Explore Your Way Through Spices
In North American culture we tend to brush off spices and forget to add them to our food, but when we get the opportunity to eat a proper Indian or Mexican dish, they become top of mind again. Spices have the power to bring out the best in every dish, even if all we are doing is just adding salt and pepper. So why not explore this world? Below we will speak to the science of spices as well as talk about a few key spices that will help bring your dishes to life and help you understand how they work together.
First off, let’s talk about how we can categorize spices. There are two basic categories. First being warming spices and the next being cooling. This is a very Aruverydic or Indian way of categorizing spices. Different spices trigger different receptors on our tongues allowing the sensation of heat to arise or to chill us. When we create a combination of the two we create a well-balanced spice blend. Let’s take a look at what spices fall under each category.
Warming: Chilies, cumin, paprika, cinnamon and black pepper.
Cooling: Basil, mint, cilantro/coriander, parsley and thyme.
Now let’s look at a few specific spices and how combining certain ones together really make a blend come to life.
Black Pepper: It is one of the most common spices we see being used due to its versatility. But have you considered why? Black pepper is astringent and warming. Black pepper also provides us with multiple health benefits ranging from better digestion to balanced blood sugar. It is versatile that it is found in almost every single one of our featured blends that we sent out to our Indiegogo backers last month.
Cinnamon: When you think of cinnamon, you think of warm fall days and pumpkin lattes. That’s because when you pair something warming like cinnamon with something acidic like pumpkin or apples, you get the perfect pair. The balance is there. Add a little cream or butter to increase the fat content. This will allow the flavours to be savoured on the tongue. When we created our Pumpkin Spice Blendwe wanted to create a pleasant aroma that tasted balanced on the tongue. That’s why we combined cinnamon and nutmeg as the warming spices and ginger as the cooling spice.
Cumin: One of the top spices we think of when it comes to Indian dishes is cumin. Next we think of southern and Mexican food. This spice has made its way around the globe and into many different cuisines for a good reason! Cumin is a beautifully warming spice that compliments hot spices like chilies but also cooling spices like coriander. It is best toasted as it’s essential oils are able to be released and its true potential unveiled. This can easily be done by adding your spices to a dry pan or pot on medium-high heat for a few minutes. Once the spices become aromatic, you can then add your oil and being adding food.
Chilies & Peppers: Are available in all shapes, sizes, heat levels and colours. All cultures have a preferred chili or pepper they use. For example, in Cajun cuisine they use cayenne, in Mexican cuisine they use adobos and jalapenos, in Hungary they use sweeter versions of peppers such as the bell pepper and in India they use serrano peppers. When you see chilies or peppers in a dish, there will more than likely be a cooling component in the dish such as mint, parsley, cilantro or basil. A great example of this is our Chimichurri Spice Blend.
Basil: We’ve touched on a lot of warming spices but what about cooling herbs? Basil is the perfect cooling herb. You see it in Pho dishes where Thai chili sauce is added. One of our favorite TasteTro blends is our Basil Ginger Spice Blend. It creates the perfect balance between warming and cooling spices and herbs.
Then there is the question of do you keep your spices whole or buy them ground? That all depends on sourcing and convenience factors. With TasteTro all of your spices come ground with the exception of your herbs. We source our herbs and spices from a top spice purveyor in the US so quality is never an issue. Our spices are rich in aroma and flavor. The only rule we have is that you use up your spices and herbs within 1-2 years. This will ensure optimal flavor in all of your TasteTro dishes.