Feb 09 2011

My Top 10: Condiment Edition, Part Deux

Published by Christine at 12:01 pm under Uncategorized

It’s time for numbers 5 through 1 of my top 10 list of condiments. Without any further ado, here they are:


5. Dijon mustard

From salad dressing (and we eat a lot of salads) to stir frying chicken to spicing up sauces to waking up a sandwich, this is the mustard that makes it all happen. The best of the best will clear your sinuses like a shot of wasabi, but these really hot mustards are hard to find here. Trader Joe’s has a pretty good one. Maille and Grey Poupon are fine, but they tend to stay on the supermarket shelves for too long and lose their potency after a while. Try to find one that still looks brightly colored and has an expiration date as far into the future as possible.

4. Curry

As with ras-el-hanout, but moving farther East, curry is a spice blend that has as many recipes as there are families in India. Its bright yellow color comes from the turmeric in the blend, and its warm fragrance typically comes from a mix of coriander, cumin, ginger, asafoetida, fenugreek and cinnamon, among others. I love using it in *everything* but coffee, and even that might work. OK, maybe not. The point is that it is probably the most delicious of all blends, and I use the ones I have (McCormick and Penzeys) quite a lot. When I have time, I make my own paste with fresh ginger, onion and garlic, and spices that I mix myself, but the powders available in stores or online are convenient and flavorful.

3. Thyme

Out of all the herbs and spices I keep in my kitchen (and there are about 5,000,000 – give or take), this has to be the one I use the most. It figures prominently in herbes de Provence, a blend I also frequently use. It is essential in a number of dishes, from paté to vegetable gratin, and has the fragrance of a lazy Mediterranean afternoon. It ‘s a sunny, happy herb, and it likes to spread some joy around.

2. Whole black peppercorns

“Pepper love, that’s how I think of it. Abraham and Aurora fell in pepper love, up there on the Malabar Gold.” In Salman Rushdie’s The Moor’s Last Sigh, the first love scene between Abraham and Aurora is set in a spice warehouse in India, among burlap bags bulging with peppercorns. Black pepper is sensuous. It’s ubiquitous in our kitchens yet most people don’t really pay attention to it, the real tragedy being that most of us buy it already ground, which robs it of its character and depth. Buy the peppercorns whole and grind them yourself; it’s the only way to experience the true beauty and warmth (not just the heat) of this wonderful spice.

1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Whether it’s making salad dressing or sautéing some vegetables, this is the oil I reach for everyday. I simply can’t imagine doing anything without it. I keep a mild olive oil (less expensive) on hand for frying things, but in truth, most of the time I forget I even have it and end up using the extra virgin anyway. I love the way it smells when it heats up, too. Lately, I have been using Trader Joe’s, which is lovely. Fairway has a great selection as well. Another good (and widely available) brand is Colavita. Just make sure you get the highest grade oil you can find, which looks really green in the bottle. It makes a difference.


Now it’s your turn: what can’t you live without in your kitchen?


One response so far

One Response to “My Top 10: Condiment Edition, Part Deux”

  1. Maryon 09 Feb 2011 at 1:30 pm

    My list looks very similar, but I use oregano much more often than thyme. And red pepper flakes.

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