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Spice help!

[001] FYI: I'll be on a mini 3 week hiatus from 18th till the 12th of July, 'cause of family vacation. Since its not really even a month I doubt it'll be that noticeable :)

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[004] My parents are willing to bring me spices as long as I send them a list (nothing huge, maybe half a cup of each?) but the issue is I'm not sure what to include.

Current stuff I have in the kitchen: sea salt, pepper, cumin, corriander, turmeric (curry powder), crushed cayenne peppers, chilli powder, onion powder, garlic powder, veg seasoning, chicken boullion

On the desi/indian side, my sister pointed out the following: black mustard seeds (for texture/crunch), garam masala (in pieces, not ground), dal makhani, chole masala, keema curry mix, veg curry mix, meat masala and crushed kashmiri chillies

I have limited exposure to western and far east asian spices so I'm not sure what to focus on, apart from dill, oregano, thyme, rosemary, paprika, etc.

So I have to ask: what spices do y'all tend to use often/find invaluable in the kitchen?
Ginger, cloves and paprika. And cinnamon! You don't have cinnamon!

Ginger can be used in the root form (which is my preference) but it does come available ground for people who don't use enough to justify buying a whole piece from the store. Cinnamon comes in sticks or ground and can be used for either cooking with or accenting a dish or drink. IE, put a cinnamon stick in milk while it's heating for hot chocolate (and add some powdered ginger as it's easier than finding a strainer for the chopped) and then make hot chocolate as you normally would - gives it an entirely different kind of flavor.

You can add cinnamon powder to breakfast muffins, to give them a little bit of depth and warmth.

I tend to put ground cloves in my cookies, and I use the whole ones for Hawaiian ham.
Oh I always have fresh ginger and garlic <3 Am used to having cinnamon in indian dishes, but alone, have found it a bit odd (my mom and sis love the smell of cinnabon but I'd usually run away XD)

Still, I do need cinnamon and cloves for biryani and pullao - better tell me mom - thanks<3 I've heard there are a lot of different versions and uses for paprika but not really sure...
you've covered most of 'em for me, but you're missing basil, which is indespensable for italian food if you're going to be making any (it's delicious in cream sauces, tomato sauces, in caprese salad, etc).
Y'know, never got into the habit of using basil - do you have any favorite dishes where its indispensable? I'd like to give it a try and see if it finally does stick with me :D
it's utterly indespensable in caprese salad, which is just fresh, good beefsteak tomatoes, boccocini (which is marinated mozzarella), basil, a little olive oil, a little balsamic vinegar, and just a sprinkling of pepper. basically you cut up the tomato, layer with boccocini and basil, and then drizzle with oil and vinegar and pepper, and consume! super tasty.

it's also indespensable if you make your own alfredo sauce, which is a little bit of work but SUPER tasty. And I find it indespensable when I make my own spaghetti sauce too, even from the can I flavour the hell out of it *lol* I buy the cheapie cheapie stuff, cook my own hamburger meat and onions (and red peppers and possibly other veggies if I'm cooking for me, but I leave 'em out if I'm cooking for everyone) add a small handful each of oregano and basil, and a slightly smaller handful of thyme, to flavour the meat and veggies. Then I add the sauce, and do it all over again *lol* balancing out the flavours. It's super tasty, cheaper than classico or whathaveyou, and not all that hard. Plus it makes tons that you can freeze.
I use nutmeg (and to a lesser degree, cinnamon and cloves) pretty frequently. It adds depth and complexity to savory dishes as well as pies and such, and being from New England I have a weakness for it.

Basil, thyme, oregeno, sage and rosemary are all pretty frequently useful, as well!

Edited at 2010-06-04 04:47 pm (UTC)
I do associate nutmeg to cinnamon, cloves et all but its not really used in indian cooking so I never know what to do with it, unlike the other two where I instinctively know what flavor they'd give and its easy to know if they'd be good for a dish or not. What do you usually use it for? Roast meats? Curries? Veggies?

I think I'll ask my mom for a small batch of all of those and experiment over the next few months :D Thanks so much btw :3
Nutmeg, ginger, paprika, parsley, garlic powder (because I'm lazy, hey it's better than garlic salt), and yeah, cinnamon.

I go through the paprika pretty fast. :P

Cinnamon sticks/powder is one of the most useful things in the universe. I put it in my tea if I make desi tea, in scrambled eggs (with garam masala and bisaar).

White pepper (powder) is also good for Italian dishes I think: I find most non-desi food very bland so white pepper adds a little kick but it still light enough to go with sauces. :D