What Is the One Spice You Just Can't Live Without?

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.

How about you? Could you identify your one 'can't live without' spice?

Related: Spice Cupboard Style: What Do Your Spices Reveal About You?

(Image: Dana Velden)