Cooking With the Ultimate Spices

What’s so great about chilies? If you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to eat a stomach burning chili pepper, then you know what I’m talking about. The pungent spiciness of these peppers are enough to turn your tongue to water and your throat to cough as if there’s a fire burning inside you. Luckily, not only is there a way to cook chilies so that it doesn’t make such an effect on your palate, but there are also many ways to enjoy their flavors as well. Here are just a few:

Coriander: A tangy, lightly peppered green, Coriander goes great with creamy soups, stews, and stir fries. Coriander can also be added to chili peppers as a spice or to take the edge off red chili peppers for a more mild taste. To prepare, simply leave the stems on the plant, trim off the base, and grab a cleaver (or a knife) to chop away the center. Toss in a bit of olive oil or lemon juice and season with cinnamon or a little lemon juice to taste. Serve hot.
Ginger: One of the most widely used and popular spices, Ginger adds a little zest to dishes without being overwhelming. Commonly used in Italian cooking, this is also the basis for many curry powders, and is frequently seen as a main ingredient in Chinese stir-fry recipes. It has a very intense flavor and should be carefully monitored; too much ginger can cause a burning sensation on the lips. A good way to go about introducing ginger to your menu is to simply use it to spice up a mild dish like chicken, pasta, or rice. If you want to take it to the next level, consider adding it to chili or salsas.

Cinnamon: Most Americans do not realize that cinnamon is actually an excellent spice to include in your pantry! This native American spice is sweet, mildly nutty, and adds a depth of flavor not found in other common spices. You can take cinnamon to the next level by roasting it in the oven or using it as a spice for cocktails or coffee drinks. You can also buy cinnamon powder in bulk and sprinkle it over your favorite crackers, or on top of baked potatoes or brown rice. You can find great recipes using cinnamon powder in most cookbooks, from dessert to breakfast.

Cumin: Also known as Indian coriander, cumin is a spice that is used frequently in India but is gaining popularity in the United States as well. Often times mistaken for mustard seed, coriander actually has a nutty flavor similar to mustard seeds, but is less pungent. The major difference is that coriander has a mustard taste to it. When roasted, it becomes a lovely, clear golden orange color, which is what makes it so good for cooking and seasoning. Try roasting coriander with mustard seeds for that smoky mustard taste.

Bay leaves: Perhaps one of the least talked about, yet most popular, spices in the kitchen are the bay leaves. Used in pickling and frying, bay leaves bring out the flavor of the seafood and meats they have been prepared with, while still providing a bit of bite. Try roasting bay leaves on skewers to add that hint of sweetness to steaks, chicken, and other grilled foods. You can also boil a handful of bay leaves in half cup of water with one tablespoon of mustard seeds to give you a spicy hot beverage. Serve with fresh ginger ale or soda water to disguise the taste of the spice.