What would you miss from your pantry if you were cooking in a kitchen that was empty of food products? I quickly learned that I missed my seasonings. So, I created a spice box that travels with me when we rent a vacation home.
I use a box of watchmaker's tins that I've filled with a supply of spices and blends designed to give me the most versatility with the fewest containers.
What's in my spice kit?
Sea salt and kosher salt get their own larger containers. The blends are French herbs, curry powder, Bell's Seasoning, Old Bay Seasoning, and an Italian herb blend. One container holds star anise, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, and bay leaves. My beloved Aleppo pepper and candied ginger get containers of their own.
What would be in your spice box?
We'd love to hear in the comments below. Send us an email and we'll add your ideas to this piece.
Fortunately, you can now buy peppercorns in containers that are grinders, so I carry one of those as well. You can also buy spice kits that are usually sold by ethnic group. If I were creating this today, I think I'd use magnetic spice tins.
Using what I have as a guide, I make an amazing array of meals over a couple of weeks with just this selection. I've also been able to loan some flavors to neighbors at an apartment complex in Provincetown. I remember one long-time fellow renter calling up to me, "Penny, I'm craving carrot salad, would you have some cumin." I did, and she shared her salad and recipe!
One exception to this empty pantry rule was a home we rented for a few years on Lake Tashmoo on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. It had an herb garden outside the door and enough equipment to run a small catering business.
The homeowners stocked every spice, extract, staple, and supply imaginable. A note invited renters to use what they needed but to replace whatever they used up during their visit. That way the kitchen should always be fully supplied. Apparently, this worked because the system continued throughout the years we rented that home.
Updates from our readers!
(03/05/12) "I would have pickling spices. Why? Because we always prepare our own lobster dinner when on vacation, and the pickling spices added to the boiling water sweeten the lobster meat and create a unique aroma as well. Vacation rentals almost always come with a lobster pot and everything else you need for a lobster dinner, except for the pickling spices," wrote Marlene.
Thanks Marlene! I think we'll try this. What a perfect excuse to have lobster this week!
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Words: Penny Cherubino
Photos: ©2013 Penny Cherubino
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