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Monday, January 31, 2011

The Daily Grind

Need a way to spice up these winter days? If you want to increase and intensify the flavors of your culinary spices, here’s a simple overlooked tip. Always buy whole spices. Prior to using them in your favorite recipes, toast and grind them yourself. All you need is a frying pan, a stove top, a spatula, and a grinder used only for your spices. One of our old coffee grinders suffices for this job. This gadget can save a lot of time or you can use a mortar and pestle to work those arm muscles. If you tend to buy your spices processed i.e., all ground in a jar for you, the intense flavors of the spice diminishes and doesn’t add that same oomph to your recipes.

Here’s the simple process for grinding your own spices.

Put your spices in a dry frying pan on a medium heat. Stir the spices constantly until they start to crackle and steam (do not smoke or burn as it creates a bitter flavor.) By toasting the spices, you release all the fresh essential oils encapsulated in the spice. Transfer the toasted spices on a plate and let them cool to room temperature. In small batches, grind thoroughly and store in an airtight mason jar. These spices can last for months so prepare more than one batch for future cooking. If you like Indian cuisine, this is the only way to properly prepare your spices.

Think it’s a bother for just your spices? Try something simple like cinnamon. You’ll quickly get the picture when you use fresh vs. pre-processed in a dueling recipe. This tip also works on any nut. Lightly toast prior to chopping and mixing into your recipes that call for chopped nuts. This toasting and grinding process also provides a free air freshener. Just think of all the benefits. Good day to grind your spices is after you cooked fish.

To kick off the last Monday in January and to end today’s post with an inspirational quote, here’s an anonymous but fitting excerpt. “The daily grind of hard work gets a person polished.” In other words, don’t let an extra step scare you from not trying something new. This mid-stretch of winter is the best time to tackle your spice grind.

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© 2009 Ann St. Jean-Bilowz/Bilowz Associates Inc. (including all photographs, unless otherwise noted in Annie's Gardening Corner are the property of Bilowz Associates Inc. and shall not be reproduced in any manner nor are they to be assigned to any third party without the expressed written permission and consent of Bilowz Associates Inc.)