How to Toast and Grind Spices:
The average cook doesn’t typically have a huge spice selection. But spices have been used for centuries and include seeds, barks, fruit, and root spices. The best part about spices is that they can add an intensity of flavor and delicacy without adding a lot of calories, fat, or sugar- or any for that matter!
Most spices can be purchased whole or ground, and the standard varieties are available at the regular grocery store. For more exotic or foreign spices you may have to travel to a specialty spice store, or an ethnic foods store. In our city of Tustin, there is a great Indian spice store called Laxmi, which has a wonderful selection of Indian spices. Another great spice store in Orange County is Savory Spice Shop, which is located in Costa Mesa. For the purpose of this how-to lesson I will be talking about whole spices, not the ground variety. Using whole spices and grinding them immediately before use will increase intensity of flavors of the spice.
Once you purchase whole spices, it is important to store them in a cool dark place where they can most adequately retain their flavors. Spices stored in this way can be kept safely for around 2 years or more. Always smell them before using to make sure they are still good!
If you are like me, most of the spices you have in your kitchen are purchased pre-ground at the grocery store and are arranged on a spice rack. I like to buy specialty whole spices only on special occasions or when I am interested in using a specific flavor or making a certain dish.
Some recipes, particularly of the Indian, Persian, or Mediterranean variety, will call for you to toast spices before grinding. This is very easy, and all you need is a small frying pan. Add the spices and sautee in dry pan, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Do this for around 5 minutes to release all the aromas of the spices.
After you have toasted your spices, you can either grind them by hand using a mortar and pestle, or you can use your own pepper mill which is only to be used for spices. I have an electronic spice grinder by Cuisinart, which is shown below.
You can also buy a coffee grinder, and only use it for spices. So there are many ways to grind! The best-selling Krups coffee grinder is shown below, available from Amazon.
Using spices in your cooking adds a great dimension of flavors and new possibilities to your meals and desserts, so if you haven’t yet hopped on the spice train, this is the best way to diversify your culinary repertoire.
If you are looking to learn about which spices to use, I recommend checking out Martha Stewart’s Spice Rack.
If you are looking for a great spice rack, I have the rotating one by Olde Thompson which comes with 20 spices included. See below:
Do you have experience toasting and grinding spices? Post below!
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