The Spice Must Flow ( and hopefully season something tasty)
November 17, 2014 12:56 PM   Subscribe

I love spices. I live next to one of the best international grocery stores around. I sometimes get through a crappy day by promising myself I'll buy a bag of star anise (or whatever) when I get home. But the kitchen cabinet's getting bulgy and I don't want anything to go to waste or get stale. Spicy MeFites, help me use this stuff up!

Bulk Spices I Have:

-whole cumin (I'm actually pretty good at using this, since it makes perfect hash browns, but am interested in other suggestions)
-whole green cardamom in pods
-whole cardamom out of pods (no, I don't know why I needed both)
- whole fennel seeds
- black sesame seeds
- star anise (again, I've mostly got this, but am open to suggestions. If you haven't made a whiskey hot toddy with whole star anise, do it now, cold friends, do it now)
- dried chilies of various types/spiciness
-coriander seeds
-whole black peppercorn
-black mustard seeds

Assume I've got all your garden variety spices and kitchen equipment, though I do NOT have a designated coffee grinder and would really rather not take up the extra space unless homemade spice powders are the only answer here. I am well versed in pho and chai, and own this Indian cookbook. Vegetarian, but willing to make meat for the boyfriend if it will rid me of these accursed fennel seeds. Condiments? Main dishes? Bath products? MeFites, hit me with your spiciest suggestions!

(BONUS POINTS: Said store also sells fresh tumeric rhizomes, fresh garbanzo beans and tiny guavas that smell really good but are full of seeds and I think must be for ponche. Should I buy these things and why?)
posted by theweasel to Food & Drink (35 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Super simple but delicious: mint tea with whole cardamom pods steeped in with it.
posted by instamatic at 1:03 PM on November 17, 2014 [5 favorites]

I bet you could do a hell of a lot with those spices and a five-pound bag of potatoes.
posted by starbreaker at 1:06 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Just...just put cardamom in everything.

Steep it in hot milky tea for a simple chai (or in hot milk alone). Suck on the pods to freshen your breath. Use it in baked goods - all of them. Breads, pancakes, muffins. Make spiced nuts with it for the holidays (then immediately give it to other people because it is very easy to eat a pound of spiced nuts and you will definitely regret it very soon afterwards).

I think that covers cardamom, I have more insights on the others...
posted by annathea at 1:08 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's not really the time of year for it, but strawberries with cardamom makes fantastic jam, as well as ice cream.
posted by furnace.heart at 1:09 PM on November 17, 2014

Best answer: * pulls up chair and sits down *

You can probably take care of a few of these with your own homemade chai spice mix. The cardamom, fennel, star anise, coriander, and even the pepper can all be used in your own chai spice blend. And you don't even have to grind them, just crush 'em a little. What you wanna do, is - combine the spices you want in a jar (there are recipes that give suggested quantities and such for the mix, but they're pretty flexible, just pick the one you like best and don't sweat it if you're a little short on the cardamom or whatever). And then to use them to make chai, you take a big tablespoon of the spice mix, and dump that and a spoonful of sugar into a pan with a little milk (about a half cup to a cup, depending on how milky you like your chai). Heat the milk up and then let that sit for about five to ten minutes. Brew a cup of tea while you wait. And then, when the tea's ready, dump that into a mug, then strain the spices out of the milk and add the milk to the tea in the mug. Bingo. (Discard the spices after that.)

You can also toss a couple of the cardamom pods in with the coffee grounds when you make coffee as well.

Also, you know how some restaurants have bowls of mints by the register? Some Indian restaurants put bowls of cardamom pods and fennel seeds by the register for exactly the same reason. I sometimes chew cardamom pods as a breath freshener myself.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:10 PM on November 17, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: You could play around with infusing simple syrup or vodka and use the results in various cocktails or desserts. If these are kept in air-tight containers, they won't lose much flavor or scent very quickly.
I'd roast the fennel seeds and use them as after-dinner breathe fresheners.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:10 PM on November 17, 2014

Best answer: I used to brew coffee with crushed cardamom seeds in it. Delicious!

I love fennel in Italian pasta sauces and in meatballs.

If you drink, you could also try your hand at making homemade gin. There are lots of recipes online and you can also free-hand it a bit. I'd put in coriander, star anise, cardamom, and fennel from your list. I make lots of vodka infusions. It's as easy as putting fruit and/or spices in a jar with vodka and letting it sit around for ~4 weeks.
posted by quince at 1:13 PM on November 17, 2014

Best answer: I had an amazing Moroccan Mint Mojito once, which resembled this not at all in color, but it seems as good a place as any to start.

