It's certainly not news that fresh spices give life to ho-hum leftovers or turn a simple pot of beans or rice into a fragrant treat. Certain spices remind me of my travels, others remind me of childhood. Do you have one particular spice that always sits up front in your cupboard?
I was at a friend's house last week and she was asking me what spice I use the most often in my cooking. We got into a long discussion because it's such a tough question to come up with a quick answer: there are so many qualifications. For example, if I'm baking breakfast pastries, I love cardamom and keep it at the front of my spice cupboard. For savory cooking, especially with vegetables, I use red chile flakes almost daily. With a little olive oil and flaky salt, they transform greens into a delicious mess I could eat for pretty much every meal. But I also love cumin for making beans and rice dishes, and have started to use thyme often in simple lunches of tuna fish salad or omelettes.
(Image: Dana Velden)