Top 10 Spices to Keep In Your Kitchen

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Top 10 Spices to Keep In Your Kitchen
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Whether you are an expert chef or just learning to cook for yourself, here are ten spices you should always have in stock. Don't be afraid to experiment while cooking by adding a pinch or two of your favorites.

Kosher and Sea Salt
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Kosher and Sea Salt

Additive-free and coarse-grained Kosher salt is a favorite of chefs because it dissolves easily and adds flavor without over-salting due to its large surface area. Instead of standard table salt use ground sea salt for a softer flavor. Visit your favorite specialty store to find a variety of sea salts to add different flavors to your next culinary masterpiece.

Pepper
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Pepper

A climbing vine native to India and Indonesia, pepper is the world's most popular spice. The three varieties -- black, white and green -- are made depending on when the berries are processed. Black is the most common and the strongest in flavor. It is made when the not-quite-ripe berry is picked and then dried. The less pungent white peppercorn is created when the berry is ripened, the skin removed, and then dried. The fresh flavored green peppercorn is softer, and usually preserved in brine.

Crushed Red Pepper
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Crushed Red Pepper

Crushed red pepper has become as standard as salt and pepper on tables at Italian restaurants. The flakes are made from dried hot red peppers and contain a large number of seeds which add to the intensity of the spice, so use sparingly unless you like your food hot.

Garlic
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Garlic

Garlic is a main component of many dishes in Asia, the Middle East, northern Africa, Southern Europe and parts of Central and South America. The potency of the spice depends on how you cook it. The powdered form has a different taste from fresh garlic. If you have to substitute, 1/8 tsp. of garlic powder equals one glove of garlic.

Chili Powder
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Chili Powder

Not a single spice but a blend of many different ones, chili powder comes in several levels of heat. It is composed mostly of chili peppers and blended with spices such as cumin, oregano, garlic powder and salt. Chili powder is popular in American cuisine.

Cinnamon
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Cinnamon

Many people think of cinnamon as a spice for baked goods and drinks, but its warm, sweet flavor also works well in stews and sauces. Cinnamon is the inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree that is harvested during the rainy season and then dried into curls. Ceylon cinnamon from Sri Lanka is regarded as the best, but much of the cinnamon sold in the U.S. is cassia cinnamon.

Ginger
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Ginger

Ginger has a peppery, slightly sweet flavor. It is used mostly in Asian and Indian cuisine and can be grated, ground and slivered. Pickled ginger is popular as a palate cleanser with sushi and crystallized ginger is used in desserts. Tip: When buying fresh ginger, look for smooth skin with a fresh, spicy aroma.

Oregano
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Oregano

Well known in Italian food, oregano has a pungent flavor that should be used in moderation. The spice gained popularity in the U.S. post WWII when soldiers returned home from Italy.

Cumin
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Cumin

Cumin seeds are used both in whole and ground form in Middle Eastern, Asian, Mediterranean and Mexican cuisines. It has a distinctive bitter flavor and a strong, warm aroma. Widely available in amber, the seeds are also white or black. Note: Black cumin has a complex flavor that should not be substituted for the other two colors.

Nutmeg
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Nutmeg

Nutmeg is used in sweet and savory dishes around the world. It is normally used in ground or grated form, and is best grated fresh. In the Caribbean it is used in cocktails such as the bushwacker, and in Japan it is an ingredient in some curry powders.

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