Spices are one of the easiest things to add flavor to a dish. They can take you to different parts of the world like Asia, Northern Africa, the Mediterranean and India but use the same vegetables and meat ingredients.
Buying spices is easy in Santa Fe. There are a few speciality shops like Ziggy’s International Market on Cerrillos or The Spice Lady on Cordova that offer spices and ingredients. The Spice Lady also sells dried spices in bulk so that you can try a smaller amount. The Coop and Whole Foods Grocery Stores sell spices in bulk as well. Buying in bulk allows you to buy a small amount for a recipe or try a spice with your family. One of the best deals for spices is at Natural Grocers on Cerrillos. They have a huge selection and some of the more difficult whole spices to find.
Store spices in a sealed container. Small glass canning jars work the best. Try to buy the seed or whole spice so that it will last longer than the dried powder. If the spice is whole, it can also be toasted in a dry pan for a few minutes to bring out the aroma and flavor in your kitchen.
Once you have the whole spices that you enjoy, you can make spice mixes with a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. Many cookbooks will list spice blends for their recipe. Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything devotes a chapter to spices and sauces. It has everything from a pickling spice to curries. Curry is a useful spice mix for vegetables. Simple ingredients like lentils, potatoes, carrots and spinach can be transformed. Cut the vegetables into the same size pieces and saute in olive oil with the spice mix. Add crushed tomatoes and coconut milk for a nice dinner over rice. Visit the Local Organic Meals on a Budget blog for the hot curry spice mix recipe.
Another spice mix to make in advance and store for recipes is Chinese five-spice powder. This is available in a pre-mixed jar at most grocery stores, but you can make it, customize it and save money if you make it yourself. It can be used in place of other spice mixes in baking recipes for nut breads, muffins and cookies. This spice mixture has a warm character and can be in savory dishes like stir-fry, vegetable side dishes and even home made veggie burgers. Here is an adaptation.
Five-Spice Powder Recipe
1/2 Cinnamon Stick
6 Whole Cloves
1 Tblsp Corriander Seeds
2 Tblsp Fennel Seeds
2 Tsp Ground Ginger
Place the whole spices in a dry pan and heat on low for a few minutes. They will become fragrant quickly. Remove from the stove and transfer to a spice grinder (or coffee grinder) or mortar and pestle. Allow to cool. Grind the spices. Store in a sealed container for up to three months. This makes about a 1/2 cup of spice mix.