We all have a favorite spice or blend, that we keep within reach like we do salt and pepper. But it’s fun to experiment with new combinations and tastes. Here’s a few that I use when I want an extra layer of flavor.
Lemon-Pepper is a combination of granulated lemon zest, cracked black peppercorns and salt. But some brands throw in onion power and food coloring. Or citric acid is subbed for lemon zest. So be sure to read the label.
I use this handy mixture to season fish, chickens, soups, salads, sauces, steamed vegetables, and cottage cheese. It’s, of course, the sine qua non of Lemon Pepper Chicken. Use whenever you want a touch of citrus zest.
A friend put me onto celery salt and earned it a place in the front of my spice rack. (If you’re a Bloody Mary fan, you may already keep this blend near at hand.)
My celery-salt friend once worked in a restaurant and said they used the blend in nearly everything. Add a sprinkle to deviled eggs, dips, sauces, coleslaw, tuna salad, egg salad, pasta salad, chicken soup, French fries, and corn on the cob. Even hot dogs! It’s amazing considering it’s just a blend of crushed celery seed and salt. You can make this blend, too, using 2 parts salt to 1 part ground celery seeds.
The nut of this evergreen tree also gives us mace. (The kind used in cooking, not protest control.) Nutmeg comes from the ground seed and mace from the seed covering. In the Middle Ages, nutmeg was thought to cure The Plague. Apparently, it was the hydroxychloroquine of its day.
Freshly ground nutmeg is stronger than the powdered version. The whole nuts last about 4 years and the ground about two. Each whole nut yields 2-3 teaspoons of ground.
Advocates say nutmeg reduces joint pain, lowers blood pressure, calms an upset stomach, stimulates the cardio-vascular system,
and removes warts. Whether it does all that or not, nutmeg does make a difference in gingerbread, pumpkin pie, baked items, oatmeal, sauces, and even meatballs.
I learned about the meatballs, from a friend, who worked in the Rosati Church kitchen each year during their bi-annual Spaghetti Supper in Phelps County. When I inquired what made those meatball so doggone good, she whispered in my ear: nutmeg! Since then, I’ve always added a pinch to my meatballs.
“Slap Ya Mama”
One highly regarded blend that I’ve added to my spice rack in recent years is Cajun inspired. Yet there’s no exotic ingredients. It’s just a simple blend of salt, pepper, garlic salt and red pepper. When I find a soup or vegetable that seems a bit bland, I give it a shake of the cheeky, Southern condiment called Slap Ya Mama.
The blend is made in Louisiana, deep in the heart of Cajun country and bears a label saying it contains no MSG. Rather than make a city-wide search for the spice mix, I ordered it from Amazon. It comes in two strengths and I got one of each.
I use a shake of the milder one in stir fried rice. It also enlivens pork chops. I’m not an egg eater, but I’m told by those who are, that it gives breakfast an extra snap. I could make this blend with the spices I have on hand. But then I’d miss the colorful container with the brash, Cajun name.
Red Pepper Flakes
In addition to giving a flavor boost to a recipe, red pepper flakes come with some possible health benefits. They are said to boost metabolism, decrease hunger, and lessen pain.
On the culinary side, they add a kick to pizzas, pastas, chowders, gumbos, casseroles, stews, soups, cheese snacks, omelets. sauces, and marinades. They’re not excessively hot, registering just 3-4 on the 1 to 10 heat scale. The blend is usually made from more than one type of chile, such as cayenne (main ingredient), ancho, bell, cayenne and more.
One-eighth teaspoon is usually enough for a recipe of 4 servings. Some chefs suggest sifting the flakes to get a fine powder, that spreads the heat more evenly. In the event you over do it with the seasoning, a bit of sugar or honey will help curb the heat.
What’s your favorite go-to spice or blend?