The 25 Spices Every Kitchen Must Have

They are loaded with an impressive list of phyto-nutrients, essential oils, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins for essential wellness.

Pereg Natural Foods of New Jersey, established in 1906, first became known for its more than 60 varieties of pure and natural spices and spice blends. It asked its resident spice expert to give her take on 25 spices every kitchen must have to spice up meals served and entice the palate of those enjoying the food.

The expert also offered storage tips and information on uncommon spices as well.

This is a list of the “absolute must-have” spices for any kitchen, according to the Pereg Natural Foods expert.

The 25 spices every kitchen must have are :

1. Ground cumin.

2. Basil.

3. Cinnamon.

4. Bay leaves.

5. Smoked paprika.

6. Thyme.

7. Garlic powder.

8. Oregano.

9. Onion powder.

10. Rosemary.

11. Nutmeg powder.

12. Red pepper flakes.

13. Coriander powder.

14. Cayenne pepper.

15. Ground cloves.

16. Tumeric.

17. Curry powder.

18. Yellow mustard.

19. Cardamon powder.

20. Cajun seasoning.

21. Allspice powder.

22. Chili powder.

23. Ginger powder.

24. Black pepper.

25. Sea salt.

When storing spices, Pereg Natural Foods cautions “No saunas, please!” The enemies of spices are air, light, humidity and heat. When purchasing spices in bulk, store them in an airtight container in the freezer. Store smaller quantities in a cool, dry place.

Cooks are well acquainted with the 25 spices listed, but there are some uncommon spices that also aid problems with the body and nutrition. Among them are:

¯ Hilbeh: It also known as fenugreek, methya, menthulu, uluva and methi. It has a very light bitter and spicy taste that might require getting used to. It is commonly used in Indian cuisine and is said to help improve digestion, increase libido and treat hormonal disorders.

¯ Sumac: The sumac bush is native to the Middle East and produces deep red berries which are dried and ground into coarse powder. Less commonly, the berries may be sold whole. Ground sumac is a versatile spice with a tangy lemony flavor, although more balanced and less tart than lemon juice. A small sprinkle adds a pop of color to any dish. It is great over vegetables, grilled lamb, chicken and fish and is a flavorful topping on dips like hummus. Research has shown that health benefits are many, as it is naturally anti-fugal, anti-microbial, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory.

¯ Luisa leaves: It is sold under the name of lemon verbena that can be found in prepared tea bags and believed to help one relax, aids digestion, soothes cramps and aids in kidney function. The leaves are used to add a lemon flavor to fish and poultry dishes, vegetable marinade, salad dressings, jams and beverages.

Some of the most expensive spices include saffron, machlab, nutmeg, mace, cardamom, cloves and several types of pepper.

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Here are some recipes from the Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook from the 1950s that contain spices. We will start with cookies, as spiced cookies were very popular in grandma’s day. This one is fluffy ginger-flavored cookie topped with creamy white frosting.

Ginger Creams

1/4 cup soft shortening

1/2 cup sugar

1 small egg

1/2 cup molasses

1 teaspoon soda dissolved in 1/2 cup hot water

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix shortening, sugar, egg and molasses together. Stir in the baking soda that has been dissolved in hot water. Mix together flour, salt, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon and add to the wet mixture. Chill dough. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake until set, so when touched lightly with a finger almost no imprint remains. While slightly warm, frost with quick cream icing.

Quick Cream Icing:

3/4 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla and 1 tablespoon heavy cream, more or less, to make an easy-to-spread frosting.

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This is a curried rice side dish that is great with a creamed chicken, shrimp or ham sauce on top. It is great for a Sunday evening supper, according to the Betty Crocker Cookbook.

Curried Rice

1 tablespoon minced onion

2 tablespoons butter

3 cups rice, cooked until fluffy

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon curry powder

Cook onion in the butter until yellow. Gently stir in the rice, salt, pepper and curry powder. Serve hot with any creamed meat or seafood sauce. Serves six to eight.

Note: One cup of dry rice cooks up to 3 cups of fluffy rice. Boil rapidly until tender, testing it at 15 minutes by pinching it together.

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This recipe is said to be a Christmas Eve favorite. That holiday is over, but I am sure it would be tasty any day of the year — just make sure everybody likes oysters before expecting the six to eight servings to be all gone.

Oysters Holiday Style

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup minced onion

2 cups chopped celery

3 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup milk

3 cups hot, drained boiled wild rice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon sage

1/8 teaspoon each thyme and pepper

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1 pint well drained small oysters

1/4 cup cracker or dry bread crumbs

Brown onion and celery lightly in the hot butter. Stir in flour, milk, hot drained wild rice, salt, sage, thyme and pepper. Dip the well-drained oysters in the other 4 tablespoons of melted butter. Arrange over top of the rice and sprinkle with the bread or cracker crumbs. Place just low enough under the broiler to keep crumbs from burning. Broil just until oysters curl, 10 minutes. Serve hot with mushroom sauce.

Note: Mushroom sauce can be made from a can of cream of mushroom soup, small can of mushrooms, drained and 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice. Stir until smooth. Paprika can be sprinkled on top to give it more color. Serves six to eight.

Note: One cup of wild rice cooks up to 3 cups when done. Soak for an hour in warm water to soften the bran coating, when most of the water will be absorbed. Place with 2 cups boiling water, 4 tablespoons butter and 2 teaspoons salt in double boiler. Cover and cook about 2 hours.

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You can make this Hot Tamale Pie now in the cold days of winter to warm you or keep the recipe until Cinco de Mayo. It is a meal in itself.

Hot Tamale Pie

Cornmeal mush crust

1 cup cold water

1 cup corn meal

3 cups boiling water

1 teaspoon salt

Filling:

Medium onion, minced

Green pepper, minced

3/4 pound each ground pork and ground beef

2 cups cooked tomatoes

2 to 3 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup ripe olives, sliced

To make the corn meal mush, mix 1 cup cold water with the corn meal. Stir in 3 cups boiling water and salt. Cook, stirring constantly until mixture boils. Cover, cook over boiling water 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Be careful because this can splatter while cooking.

Line bottom and sides of a 2-quart casserole with mush. Cook onion and green pepper until tender. Remove from skillet and brown meat. Drain. Add the green pepper and onion, tomatoes, chili powder, salt and pepper and ripe olives. Simmer 20 minutes. Pour hot meat mixture into corn meal crust. Top with remaining corn meal mush. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 1 hour and serve hot. Makes eight servings.

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This is a recipe from Mrs. T’s mini pierogies for a recipe called Greektown Pierogi Salad using dried oregano leaves.

Greektown Pierogi Salad

1 16.9-ounce package frozen potato and onion pierogies

6 cups baby spinach, about 8 ounces

2 cups thinly sliced cucumber

1 cup halved grape tomatoes

1/2 cup pitted black olives, halved

1/2 cup prepared Italian or Greek salad dressing

1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

1 cup crumbled feta cheese, about 4 ounces

1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves.

Boil pierogies according to package directions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl and cool. Add spinach, cucumber, tomatoes and olives, gently toss with dressing.

Arrange pierogi mixture on a large platter or four dinner plates. Sprinkle with feta cheese and oregano. Makes four servings.

(McCoy can be contacted at emccoy@heraldstaronline.com.)

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