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Ajowan, sometimes spelled ajwain, is used in Iranian, Indian, Pakistani and Afghani cuisine, for its strong fragrance and ability to blend with complex spice mixtures. Slightly bitter or bright, with a bracing aroma very reminiscent of thyme, it lends a subtle tangy fresh flavor to many dishes, though it is most often used with lentils, beans, and legumes (it is believed to help reduce flatulence). Can easily overpower a dish, so use lightly, and experiment! This unusual spice can be a sneaky substitution for thyme or savory in European dishes, or in any complex blend in curries, dals, soups, and stews.
Allspice is used in many Caribbean and American cuisines, particularly that of Jamaica, as well as in French and Scandinavian cooking for its unique warmth and aroma. It has a beautiful earthy, warm, robust flavor and aroma without any sharpness or heat. It pairs very well with other spices, as in Caribbean jerk seasoning, or pickling spice, and goes particularly well with full-flavored, gamey, or earthy foods like duck, pork, fish, yams, squash, eggplant, or beans.
(other names: aniseed)
The quintessential ingredient in the Italian pizelle, anise is characterized by its sharp-sweet, warm flavor, similar to black licorice. Like its close relative fennel, anise is prized for its aroma and is believed to aid digestion. It is most often used in baking, but also pairs very well with fruits, cheese, shellfish, and tomato, particularly in pasta or barbecue sauce. It is used throughout north Africa and the Middle East in breads and stews.
[also see Star Anise, below]
Annatto is called the lipstick tree because its red seeds impart a deep rich color, whether used for makeup, dying cloth, or cooking food. It is used in Caribbean, Latin American, and Asian cuisine to provide a bright red or yellow coloring into sauces, roasted meats and poultry, and curries. It is heavily used in Mexican cuisine, as its dry earthy flavor and bright color provides the backbone for many colorful and flavorful dishes. Heat ½ tbsp of annatto into 1 cup of oil or water, then strain, for a bright golden infusion you can add into cooking grains, vegetables, or meat.
Sweet, fragrant, herbaceous, with a hint of vegetal sharpness, pairs beautifully with tomato and is a nearly universal ingredient in soups, sauces, and stews. Complements meats and vegetables well, with a clean fresh aroma and pleasant sweet-sharp flavor. One of the most widely-used spices in European cooking for its fragrance and flavor.
(other names: bay laurel, bay leaf)
Bay has been used for centuries for its sweet, herbaceous aroma. It pairs particularly well with tomato and is frequently used in sauces and soups, and in large roasts, where the leaf can be easily removed or avoided during eating. It has a distinctive fragrance that goes well with earthy or robust meat, vegetables, beans and grains and figures heavily in European and Middle Eastern cuisines.
Caraway is used extensively in Jewish cooking, and was from there transplanted into the cuisines of northern and eastern Europe; it is also used in north African and Indian dishes and spice blends. It has a distinctive sharp warmth and slight pungency, and has a special ability to combine with oily or fatty dishes. It pairs very well with gamey, earthy, or rich foods: boar or pork, sharp or smoky cheese, cabbage, mushrooms, or potatoes, for example. It also goes remarkably well with baked fruits, and of course is used in bread baking, most famously in rye or pumpernickel breads.
(other names: cardamon)
Green cardamom, originally from India and Sri Lanka, is now an essential ingredient in a very wide variety of cuisines across Europe, Africa, and Asia. Cooks the world over prize cardamom’s unique sweet, fresh fragrance, and warm smooth flavor. It has a unique ability to go equally well with sweet or savory flavors, and is used just as easily in a spicy curry, a sweet biscuit, a creamy custard, ice cream, added to coffee or tea, baked with fruits, or in spice blends for exotic roasts and stews. Truly one of the world’s most popular and versatile spices.
(other names: smallage)
The seed of wild celery has long been prized for its deeply vegetal, bracing, herbaceous flavor and aroma. It blends very naturally with tomatoes, and is frequently used in pasta sauces, hearty soups, salsas and dressings. It has a natural, slight “bite” and releases its aroma quickly into any dish, hot or cold. Is also very frequently used in cocktails involving tomato juice.
