Many people ask me how I make different meals with a lot of the same ingredients. Don’t I get bored with my meals? I ask what ethnicities they cook but what I really mean is with what combination of spices do they cook with. Different parts of the world use different combinations of spices to create their meals. They are usually based on the history of what is grown locally.
I recently found a new spice store, Penzeys, that has helped me cook many different meals using the same ingredients. Their store is arranged with spices on one side and herbs on the other. You can even find recipe cards scattered throughout the store and their catalog. I took Andy, my oldest son and vegetarian who cannot eat soy, dairy, sugar, wheat, barley, oats, rye, mushrooms, oregano or parsley. Most processed vegetarian substitutes rely a lot on most of those ingredients. Luckily Andy is a great cook and is learning how to substitute ingredients.
We started at one end of the store with a basket and plucked around 60 herbs and spices off the shelves for him to stock his college apartment with.
We instant message about what he’s cooking and how it tastes. He really likes the spice combinations for North and South Indian and Italian foods, Mexican, Middle Eastern, French, Moroccan, Spanish, and Turkish. In addition we enjoy Korean, Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Creole and Cajun, Irish, British, Greek, Hawaiian, and Caribbean. With that long of a list you can see how easy it is to mix up the spices and come up with a different meal every night of the week even if you are using many of the same basic ingredients. Don’t forget the benefit of fresh herbs and spices. It doesn’t take a lot of room to have a garden so you can harvest all summer long. Then move the annuals inside to keep that freshness coming all winter long.