You can also throw cardamon into rice while it's cooking, which gives it a very nice and delicate flavor. It also seems like you have the start of some excellent, excellent pickling mixes...
posted by jetlagaddict at 1:14 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I LOVE putting cardamom in otherwise-plain baked goods like pound cake. If you had a mortar and pestle, or let the pods ooze their goodness into some hot milk or butter, either would be a good choice.

The whole pods are also nice to throw into rice as it's cooking, if you're making an Indian curry.
posted by tchemgrrl at 1:19 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I love this braised fennel with saffron & tomato recipe from Vegetable Literacy, I eat it with quinoa. It uses fennel seeds and also saffron, so as a bonus you get to go down and buy another spice.

For a Scandinavian Christmas touch I recommend this apple mulled wine (Google translated from Danish website). It uses star anise, cardamon pods, cloves, cinnamon sticks and fresh ginger. I think you could skip the clove if you don't have it, though. It's alcohol free, but can be enhanced with calvados, rum or schnapps with good results.
posted by coraline at 1:24 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Toast fennel seeds in a frypan or in the oven on low setting. Eat after meals (or like me: all day long) as a digestive. You can also mix in other things like flax seeds, sesame seeds, candy coated fennel)
posted by PeaPod at 1:28 PM on November 17, 2014

Best answer: Lemon-Cardamom Muffins

Mulled Wine - recipe is not really necessary for this

Coconut rice

Aroma Bread with Coriander and Fennel

Fig mustard (link doesn't specify proportions, but I've made the recipe from this cookbook several times and it is sooooo good, esp. with brie and baguette)

Homemade (Chinese) sesame paste (different than tahini)
posted by melissasaurus at 1:33 PM on November 17, 2014

Best answer: I'm thinking the black mustard seeds might be good in this Beer Mustard recipe.

Also, this time of year, I often throw a bunch of spices and water in a saucepan and simmer it for a while. It adds a tiny bit of humidity back into the house and makes it smell good, too. In fact, I just used some star anise with cinnamon and allspice last week. A little early for Christmas but it smells good.
posted by Beti at 1:34 PM on November 17, 2014

Best answer: This is a vegetarian dal with fennel

If you can cope with roast pork this recipe uses 100g fennel seeds

Personally, I put fennel seeds in bolognese. As long as you don't have any purists around it's great! You could make that with soya mince or beans.

Star anise I only use with meat, so that's harder.
posted by kadia_a at 1:37 PM on November 17, 2014

Best answer: Seconding using the spices with potatoes. I sometimes make oven baked potatos (sliced or diced) and liberally sprinkle them with fennel and various other spices. The licorice quality of the fennel surprisingly doesn't overpower the potatoes. It mellows out during the baking perhaps.
posted by oceanview at 1:41 PM on November 17, 2014

Fennel is a typical Italian sausage seasoning and works whenever you want that flavor profile, like in these meatballs.

Curious what you use the star anise for?
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:47 PM on November 17, 2014

Best answer: Coming back in to say that if you are the type of person who browses spices for fun, you are probably also the type of person who desperately needs a copy of Homemade Liqueurs and Infused Spirits. And a tip-off to Mountain Rose Herbs. (Because, surely you need enabling as much as you need ideas, yes?)
posted by instamatic at 1:47 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

The holidays are coming, make special spice mixes and give them to friends as gifts.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:48 PM on November 17, 2014

Best answer: Fried potatoes are great with both fennel seeds and mustard seeds. In fact, many traditional Indian recipes for potatoes call for cumin and mustard seeds as a combo - for example, this one. (It calls for lots of other spices, but feel free to omit or substitute - it's hard to go wrong with fried potatoes).
posted by peacheater at 1:49 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Another thing I like to do is make raita with various vegetables. Here's what you need to do. Get some whole-milk yogurt. I like to use Greek yogurt thinned with a bit of a water, but any will do. Add salt to taste and then some kind of vegetable and mix well to combine. Any of these would work:
Grated carrot
Chopped onion and tomato
Sliced onions
Grated or chopped cucumber
Kind of more advanced, but cooked vegetables work well too - for example okra thinly sliced lengthwise, salted and fried or eggplant roasted in small pieces
Ok now you have your raita base and all you need is the seasoning. This is where your spices come in. Heat a little neutral oil (a tbsp or so) in a small pan until quite hot. Add a teaspoon or two of your cumin seeds and mustard seeds. They're going to splutter, so get out of the way. When they've almost stopped spluttering, but before they burn, pour the whole thing over your yogurt + vegetable mixture. It'll look really pretty (even prettier if you sprinkle some chopped coriander leaves over it, but that's optional). It goes great with any kind of Indian food or even non-Indian food. That technique of frying spices in a little oil is known as tadka in Hindi and can be used to liven up lots of different dishes.
posted by peacheater at 1:55 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: This is a super-good use of star anise. I usually omit the pastry because I don't care about it and it's one less step.

