bad thing either.



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