Chervil is a tangy, delicate, slightly sharp herb central to French cuisine. It is harvested early in the year and is often associated with early springtime cooking, young fresh vegetables, poultry and fish. Chervil presents a pleasant light “green” flavor and aroma, with a subtle hint of anise-like sharpness, that goes very well with eggs or in classic French sauces. Versatile, aromatic, and lightly-flavored, easy to use in many types of dishes.
If you’re looking for whole or ground chili peppers, you’ll want to see the Chilis page. If you’re looking for Chili Powder, however, it’s actually a spice blend, so you’ll find that on the Blends page.
Lightly fragrant, mild onion flavor, and an excellent ability to complement eggs, sauces, and dressings. Chives figure heavily throughout European and American cooking, and can be used in a wide range of dishes, such as cheese or cream sauces, cold dips for vegetables, soups, stews, and the like. Of course, sour cream and chives is one of the most popular topping for potatoes, and chives also add a nice light bite to salads or as a colorful garnish.
The whole “cinnamon vs. cassia” thing is an old, vexing problem in the spice world. Here’s my take on it:
- There are many species of tree in the Cinnamomum family. There are four species in the Cinnamomum family that are cultivated for their inner bark, to be used as a culinary spice.
- Three of these species are cinnamon:
- Cinnamomum verum, Sri Lankan cinnamon
- Cinnamomum burmanii, Indonesian cinnamon
- Cinnamomum loureiroi, Saigon or Vietnamese cinnamon
- And one of these is cassia:
- Cinnamomum cassia, Chinese cassia
- Note that these names are used in the United States; in other countries, these plants are sometimes called cinnamon or cassia interchangeably, or sometimes only called cassia (as in the UK and Australia).
- I have nothing against Chinese cassia, but if I sold it I’d label it “Cassia”, not “Cinnamon”.
- Regardless of what you call them, all four of these products are closely related and can be used by a good cook in a positive way. Frankly, I find this whole nomenclature debate a little silly. You do realize that “true cinnamon” is just the translation of Sri Lankan cinnamon’s botanical name, right?
This has long been the most popular cinnamon in the United States, being a versatile and affordable spice that has both sweet fragrances for baking, and earthy full flavors for savory cooking such as chilis, roasts, and stews. Cinnamon keeps well, is easy to use, and a little touch can make a surprising difference in the “feel” of a dish, whether it’s dinner or dessert.
(other names: Vietnamese cinnamon)
Rapidly gaining in popularity, Saigon cinnamon has a noticeably lighter flavor and sweeter aroma than Indonesian, and is excellent in sweet dishes and treats. It is just as versatile as any cinnamon, however, and can be used equally well in savory cooking, pairing very well with earthy spices in curries and stews.
[see Coriander Leaf, below]
Prized for centuries for its distinctive strong aroma and bracing pungency, cloves are used in cuisines throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia. Cloves are powerful but versatile, being used equally in savory spicy dishes such as curries, stews, and meat roasts, as well as sweet baking and cooking. Cloves are also used in many spice blends, particularly for mulling or pickling.
Coriander is one of the rare plants from which we use both the seeds and the leaves. The seeds have a nutty, zesty flavor with a bright tangy fragrance, and are used heavily in Mediterranean, African, and Asian cuisine for their remarkable ability to blend well with most other spices, sweet and savory. The seeds are often dry-toasted to create more complex flavors when used in savory cooking such as curry, stews, and roasted meats or vegetables; ground coriander is frequently used in sweet baking for its unmistakable lively aroma.
Coriander is one of the rare plants from which we use both the seeds and the leaves. Coriander leaf, commonly called by its Spanish name cilantro in the Americas, is heavily used throughout Asian and American cuisines for its distinctive lemon-like aroma and fresh, tangy flavor. Please note that, due to genetics, not all people perceive this; for some people coriander leaf is cloying or unpleasant. It is commonly used to scent rice, soups, salsa, and roasts – because its flavor goes off quickly, only add coriander leaf towards the end of cooking, or as an aromatic garnish.
