Some folks have a spice rack, or a spice cupboard.  For us, it’s a spice drawer, and at the moment I’m in the process of re-working ours.  I’m organizing and consolidating what’s already there, and figuring out what key spices we might be missing.  In my opinion, a good selection of herbs and spices is just as important as a well-stocked pantry.  Sure, you can get by using a fairly limited number of them, and cooking a fairly limited selection of dishes (or many of a similar type, that benefit from similar seasoning), and that’s a fine option of that suits your style.  But for me, having a wide variety of herbs and spices at my fingertips allows me to be creative in my cooking without a whole lot of extra effort.  (Read: it means I don’t have to run to the store to get some special spice in order to make a new dish I’m excited about).  And for me, the means to cook creatively, even when my time is limited (as it usually is), is key to keeping me motivated and inspired in the kitchen.

In that light, here’s the first of what I hope will be a series of posts on kitchen and pantry staples.  Following is a list of what is currently in our spice drawer. (This list only includes dry herbs and spices–nothing that needs to be refrigerated).  Most of what is on this list  I use on at least a somewhat regular basis, so in that sense I think of it as a pretty accurate list of what I consider spice drawer staples.   That said, there certainly are items that I don’t use much (mace and annato, for example), so there are some items on this list that I don’t consider essential.  Likewise, there are several additional herbs and spices that I’d like to have on hand, but I don’t have yet.  Of course, what you need in your spice drawer may be a bit different than mine, depending on what you like to cook.  But in any case, I hope you’ll find this list to be a good starting point to work from in honing and expanding your own spice rack.

Our spice drawer currently contains:

allspice (whole and ground)
bay leaf
caraway seeds
cardamom (whole pods and ground seed)
cayenne powder
chile peppers (Thai, whole dried)
chili powder
cinnamon stick (whole and ground)
cloves (whole and ground)
coriander seed (whole and ground)
cumin seed (whole and ground)
curry powder
dill (seed and weed)
fennel seed
garlic powder
ginger (ground and crystalized)
mustard powder, hot
mustard seeds (yellow and black)
nutmeg (whole and ground)
rosemary (whole and ground)
star anise
vanilla bean

Tell me….are there any spices that are important to you that are not on this list?  I’d love to know–thanks!

Spice Drawer 1

Spice Drawer 2