I also recommend adding some whole cloves to your hot toddies. You can just easily spike them into the lemon rind, and they stay out of the way. Out of this world.
posted by General Malaise at 1:58 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: And you are the best answer! And you! And you!

Seriously, these are all great and I'm getting hungry. Keep 'em coming!

fingersandtoes- I originally bought the star anise to make pho. Between that and the aforementioned toddy, I must go through a bag a month. With all these ideas, I might make it to two...
posted by theweasel at 2:09 PM on November 17, 2014

Fennel Cookies. Basically add Fennel seeds to a simple short bread recipe. Or if you are feeling really daring Parmesan cheese & fennel seeds. Soooooo damn good, so simple to make. I'd link a recipe but there are so many variations I'd suggest googling & finding one that takes your fancy.
posted by wwax at 2:26 PM on November 17, 2014

Pretty much every single time I make Mexican food, I take about a teaspoon of cumin, and half to quarter teaspoons each of coriander, black pepper and usually something like cardamom, fenugreek, what have you, and I toast them in the toaster oven for a minute of so, then grind 'em with the mortar and pestle (which are smaller and easier to store than another dedicated grinder). If you don't have that, you can crush them with the flat of a chef's knife (just be careful).

In fact, with the cumin, black pepper, coriander, fenugreek and turmeric, you've got yourself a homemade curry blend. You can add the mustard seeds to that too, along with the chilis.

Basically, you can go from Chinese through Thai and Indian then Middle Eastern then Mexican all with those spices, and you will help combat the most pernicious crime of vegetarian food: under-spicing. (Lifelong vegetarian here.) And one you have your basic spice ideas planned out, you can pretty much just drop in a starch, a protein and a bit of herbs and veg and make any vegetarian food from the middle latitudes. It's really wide open!
posted by klangklangston at 2:26 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

It looks like no one has responded on the kombu. Here's the deal - kombu is a seaweed, and it has a very high concentration of glutamate in it. You may recognize glutamate as one half of monosodium glutamate, which is a chemically derived flavor enhancer we all love to hate. Unlike its manufactured bro, the glutamate in kombu is naturally present in the seaweed and totally harmless (though there are a lot of arguments about whether or not MSG is actually harmful). Because of the high concentration of glutamate, kombu does a hell of an amazing job making things taste incredible. It needs to steep for a little while to draw out the glutamate, but once it does, holy moly. My favorite recipe using kombu is a David Chang winner for the best f-ing pickled beets you will ever, ever eat. It's the perfect season to make them, too. Enjoy!

I also recommend heading back to your international market, picking up some bonito (dried tuna from Japan) and making dashi. Freeze it as ice cubes and then you always have an umami powerhouse on hand to add to all sorts of things where a little stock can help you pull some flavor punches.

I'm excited for the journey upon which you're about to embark. :)
posted by binocularfight at 2:39 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Fresh turmeric: make a quick pickle. It keeps for months. It's super tasty. It will stain your hands like crazy when you cut it. It is delicious.

Fennel seeds: toast in oven or on the stove (dry) and chew after meals.

Pfeffernusse cookies have a slew of spices and get better a few days AFTER you bake them and continue to be delightful for two weeks. If they last that long in your house. Mine never do.

You don't mention whole cloves, but I frequently use this (along with whole cumin seeds) in rice. Cook cumin seeds, cloves, and a stick of cinnamon if you feel like it in small amount of oil, add rice and water and cook normally.
posted by loolie at 2:56 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ohhhh maaan okay I don't know where you live but you're gonna need fresh cucumbers and tomatoes for this.

Toast your whole cumin gently in a pan. When it starts to brown and smell delicious, it's done-- it only takes a few minutes and be sure to give the pan a shake frequently so nothing burns.

Take a really really good coarse large-crystal salt, and put some salt and lots of toasted cumin in a mortar and pestle and smash it up a bit, but not to any kind of fine consistency. You want lots of disparate grains of salt and bits of cumin.

Slice cucumbers (Persian if you can find them) and tomatoes (small, good tomatoes, not sandwich tomatoes) into the most paper-fine rounds that you can. Put them on a plate, and right before you eat it, not in advance, put on some of that coarse salt and cumin mixture that you made.

Super-easy, super-healthy, absolute heaven.
posted by WidgetAlley at 2:59 PM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

You can make tea from the fennel seeds. I usually mix the seeds and star anise (same/related? plant so similar flavour). It helps with stomach aches and digestion, besides being yummy.