Cumin has been used for thousands of years for its fresh tangy aroma, earthy sweetness, and light pungency, reminiscent of caraway but less sharp. It complements meat (particularly lamb) and earthy vegetables very well, and is used throughout Asian and American cuisines for its ability to complement sweet, savory, or hot spices equally well. It is universally used in curry and Middle Eastern roasting, as well as in pickling, sweet and savory baking, sauces, and sautes.
(other names: dillweed)
Dill is one of my favorite spices for its unique vegetal aroma and herbaceous, “green” flavor. It goes tremendously well with fish, mustard, yogurt, cucumbers, potatoes, and dill blends in interesting ways with leaf or seed spices. Dill goes very well with cheeses, cream sauces, eggs, fish, and vegetables – and of course, potatoes. A very aromatic and lively addition, with some practice, into many recipes for an exotic and appetizing fragrance.
Dill seed, like the plant’s leaves, have a unique vegetal pungency, a sweet-sharpness that complements fish, vegetables, and starches remarkably well. Dill seed is frequently used in pickling, bread baking, or roasted or sauteed vegetables, and may also be used to infuse roasted or baked fish or pork with an exotic fresh aroma.
Fennel is widely used throughout Asian cuisines for its sweet-sharp, anise-like aroma and flavor. Fennel figures heavily in curry and satay recipes, as well as in baking, sausage-making, and tomato sauces. It has a lighter feel than anise but provides a lively aroma and freshness to most dishes. Fennel seeds are often dry-toasted before building a curry, to create a warmer, slightly sweeter flavor. Fennel seeds are also chewed directly as a snack throughout the world as a breath freshener and digestive aid.
Fenugreek is used frequently in Asian cuisines, particularly in curries, for its mild pleasant bitterness that brightens and complements earthy flavors very well. This quality makes fenugreek very useful for roasting meats, particularly poultry, or cooking vegetables, beans, and lentils. Fenugreek, when cooked, also releases a unique aroma, reminiscent of maple syrup or caramel – this works in cooking but also makes fenugreek a very interesting ingredient for sweet and savory baking. A very versatile spice that requires some practice (it can be overpowering if too much is used) but provides a truly unique exotic quality to many dishes.
One of the oldest, most versatile, and widely-used of all the spices, prized in cuisines across the world for its unique pungency, mild sweetness, and ability to complement and enhance the flavor of nearly any ingredient or seasoning. Garlic can be used in small amounts to unlock flavors and textures in a wide variety of dishes, or in larger amounts to provide a rich fragrance and depth of flavor to classic dishes and sauces.
Ginger has long been used throughout Asian cuisines for its tangy sharp-sweet flavor and bracing, pungent aroma. It complements other spices extremely well and is often used in complicated blends in flavorful cooking such as curry or stir-fry, to enhance the aroma and flavor of earthy or warm spices. Ginger is also used in sweet and savory baking, and a little bit really enlivens the aromas of many baked fruits.
A relative of ginger, grains of paradise – also known as Melegueta pepper – has long been prized for its exotic pungency with zesty citrus notes. Strongly fragrant with a pleasant piney, peppery bite, grains of paradise can be used instead of, or blended with, black pepper in any recipe that calls for it. Grind the grains with a mortar and pestle or grinder before using to fully release its one-of-a-kind flavor and aroma.
Juniper has been used since ancient times for its fragrance and air-freshening properties, as it has a distinct pine-like, resinous aroma. In cooking it is used much the same way, because juniper’s aroma has a remarkable ability to ‘freshen’ or lighten gamey meats such as venison or boar, earthy vegetables. grains, or mushrooms, or fatty poultry, such as goose or duck. Juniper blends beautifully with other spices, adding a fragrant layer to blends to create a lighter, brighter variation.
Lavender has been used in confectionery, baking, and meat roasting for centuries (though not in French cooking, contrary to popular belief!). Lavender is prized for its light floral sweetness and its ability to pair very well with honey, sugar, or chocolate. It can also be used in rubs for roasted meats for its unique soft fragrance – try it as a replacement for rosemary in any recipe for an interesting variation.
