A conversation happened at work today which got me thinking. What is in your seasoning cabinet? What I would expect in a basic seasoning cabinet is not the same as what someone else might think. Whenever I visit Minnesota I encounter this very scenario. My mother-in-law’s version of a seasoning cabinet is vastly different than what my version is. When I say vastly different, I mean in some other solar system. Thankfully I have been fortunate enough to visit her and save her cave of a cabinet and populate it with the basics. Word of warning, I have been accused of collecting spices like I collect clothes. It may look like I am out of control, but I have a plan for every single purchase. At least this is what I tell my husband.
Kosher Salt – This is a larger grain salt then its iodized table salt cousin you might be accustomed to. The salt is more grainy and flaky than table salt and doesn’t have an aftertaste that table salt can create due in part to the iodine that is added. I keep my kosher salt in a salt pig next to my oven for easy access.
Pepper – I believe that pepper should be freshly ground for maximum flavor. Do a taste test with a chicken breast and season with table salt and prepared ground pepper and the other chicken breast season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. I guarantee you will taste the difference.
Granulated Garlic – I use granulated garlic on just about everything. This is simple flavor enhancer and you really can’t mess up a simple sauteed chicken breast seasoned with kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, and granulated garlic. Don’t be tempted to buy garlic powder in place of granulated garlic. This is dried garlic ground into a fine powder and is far harder to control in your cooking.
Chili Powder – With as many Mexican dishes as I prepare, I can never be out of this staple ingredient. Most chili powders are a blend of chili pepper, spices, salt, and garlic. There is a hotter version which is called New Mexico Chile Powder. I will sometimes use this in chili and soups where I want more of a punch. Ancho chili powder offers a nice smokey flavor to dishes. Chipolte powder also offers a nice smokey flavor, but can be a bit hotter. I could start an entire spice cabinet with various chili powders blends that are available.
Cumin – Again, with the dishes that I cook, I could never live without having cumin in my cabinet. This spice is a cousin of coriander and gives your dish a smokey, almost lemon flavor. If you find you are missing the mark on some of your Hispanic dishes, it is often cumin.
Lemon Pepper – This is a great seasoning to have on hand to give your food a little zip that you might be craving. Surprisingly, I often use this on my steaks to give a bit of flavor kick. Look for a mix that isn’t so heavy on the salt content.
Custom Mixes – I am a big fan of mixes that don’t contain a lot of salt, or in some cases, no salt at all. One brand I use a lot is Mrs. Dash. They are a great way to give chicken, pork or steak a quick flavor enhancer without all of the salt. The extra spicy blend works well in chili, hot wings and fajitas. Another brand that I have discovered recently is the Simply Organic in the organic section of the grocery store. Both the chicken and steak blend have been great to use both on meat as well as in soups and stews.