What’s your favorite spice?

Normal people do not have two drawers chock full of herbs and spices – at least that is what my friends tell me. In this respect, if not several others, I am happily abnormal. Baking and cooking are my main hobbies and passions, things I do when I have time and think about doing when I don’t have time. This means that I enjoy exploring the wide array of spices from cuisines and cultures around the world. Along the way I have picked up some favorites that I turn to time and again. There is one in particular that seems to find its way into an increasing number of dishes that I make. Although I am fond of many spices, coriander is the one I would never want to do without.

There are certainly bolder and more assertive spices such as ginger, cloves, cardamom, and different types of pepper. Coriander seed doesn’t brashly announce its presence as these do. Instead, it operates as a team player, boosting the flavor compounds in other spices. Coriander seed provides floral and citrus undertones that complement spicy, savory, and sweet dishes. I add a small amount of coriander to any citrus-flavored cake, cookie, or pie that I make, and it amplifies the flavors provided by the zest and juice.

The leaves of coriander (cilantro) are perhaps the most divisive item in cooking. One upon a time I strongly disliked cilantro, until I encountered a dish where it was sparingly used and I found to my surprise that I enjoyed the flavor in a small dose. After that I ended up using increasing amounts and now I could happily munch the leaves all by themselves. I particularly enjoy cilantro when it is part of an herb medley. One of my favorites is the Falafel with sumac onion from Falastin, where cilantro joins parsley and mint in a refreshing combination.

I suspect that many of you also have a favorite herb or spice, one that gets pulled off the shelf or out of the drawer more frequently than others. Unlike naming a favorite pet or child, there are no feelings to be hurt by proclaiming your affection for one spice over another, so please let me know which one you wouldn’t want to cook without.

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  • franniepie  on  January 21, 2021

    I’m loving fennel seed right now, ground or whole, from my yard where my wild plant reseeds itself every year. Tossed into Italian sauces, beans, pastas, citrus salads, fresh or stewed fruits. They’re great in baked goods like bread, cookies, pies (especially pear, apple, grape, citrus). Also a great sub for anise or caraway. Fennel soda bread or grape/fennel focaccia served with cheese is excellent. Oh, almost forgot fennel seed tea. They’re supposedly good for digestion and make the house smell fabulous.

  • mjes  on  January 21, 2021

    I love lovage – leaves or seeds as herb and spice although I have yet to try the roots as a vegetable. Shiso is also exquisite but has limited availability unless you raise it yourself. Borage is one I’m still learning how best to grow and use. I’m a lost cause gardener and wish there were custom gardeners – I’ll supply the seeds and split the produce; you do the actual growing.

  • readingtragic  on  January 21, 2021

    There is no kitchen without cumin…

  • debkellie  on  January 21, 2021

    I’m with readingtragic : cumin 😉 Two drawers .. entry level !!

    • Darcie  on  January 21, 2021

      But you don’t know how large the drawers are! 🙂 And that doesn’t include the ones that are used so often they are out on a shelf.

  • Jane  on  January 21, 2021

    I love so many spices and like you Darcie my collection is huge. But the one I use most of and always take a huge sniff of with great pleasure (freshly ground in a pestle and mortar) is cumin. I can’t imagine cooking without it.

  • racheljmorgan  on  January 21, 2021

    Cumin goes fastest in our home, but cloves are a close second.

  • JFM  on  January 21, 2021

    Would you count salt as as spice? Then it’s definitely Maldon sea salt; with nutmeg a close second.

    • Darcie  on  January 21, 2021

      I was thinking other than salt; I think everyone would pick salt if they could only have one seasoning.

  • lean1  on  January 21, 2021

    Fresh Basil is my most favorite fresh herb. But cumin, coriander, and tumeric are getting a workout since I have started learning Indian cooking on Zoom. I am enjoying my food tours through India and Asia.
    Maybe someday I will visit in person.

  • LeilaD  on  January 21, 2021

    Spice blend: a good organic curry powder. Spice: I like old-fashioned flavors, so I lean cinnamon or nutmeg. Otherwise, there is no savory dish that cannot be improved by copious amounts of garlic.

  • cookbookaddict2020  on  January 21, 2021

    I love nutmeg so much that when I accidentally ordered an extra salt shaker, I just kept it and filled it with ground nutmeg. (I know, I know fresh ground off the nut best blah blah but I go through it quick; ground is fine.) It goes on morning coffee. Larger amounts go on most savory veg things: spinach and feta, cauliflower, etc.

  • nwaterman967  on  January 21, 2021

    I probably reach for cumin most often because it seems to come up a lot in recipes that appeal to me. On the other hand, I’ve never used much oregano at all until recently. I’ve gotten hooked on Rancho Gordo’s Mexican Oregano and Oregano Indio and lately have been tossing it into all kinds of things, especially beans and warm winter soups. So their oregano is now my “what the heck, I’ll toss this in” favorite.

  • DinahDough  on  January 21, 2021

    Ground fenugreek. Try putting some in a loaf of bread – the smell is amazing

  • jezairey  on  January 21, 2021

    I use a lot of turmeric and cumin but my favourite is probably cinnamon. It’s a tough choice though and there are plenty of contenders!

  • inflytur  on  January 21, 2021

    First, celery salt. I generally use it in any savory dish that calls for salt in the cooking process. It adds just that little extra something. I’ve also been adding juniper berries, ground or whole, to so many recipes. Normally never so much that anyone recognizes the flavor but it rounds out the spices in stews and marinades. It is an integral part of the dry brine I use to cure gravlaks.

  • Ceribells  on  January 21, 2021

    Green cardamom is my favorite, but the other half of my house-hold of two is averse to anything remotely anise-y or menthol-y. I’m surprised to see so many people saying cumin. I do love cumin, but I feel like it sometimes steals the show (as if cardamom doesn’t). I’m trying to use juniper, grains of paradise, and sumac more often in my kitchen.

  • Lazyretirementgirl  on  January 22, 2021

    That’s like trying to pick a favorite child!

  • pokarekare  on  January 22, 2021

    Much as I also love coriander, my absolute favourite is cardamom. The first time I ever smelled it was when it was wafting from my new neighbour’s house. I followed my nose and introduced myself – her relatives had sent her a box of fresh spices from Malaysia. Back then, [early ’70s] supermarkets only stocked the more common powdered spices. Fresh whole spices were a revelation!

  • davered  on  January 22, 2021

    Nutmeg! I really love almost all spices, but nutmeg is divine. Then again cardamom is pretty nice, and of course cumin…

  • Etrnalhope  on  January 23, 2021

    Cardamom makes everything feel special. A recipe with cardamom never fails to enchant me. While I’m never excited by cumin, it’s true that it’s probably the most frequently replenished. Although, I almost never use either alone. If this were an “if you’re stuck on an island and can only take one spice” scenario…..mmm, I’d cheat with a spice blend, lol. Failing that, bringing a cilantro plant would be a pretty good bet because it’d be like 2 flavors in one.

  • Ingridemery  on  January 24, 2021

    Sumac has to be up there, but for mine it is smoked paprika

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