Mace and nutmeg are two different parts of the same spice – mace is the part that grows outside the nutmeg seed, and its function is to provide the nutrition for the seed’s growth. Nutmeg and mace have a similarly earthy sweet, strong aroma, and a very nice warm satisfying flavor. While nutmeg is usually used in baking, mace is more often used in cooking, particularly as a complement to seafood or vegetables. A little mace provides a wonderful rich aroma to these dishes, and is often used in sauces and gravies for dark meats as well.
Marjoram is actually a pretty fantastic spice that doesn’t get the credit it deserves. It appears sporadically in European cooking, but it is most valuable in spice blending and advanced cookery. Marjoram is a very close relative of oregano (as you can tell by its botanical name), but has a smoother, lighter taste and aroma. which allows it to act as a “bridge” between sweet or tangy and robust or earthy spices. It is a wonderful ingredient in spice blends combining bright and warm flavors, and goes very well in slow roasted meats or vegetables, robust or spicy sauces and soups, or aromatic dressings and stuffing.
Chilean Bolete: Boletus luteus
The Boletus family of mushrooms are today the most popular mushrooms used in cookery – this family contains the boletes, cepes, and porcini. Boletes have a soft, warm, earthy flavor that deepens upon cooking and provides a rich flavor and color to sauces and soups. It is an excellent ingredient on spice rubs for meat, as it interacts with the meat’s oils and results in a superior juicy texture. Mushroom powder also acts as a thickener, and is a key ingredient in pan sauces and gravies.
Most people, when they hear the word mustard, think of mustard sauce, a preparation from mustard seed usually involving vinegar, wine, and other ingredients. The mustard seed, however, has many other culinary uses and appears in dishes throughout the world for its unique heat and flavor.
Mustard seeds come in three varieties – white or yellow, brown, and black. Black seeds are the hottest, but also the most rare. Brown mustard seeds are milder than black, and yellow are the mildest. All have a similar pungency, or “bite”, and often when cooked (particularly when fried) they provide a nutty warm flavor to food – a pleasant surprise to those who only know mustard sauce!
Mustard powder is not the same as “mustard flour” – to make mustard powder, the husks of the seed are removed, which is essential to the making of mustard sauce. Mustard powder is also used in a variety of sauces, curries, and stews, or can be used as a substitute for ginger or horseradish for a less sharp variation in a recipe. Mustard powder is also an excellent addition to marinades and meat rubs, as its flavor is a good complement to rich or smoky meats.
Brown mustard is often confused with black mustard, but is in fact somewhat milder. It is, however, noticeably sharper and hotter than yellow mustard seed. Most mustard sauces or mustard powders blend yellow and brown to get the right level of “bite”. The seeds, when used carefully, provide an exotic spiciness to roasted or baked meat, particularly pork. The seeds may also be toasted or fried while building a curry, gravy, or stew, for a delicious nutty flavor with a moderate heat. Mustard seed is also frequently used in pickling.
(other names: white mustard)
Yellow mustard seed is much more mild than brown, with a smoother heat and pungency. It is much easier to use because of this, and is the far more common ingredient in cooking throughout the Americas and Asia. Mustard seed can be toasted or fried while building complex curries, sauces, and stews, to give the mustard a nutty warmth. Mustard seed is frequently used in pickling, and also in steaming or frying vegetables, which it complements very well.
Nigella is often mistakenly called (or sold as) ‘black sesame’ or ‘black cumin’, but it is not related to either of these two spices and has its own unique flavor and cooking quality. The small jet-black seeds have a lightly bitter, drying flavor, with a mild sharpness and vague earthiness, as of root vegetables. Nigella is often used in baking because its flavor is an excellent complement to the toasty flavors of flours and grains – for the same reason, it can be used in most grain dishes such as quinoa, couscous, and rice, for a colorful and interesting addition, and is excellent, in small quantities, on earthy vegetables or gamey meats.
