One of my culinary pet peeves is to find a mouthwatering recipe and as I’m dancing through my mise en place, pathetically discover I am missing one tiny key ingredient. A spice like cloves or fennel seeds, not stuff you use everyday, but really something so simple that to schlep back to the grocery store for 1/8 teaspoon of cardamom just disintegrates and sours the intent, inertia kicks in, and the result is a cheese sandwich.
I have made a list of spices I always keep stocked in my pantry.
Scratch that. Who am I kidding? This is not helpful at all. I have the Carrie Bradshaw shoe closet of spices. My very own personal Indian spice market. The truth is, most I use once or twice a year. I have 2 bottles of mustard seeds and I don’t even know what to use mustard seeds for. Anyone? Recipe? So I am turning this ship around and going back to basics.
I decided to get scientific and collect data (#analyticalhousewife). I created my Kitchen Dream Team composed of my bad ass girlfriends (and Roberto) who KNOW how to cook hard core. These ladies (and Roberto) are kitchen gurus, culinary virtuosos, maestros of the dinner table. Ladies with swoonworthy instagrams. These are the ones you call when a recipe goes awry and your mother-in-law’s E.T.A. is 3.5 minutes. These are the dames (and Roberto) that you fast, for a minimum of 72 hours, prior to their dinner party so you are 1000000% sure you will have ample space in your gut for everything served. They are the best of the best. Some are chefs, others successful restauranteurs, caterers, or just master housewives who slay in the kitchen.
Without further ado, here is my Kitchen Dream Team:
Roberto Blanch Family friend (framily), who will single-handedly bring Italians to their knees begging for more of his risotto.
Katy Rood My food soulmate and Culinary Supreme Goddess. ALL HAIL THE QUEEN.
Sarah Troncoso Casa De Campo’s most coveted event coordinator and french cuisine master who taught me that “when in doubt add butter.”
Chef Micaela Tolentino My daily food consultant and guide, who happens to be the GREATEST chef ever and my dearest friend. She created my favorite cookie: Deconstructed coconut macaroons. Mica is a culinary scholar. From simple traditional staples, to elaborate recipes to pastries and health food, she knows the ins and outs and is a walking gastronomical wikipedia. She is a master of her craft and my mentor.
Karina Rizek My fellow housewife and dinner party expert. Her impeccable design aesthetic flows seamlessly from menu to tablescape, including the perfect playlist and guests to match. Her husband’s wine selection is always on point, but we all know that behind every great man, is a FABULOUS woman telling him what she needs to be done!
Raquel Baquero She taught me to eat REAL sushi. She is a foodie and gifted in the kitchen. She also introduced me to Thai food in 1998, a palate alternating experience. (Thai Toni, South Beach, coconut milk lobster soup.)
Ani Mederos My FAVORITE instagram account, who has me in an acute state of #foodenvy. Her hashtag #allwetalkaboutisfood will take you on a titillating journey of her culinary art.
Lina Latorre My really kind and sweet yoga teacher (Full story here) , who is also a vegetarian and health food enthusiast.
Yahaira Attias Maker of the best cielito lindo and tuna tartare known to man. No matter how many times I try to replicate her tuna tartare, I always fall short.
Chef Patricia Reyes The Dominican Cake Boss. She makes my favorite birthday cake. Her butterceam frosting is sinful. She is also gin tonic expert, and should moonlight as a comedian.
Nuriana Pimentel My fellow skinnytaste zealot and raw honey connoisseur.
Lesely De La Torre My foodie sister-in-law, who loves an exotic recipe challenge and a farmer’s market. Her culinary aptitude rivals Anthony Bourdain.
Chef Vanesa Gaviria Chef and restaurateur, she runs the show at La Cassina (prepare to salivate). Vanesa, along with Micaela, are responsible for introducing me to my signature cocktail, St. Germain and the best eggs benedict. She studied her art in Paris, her fantastical gastronomic imagination knows no boundaries.
Chef Laura Morell Vegetarian, dog lover, and health food chef, notorious for the fanciest gourmet pastelitos on planet earth. Here is Laura’s IG.
Terrily Rodriguez My gorgeous and sexy lifelong bff and wine partner. She introduced me to the crock pot and slow cooking in this house was never the same.
Erika White My other lifelong bff and favorite food critic. She is painted on the wall of NYC’s The Palm Restaurant. She is ridiculously intelligent, witty and pretty. I believe she should hold court on the Michelin team.
Laura Rivera Representing the Vega-Rivera kitchen (well worth our envy), fellow foodie and also a skinnytaste cult member.
Mari Catano Because it is my dream team and there should always be fun be in the kitchen. She makes me laugh, pours a great glass of wine, is a skinnytaste groupie, and is a schooled housewife, like me.
*Mirka ceremoniously proclaimed she could not participate in any questionnaire because she would never reduce herself to use any seasoning that is not salt, pepper, or dried oregano. Capo di tutti Capi is still bitter over the washing machine (story here). #coldcoffeehasbeenserved
**Jamal Garcia Rubido was immediately eliminated when she responded Publix rotisserie chicken.
I asked The Spice Girls: Besides salt and pepper, what are the top five spices that must be in your kitchen? (Now isn’t this much more practical info?)
