Which Spices Do I Need?

Niki Segnit, the author of “The Flavor Thesaurus,” recommends starting with the basic concepts. “Getting to know spices in simple combinations, you can really get to know the flavor,” she informed me. I often utilize her book as well as her sequel “The Flavor Thesaurus: More Flavors,” both committed to the delicate skill of matching flavors to guide me in my cooking and developing recipes.

Cookbooks are great sources, but nothing beats making use of spices. Once you’ve learned a little more about the notes that they impart — savory, sweet, floral, nutty hot, you’ll be able to spice up your meals with confidence.

Coriander and cumin can be essential in dishes that contain onion and fish, not just for their digestive benefits but also for their citrusy notes which balance the sharp taste. Caraway, cloves and cardamom aniseed, fennel and caraway all are suitable and are often used in sweeter dishes. Other flavor-makers like I refer to them as sumac, chileflakes and dried herbs can really help bring food items to life.

From left to right: aniseed and fig Compote of fig and aniseed; grilling summer squash topped with garlic yogurt. Check out the recipes below.

Where Do Spices Come From?

Although these staples of the kitchen are available in the present, they weren’t always. When they were at their highest value the importance of spices played a major role in the trade of ancient times that sparked conflict and fueled expeditions. Spices were among the first commodities to travel across the globe through trade networks and are the reason that shipping routes that ran that ran from to the Far East to the West were referred to as”the Spice Routes.

Through during the Middle Ages, the Arab world was a thriving market for fragrant gums, resins, and spices. The majority of Muslim merchants who dominated the trade successfully concealed the real history and origins of their spices offered, constructing enchanting stories to deter potential rivals.

The author is a buyer of items in Jerusalem.

How Can I Get the Best and Freshest Spices?

There’s no need for an extensive spice cabinet. In fact, by editing your collection to a small quantity of essential items, you’ll be sure that they are constantly in circulation and replace them frequently.

When you’re buying, storing, and handling, you should keep the following guidelines in your mind:

  • Find your spices through reliable suppliers. Many spices sold in the U.S. undergo irradiation, which, although effective in eliminating impurities, can also be believed to reduce certain spice’s nutrients and flavor. Find organic-certified spices that are not radiation-free as stipulated by the USDA.
  • Whole spices last longer in time to last than the ground spices and are therefore cheaper. Making spices at home may appear daunting, but it’s quite simple; you can grind them in the coffee grinder.
  • Toasting is an issue of preference. It comes down to the individual’s preference. Toasting boosts some flavor notes more than others. For example, untoasted coriander is a fruity and floral taste that is ideal for desserts. When it is toasted, it gives a nutty taste that goes well with cumin in dishes that are savory.

Alayet Bandoora (Tomato, Pepper and Garlic Pan Fry)

This is a traditional Levantine recipe for the summer months when tomatoes are sweet and juicy, chili peppers are spicy, and fresh garlic is on the menu. Ideal for slicing into bread, it’s a popular choice for breakfasts on weekends, easy meals, dinners and light dinners. It’s great for many different uses. It can be used as the base for stews or Shakshuka, or with pan-seared lamb or beef for a hearty dinner. Cumin is the preferred spice here because it complements the primary ingredient: tomatoes are a combination of acidic and sweet as well as cumin seeds when they are toasted, possess the nutty and lemony flavors that enhance the flavors. Aleppo pepper flakes provide an entirely different, brighter and milder type of heat in the fresh chillies adding vibrant, sharp and energizing flavors.

Total Time:40 minutes



  • Three tablespoons of olive oil
  • 8-10 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 large green chiles like Anaheim or jalapeno, seeds and cut into rounds
  • 1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper or any other red chilli in flakes
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, or 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
  • 3 1/2 pounds (8-10 average size) juicy, ripe tomatoes cut into cubes
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  1. In a cast iron pan, braiser, or fry pan with edges that are raised, cook olive oil at a moderate temperature. In the pan, add garlic and chiles, Aleppo chili, and cumin seeds. simmer until the spices are fragrant. approximately 2 minutes.
  2. Add salt and tomatoes, and stir until combined. Reduce temperature to medium, cover, and simmer by stirring every few minutes until the tomatoes break apart and merged in a rich, chunky sauce, 20-30 mins. Remove from the heat to serve hot or cold with bread.

Mujadara With Palestinian Farmer Salad

The spicy rice and lentil food dish mujadara is a common dish of the peasant that is much more than its components. With the amount of onion in this dish, the ingredient cumin is essential not just for its taste but also because of its digestive qualities. The black pepper can be a frequent partner because its sharp scent brings out the warm smokiness of cumin. Different cultures across the globe offer a chopped tomato and cucumber salad, however the dried mint that is used here is distinct from that of the Palestinian version, bringing an uplifting sweetness to the tart flavor of lemon.

Total Time45 minutes



  • For salads:
  • 2 large slicing tomatoes cut into small cubes up to 1 pint cherry tomatoes chopped in half.
  • Three small Persian cucumbers, cut into cubes of small size
  • A small, red bell pepper chopped into cubes (optional)
  • 3-4 scallions, thinly cut
  • 1 small green chile like serrano, jalapeno or Anaheim, which is finely chopped
  • 1 cup crushed, dried mint
  • Three tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • for the mujadara
  • 1 cup whole green lentils cleaned and rinsed
  • 1 cup of long grain rice like basmati or jasmine washed until the the water is clear and then is then drained
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • Ground cumin 1 tablespoon
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 onions finely chopped, plus one onion cut in thin half-moons
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • Vegetable oil for frying