Nutmeg and mace are two parts of the same spice – while mace is more often used in cooking, nutmeg is prized for baking and confectionery throughout the world, for its remarkably warm, toasty, earthy aroma. Nutmeg is versatile and just a little touch will unlock a deeper richer aroma in any recipe, complementing many other ingredients and spices very well. It does have a moderate sweetness that can become cloying if overused, but nutmeg is a wonderful ingredient in a wide variety of dishes, including cookies, baked fruits, pumpkin pie, banana bread, and so on.
Onion is used in every cuisine in the world for its unique pungency and bite when used raw, or its sweet warmth when cooked. Much like its cousin garlic, it is impossible to list all the dishes that typically use onion – it is the basic ingredient to nearly any kind of sauce, soup, stew, dressing, marinade, or roast that you can imagine. Ground onion is a convenient ingredient because its levels of flavor and aroma are consistent and easily controlled by the cook, and is particularly useful in marinades, dressings, dips, savory baking, chilis and curries, and meat rubs for roasting, grilling, or broiling.
Oregano is one of the most well-known spices in the United States due to our familiarity with Italian food and classic tomato sauces. Oregano had a mild sharpness, and a sweet “green” flavor that complements tomatoes beautifully, lending a fresh herbaceous aroma to cooking and enhancing the flavors of roasted meats or vegetables. Oregano isn’t just for pasta sauce, of course – it goes extremely well with eggs or in egg-based sauces, on seafood or vegetables, or in cheese or cream based dips or dressings. Oregano also blends beautifully with other spices.
Paprika is a cultivated variety of the same plant as chilis and bell peppers, and is a combination of desirable qualities from each. Paprika has almost no heat, but rich vibrant color, and a blend of tangy and smoky flavors. Different types of paprika are selected and blended for a particular color and flavor – Spanish is generally a brighter, tangier flavor, while Hungarian tends to be more earthy or smoky but with a more pronounced sweetness, but both have many varieties.
Paprika, despite being a relatively “new” spice globally, is used in an astonishing variety of cuisines and dishes. It adds a rich red color, and thickens, soups, stews, and sauces. Whichever type of paprika you use, each adds a deep complementary flavor and aroma to any blend of savory flavors, such as used for spice rubs for meat, seasoning for roasted vegetables, or used in a marinade or dressing.
Hungarian paprika has a deep color and rich blend of earthy and fruity flavors, with the tang of bell pepper and a slight smokiness that makes it excellent for roasting rich, dark meat, vegetables, or mushrooms, and of course in lively or complex soups and stews, such as goulash or chili.
Spanish paprika is usually described as livelier or brighter in flavor than Hungarian (though not necessarily in color). It has a slightly sweeter or tangy quality, and is excellent with lighter vegetables, seafood, poultry, and marinades and dressings.
Smoked Spanish Paprika (Hot/Sweet)
Classically, the pimentón used in Spanish or Latin American recipes is smoked paprika, lending the fruit sweetness a deeper richness and headier aroma. Excellent for a wide variety of dishes, especially for its ability to lend a juicy texture to roasted or grilled meats, a bright flavor and aroma to seafood and vegetables, and deep color and flavor to soups and sauces.
Smoked Spanish Sweet Paprika has a brighter sweeter flavor and is well-suited to lighter dishes such as spring vegetables, poultry and seafood, toasty grains, and cream sauces. It complements the green leaf spices very well and is excellent in sauces and stews. The smoke is light but present, giving this paprika an extra richness and deeper color that is a wonderful upgrade to ‘regular’ paprika in sauces, soups, marinades, dressings, and spice rubs for meats, seafood, or vegetables. A very versatile spice excellent in spring and summer cooking.
Smoked Spanish Hot Paprika has a bit more earthy heat and is better for beef or pork, root vegetables, mushrooms, and other similar foods. It is also excellent in livelier spice blends such as your own cajun, barbecue, or hamburger seasoning. Here the mild smokiness really complements the paprika’s natural warm flavors, making it a wonderful ingredient on robust, earthy ingredients and in especially complicated or hot recipes – it is particularly excellent for chili, hot sauces, but also a sneaky addition in tomato sauces for stuffed vegetables, lasagna, or roasts.
