Straight (Spice) Talk352
with Molly Martin
Savory Spice Team
When you look at your home spice collection, what do you see? Before I started working on the marketing team at Savory Spice, I would have said I was looking at a lot of seasonings (duh)— from allspice to chili powder to bbq rubs. But now, I see two very different sets of products: “straight spices” and “blends.” You’ve likely never used those terms before—I sure hadn’t. But now I hear them dozens of times a day. So what exactly do they mean, and why is the distinction important?
It’s not a complicated idea. In fact, you’ve probably already figured it out. “Straight spices” are exactly what they sound like: spices that are, in and of themselves, a cooking ingredient, with nothing additional added. So that jar of Ground Cumin Seeds (more on this awesome spice below), it’s a straight spice. So is Allspice, which despite its name is actually a single berry that naturally contains the flavor of cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon combined.
Black pepper, granulated garlic, dried herbs like basil, oregano, and cilantro...they’re all straight spices. These are the kitchen staples, the culinary building blocks of flavor, the palette from which depth of flavor is created, including the flavors of “blends,” AKA any seasoning that contains more than one ingredient.
Most of the blends we carry at Savory Spice were created by the company’s owner and founder, Mike Johnston. A lot goes into creating blends and finding the exact right balance of flavors to come together to form the perfect version of a familiar seasoning—like Lemon Pepper—or when developing completely new seasonings—like Peruvian Chile Lime. In fact, we could (and probably will) write a whole blog on blends. But this is all about those straight spices.
Maybe parents really don’t have a favorite child (it’s me though, right mom?), but around the Savory Spice headquarters, we definitely all have our favorite spices and seasonings...
by Molly Martin, Marketing Manager
Oh, cumin. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…
But not really, because my love for this strong spice runs deep and that would take way too long. Some in the office (I won’t name any names) think that cumin can overwhelm. Mike has taken to jokingly referring to it as “The Cuminator” because it definitely packs a whole lot of flavor power. But that’s exactly why I love it.
The flavor is earthy, intense, and it’s essential to so many cuisines. It’s one of the only spices I regularly buy in the large, 1 1/2 cup jar size because I go through it so quickly. I prefer to buy it pre-ground, but if you have time to toast whole seeds before grinding them with a mortar and pestle, you’ll be rewarded with an even more layered flavor.
It’s crucial for that perfect pot of chili. I’m partial to this bean-less recipe that includes big chunks of pork, but a tablespoon (or two, if you’re like me) of cumin will punch up any chili recipe you prefer.
Want to try your hand at Indian cuisine? You’ve got to have cumin. It’s an ingredient in most of the curry blends we carry but just a dash of cumin will give new life to dishes like this Cumin Carrot Soup.
Mexican-inspired cooking also features a whole lot of—you guessed it—cumin. What gives Taco Seasoning that distinctly familiar flavor? Yup, that’s cumin. Pinto beans taste good enough to become a main dish with the addition of cumin in this Charro Beans recipe, and this Mexican Style Vinaigrette will have you craving greens on the regular.
Whether I’m whipping up a homemade BBQ rub, grilling wings, seasoning burgers, or stirring up soup, I’m probably reaching for the cumin, and you should be too.
by Ariana Cuadra, Marketing Associate
Yeah Molly, cumin is great, but have you ever tried Smoked Spanish Sweet Paprika? Paprika was never used in my house growing up. I was always told, “it’s just for color.” I think a lot of people still have that impression, but let me tell you—you’re wrong! This is not a spice that should only be taken out for deviled eggs. It wasn’t until I became a customer at Savory Spice that I really saw what I was missing. In fact this smoky, earthy, slightly sweet spice became my absolute favorite.
Like all the paprikas Savory Spice carries (there are six!), the aroma is wonderfully strong and distinct. It’s not at all like anything I had ever bought at the grocery store— freshness and quality have everything to do with it. Sometimes I really just open the jar and stand in my kitchen smelling its smoky sweetness, it’s that good!
I tend to prefer using it as a finishing touch on dishes, because when you cook with it over high heat, paprika has a tendency to get too bitter. But I do mean it when I say I add it to just about everything I can, from corn on the cob to salmon.
Need somewhere to start with your newfound love of Smoked Spanish Sweet Paprika? Whip up the best Mac‘n Cheese ever. The smoky twist on this classic comfort food makes this one dish you won’t be able to get enough of.
Not convinced yet? Try it in a killer Brunswick Stew. The smoky paprika builds incredible flavor in this traditional southern BBQ inspired dish. Did you know that paprikas are the base for most popular BBQ rubs?
Paprika on salad?? Why yes! You’ve gotta give this Smoky Kale Salad topped with gorgeous peaches or apples a shot. The Smoked Spanish Sweet Paprika totally cuts the sweetness of the apple cider vinegar and maple syrup-based vinaigrette.
As you may know from my previous blog posts, I love to experiment with spices. Try adding this sweet smoky paprika to cheesy fries, the batter for fried fish, ratatouille, mango salsa, homestyle potatoes, kielbasa—the list goes on. I hope this inspires you to give paprika another chance, and let me know how it goes!
by Ashlee Redger, Test Kitchen Chef
Alright, alright. Molly and Ariana—I get it. Cumin is great for, like, every cuisine and smoked paprika totally has a prized spot on my spice rack at home. I see your faves, but I have to ask: did you forget about Ginger?
I know what you might be thinking: that ginger is just a holiday spice, reserved for gingerbread and pumpkin pie. It does do a great job in those applications. I could give a speech about how much I love the addition of ground ginger to the graham cracker crust for Grandma Menard’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie—it adds brightness and some intense sweet spice to a holiday dessert that you thought you knew.
But ginger can do so much more than just spice up holiday desserts. Fresh ginger has incredible, citrusy flavor but after the drying process, the flavor evolves becoming warm and comforting with a bright, almost spicy edge. When used in dishes, It adds an undertone of pepperiness with a hint of the original lemony zing.
Have you ever thought about adding ground ginger to tomato sauce? If not, now’s your time. The sauce in this Meatball Banh Mi Sandwich helps balance the fattiness of pork meatballs and tie in with the pickled vegetables that top them. It’s a great option for doctoring up your standard tomato sauce for an interesting weeknight meal.
Last point I’ll make: SO many cuisines use ginger. Try out Doro W’et, Jerk Skewers, Asian Style Ranch Dressing, or Moroccan Chicken Skewers to explore just a few examples. Oh, that’s not enough? How about Bajan TNT Burgers, Thai Spiced Gingerbread, or a Korean Beef & Broccoli Bowl. I think I’ve proved my point.
What’s your favorite “straight” spice? Tell us in the comments below!