You’re probably getting to know your home all over again during the coronavirus pandemic. Especially your kitchen. We’re eating more at home than we can ever remember, and trying to come up with new ideas is challenging to say the least. Mary Cardas of Savory Spice Shop in Palm Desert offers suggestions in that department and how your spice rack can turn ordinary food into a tasty treat.
Cardas, who opened her franchise on El Paseo in 2011, notes one of the discoveries that people have made at home over the last eight weeks is their spice rack. It’s easy to put spices in a cabinet, shut the door, and figure they are good forever.
“Spices don't go bad; they just slowly lose their flavor,” Cardas says. “Most of us have something in the house that we've had since we've lived in that house, or it came with the house, or we brought into that house from somewhere else we're storing it.”
“So I do encourage people to pour some in your hand, smush it around, give it a smell, give it a taste,” she adds. “If it's not doing anything for you, don't use it. It's not going to add any flavor if it doesn't have any flavor.”
What can we do to enhance a dish?
I'm a big fan of experimenting, of flavored salts, particularly if you're doing vegetables. Fresh vegetables, steamed or roasted, or just about anything. Salt, herbs, is going to add a whole lot of flavor. If you want to get fancy, of course, we have a whole world flavors section, so you could turn it into a Moroccan dish, you could turn it into an Indian dish, lots of easy choices. But just for adding a bunch of flavor, have you had the black garlic salt yet?
That sounds good.
Black garlic is garlic that they ferment the whole head. The cloves actually do turn black.
It's somewhere between balsamic vinegar and roasted garlic, so it's a soft flavor, a little bit sweet, a little bit ferment-y It's a really interesting flavor, so we made a salt out of that. I literally put it on just about anything. Because it's salty, it's got that great, umami is the word people throw around, but it comes from the fermentation and all those great flavors.
So that one, right now my current obsession is just putting it on baked potatoes. Rimming Bloody Marys, I'm a big fan of adding flavor everywhere you can. Or again, just on vegetables, because garlic is something we're accustomed, salt is something we're accustomed, just putting on to add flavor.
What about vegetables?
I think for people who have kids, but even people who just aren't used to cooking as much, or who are getting tired of cooking, because of the prep time, I think vegetables are one of the things that a lot of people slowly back off on. Which right now I think is super important to keep up with, not just because of the health factor, because staying healthy is going to keep us healthy, but because it's an easy snack, it's filling without having a lot of calories. So just grabbing a cucumber, chunking it up and sprinkling a tasty salt on it. We have one called Peruvian Chile Lime, very flavorful. Lots of great chile flavor, but almost no heat, and a little twist of lime. Again, cucumbers, any sort of raw vegetables that you put that into. If you're on our website, choose Spice N Easy. I think it's easy as the name implies, but it's also an adventure, something new and different, and it doesn't involve you having to make a big investment in terms of time and multiple spices to try something new.
Peruvian Chile Lime
How do you overcome menu roadblocks to cooking at home?
I'm not always a flip through cookbooks person, but I have been right now looking at a lot more recipes because if you're only cooking one or two meals a day in your regular life, you can rotate tacos in every week and everybody's happy about it. But if you're cooking every single meal, your old standards don't space out as well, so I've been trying to be a little more adventurous, but also try to pick things that lend themselves to other meals.
So go from a roasted chicken to then making fajitas or tacos out of it, starting with leftover meat, we have a couple under our Spices N Easy's — Tikka Tacos and actually even the Taco Soup that just work really well with leftover meat. So you can make something that then can go into other things, so it doesn't feel like you're cooking a lasagna and eating lasagna three meals a day for a week.