Parsley is one of the most commonly used leaf spices in western cooking, as it has a pleasant light, fresh aroma, and blends very well with most other spices, savory or earthy. It works well both hot or cold, and complements meats, cheeses, vegetables, beans, or grains equally well. Parsley is easy to use and often unlocks aromas and flavors of other ingredients very well.
Pepper has been called “the king of spices”, and is used in every cuisine in the world for its unmistakeable pungency, heat, and aroma. Pepper is so universally loved that explorers searched the world over for new sources, which is why so many other spices have “pepper” in their name. There isn’t a savory dish in the world that doesn’t include some pepper, and its many varieties allow the cook to experiment to get exactly the level of flavor and heady aroma that they want.
Black pepper is the most commonly used spice in the world, and the most popular is Malabar, from the Indian coast of its export. Black pepper has a rich strong aroma, dark flavor, and plenty of “bite”, or pungency. It is used in nearly every savory dish imaginable for its ability to complement most ingredients.
Green pepper is unripe, immature pepper, and predictably has a “fresher”, milder flavor than black pepper. Its subtle aroma and tang make it an excellent choice for light vegetables, seafood, aromatic soups and sauces, or sauces based on egg, cream, or cheese.
black pepper, Tellicherry pepper, white pepper, pink pepper, green pepper
Yeah, technically this is a blend, but I can’t help myself.
My own balanced, versatile mix of peppercorns that adds a lovely complexity of flavor and color, with moderate warmth, to any dish. A fancy variation on regular pepper for any cooking, particularly good with roasted meats and vegetables, in marinades or spice rubs, or lightly in pan sauces and gravies..
Pink pepper is not the same vine pepper as black, green, and white – it is from a different plant entirely, but the dried berry does have a pepper-like warmth and bite to it, with a light tangy pine-like flavor. It goes extremely well with seafood, grains, and gamey or earthy meats or vegetables.
Sichuan pepper (formerly spelled Szechuan) is not a true vine pepper, but actually the seed of the prickly ash, a member of the citrus family. It has a unique zesty citrus aroma and bracing, camphorous flavor, and is widely used throughout the cuisines of China, Nepal, and India. A remarkably difficult ingredient to find in the United States, I am very proud to offer the highest quality Sichuan pepper available – there really is nothing like it for the particular ‘bite’ in Asian chilis, pickles, curries, stir fries, and meats.
There are several varieties of vine pepper produced, and as it is such an important article of trade, the varieties will be named – Tellicherry and Malabar are the two primary types of Indian black pepper, with Tellicherry considered to have a richer aroma and more complex flavor.
White pepper is the kernel within a black peppercorn, just with the outer shell removed. The outer shell (pericarp) contains most of the aroma-creating compounds, so white pepper tends to have a softer aroma, but a sharper pungency or heat. It is often used in white sauces, as well, for its aesthetic quality.
Poppy seeds have been used across many cuisines and cultures for thousands of years for their rich nutritional value, warm, nutty sweetness, and versatility. They are used in a wide variety of dishes, from bread and bagel baking, desserts, and as a thickener in curries and stews. Ground poppy seed paste is used in many sweet pastries from Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Rosemary has been used for centuries along the Mediterranean, and its strong fresh, herbaceous aroma, has long been thought to aid in concentration and learning. As a spice, rosemary combines particularly well with garlic and wine, and therefore figures in many recipes containing those, such as tomato sauces, roasted meats or vegetables, and the like. Rosemary also goes extremely well with dark and flavorful meats, most notably lamb, and is also used in many marinades and dressings for its mildly tangy, pine-like flavor and fragrance.
Saffron is the world’s most valuable spice, and has been since the earliest Mediterranean civilizations – this is because saffron is incredibly difficult to produce and harvest, but has certain qualities in cooking unlike any other spice. Saffron’s color is water-soluble (most spices are oil-soluble) – you can simply soak 1 thread of saffron per 1 tablespoon of warm water, wine, milk, etc., and in a few minutes will have a richly-colored golden tincture that you can add to any sauce or stock (or dough, or marinade). Saffron also has a remarkably strong and pleasant aroma, and you only need to use a tiny amount of saffron for the color and fragrance. Saffron is frequently used in rice and grain dishes, where it can be used directly in the cooking water to fully infuse the food. It is complements seafood and root vegetables extremely well.
