December 18, 2015
Most serious cooks I know are committed to their mise en place. They’ll prep everything ahead of time, making sure it’s all easily reachable before a drop of oil hits the pan. Sometimes that’s just salt and pepper. But when you’re cooking complex Indian food, digging through the cabinet for each and every spice can take a lot of time.
Which is why masala dabba, compact little spice containers, arranged within a lidded tray, are so common in India. The most-used spices are stored together and kept right on the counter. These trays are terrifically functional – and they offer all sorts of alternate possibilities. Why not make a pickling spice masala dabba? Or one filled with hard-to-find spices for an experimental friend? This year I’m filling my trays with a variety of chiles: some smoky, some sweet, others dark, hot and fruity.
There are few better ways to spend an afternoon than wandering the aisles of one of New York City’s great institutions, Kalustyan’s with its hundreds of packaged spices. But for those not lucky enough to live near a spice emporium Kalustyan’s online store is a fine alternative. It’s an extremely affordable way to give a highly personalized gift.
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