Spice rack confessions

Psst! Yes, I used to be THAT kind of cook. The one who churned out boring slop. The one who believed that foods have "their own flavors" and don't need anything so banal as tasty seasonings. Then I had a stirfry at a friend's house that was actually YUMMY! I'd become accustomed to my own stir-frys, which were dull, limp and broccoli-laden. This new stirfry was broccoli-laden too, but it was spicy! Piquant! I wanted more!

Since then I have been trying to make more effort in the spice rack world. It's not like I'm a total tyro in the kitchen. I did get that "Chef Pre-employment" certificate you know. But I am also sickly addicted to recipes--just like I can't play impromptu piano but always need the sheet music. Here's the spice rack jazz I'm trying to pull off these days.

Cardamom pods: Put these in black tea with some sweetened condensed milk, pepper and coins of fresh ginger.
Marjoram: I am so in love with marjoram. Does thyme bore you? Marjoram it up. Sprinkle over a chicken and bake, for example. Add to stew.
Rosemary: I use it for lamb dishes. Only for lamb dishes. Otherwise I'm afraid I'll get sick of it.
Basil: Pasta sauce. Chili. Hamburgers. Summer squash.
Oregano: Pasta sauce. Greek food.
Star anise: A surprise in curry. Or slice pears in half, scoop out seeds, and poach with a few sections of star anise.
Paprika: Take your leftover pie-dough and knead in a bunch of grated cheese. Roll to about 1/2 inch, cut into strips and sprinkle with paprika. Bake til browned: cheese straws.
Cayenne: If you are sick, eat a clove of raw garlic. Chew til it's a slurry and really slosh it around in your mouth before swallowing. Then, mix boiling water with a spoonful each of honey and lemon juice, and a generous dash of cayenne. Mix and drink. You may be cured! Repeat as needed.
Mustard seeds: fry in a little oil until they start to pop. Grate a cucumber and squeeze out as much water as you can. Mix with yogurt and toasted mustard seeds—good on spicy Indian dishes.
Cumin seeds: Make the catch-all burrito. First, fry leftover rice with cumin seeds and chili powder. Put rice mixture in a flour tortilla along with salsa, grated cheese, and anything else you've got lying around (grated carrots? canned beans? seaweed?). Wrap up and place on oiled cookie sheet. Bake at 350 until cheese starts to leak out.
Also, keep black bean chili paste in your fridge door. Makes a pack of ramen halfway gourmet.

Now for last week's Beef Jerky Time playlist (9/26/07). It's all from the new 2-CD set, Little Darla Has a Treat For You, vol. 25!!!!!
  • Travel Writer: California Oranges
  • Gone Too Far: Hell On Wheels
  • CanciĆ³n de Viernes: Cooper
  • Coka, I'm Fine: My Little Airport
  • Arms: Aarktika
  • Moon Balloon: RF & Lila de la Mora
  • Slave: Linda Draper
  • Ventricle: Ponies in the Surf
  • La Fiebre de Carlos: Corazon
  • Far Away: .tape.
  • Pac Man Fever: Sprites
  • Switchboard Girl: Future Conditional
  • Ion Crush: Jatun
  • You Are Mine: Cdatakill

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