“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember.” – William Shakespeare, Hamlet
Some people are always taking peeks into other’s medicine cabinets or top bureau drawers.
I have never been one of those people.
Instead of a prurient interest in other people’s panties, I’ve always had a prurient interest in other people’s pantries.
Plus, I’m definitely a Spice Girl.
So, when I saw today’s prompt was: Spicy! Talk Us Through Your Spice Rack – I decided to share. (We’ll be back to Autumn-themed recipes tomorrow.)
Swivel Store Spice Rack
I’ve gone through a LOT of spice racks, trying to figure out something that works in my 1970’s retro kitchen. (I’m not trying to sound hipster by calling it retro; the kitchen has never been remodeled.) Counter space is at a premium, and there’s not much available wall space, either. There IS a nice built in pantry, and for awhile I used a Lazy Susan-type organizer for my spices. It still took up too much space (plus my spices still got jumbled). Then my partner found these Swivel Store spice shelves. They take up minimal room in the cabinet, and when you need a spice, you just slide a shelf out and swivel. My spices now stay arranged alphabetically, with labels neatly facing out.
It’s dark in my pantry, so I’ll carry my spices out to the dining room table so you can get a better look.
Above, we have Basil Leaves, Bay Leaves, Celery Salt, Celery Seed, Cajun Seasoning, Chili Powder (the blend for chilis), stick Cinnamon, a big bottle of ground Cinnamon, a baby bottle of Cinnamon spice, and yellow Curry Powder.
On the next shelf we have Dill Weed, Garam Masala, Garlic Powder, Garlic Salt, Ginger Spice, Gumbo Filet, Asafoetida (which I file under “Hing” and is sort of a Scary Spice), Poultry Seasoning (which is out of order and must be fixed!), and a sporty Lemon Pepper Seasoning (great for green beans or broccoli).
Third Shelf: Ground Mace, Marjoram, Mint Flakes, Ground Mustard, Ground Nutmeg, Whole Nutmeg, Minced Onion, Onion Powder, and Oregano.
Fourth shelf: Hot Hungarian Paprika, Smoked Paprika, Parsley Flakes, Pumpkin Pie Spice, Thyme (out of order! Oh, NOOO!) Rubbed Sage, and more Sage. My mom always had saffron threads, but that’s a bit too posh for me. There’s Rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Also Pure Vanilla, Orange, and Peppermint extracts.
While the Swivel Store works wonderfully for standard size spice jars, I also have bigger jars, such as Tony Chachere’s Cajun Seasonings and value-size spices such as Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, Basil, and Oregano. They go in this plastic tray.
Above we have Tony Chachere’s More Spice Cajun Seasoning, Oregano, Kelp Seasoning (for tempeh tuna salad sandwiches and melts), Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning, faux beef and chicken bouillon cubes, Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, Basil, and Italian Seasoning.
At this point some of my readers are probably thinking, “But don’t you share a lot of North Indian and Indian Fusion recipes? Where are THOSE spices?”
Those spices reside in jars – BIG jars – on another shelf. Obviously I don’t subscribe to the “buy only tiny amounts of spice at a time – spice loses its flavor quickly” theory. I buy in bulk and store in airtight glass jars. The spices stay fresh and fragrant and I’m refilling before I know it. You do go through spices quickly in Indian cooking.
Here we have dried Methi (didn’t realize I had that!); Red Chili Pepper (that’s a huge jar, maybe my nickname should be Fiery Spice), Ground Cumin, Cumin Seeds, Ground Coriander, Turmeric, Mango Powder, Star Anise, Ajwain, Fennel Seeds, Garam Masala, Kala Namak, and Mustard Seed.
Another Plastic Tray
Next is my collection of Indian spice blends. There are some people who will tell you to roast and grind and mix your own spice blends. I’m not going to tell you that, not when there are quality spice blends out there, it’s such fun to pick a new box, and there are shows you really want to watch on Netflix! If you’re wondering why I have spice blends meant for meat, it’s because those blends can also be used on tofu, or tempeh, or Gardein, or mixed into Harmony Valley hamburger mix.
Above we have Thandai Masala, Jal Jeeri Mix, Tandoor BBQ Masala, Pav Bhaji Masala, Chappli Kabob Masala, Chhole Masala (Chana Masala), Pani Puri Masala, and Sambar Powder.
This is the traditional Indian spice box. If you think this one looks unused, you would be right. This is my second one. I loved the first one – a round container with a lid and a number of small open jars inside. So convenient to just open one lid and then dip, dip, dip from my most used spices! (In my case, cumin seeds, ground cumin, ground coriander, ground red chili pepper, turmeric, garam masala, and salt.)
And then one day, while I was distracted, my cat jumped on the countertop and knocked the masala dabba to the floor. The lid bounced off, and spices went EVERYWHERE! Including the red chili pepper, which stings, and the turmeric, which stains.
The little bugger was unrepentant, too.
So I went online and ordered this new one, which has jars with individual lids. However, it’s bigger than expected and feels cumbersome and bulky in my hands. Plus the individual lids are screw-ons – multiple twists – which would require a lot of time screwing and unscrewing. So – as yet, unused.
I do recommend the original masala dabbas with the single lid, if you don’t have ill-behaved cats. And maybe even ones like my current one, if you have larger hands than me (which, most of you probably do).
I debated whether these were seasonings or condiments. I finally decided a condiment is something you use after the meal is cooked. For example, mustard or chutney on a veggie burger. A spice or seasoning is something you use when cooking.
Liquid Smoke is absolutely essential if you have any desire to cook Southern Soul Food. I have four varieties – Hickory, Mesquite, Applewood, and Pecan. You don’t need all four, but do get at least one. Hickory is probably the most versatile and familiar tasting. Add a drop into collards, green beans, tofu scrambles, veggie burgers, chilis – the possibilities are limitless.
Tobasco was a Southern cooking staple when I was growing up. Sometimes it was used as a condiment (for example, on scrambled eggs) but frequently a shake or two was used to liven up everything from soup to greens to gumbos.
Finally, Braggs Liquid Aminos is a must for meals involving TVP, soy nuggets, or seitan. It’s also a nice addition to chilis, soups, and stews.
Whew! I hope this has given you some ideas on how to organize your spices. I’d like to finish up here by saying don’t be intimidated because I have a lot of spices! It’s not necessary that you have as many or even half – or a quarter – as many! I’ve been cooking a long time and I’m an adventurous cook exploring several cuisines. I will predict, however, that the longer you’re veg, the more you will start cooking at home and the more you will use spices, even if it’s just to jazz up a boxed Imagine soup. Spices are your friend. Embrace them.
OK, I’ve gotta go now and do some laundry (and put those stray spices back in their proper place). I’ll be back with another Autumn recipe for you tomorrow!
Now go zigazig ah!