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The Scarlet & Black

Mistry Spices Up Your Life


Let’s get serious about the spice rack. It can turn any meal from boringly bland to surprisingly scrumptious with just a few dashes of your favorite spices. Quite honestly, it’s the most powerful tool for cooking new food in the Dining Hall. Also, mastering the spice rack now will mean you can make your home cooked meals even better by developing a palate of spice mixtures to call upon. It’s relatively simple to create some basic recipes from the spice rack, and more complex ones will come easily with practice. We’ll start by exploring some of the pre-made blends, then look at my most commonly used spices and then finish off by looking at spice blends and flavor profiles.

The Dining Hall spice rack has three extremely easy-to-use blends that add a boost to nearly any entrée or dish. The first is the Italian Herbs. It’s simple to use and adds a nice touch of color and taste to any pasta or rice dish. I also like to add the Italian Herb seasoning, a little parmesan and some cracked black pepper to a small plate, then pour a little bit of olive oil (enough to float the spices) and a small splash of balsamic vinegar to make a delightful dipping sauce for breadsticks or pizza crusts. The two other spice blends, the taco seasoning and the Cajun seasoning, can be used in similar manners to each other. Both add a bit of intense flavor to any dish, and work particularly well with sauces, meat dishes or rice dishes. An easy meal with these spices is the previously mentioned bean and rice bowl. Just take beans, rice, vegetables, a little cheese and either spice. Mix it up and microwave, and enjoy a nearly instant healthful meal.

Want to try something a little more meaningful than a pre-mixed spice blend? Check out the following superstar spices: cumin, seasoning salt, thyme, rosemary, cinnamon, paprika, kosher salt and black pepper. Each one of these spices has a distinct flavor profile and can either dominate the dish or draw out flavors, depending on your usage. These spices work excellently in tandem as well. I almost always end up using at least one of them as the base for my spice blends.

Making your own spice blends is hugely rewarding, and once you’ve established a few solid combinations, it becomes second nature to use them daily. An unusual, but delectable spice mix for chicken is a bit of black pepper, a dash of cinnamon, some cumin and some paprika. Mix it up in a condiment cup, then sprinkle a fine layer over the meat. Another successful set of spices is rosemary, oregano and thyme. Crush up the dried rosemary, so it is the same consistency as the thyme and oregano, mix them and add the mix to any salad for a nice amount of depth. Mixing your spice mixes into different mediums can give your meal even more personality. Plain yogurt, mayo, olive oil, rice vinegar and just about any sauce can be a viable way to use your spices.

Working with spices is a huge amount of trial and error, but can be extremely rewarding. I’d recommend doing a few things to make your experience more successful. First, become familiar with every spice on the spice rack by doing a small taste test. Sprinkle a small amount on your plate, try it and note the flavors and strength of the spice for later use. Second, keep track of your blends that you make. It’s important to remember which spices you use and how much of each one you use. Last, add spices in small amounts. Spices can be extremely powerful and while it is easy to add more of a spice, it can be nearly impossible to take it out.

So with this (brief) introduction to the spice rack complete, I encourage you try using the spice rack with every meal. Transform your food, find magnificent mixtures, unlock new flavors and expand your repertoire of dishes. In the immortal words of the Spice Girls, “Spice up your life!” You stay classy, Grinnell.

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