Sage has been popular for thousands of years for its cleansing, fresh aroma and flavor. It has a unique ability to bond well with fats and oils in cooking, and is frequently used in stuffing, or with pork, goose, duck, and similarly rich meats. Sage should be used lightly, as its flavor can become overpowering, but it blends very well with most other green leaf spices, and lends a fresh lightness of aroma to very rich or earthy soups, sauces, and roasts.
Savory was at one time one of the most important spices in European cooking, prized for its slightly zesty, tangy flavor, and its ability to enhance the flavor of mild foods and blend with other spices for a fresh, herbaceous aroma and stimulating flavors. It figured heavily in English, Dutch, and German cooking, and so was a central ingredient in the food of the early American colonies, especially in the dishes associated today with Thanksgiving. Savory goes very well with eggs, beans and peas, full-flavored soups, stews, and sauces, and is particularly excellent in stuffing. It also is an excellent ingredient on roasted meats and poultry, root vegetables, or grains.
The essential ingredient in much Chinese cooking, this unique spice is not actually related to European anise, but has a similarly licorice-like aroma and sharp sweet-warm flavor. Used in many stir-fry dishes, but also in pickling, baking, curries and stews, as well as soups and sauces, star anise packs a powerful pleasant pungency unlike any other.
Sesame seed is used in many cuisines across Africa and Asia for its high nutritional content, and rich nutty flavor. It is most often seen in bread baking in the west, though it is of course also used in salads, sushi, and halva, among other foods. Sesame’s warm flavor makes a wonderful addition in grilled meats and vegetables, in stuffings and sauces, and in chopped-meat or chopped-grain foods such as falafel or meatballs.
Sumac is a wonderful spice that is today gaining in popularity for its lively, tangy flavor and lovely color. It has a slightly tart, pleasant brightness in flavor that is vaguely like plum or pomegranate, but also a pleasant mild sweetness reminiscent of apple or berry. Sumac is particularly excellent with dark meats, especially in roasting, because of the way it interacts with the fats and flavors of the roast. It lends a mild brightness that enhances dark or caramelized flavors, and also provides meats a rich, juicy texture. Sumac is equally excellent used cold, such as being sprinkled on hummus, or mixed into yogurt or sour cream for a dip or dressing.
Tarragon has long been prized in French cuisine for its unique sharp-sweet aroma, reminiscent of anise, and a bright, mildly tart flavor. Tarragon is frequently used in classic French sauces, as it blends very well into cream, egg, and oil-based sauces equally. Tarragon complements seafood and vegetables very well, and so is often used in white sauces for fish, and salad dressings, and adds a wonderful liveliness to earthy ingredients such as mushrooms, grains, or potatoes.
Thyme has been used for millennia throughout European and Mediterranean cooking for its savory appetizing flavor and sharp, lightly minty aroma – it figures heavily in a wide variety of dishes, such as in traditional soups and stocks, tomato sauces, and roasted meats or stews. It complements chicken particularly well and so is often used in baked or roasted chicken, stuffing, and soups and sauces with chicken stock. Thyme blends extremely well with other spices and is often used in rich, complex sauces, marinades, and dressings.
Turmeric is valued just as highly for its color as for its flavor – it lends a bright vibrant hue to any cooking, but particularly grains, soups, and vegetables. It is almost universally used in curry, for its color but also for its earthy warm flavor, and ability to balance well with other spices and help unite their flavors in complex blends. Turmeric’s earthy flavor goes very well with rich meats, root vegetables, starches, and the toasty nutty flavor of cooked grains. A small amount can be used to brighten the color and enhance the base flavors of most sauces and gravies.
Madagascar vanilla, sometimes also called Bourbon vanilla, is world-renowned for its rich, creamy, smooth flavors. It is the world’s most popular bean for baking, desserts, and making extract, for its distinctive richness and full aroma, and its ability to bring out the best in any recipe. My beans are vacuum-sealed to ensure maximum freshness and flavor content – you can buy a single bean or a 3-pack, depending on your needs.