Straight (Spice) Talk
When you look at your home spice collection, what do you see? Before I started working 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: “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 co-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 our customers definitely have some favorite spices...
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…
But not really, because our love for this strong spice runs deep and that would take way too long. Some think that cumin can overwhelm. It definitely packs a whole lot of flavor power. But that’s also why we love it.
The earthy flavor is essential to many cuisines. For convenience, you can buy it pre-ground, but if you have time to toast whole seeds before grinding them, you’ll be rewarded with an even more layered flavor.
Mexican-inspired cooking 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.
It’s also crucial for a perfect pot of chili. A tablespoon (or two, if you’re like me) of cumin will punch up any chili recipe.
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 and just a dash of cumin will give new life to dishes like this recipe for Ghee Roasted Potatoes.
Whether you're whipping up a homemade BBQ rub, grilling wings, seasoning burgers, or stirring up soup, reach for cumin to add that bold, earthy flavor.
Yes, cumin is great, but have you ever tried Smoked Spanish Sweet Paprika?
Growing up, you may have been told that paprika is, “just for color.” But this is not just a spice that should be used to make deviled eggs look good.
It can add a slightly sweet, smoky flavor to everything from salmon to corn on the cob. We even have a recipe for a mushroom-based vegan "Bacon Sauce" that gets its flavor from smoked paprika. In fact this smoky, earthy, slightly sweet spice might become your new favorite.
Like all the paprikas we carry, the aroma is strong and distinct — freshness and quality really do matter.
It is a good finishing touch for dishes, because when you cook with it over high heat, paprika has a tendency to get bitter.
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? Try it in a killer Brunswick Stew. The smoky paprika builds incredible flavor in this traditional southern BBQ inspired dish. Paprika is also the base for many BBQ rubs.
Paprika on salad? Yes! You’ve gotta give this Smoky Kale Salad a shot. The Smoked Spanish Sweet Paprika is a perfect accent for the apple cider vinegar and maple syrup-based vinaigrette.
And the list goes on...Add this sweet and smoky paprika to cheesy fries, mango salsa, ratatouille, homestyle potatoes, kielbasa...you get the idea.
Sure, cumin is great for just about every cuisine and smoked paprika deserves a spot on your spice rack. But don't forget about Ginger!
I know what you might be thinking: ginger is a holiday spice, and it's really just for gingerbread or pumpkin pie. Yes, it is essential in those applications. But ginger can do so much more than just spice up holiday desserts.
Fresh ginger has a bright, almost citrusy flavor. The flavor of dried ginger is warm and more mellow, with an almost spicy edge and just a hint of lemony zing.
Have you ever thought about adding ground ginger to tomato sauce? If not, now’s the time. It’s a great option for doctoring up your standard tomato sauce for an interesting weeknight meal. The ginger in this vegan Mushroom Banh Mi Sandwich helps balance the fattiness of the pork and ties in the pickled vegetable topping.
Ginger is widely used throughout many cuisines and with many other spices. Try out Ethiopian Doro W’et, Barbados-inspired Bajan TNT Burgers, Chinese-inspired Sweet Ginger Pork Dumplings, or Moroccan Chicken Skewers to explore a few examples. Oh, that’s not enough? How about a Green Peach Ginger Smoothie or Apple-Ginger Wild Rice.
We also love when ginger is used in new and surprising ways to spice up baked goods. Take your carrot cupcakes (or cake) to a new level with a dash of ginger in the cream cheese frosting. The addition of ground ginger to the graham cracker crust for Grandma Menard’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie adds brightness and some bold, sweet spice to a holiday dessert that you thought you knew.
What’s your favorite “straight” spice? Tell us in the comments below!