Also, if your fennel seeds have not been irradiated, you can sprout them. I use the sprouts in sandwiches, particularly italian sausage sandwiches, since they're used in that so it's two twists/textures/mouthfeels/vehicles for similar flavours.

The Hanoi Noodle Soup in Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything will also use Star Anise.

I would also take the star anise and maybe cardomon and put them in the apple cider you're mulling in the slow cooker (along with the cinnamon, maybe some ginger and cloves).
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 3:09 PM on November 17, 2014

This (exceptionally hearty and vegan) Ethiopian Spicy Tomato Lentil Stew recipe uses cumin, paprika, fenugreek, thyme, cardamom, coriander, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, and cayenne. It freezes well and is definitely our 'spice heavy' go to recipe.
posted by cobaltnine at 3:43 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Spice cake?

Try a new cuisine everyday for a week or so. Mexican, Morrocan, Italian, Thai, etc,etc.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:18 PM on November 17, 2014

You need to use some of those dried chiles and make Romesco sauce. Here's my version, streamlined down from a José Andres recipe:

Romesco sauce
  • 4 or 5 Roma tomatoes
  • 3 sweet red bell peppers
  • 1 head garlic
  • 3 dried red chile peppers (or more or fewer, depending on their spiciness, and your heat preference)
  • 1/4 cup blanched almonds
  • 2 heels stale crusty bread
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 4 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 350. Halve and seed tomatoes. Score skin on each half in an X. Core and quarter bell peppers. Separate garlic cloves, but leave on papery skins. Toss tomatoes, peppers and garlic with enough olive oil to coat on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Arrange the tomatoes and peppers skin-side up. Bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove stems and seeds from the dried peppers (depending on their spiciness, you may want to use food-handling gloves) and rehydrate in boiling water and 1 teaspoon of the vinegar. Mix rehydrated peppers with almonds, bread crusts, and just enough olive oil to coat.

Add rehydrated peppers, almonds, and bread to baking sheet and bake for another 10 minutes. Then move sheet up to highest rack position and broil on high for 5 minutes. Keep an eye on it - toasty and caramelized edges are good, burnt are bad.

Remove sheet pan from oven and let cool enough to handle veggies. Skin tomatoes, bell peppers, and garlic and place in bowl of food processor, fitted with the metal blade. Add almonds, bread, and rehydrated peppers to fopro, and process everything to a rough paste. With fopro running, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of olive oil, until it forms a thick sauce. Season to taste with smoked paprika, salt, and the remaining 2 to 3 teaspoons sherry vinegar.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups sauce. It freezes well, but why bother? Serve on everything.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 5:36 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

You have a great start! If you can find garam masala...deff get your hands on it! It's a perfect blend of heavy, warm spices- very aromatic. It's great to put in lentils once they're cooked or even in curried meat. Be careful not to use too much tho. It's the icing on top of the cake.
Also turmeric is really good. Doesn't really have a distinct flavor and stains very bad (be very careful- even with your nails) but it has great healing properties. You can put it in dry vegetable Indian dishes to give it a yellow color.
Try the star anise in rice. Put it in while the water is still cooking the rice. It gives the rice a rich flavor.

And this is the best kept secret- buy nuts from international markets, they tend to be cheaper and lots of variety. Ooo and get a bottle of Rooh Afza if you have a sweet tooth....the syrup, lemon juice, pinch of salt with ice cold water- rose lemonade!
posted by BeSumr at 9:26 PM on November 17, 2014

You could always make some chai masala.
posted by rippersid at 7:47 AM on November 18, 2014

Kombu, cardamom, anise, and peppercorns sounds like the start of homemade worcestershire sauce.
posted by mgar at 8:31 AM on November 18, 2014

Nthing Indian potatoes. This recipe will take care of your fennel, mustard, and coriander. I've made them a million times because they're so easy and delicious. Oh, and I usually throw in one or two dried chilis with the spices, instead of using chili flakes.

Homemade crackers are a good way to use up various seeds. I follow this recipe more or less (be sure to mix in some whole wheat flour and roll them out good and thin, otherwise they turn out tough as rocks), and I mix about 2 tsp of seeds right into the dough rather than putting them on top (where they just fall off). Cumin is really good. Sesame seeds are really good (although I've only used white). I want to try fennel next. Caraway is pretty good, if you've got any of those kicking around.

Also, I'd really recommend getting a spice grinder. I too resisted for the longest time, but now that I have one, I use it all the damn time. And they're tiny. If you have room to store a bottle of vinegar, you have room to store a spice grinder.
posted by gueneverey at 12:41 PM on November 18, 2014

« Older Smartphone durability during daily life?   |   How to batch convert FLV files to MP4? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.