What I Have Learned About Cooking With Spices

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I have been cooking for forty years. I use a lot of spices and half the time when I do, I think about all the wars that have ensued because of them. As much as I hate war, I have to admit that when I open up my spice jars, I get it.

In my earliest days of cooking, I used way too much spice. I had to learn how to use each one and that has only come from years of experience. What I’ve learned is that you don’t need much. I’ve never used too much marjoram, but I’ve ruined dishes with too much rosemary, thyme and even basil.

Even after all these years, I still like to take a sniff when I open the jar, right before I spice. It tunes me into the art of spicing.

Another important aspect I’ve learned is that you don’t have to simmer spices to develop full flavor. I’ve cooked the flavor of spices out of my food, enough times to know… use a little and don’t cook it too long or it will dissipate.

And I always get the freshest spices I can and that means heading to my local natural foods store. I have my own little jars with tight fitting lids and I write the name of them with a black marker on the lid and on the jar.

And though I love fresh spices, another thing I’ve learned is that if I keep a spice in a small plastic bag, twist tied and then put into an air tight jar, it will keep for years. My first preference is for fresh spices, but I must confess that I have used spices as old as twenty years and they worked. They weren’t as potent so I used more.

Don’t be afraid to spice it up but the best tip I can give is start with a pinch until you get to know the spice and then you can use two, three or four pinches.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns. Find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Acorns-Eatem-How–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973

Experimenting With Achiote Entero

I know, I know, it sounds like a hot romance but I’m referring to the spice annatto, of which the official name is achiote entero. I was at the grocers spice rack the other day and a man next to me was looking for annatto. “I’ve been experimenting with it,” he said answering my curious inquiry. “I use it for coloring.” So, not to be out done, I grabbed my own bag of annatto and stared at it for months, the red colored pulpy seeds stared back and I wondered why I bought them. I don’t need coloring in my Mexican food, the chili powder (which probably has annatto) gives it enough color. But I finally succumbed and threw a little, just a pinch, into my soup and was surprised at the little bit of unusual flavor it imparted but disappointed that there were a few hard pieces that were like tiny rocks so watch out. Annatto is a popular addition to Latin dishes and is used by dairy farmers to color butter coming from cows who don’t get enough vitamin A in their winter feed.

Suellen Ocean is the author of the vegetarian cookbook, Poor Jonny’s Cookbook. Available here:

http://www.amazon.com/Poor-Jonnys-Cookbook-Suellen-Ocean/dp/0965114031

eBook or computer download through Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/260122

eBook through Barnes & Noble:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/poor-jonnys-cookbook-suellen-ocean/1102338251?ean=2940016618609

What’s the Deal with Coriander Seeds and Cilantro Leaves?

Coriander is called a seed but it is really part of a tiny fruit. The seeds are used to flavor cookies, cakes and candies. Cilantro is the foliage of the same plant and it is used fresh or dried. Freshly chopped green cilantro leaves mixed with chopped tomatoes and onions used, as a topping for tacos, burritos and other Mexican dishes will have you hooked on this plant. The fresh leaves are especially refreshing and tasty.

Suellen Ocean is the author of the vegetarian cookbook, Poor Jonny’s Cookbook. Available here:

http://www.amazon.com/Poor-Jonnys-Cookbook-Suellen-Ocean/dp/0965114031

eBook or computer download through Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/260122

eBook through Barnes & Noble:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/poor-jonnys-cookbook-suellen-ocean/1102338251?ean=2940016618609

What is “Curry”?

Curry brings to mind the fabulous dishes made in India. Curry spice can be found throughout America and the world, it is a combination of spices blended together and called “curry.” But in India curry is made by purchasing spices and grinding them fresh. Because of this, in India curry spice can vary widely. In America we will probably find most curry powder similar in flavor but in India the curry spice probably has a much different flavor, depending on who’s doing the cooking and what spices they decide to blend together.

Suellen Ocean is the author of the vegetarian cookbook, Poor Jonny’s Cookbook. Available here:

http://www.amazon.com/Poor-Jonnys-Cookbook-Suellen-Ocean/dp/0965114031

eBook or computer download through Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/260122

eBook through Barnes & Noble:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/poor-jonnys-cookbook-suellen-ocean/1102338251?ean=2940016618609