Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Spices, Balsamic and Soap, Oh My!

Some women shop for shoes. Me? I shop for spices. It might even be fair to say that I collect them. While there's not a single pair of Manolo's or Louboutin's in my closet - my spice cabinet runneth over with all manner of sexy seasonings. You can keep your strappy sandals, this Diva prefers Penzey's!

Knowing that to be the case, the husband filled my stocking this year with all sorts of yummy, spicy treats. And that's good new for all of us. In the days and weeks to come, I'll be experimenting with these seasonings and creating some dishes that are sure to please.

Let's take a look at my newest editions, shall we?
  • Penzey's Herbes de Provence: a magical combination of rosemary, fennel, thyme, savory, basil, tarragon, dill, oregano, lavender, chervil and marjoram. This blend is magnificent, some might even say essential, for roasting a chicken. I'm also planning to use it in combination with that lavender syrup to create an unusual brioche. Stay tuned.
  • Penzey's Bavarian Seasoning: a fine companion for any meat or fowl, this intriguing mix combines crushed brown mustard seeds, rosemary, garlic, thyme, bay and sage. I used it in my Savory Chicken Burgers and will soon be paring it with pork of some sort.
  • Penzey's Chili 9000: not your average chili powder, this one packs a spicy, yet slightly sweet, punch with its mix of ancho chili, cumin, garlic, cilantro, onion, paprika, cayenne, lemon peel, Mexican oregano, black pepper, cocoa powder, turmeric, cinnamon, coriander, ginger, fenugreek, cloves, fennel, nutmeg, white pepper, anise seed, jalapeno, star anise and cardamom. Its complex to say the least! Obviously, it would be great in any kind of chili, but its also really, really good on popcorn.
  • Penzey's BBQ 3000: I actually put this one on my Christmas list. Why? One word: popcorn. If you've never had BBQ popcorn, you're really missing out. Its addictive! This particular blend contains: salt, paprika, black pepper, nutmeg, mustard, allspice, citric acid, garlic powder, ginger, sage, thyme, white pepper, cinnamon and some natural smoke flavor. I can't wait to try it on grilled shrimp.
In addition to the spices, my stocking also contained a lovely bottle of Carter & Cavero Fig Balsamic Vinegar. Carter & Cavero is a relatively new company, specializing in imported olive oils and vinegars. Located in Red Bank, New Jersey - with an out post in Long Branch as well - they offer a wide array of unique, handcrafted, gourmet items as well as tableware and even cosmetics (i.e. olive oil soaps).

I fell in love with C & C when I came across their wares while shopping at the Bryant Park Holiday Market this year. And the husband, wise as he is, made a return trip to Bryant Park to pick up a bottle of this delicious elixir for me. Infused with fig, this vinegar is outstanding when drizzled over some sharp cheese, such as aged Gouda or Pecorino Romano and would make, I'm sure, a lovely addition to any salad dressing recipe. I used it to glaze the Chicken Burgers and I'm sure it would be equally good as a marinade for some roast or broiled chicken. Its delicious!

Knowing how much time I spend in the kitchen, my darling sister in law K., slipped a lovely bar of Chef's Soap (pictured top left) from Connecticut Natural Soapworks into my stocking. Made from goat's milk and loaded with espresso beans and almond oil, among other things, this delicately fragranced soap is formulated to remove odors while keeping one's hands soft and smooth. Like it, I do!

Trust me, I'm not doing a commercial for Penzey's (or any other company) here - merely giving you a glimpse into my stocking and pointing the way to some wonderful kitchen products. The point? Spices are your friends - especially if you're either watching your weight, or stuck in a cooking rut. Spices are a wonderful low, and often no, calorie way to add flavor and interest to a dish. They're also really fun! Experimenting with a new spice or seasoning can go a long way towards easing the day-to-day cooking blahs.

So, what are some of your favorite spices and seasonings? Anything unusual that you'd like experiment with? Curious Diva wants to know.

Bon appetit!


Fresh Local and Best said...

I adore Penzey's. I visit the shop in Grand Central, it's such a convenient location to pick up the most obscure of spices. Your husband is quite thoughtful with presents.

The Diva on a Diet said...

Love the shop in GCT, that's where he bought these. I'm a big fan of Penzey's catalog too - its so homey and fun! Yes, he is a thoughtful shopper - and I'm happy to report that he loves to shop. We make a good pair! :)

Heavenly Housewife said...

I've heard so much about this place. I've got to go there sometime... i hope.

Anonymous said...

Awesome finds! I love spices too and different salts!

Katherine Aucoin said...

You lucky little Diva you! I haven't heard of the Penzy's brand but i can't wait to see your expirments on your blog.

stephchows said...

my parents got me a little 4 pack of spices from them!!! so good!!

Anonymous said...

Yum! What a nice haul! I've never ordered from Penzey's, but once I was dogsitting and they had 3 huge drawers full of their spices, so I definitely took advantage. ;)

Mo Diva said...

sexy seasoing inDEED!

The Wino said...

Lucky girl! I have stocking envy! I love spices and salts and well really any fun food and soaps! That BBQ popcorn sounds fabulouse! I had some vanilla fig balsamic vinegar and I made a strawberry reduction with it for ice cream...SO GOOD!

Hold on to that hubby of yours, he is a good catch!

The Diva on a Diet said...

HH - they have a wonderful catalog that you can order from their site ... if you don't want to wait until your next trip across the pond! ;)

5 Star - mmm, I love interesting salts as well.

Katherine - thanks, here's hoping the experiments will yield much deliciousness!

Steph - you too? Nice! I wonder if you'll work the spices into some muffins or cookies?! ;)

Pretty Green Girl - oooh, how fun about raiding the dogsitting home's stash. That's a green decision too. LOL

Hi there Mo Diva! And Happy New Year!

Wino - so nice to see you too! How've you been? Happy New Year to you and the wandering sisters as well! :)

Suzee said...

Wow - you had a *great* stocking!! Thanks for the tips on the chili and bbq spices :)

Daniel said...

It's funny, I used to turn up my nose at Penzey's spice mixes. I saw them as expensive second-order foods that you could just as easily make yourself for less money.

But then, as it turned out, I received a collection of Penzey's as a gift last Christmas, including a jar of something called Northwoods Fire--which we immediately took to calling "Northwoods Fahhrr." It was some magic elixir of various hot ground peppers that imparted the deepest, smokiest, spiciest flavors you could imagine to food. I've totally rethought my views on spice mixes since.

Casual Kitchen

Dana McCauley said...

I think I might like to go shopping with you! We have similar ideas about what makes shopping fun.

Gelareh @ Orange Truffle said...

Cute Post! I love and use a lot of cumin, turmeric, cinnamon and depending on the dish ... Italian season.. and fresh herbs

Queen "B" said...

mmmmmm..what a fun idea for Christmas, I clearly need to expand my spices, thanks for the heads up
Aloha Wishes

Tangled Noodle said...

That was some stocking! How sweet of your husband to take note and make a special return trip to pick up the C&C balsamic vinegar, and your SIL's gift of Chef's Soap might make me want to lick my own hands after washing. Wait, did that sound kind of 'ewwwww'?

I love Penzey's and my current favorites are Tuscan Sunset (salt-free, perkier Italian seasoning) and Chicago Steak seasonings. But really, if I had the room, I'd keep one of everything!

Deb said...

I have a killer spice rub I use on chicken and fish (it has everything under the sun or in the spice cabinet in it). I also adore cumin these days....