I recently discovered an alluring recipe for Rose Water Shortbread Cookies in the March 2017 issue of Bon Appetit. The cookies sounded exotic, with notes of pistachios and rose water. However, as I drilled down the the recipe and began to prepare my grocery list, I was dumbfounded to see the recipe only called for 1 teaspoon of rose water. I admit that this avant garde, infused water can impact a dish in small doses. But, at a cost upwards of $10 per 0.5 ounces, I was a bit deterred and decided to hold off on baking the cookies.
Then, I recalled a conversation I recently had with my mom. She is a loyal fan by default (heck, I am her youngest daughter!), but is the most critical of enthusiasts. She complained that some of my recipes called for too many ingredients, and more over, some listed trivial quantities to season the dish. Luckily, I have an amazing relationship with my mom and, thus didn’t bite her head off. Criticism helps one grow, especially in the kitchen. And, her commentary challenged me to revisit some of my dishes and assess if certain spices were necessary. I wish I could give her the win on this subject matter, but I emphatically concluded that all the spices listed in my recipes were critical in delivering the tastes that I desired.
Now, I faced the obstacle of convincing her to cook a recipe as prescribed even if it meant that her grocery list would grow longer. In my opinion, the key was to help her adequately stock her spice drawer to enable her to read recipes in a new way. If you approach the ingredients required by a recipe and eliminate the dried spices, salt and pepper (not to mention the olive oil or butter), you are typically left with perishable items like meats, fruits, vegetables, and fresh herbs. Ultimately, with your dried spices already supplied, most recipes should become more accessible. Based on my cooking and an inventory of my personal spice drawer, I have determined the following to be my top ten dried spices:
(2) Chile Powder
(3) Ground Red Pepper (Cayenne)
(5) Curry Powder
(6) Garlic Powder
(7) Herb De Provence
(8) Dill Weed
(10) Ground Mustard
Trust me, by having these spices on hand you will consider more recipes with more ingredients. As for me, I am honoring my own conviction that all flavors are necessary when listed on a recipe. And, I am running out to the grocery store to buy a premium bottle of organic rose water before my mom says “I told you so!” Xoxo, E.