Masala Dabba Spice Box

Just a quick post to let you in on a great kitchen tip. Borrowing from our Indian friends… I’m now using a spice tin… or Masala Dabba.  It’s a great way to keep your most used spices handy and fresh. Found in most Indian homes the tins range from 7-12 inches in diameter.  The spices vary depending on region and preference. Some homes will have a few boxes… sorting their spices by powder or seed… spicy or mild. The beauty of it is it’s up to you!

In my spice box I have (L-R) ginger powder, sweet smoked paprika, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric, chili powder and in the center, whole cloves. I use these quite regularly and not just in Indian cooking!

I picked this up at World Market (also known as Cost Plus in some areas) for $9.99. But if you have neither store in your town look online. I’ve seen some that come with assorted spices as well. A see-through lid seals the box airtight while not in use. For best results keep stored in a cool, dark area as most spices lose flavor intensity when exposed to prolonged sunlight.

Happy spicing!


KITCHEN TIP: Infusing Olive Oil

This is the first of hopefully many kitchen tips I’m going to start offering on this site.  Many of these are a result my “MacGyver” attempts of making-do in a less-than-desirable kitchen and trying to figure out how to be a brilliant gourmet cook on a pauper’s budget. But sometimes, they’re just going to be little tricks of the trade that if you’re not obsessively watching the Food Network,  pouring over Gourmet or Food & Wine Magazines, or questioning every chef you come across as I am… you may just have missed out on some information.

My first Kitchen Tip is about infusing your Extra Virgin Olive Oil. You can buy many “flavored” olive oils these days… but there are two down-sides to that. They’re usually not made from Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Olive Oil – which is what you should use instead of plain Olive Oil or Light Olive Oil  (there are no health benefits otherwise because the harsh processing has destroyed them). And often, the “flavoring” is chemically added and not naturally infused into the oil.

Being the bargain hunter that I am, I love buying the big net-sock of garlic heads at places like Costco or Sam’s. You get about 20 heads of garlic for $3-4.00. Which means you’ll have to chop, press or roast it all yourself. Which I’m okay with. But what do you do with all that garlic before it goes bad? Time to think outside the box…

As we speak I am infusing a quart of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I use quite a bit of EVOO so I buy it by the gallon at the International Market for close to half the price I would in a chain grocery) with whole garlic and fresh rosemary from my garden. I peeled about 5 heads of garlic (heads are the whole bulb, cloves are the individual pieces you break off). I dropped them into a quart-size canning jar, cut 4 twigs of rosemary from my garden and put them in the jar as well, then poured in the extra virgin olive oil over leaving about an inch from the top. After all, it’s gonna need to breath.

I’m going to leave it all in there for about 48 hours, then I’ll scoop out the garlic and toss it out. But I’ll leave the rosemary in the for another couple of weeks. Be sure to remove the garlic cloves after a couple of days so as to not overpower the flavor of the herbs. If you choose to leave the garlic cloves in the oil, be sure to refrigerate the oil to avoid the threat of botulism

The olive oil should have rich flavors that will naturally season whatever you use your olive oil in… salads, sauteing meat, drizzled on baguettes.  I personally love garlic and rosemary – two of my favorite flavors. But if you prefer thyme and sage; or spicy red peppers; or red onion and oregano… then go for it! Keep in mind you need to use fresh products. Fresh herbs, onion, garlic, etc. Powdered spices or herbs will not infuse and will just make a mess of the oil.

What are your favorite spice and herb combos? Let me know if you have tried this and if you have any further tips!

the question has been asked… do you actually throw away the garlic when you’re done?
My Answer: you are “allowed” to throw it out of you like… I mean, it’s served a great purpose already, had a good life, and so on. But, if you want to hold onto it there are a few options. Run it through your food processor and make a garlic paste or chop it finely and make minced garlic – you should get another few weeks of life out of it. Or, if you’re not a Twilight fan and would like to keep both Edward AND Jacob away…. make a necklace and wear it to bed. :o)