There are certain qualities about cookbooks that have always annoyed me. For example, saying a recipe is only three ingredients when in fact it’s, like, fifteen ingredients. Or telling readers to save scraps in the freezer to make stock from scratch (ha!). And, to my mind, the most egregious offense: unusual, esoteric spices. The only spice I ever use is cinnamon (oatmeal, hot chocolate), yet somehow I have amassed a collection of SIXTY-FREAKIN-FOUR spices. I just counted, and it’s absurd. Now the question is, why do I have all these spices? Some were given to me as gifts, but mostly I purchased them because of blind obedience to cookbooks.
As I am sure you know, cookbooks have a habit of peddling various spices in their intros, and I fall for it every time. They promise things like, “You’ll LOVE this spice! You’ll use it on everything! It’ll elevate the flavor of whatever you’re cooking into a new realm!” To date, the biggest spice offense came from a cookbook by a celebrity who shall remain nameless that instructed me to buy a jar of Chinese five-spice powder. I couldn’t find it at my regular market, so I had to go to a specialty store. At the time, I had no problem going on a spice hunt because the cookbook promised the Chinese five-spice powder would absolutely change my cooking life. In reality, I have yet to find a recipe that uses it IN THE COOKBOOK ITSELF.If you’re cooking a lot of Chinese recipes, I’m sure the spice is very useful (and I am jealous, because I have yet to master the art of Chinese cooking). But to my Italian-raised palate, the flavor combinations in the five-spice powder — cinnamon, star anise, fennel, ginger, cloves, white pepper, and licorice root — are totally baffling. I mean, what the hell am I supposed to do with that?! …. CONTINUE READING (& GET THE RECIPE!) HERE ON LENNY LETTER.