So that we’re ready to hit the ground running (or to hit the kitchen cooking) when we return to Point Hope in August, we place our Penzeys Spices order in April.
Onboard our summer home, the sailing vessel Bandon, galley space is limited and so the question If you had to choose just a few herbs and spices… is answered out of necessity. Sea salt, Tellicherry pepper, powdered garlic, powdered wasabi, an Italian seasoning blend, herbs de provence and a couple of spicy chili-pepper-based blends or rubs are essentials in our kitchen. We also keep on hand soy sauce, Cholula sauce, olive oil (both light olive oil for frying and extra virgin for other uses), and when we can, sherry. Our meals tend to center around fresh seafood, and these minerals, herbs, spices and condiments go well with fresh fish.
Up in Point Hope where our kitchen is much larger, our herb and spice collection is far more extensive and includes a variety of extracts as well. We’ve discovered that even something as basic as salt can vary greatly from one type to another. For example, smoked sea salt can be the “secret ingredient” that makes a stew, soup or chili stand out. And if you haven’t tried grey sea salt on fish, you’re in for a pleasant surprise when you do. It’s usually packaged coarse or slightly coarse, but it’s damp, so don’t be tempted to put it in a grinding mill. Use it in its coarse form. Also called Celtic sea salt or sel gris, this mineral-rich salt from the Brittany region of France is especially nice on broiled salmon. Like many others in this food-appreciating time we live in, we’ve come a long way from the days when Morton’s Iodized was the only salt in our kitchen.
Another change we’ve been making is a gradual shift away from prepared spice and herb blends toward our own hand-crafted blends. We keep our old bottles of blends like Northwoods Fire, Southwest Seasoning, Italian Seasoning, Curry Seasoning and so forth, but these days those bottles are filled with similar-but-unique creations. The modifications we make to the original recipes have resulted in blends we are really pleased with, and it’s satisfying to grind and mix our own chili-pepper-based rubs. Carefully considering the ingredients that go into these blends has led us to a fuller understanding of herbs and spices.
This past year our “great discovery” was Penzeys Spices’ whole smoked chipotle chili peppers. Ground with our immersion blender as we need them, these peppers add a rich, smokey heat to chili, squash soups, cloudberry or raspberry chipotle sauce, and chicken noodle soup. Blended into a rub, smoked chipotle’s add another dimension to broiled halibut, salmon, moose or pork.
The spice we’re most anticipating using in the coming year is high-grade Kashmir Mogra saffron. We’ve been using Spanish Coupé which is very nice, but we’ve been wondering if the higher quality Kashmir Mogra is worth it. We’ll let you know what we conclude this fall.
Less than two weeks till we’re back aboard Bandon in Seward!