Spice and everything nice

What are your favorites spices?

Spice choice largely has to do with what is spiced up so share that as well. What ingredients and spices tend to go well together?

What spices go well together?

What spices tend to go well with a large number of meals?

Specifically, what do you think would be best on baked sweet potato chips?

Baked sweet potato chips need nothing but salt.

But rosemary and salt is also awesome.

Cinnamon and a teeny bit of sugar or brown sugar…also awesome.

Cumin and ground red pepper and brown sugar (basically, BBQ)…awesomely awesome.

Gimme all your sweet potato chips and no one gets hurt.

So you want herbs too? Assuming you do, Caprese salad with fresh basil is one of my favorite things to eat. I like basil a lot though.

I’m starting to experiment with some Indian spices, like garam masala. I think that would be excellent on sweet potato chips.

I’ve been eating a lot of garlic, onion, cumin, and cayenne since I have to watch sodium these days. Pasta and pizza (always home made) use the classic Italian herbs and spices plus a bit of cayenne. Oh, forgot black pepper.

Chinese 5 spice and a little salt for the sweet potatoes!

Cumin and coriander (seeds, ground) together make the most frequent appearances in my kitchen. Fresh ground nutmeg goes into many meat dishes especially if they have a bechamel sauce, fresh dill and coriander for chicken and fish dishes, and of course oregano for anything Italian.

Whatever you do, try to grind your spices just before using them. A mortar and pestle is a cheap investment, and along with a regular or spice grater, you’ll appreciate the difference from store-bought packets.

Cilantro, basil, cayenne, cinnamon, bay leaf, fresh chives all get used regularly in our kitchen.

Generally not in the same recipe, though.

Garlic and onions are so ubiquitous that I’ll acknowledge and dismiss them from the beginning.

The next most popular spices in my kitchen are ancho chili powder, which is nice and smoky without being very hot, and cumin. Those two go in pretty much every Mexican-like thing I cook, and cumin is important for Indian dishes too. My curry has store-bought powder jazzed up with more cumin, garlic, ginger, and hot peppers.

I guess I use fresh ginger too. For the abovementioned, and stir fries too. Also to layer on top of salmon and saturate with soy sauce before baking.

And cinnamon. For cinnamon toast and sweet potatoes, also sometimes nice in savory dishes like lamb stew.

My favorite spices? maybe not a spice, but I have to say oregano. I found a dried branch of oregano in a cellophane bag in the produce section, from Italy or Greece. I can just crumble a little into whatever I’m cooking. Meatloaf, chicken, spaghetti sauce… It smells divine, extremely pungent - I may never go back to the little jar of dried leaves.

Second, cinnamon. I adore cinnamon, on english muffins, in cookies and buns. If the cinnamon is old, I just use it in a pot of simmering water to make the house smell nice.

Dude, having two jars of oregano stopped fooling the cops decades ago. :smiley:

I agree - onion, garlic, salt are so universal as to not count in this discussion. I have a little framed quote from a friend’s novel on my kitchen wall: “Chop an onion while you wait. Much that happens in my kitchen begins with a chopped onion.”

I use generic chili powder a lot, in large quantities, mostly as a meat rub/marinade that the whole family can tolerate. A staple weeknight dinner is a flat of chicken legs, tossed with oil, chili powder and a little cumin, left to marinate/coat for a while, then grilled (or in winter, convection roasted with a finishing broil).

I use a pinch of crushed red pepper in a lot of things, too, and most soups and stews get a bay leaf… which, to much family hilarity, always ends up in my bowl even if I remove it before serving. Guhdam things multiply.

I have never been an herb cook - I don’t much like the aromatic herbs in plain cooking. Italian-esque, yesque, but adding, say, rosemary to a pasta dish or dill to potatoes, nope.

And, well-saged dressing is a must for thanksgiving.

Indian cooking commonly uses cardamom, cumin seed, mustard seed, saffron, fennel seed, cinnamon, mace and cloves, often all in the same dish. The garam masala mentioned above is actually a combination of many spices; in the US, a premixed garam masala is commonly sold, as is a premixed curry powder. Other masalas include Balti, Rajasthani, Bangala, Punjabi, Maharashtrian, Kashmiri, Bin Bhuna Hua, and on and on. One might think that something gets lost with all of those powerful spices in the same dish, but that’s not the case. I use the premixed curry powder when making chicken salad

Thyme is a nice herb to use with either fish or chicken, as is herbs de provence, a dried herb blend found in most grocery stores.

