Thursday, February 28, 2008


I don't know about everyone else, but I'd have to say that I'm pretty spice obsessed. My cabinets are stuffed full of jars and canisters, filled to the rim with beautifully colored powders, exotic seeds and tiny leaves. Although they are beautiful to look at, it's the smells and flavors that I love. Spices enable you to travel to exotic destinations and faraway places.

One of my favorite places for spice hunting is Penzey's Spices. I first discovered them online, where I became impressed and obsessed with the fresh, vibrant flavors. These are not your mother's spices.

Yesterday I found myself stopping by Penzey's, to quickly replenish my dwindling supply of cumin and dill (yes, we now have a store in Portland). Of course once I got there, I realized that it would be a good idea to pick up a few other herbs and spices, just because. Then there was the urgent phone call from my daughter "mom, don't forget the sumac, I've had a craving for it and you always forget to get it when you're there" (no, I really didn't make up that part about my daughter. She loves sumac sprinkled on her salad, with a little lemon juice and olive oil). So needless to say, I have a lot of spices in my kitchen.

After my "quick" run yesterday, it made me think about herbs and spices, and how much flavor they add to cooking, especially vegan and vegetarian cooking. They add so much depth and color to a dish, layering and enhancing flavors to take it from ordinary to extraordinary.

It would be hard to pick one or two favorites, so I thought I would make a list of the spices and herbs that I reach for most. Here you go:

Poultry seasoning
Black pepper
Smoked paprika
Allepo pepper
Oregano and thyme.

There are many others too, but these are the ones that I find myself reaching for, time and time again.

Here's a picture of one of my cabinets, filled to the rim with spices and tea (I'll leave the tea to another post).

So that's my little ramble on spices. I'd love to hear what your favorite spices are and what dishes you like to use them in.


MeloMeals said...

Love your daughter!

I would be lost without my spices.. omg.. cumin, coriander, oregano, basil, thyme, sage, rosemary, cayenne, paprika, smoked paprika.. the list goes on and on. It's not wonder spices used to be currency.

Diz Rivera said...

Smart kid!

Too many to choose from, right? I'd say cumin, vietnamese cinnamon, rosemary, cloves . . .ah man, it goes on . . .

Who's your sister?? Samohi '85?

julie hasson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sheree' said...

I too am adicted to spices. I use paprika, cumin, turmeric, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, and an dozen types of chili powder. YOu are so lucky to have smoked paprika. It is no where to be found in my neck of the woods. I know I can order online, but I hate to pay shipping. I will have to break my stubborn streak eventually. Until then I just add some cumin to my paprika when I need smokey papriks. OH, I forgot 5 spice and corriander. YUM!!!

mamalama said...

Aleppo pepper does it for me with its smooth smoky taste. Nothing else like it.

Amy said...

It's funny, I never used spices before becoming vegetarian. They used to sit on my spice shelf until they smelled like dirt and I'd throw them out.

Now days I have 20 jars that sit on my rangehood plus 2 shoe box sized boxes in my pantry. I can't get enough of them!

My favourites are smoked paprika, paprika, cumin, ground ginger, ground coriander, cardamom, oh heck, who can pick just a few? I love them all! :P

Tofu Mom (AKA Tofu-n-Sprouts) said...

I love the sounds of all of those! I use pretty much the same ones - I also love smoked salt, Indian black salt, star anise, a masala spice blend that I really love too!

Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

I love spices! I have at least 30 hanging in my kitchen & more in the cabinet!
I use a lot of chile powder, cumin, coriander, curry powder, & smoked paprika! I don't have sumac! I'm also looking for asofetida powder.

If you come to SF, we have to go to my co-op, you'll love the bulk spice section!

jess (of Get Sconed!) said...

I will have to check out Penzey's one day. I have a ton of spices too, but unfortunately no great organizational system yet.

julie hasson said...

As I've been reading everyone's favorite spices, I find myself realizing that I accidentally left some great ones off my list. Aren't spices awesome!

As far as storage goes, I've been using glass caning jars with plastic lids, and that seems to work fairly well. The problem is finding the spice you're looking for quickly and easily. Ha!

Steffi said...

one can never have to many spices. My favourite is cumin, though one of my coworkers swears it smells like feet. I adore my cumin!

Carrie said...

I am envious of your spice cabinet!

I love thyme on sauteed veggies...especially the way it smells while it is cooking. But I guess that's a herb and not a spice. I also use cumin and paprika a lot. And crushed red pepper.

Vegan_Noodle said...

You're so right... spices are a huge part of vegan cooking!! I always hate it when I go to restaurants and they serve me something that isn't well spiced... it's almost as if they don't think they're vegan!

I love all those that you mentioned, but I would have to add chili powder, cayenne pepper, white pepper, and curry powder.

zeenes said...

I love Penzey's! Their double-strength vanilla is incredible. Every time I walk into that store, I end up spending at least $100, so I try not to visit too often!

Vicki's Vegan Vice said...

oooh, I've not had the pleasure of visiting Penzey's, but glad to hear of one in Portland for next time. I need to go online and order Smoked paprika as I just can't find it around here. I'm really enjoying my AeroGarden indoor herb garden!! You'd love it, Julie, fresh herbs ready for the snipping. (dill, mint, Italian basil, purple basil, thyme, parsley, & chives) I enjoy a pinch of cayenne pepper in guacamole!!!

MeganFabulous said...

I too hardly used spices before becoming vegan. Not sure if it is considered a spice but my universal fav is red pepper flakes. I also love rosemary and basil. Hopefully I will be able to grow my own herbs in the tiny garden of my new house!

Unknown said...

oh, i wish i had a mom as cool as you! no disrespect to my mother, she's wonderful, but garlic powder, salt and pepper are about the only things she needs in her cabinet.
as for me, i really love: cumin (in everything!), turmeric, dill, chile powders (mild ones, as i like heat but not too much), paprika, sage, and ginger. and i LOVE penzey's, but have never had the privilege of going to a real store. i'll have to track one down soon.

urban vegan said...

I'm also herb & spice obssessed. I have an entire 3-shelve cupboard for spices, plus a spice rack that hholds 18 jars. I need help Is there a 12-step program for spiceaholics?

Rural Vegan said...

Your spice cabinet is so much more organized than mine right now! I have visions of tackling the job with dozens of lovely stainless steel canisters for all the spices...

Life is too short to eat bland foods, I use a ton of herbs and spices! The biggies are cumin, dill, caraway seed, basil, and sweet paprika.

Cakespy said...

We are a spice-obsessed house, but we're so bad! We buy them in bulk but don't have cannisters so they're all in these little bulk aisle baggies. How trashy!

Turmeric is our #1!

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