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BUILDING A STARTER SPICE DRAWER

The Story

Organized Drawer

Picture this: you’re in college and just moved off campus for the first time. Not only is this your first opportunity to be an interior decorator, but it’s your first opportunity to stock a kitchen. Sure, you’re sharing it with four other people, and you each have assigned sections of the pantry, refrigerator, and cabinets, but you’ve got a communal “spice drawer”. This drawer probably consists of more bottle openers and corkscrews than spices, but hey, you’ve got two costco sized table salts and a bunch of salt and pepper packets from a take out place down the street–your food will be super flavorful. 

Fast forward a few years: you’ve graduated and moved into your own studio apartment. Maybe your drawer has gained some life because you saw something on Tasty and made a special trip to the grocery store to get the necessary ingredients, which you used once.

Let’s get in the Delorean again and you’ve moved in with a significant other and you’ve brought together your ancient spice drawers (both unceremoniously tossed in a moving box and half of them have spilled). It’s time. 

Messy Drawer

It’s time to put together a real spice drawer. One that will allow you to impart incredible flavor, eliminate blandness from your meals, and will help you avoid making trips to the grocery store to navigate the spice aisle, which even though it’s in alphabetical order, you still can’t find anything. 

Herbs (yes, they live in the spice drawer) and spices have an incredible shelf life. That stability is probably what causes our spice drawers and cabinets to get so chaotic. The organization of a spice drawer is a completely different story, but it’s prudent to rotate your spices out every couple of years to ensure you’re not shorting yourself when it comes to creating phenomenal meals. In order to rotate a spice drawer, you first must establish one–which can be daunting. 

So, in order to make your life a little easier, here’s a list of Don Juan Chile spices and herbs that will help you get started in your culinary adventures. 

  • Bay Leaves – remember the leaves your mom always told you to scoop out of your soup? These are those leaves, and they are perfect for sauces, soups, and beans
  • Black Peppercorns – whether you’re putting them into a grinder, or using them whole in a marinade, these little gems are a must-have
  • Cayenne Pepper – want to add some spice to your dish? Add a dash of cayenne and your tastebuds will thank you
  • Chile Powder – this is a must if you’re making anything Mexican or southwestern we’re partial to our New Mexico variety
  • Cinnamon – both the ground and whole varieties are a must to ensure you’re not only prepared for the holidays, but for a variety of baking and horchata making needs
  • Cloves – another holiday specialty, whole cloves ensure you hit the traditional high notes for the season
  • Crushed Red Pepper – great on pizza, Mongolian beef, eggs, or mac ‘n’ cheese use these spicy flakes to add some heat to any meal
  • Cumin – don’t even bother if you aren’t using cumin to make some delicious taco seasoning
  • Ginger – same thing goes for ground ginger and Asian cuisine. Your dish will be severely lacking if it’s not getting any ginger. 
  • Garlic Salt – don’t just salt, garlic salt it. There’s always a need for more garlic
  • Oregano – a staple of both Mediterranean and Mexican cooking, this herb is great in soups, marinades, or just a final touch on a fresh pizza
  • Onion Salt – see Garlic Salt–it’s just a great staple to use when starting to cook food in a pan
  • Paprika – ever hear someone say a dish is missing something, but they just can’t put their finger on it? The answer is paprika.
  • Rosemary – whether you’re making an Italian dish or a wholesome roast chicken, Rosemary is a must in any spice drawer
  • Sage – a holiday must, but a welcome addition to a variety of cozy creations
  • Thyme – great on fatty meats especially when incorporated into marinades

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