The Essential Spice Rack

 

For those who love to cook, a well-stocked spice cabinet is the best way to be prepared to make anything properly. Here are Emily Ellyn’s must-have spices to always have on hand.

 

Bay leaf: An aromatic, woodsy-tasting leaf most often sold dried. Add whole bay leaves to soups, stews, and marinades.

 

Black peppercorns: Most recipes call for this must-have, slightly pungent spice. Pick whole peppercorns over ground every time.

 

Ground cinnamon: A bittersweet aromatic spice with rich earthy notes gives depth of flavor to baked dishes, curries, stews, and chilies (like the beloved Cincinnati chili).

 

Dill: Most often used in pickling and to flavor dishes like gravlax and borscht, it can be used to give a bright fresh note to dishes.

 

Garlic powder: Keep on hand for when fresh garlic is unavailable.

 

Ground ginger: It is no wonder the Greeks first referred to ginger as “zingiberis” as it has sharp spicy notes. Keep this on hand for baking and to use in a pinch when a dish needs some zing.

 

Onion powder: When fresh onion is unavailable this can serve as a workable alternative.

 

Oregano: Often more aromatic when dried than fresh, it has a warm and slightly bitter taste. Most popular in Latin American and Italian cuisines this herb is also used in Middle Eastern and Eastern European dishes.

 

Sweet paprika: Ground sweet red pepper pods that are available in sweet to hot varieties. Although mainly called for in Hungarian food and to top deviled eggs, paprika will lend a rich, red color and smooth, smoky notes to Eastern European and North African dishes.

 

Red pepper (flakes or crushed): This is a go-to for spicing up pastas and stir-fries or to sprinkle on pizzas. It can be ground to a powder if recipe needs chili powder substitute.

 

Rosemary: The aroma of pine takes me back to my childhood growing up on a Christmas tree farm. Rosemary can flavor meat, potatoes, and add depth to an assortment of Mediterranean dishes.

 

Sage: This is the herb that gives poultry and Thanksgiving stuffing their rich, savory, and peppery notes.

 

Star anise: This beautiful star-shaped fruit, harvested in Vietnam and China, is used to obtain an anise flavor, most distinctly in Chinese five-spice. My favorite use is to flavor stews and braised meat with ground or full pods.

 

Thyme: A fragrant herb that lends a delicate flavor to meat, poultry, and vegetables. It’s popular in Mediterranean, Cajun, and Creole cuisines.

 

Vanilla: This is an essential ingredient used in baking. It is best to opt for pure extract.