I was prepared to google their responses. I swore, without a shadow of a doubt, they must use the most exotic spices. The answers surprised me. For one, EVERY SINGLE PERSON answered that their first choice is always FRESH. Something must be said, when 18 different people first respond the very same thing. Second, they don’t use fancy spices (except for cardamom).
These are the results:
#2 Garlic Powder
#3 Cumin, Curry, Nutmeg (whole/ground not specified) and Oregano(dried/ground not specified)
#4 Cayenne Pepper, Onion powder, Red Pepper Flakes, Dried Rosemary, and Dried Thyme
#5 Dried Basil, Paprika, and Turmeric
#6 Saffron, Tarragon, Dried Parsley, Cardamom, and Coriander
Loaded with this information, here is a COMPLETE list of spices you can stock to rival my spice pantry.
Red denotes MUST HAVE.
- Adobo (recipe below)
- Allspice (ground)
- Allspice (whole)
- Anise (star)
- Anise seed (Aniseed)
- Basil (dried)
- Bay leaf
- Bouillon –Beef,chicken and vegetable
- Cardamom – FULL DISCLOSURE: I have no idea what you use this for besides an indian dish, but 8 members of The Kitchen Dream Team listed it, in the spirit of authenticity concerning the data collected, I had to list it as a must.
- Cayenne Pepper (ground)
- Celery Salt
- Chesapeake Bay Seafood Seasoning
- Chilli Powder
- Chives (dried)
- Cinammon sticks
- Cinnamon (ground)
- Cinnamon sugar
- Cloves (ground)
- Coriander (ground)
- Cream of Tartar
- Cumin (ground)
- Dill weed
- Fennel seeds
- Garam Masala
- Garlic powder
- Garlic Salt
- Ginger (ground)
- Herbes de Provence w/lavander
- Herbes de Provence w/out lavander
- Honey (raw)
- Italian Seasoning (recipe below)
- Lemon Pepper Seasoning
- Liquid Smoke
- Malaguete pepper (whole)
- Maple Syrup Grade A
- Mrs.Dash Salt free
- Mustard Seeds
- Nutmeg (ground)
- Nutmeg (whole)
- Onion Powder
- Oregano (dried)
- Oregano (ground)
- Paprika (sweet AKA Pimenton)
- Paprika (smoked AKA Pimenton De La Vera)
- Parsley (dried)
- Pepper -Black Peppercorn Supreme
- Pepper- Peppercorn medley
- Pepper-Pure ground pepper
- Pizza Seasoning
- Poppy Seeds
- Pumpkin Pie Spice (recipe below)
- Red Pepper Flakes/Crushed
- Rosemary (dried)
- Saffron Threads
- Salt -Chardonnay Smoked
- Salt- Applewood Smoked
- Salt- Coarse Sea Salt
- Salt- Iodized salt
- Salt- Pink Himilayan salt
- Salt-Broiler salt
- Salt-Maldon Sea Salt Flakes
- Salt-Smoked Sea Salt
- Salt-Truffled Salt
- Sesame Seeds –Black
- Sesame Seeds- White
- Sicilian Seasoning
- Steak and Burger Seasoning
- Taco Seasoning (recipe below)
- Thyme (dried)
- Vanilla Beans
- Vanilla- Dark
MSG Free Recipes:
- Adobo Seasoning Recipe 1 :2 tbps table salt, 2 tsp garlic powder, 2 tsp ground black pepper, 2 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp turmeric. Mix in food processor.
- Adobo Seasoning Recipe 2: Recipe here
- Taco Seasoning Recipe: Recipe Here
- Pumpkin Spice Recipe 1: 3 tbsp ground cinnamon, 2 tsp ground ginger, 2 tsp ground nutmeg, 1.5 tsp ground allspice and 1.5 tsp ground cloves. Mix together.
- Italian Seasoning recipe Recipe Here
Spice For Thought:
- Coriander and Cilantro Read Here.
- Paprika and Pimenton Read Here
- Anise and Aniseed Read Here
- Allspice is the same as Dominican malagueta and Jamaican Pepper (nutty flavor). Malaguete pepper is a type of chilli (hot spice). Two different spices.
- For some odd reason, Americans decided to add lavander to herbes de Provence. Traditional herbes de Provence, from the south of France, does not have lavander.
Best tip I ever received was from Maritza Selman. After hearing me complain about having to toss out spices due to lack of freshness, she wisely told me to store my spices in the fridge. BRILLIANT!!! Having a flair for the dramatic, I took it a step further and keep my expensive spices, along with flour (you can buy almond flour or a car, your pick), in the freezer. Best tip ever! Thank you Dona Maritza!
Whole spices hold freshness longer than ground. The flavor is usually stronger as well. Consider this when shopping. #morebangforyourbuck (Alejandro Fernandez would totally approve this tip!)
I keep a 14 inch Lazy Susan/Turntable with the spices I use daily on the counter, away from the stove. The heat from the stove will harm the flavor and freshness.
Dominican Housewives: I buy all my spices at Carne Y Co. The owner, Anabella de Castro, has scrutinized a perfect selection with superior quality.
What spice can you not live without? Is there any I should add to the list? Anyone have a great recipe for cardamom and mustard seeds? How does your spice pantry measure up to the complete list? Do you have your own Kitchen Dream team? Would love to read your comments below!