Dill weed is excellent for potato salad.

For spaghetti sauce (with tomatoes), basil is a natural, as is rosemary and oregano. The three together in one sauce is a good combination. Try a BLT with fresh basil leaves instead of lettuce.

Two good sources for spices: Penzeys and Savory. If you’re lucky, there is one of these shops near you, but you can order online.

I came in to mention Penzey’s, but I see that Chefguy has beaten me to it. They’ve got some awesome blends that taste great and are fairly versatile. I often season pork with Krakow Nights, a blend of salt, black and white pepper, sugar, coriander, garlic, mustard, marjoram, mace, and savory. It’s a good contrast to the somewhat mild pork flavor. That’s my (current) favorite, but I’ve yet to get anything from them that wasn’t good.

I also use the hell out of baking spices. I put cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in oatmeal and pancake batter. I even keep a small shaker of cinnamon in my desk at work to liven up my afternoon yogurt.

Fresh herbs I use the most are basil, Rosemary, and lemon grass.

I buy onion powder and garlic powder in the big containers from the big box store because I use them in rubs and dressings. I’d never use them as substitutes for garlic and onion in cooking.

My ‘stuff I use the most’ spice shelf has oregano, thyme, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, bay leaves ( I should buy those in bulk, too), dill weed, paprika, ginger. I keep the salt and the pepper grinder by the stove.

Things I use less frequently are mustard, tarragon, Chinese 5 spice, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon. I don’t know why, but my baking spices seem to be a cold weather item. I rarely use them when it’s warm.

I also keep shakers of various rubs on hand so I don’t have to mix them up when I’m cooking. I mix my own taco seasoning, chicken rub (good for a lot more than chicken), jerk rub, Italian blend, and ranch dressing mix. We eat a lot of ranch on sandwiches.

In terms of quantity, the spice I use the most is paprika. I try to cook Hungarian at least once a week, and many recipes begin with onions, fat (lard or other animal fat if I have it around), and paprika. Also, I use it a lot for other cuisines, like as part of the red pepper mixture in my chili spices, in my rubs for roasts and barbecue, in my cajun spice mix, etc. By far, it is the spice that I use the most and need to replenish most often.

Next would be simple black pepper (although I usually have a couple different varieties of black pepper around). Very few dishes I make do not contain black pepper.

Beyond that, and including dried herbs in my spice cabinet, in rough order I would say cumin, allspice, nutmeg or mace, Mexican oregano, cloves, marjoram, caraway seed, coriander, then Mediterranean (regular) oregano. And there’s a lot more past that, but those would be my most used.

In terms of fresh herbs, cilantro is number one, followed by parsley, basil, rosemary, thyme, dill, tarragon. A lot of these are limited by availablity at the grocery store if (like right now), it’s out-of-season (i.e., not available from my garden). Also, cost. Cilantro and parsley are fairly cheap, usually $1 for a couple bunches, but my grocery has basil and the like in those plastic containers for something like $2 a small handful. I typically only use fresh basil when it’s out of my backyard for that reason, as a lot of my basil recipes require a LOT of basil. There are some groceries farther afield that have more reasonable loose herb prices, but when I’m cooking from the neighborhood, I have to limit my fresh basil usage to when I have some available from my garden.

My favorite spice is cumin. It goes with absolutely anything meaty, and makes it taste meatier. Some recipes use more cumin than others, of course, but if it has meat in it, and it comes from my kitchen, it’s got at least some cumin.

For herbs, the two I use most often are rosemary and oregano. Rosemary, I find, works well in anything that black pepper works well in (although the tastes are not at all similar). I’ve also grown quite fond of it with cheese. Oregano, I don’t use as often, but when I do, I use a lot of it. Basically, anything with tomatoes or tomato products in it gets oregano, too (of course, basil also goes great with tomatoes, but I usually find that most things that should have basil in them already do, in adequate quantity).

And my philosophy on garlic is that if it ever makes sense to ask the question “Should this have garlic in it?”, then the answer is always “Yes.”.

Have you tried Penzey’s baking spice blend? It’s outstanding in pancakes, cookies, pies, etc. Make blueberry pancakes and add some baking spice and they taste like blueberry pie. Love the stuff.