Monday, April 8, 2013

The Basics: Spices

I did mention--in certain circles--that I would post a recipe on Tuesday; however, I've reconsidered and decided to cover some basics first. Not everyone's kitchen is stocked with some of the things that mine is; so I begin there.

I start with spices, and with what I refer to as the essential three:  ajo (garlic), pimienta (pepper) or grano de pimienta (peppercorn), and comino (cumin). 

{I do not claim or own copyright on these images; their source sites are noted in captions.}

You can buy these spices at most grocery stores or they can be ordered online if you can not find them locally. I use Bolner's Fiesta brand spices.

A word about the spices: When you shop you will see ground comino, ground garlic, garlic powder, and minced garlic. Even Fiesta brand has these incarnations; however, I do not recommend using these. First, you will not get the flavor with ground spices that you do with using the whole seed, peppercorn, or fresh garlic, and you lose control of the flavor of your dish. Second, in the recipes I will share, I use the whole spice and my measurements will be for them. I will not give equivalents for ground or minced spices simply because I do not know them. Third, when you used ground spices and minced garlic you lose the opportunity to use your molcajete, which, as you may recall from my last blog, is one of the secrets of truly good Mexican food.

What Fiesta also sells, and what I usually buy and recommend, is a bag of Mixed Spice. This bag already has comino and pimienta mixed together. This is what I will be using when I share my recipes. So unless you have a need for whole peppercorns and whole cumin seeds separately, simply get a bag of this.

Mixed spice (this one is my picture)

The other spice that I regularly use is sal (salt), but because I believe most people keep salt on hand, I didn't think it necessary to make mention of having it on hand as I do with these other spices. 

And yes, if you look in my pantry, you will find these spices on hand always. Garlic can be stored in the pantry, and if properly maintained in a dark, dry, decently circulated area can last for months. The bag of spices is a little trickier because without a proper way to keep the bag closed the spices will roll out all over the place. I keep mine in the bag with a clip on it and keep it in a sandwich container. Yes, the seeds and peppercorns are dried, but you will be amazed at how much drier they can get if the bag is not sealed or they are not placed in some other container with a lid.

my current stash of garlic and mixed spice

If you have any questions or differ with me about the essential three spices, let me know.

¡Hasta la proxíma vez!

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