MILK STREET Q&A: Stocking the Spice Cabinet
Daniel P. from North Carolina asks: "Having just moved into a new home, I have the opportunity to revisit my spice selection. What dried herbs and spices are getting the most use in your own kitchens at the moment?" Moving is the perfect time to consider refreshing your spice cabinet. Dried spices are volatile and best used within a year or so.
We use a variety of spices and blends to create big flavor with ease. Cardamom might be our favorite. We use it both whole (in pods) and ground to lend an earthy, slightly minty flavor to savory and sweet dishes. It shines in Indian curries or when matched with sweet potatoes. But we especially love it in our Brown Butter-Cardamom Banana Bread (link in bio). Sumac—made from dried brick-red berry-sized fruits—packs a complex, fruity, mouth-puckering tartness and adds acidity without moisture. We dust it over chicken, lamb and salmon and stir it into salad dressings and hummus. It's also delicious on popcorn or deviled eggs.
A blend of dried thyme, sesame seeds, sumac and salt called za'atar is a condiment used throughout the Middle East. It's often sprinkled liberally on flatbread dough, pizza, thick yogurt and more. It's also terrific on grilled or roasted chicken, roasted vegetables, salad or in a dip for vegetables or bread. There are few things that za'atar does not improve.
Sichuan peppercorns are another new favorite. While not technically a pepper (it's a berry), its sharp, almost flowery flavor and numbing effect elevate stir-fries, sauces and even chicken salad. Sichuan peppercorns are often combined with chilies to make the trademark Sichuan one-two punch “ma la,” which translates as “numbing and hot.” What spices are a staple in your spice cabinet? Comment below with your favorites.