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Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice

 

 

I am talking spices.

Humans have been using spices to jazz up their foods for eons. The first estimated date of spice use is 1700 BCE. The spice: cloves. The place: Syria.

Ramesses II of Egypt had two peppercorns stuck in his nostrils when he was mummified.

The Black Death swept through Europe following the same routes as the spice trade.

The Americas were discovered by Europeans when Columbus sailed way off course trying to find a shorter route to the spice rich East Indies.

Entire empires were won and lost on trading spices, according to Michael Krondl.

All of this and more just for some dried, fragrant, aromatic leaves, seeds, roots, and bark that are used whole, broken up, or ground up to flavor and color the food we eat.

Spices and herbs make food more flavorable. Imagine tomatoes without basil. Or salmon without dill. Think about lamb without oregano, or toast without cinnamon.

But spices are costly. Those little jars of spices we buy at the grocery store are very expensive. Like me, I am sure you have noticed that when I cost out a recipe here at MTTD, spices and herbs are often the most expensive ingredient.

And with more of us cooking at home these days we reach for our spice jars more and more. And those little spice jars cost an arm and a leg.

Examples of An Arm and a Leg

Oregano         $3.85 for .50 ounce = $7.70 for 1 ounce 

Basil               $4.05 for .55 ounce = $7.36 for 1 ounce

Tarragon        $3.85 for .20 ounce = $19.25 for 1 ounce

Thyme            $4.75 for .62 ounce = $7.66 for 1 ounce

Rosemary        $4.85 for .35 ounces = $13.86 for 1 ounce                                        

                                                                                                                        Despite their cost I don’t think many, if any, of us would want to give up spices.

So, being the cheapskate I am, and to also help us all lower our grocery bills without having to give up spices, I went in search of places where we could get a better deal.

The cheapest way to buy spices and herbs is to buy in bulk. That is, IF there is a store near you that sells spices in bulk. VERY, very, very, very, very, very few stores sell spices and herbs in bulk.

If you live on the west coast you are very lucky. Winco sells a large variety spices and herbs in bulk. If you do not live on the west coast, Costco and Sam’s Club sell a limited variety of spices in larger containers. Some Whole Foods stores sell spices in bulk. Fresh Market sells some spices in small plastic bags at a pretty decent price.

Some local food co-ops sell spices and herbs in bulk or at least cheaper than the little jars at the grocery store. So if you are part of a coop check it out.

But buying in bulk will only save you money if you are buying for a large family. If I bought spices and herbs in bulk for just myself I would not be able to use them up quickly enough since spices and herbs often have very short shelf lives.

Penzy’s recently started selling spices in 1 ounce jars. These are perfect for single people, empty-nesters, small families, or for a spice you may not use a lot of.  The cost is better than the grocery store amounts for most spices; but still not as good as bulk. But I balance that against no waste.

If you do not have aPenzy’s in your community they have an on-line store at the link above.

There are several other on-line stores that sell spices in bulk. Often you can get as much or as little as you want or need.  Just be sure to include shipping and handling charges in the total cost if you decide this is the way for you to go.

I have linked to several of these on-line stores below.

WonderfulWholesaleWarehouse

AtlanticSpiceCompany

MySpiceSage

                                                                                                                 Where do you buy your spices? If you have a money saving tip for buying spices and herbs drop us a line in the Comments Section below.

Featured Recipe:   Fish Fillets with Lemon Caper Sauce

 This recipe is very versatile. It is also easy. And the result is a very elegant meal. You can make it with a wide variety of fish such as flounder, tilapia, trout, or any mild fish.

I made mine with tilapia. Some people think that tilapia is not a safe or clean fish. If you get your fish at a reputable store there should be no problem at all.

According to Ali’sClean(er)PlateClub, tilapia is the 5th most consumed fish in America today. Environmentalist encourage Americans to eat tilapia. Tilapia are lower in contaminants than other fish.

The Healthy Fish Guide put out by the state of Washington’s Department of Health (There was no similar easy to read chart on any federal government web site. Yeah!!!  A shoutout to Washington for a colorful easy to read guide.) states that tilapia is safe to eat 2-3 days a week if it is from the United States or Central and South America.

The tilapia I used for this recipe was the best I have ever tasted. First of all I got it at Weilands, one of three stores here in Columbus I trust to buy fresh fish. This was Peruvian Blue Tilapia. I had never eaten this kind of tilapia before, but it was recommended by the fish experts at Weilands. The fish is certified organic and was raised with no antibiotics, hormones, or preservatives.

It was superb! But no matter where you get your fish, or what kind of fish, fresh or frozen, this is one fantastic recipe. It is quick, easy, and elegant. And healthy too.

I found the recipe in the newspaper, most likely the Columbus Dispatch, but I am not positive. But the recipe is from Desperation Dinners/United Media.

Here is what you will need for 4 people:

¼ cup flour

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

3 tablespoons butter, divided

4 thin fish fillets about 6 ounces each (flounder, tilapia, trout)

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped*

1 lemon

Here is what you do:

Pat the excess moisture off the fish.

On a plate add the salt and pepper to the flour and mix well.

Dredge the fish in the flour and shake off excess. (Actual directions said add flour to a plastic bag and add fish and shake. I find that breaks the fish up, so I dredge the fish.)

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat in a skillet large enough to hold fish.

Cook fillets until lightly browned on both side, about 3-4 minutes each side.

While the fillets are cooking rinse and chop the capers. (The actual recipe says to chop the capers. I do not, preferring to keep them whole. I think they look prettier on the fish whole.)

Cut the lemon in half. Squeeze the juice from one half of the lemon. Cut the other into slices for garnish later on.

Get the juice, the capers, and the butter ready because you will have to move quickly to make the sauce.

When the fish is done place the fillets on a platter and keep warm.

Turn off the stove. Pour the lemon juice into the skillet and then add the capers.

I could not take pictures of the next step in this process. I needed both hands to complete this step.

Take the skillet off the heat source, and add the remaining butter and swirl the butter in the pan until it melts.

Immediately pour butter sauce over the fish. (I also poured some over the asparagus I served this dish with.)

Garnish the fish with a lemon slice and serve at once.

If you look at the picture of the completed dish you will not see the lemon slice. I forgot to put the lemon slices on the fish before I took the picture.

So please, everyone, close your eyes and picture the fish with a slice of lemon. Thank you.

Sometimes I am a total birdbrain. But in my own defense, the fish  just looked and smelled so delicious I could not control myself. I dove right in an ate it all.

And delicious it was. As I said, this tilapia was the best I have ever eaten. So good. So delicious. So delectable. So scrumptious!!!!!

And the cantaloupe I served with it was one of the best I have ever eaten. So sweet and juicy. And I ate it with nothing on it, not even salt.

Same for the tomato salad and the asparagus. Eveything turned out perfect. [Well, if you forget about the lemon slice.]

This was a perfect meal!!!!! Every once in a while something I cook is just perfect. Everything comes together perfectly. This was one of those rare times. I savored the moment. And devoured the food!!!!

NOTE:      I cut each fillet in half to make four servings. By doing this, and by serving the fish with three vegetables/fruits, this meal is very filling and therefore very affordable.

Cost

¼ cup flour                             $0.12

3 tablespoons butter                 $0.68

4 thin fish fillets                       $8.35             

1 tablespoon capers                 $0.38

1 lemon                                  $0.59

Salt & pepper

Total cost for 4 people = $10.12
Cost per person = $2.53

 Bon Appetit!!!!

Quote of the Day: I believe that if ever I had to practice cannibalism, I might manage if there were enough tarragon around.    James Beard

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