A few weeks ago, I posted this on Cook Smarts’ Facebook wall: We’re reading “The Power of Habit.” What bad food / cooking habits do you want to break? One of our fans wrote, “Not experimenting more with spices.” We’re sure she’s not the only person hoping to break this habit, so I rounded up our tips on how to use spices more effectively a few weeks back.
The first tip I offered was: “Isolate / control and experiment. Roast a pan of vegetables. Sprinkle spices on one half but not the other. See how it changes the taste of those vegetables.” You can even divide your roasting pan into quarters, sixths, eighths, and try a different spice on each portion. Start simple with a dash of a spice you know you love, like cinnamon or cloves and gradually get more daring. Move onto new spices like fennel seeds or coriander (which is just the spice form of cilantro) and then spice blends. Before you know it, your first instinct will be to reach into your spice drawer whenever your oven gets turned on for roasting vegetables.
This feeling of spice mastery will not happen overnight, but I promise it definitely won’t happen unless you start using your spices. It’s not easy to get over that initial fear. I’ve been cooking regularly for well over a decade, but it hasn’t been until the last 2 years when I started to get excited about digging into my spice drawer. It’s always been plentiful and organized, but it wasn’t until my 4 week honeymoon in India 2 years ago that I wanted to seriously tackle using spices. I don’t necessarily suggest you go to India (it’s not for everyone), but an Indian cooking class might be a good motivator.
Until you get around to that though, I offer you one of my favorite India inspired roasted vegetable recipes that came about shortly after my honeymoon. Roasted sweet potatoes, cauliflower, and green peas are far from exotic but the spices in this recipe – garam masala an Indian spice blend of peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, and cardamom – might just be the exotic kick in the pants you need to kick-start your new spice habit.
- Cauliflower – 1 head
- Sweet potatoes – 1 lb.
- Garam masala (spice) – 1 tbs.
- Coriander, ground (spice) – ½ tbs.
- Brown sugar – 1 tbs.
- Veg / canola / olive oil – 3 tbs.
- Green peas, frozen – 4 to 6 oz. (~1.5 cups)
- Cilantro – ¼ bunch
- Cauliflower – Chop into small bite-sized pieces. See a video demo here
- Sweet potatoes – Peel and chop into ½” cubes
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees
- Mix spices, brown sugar, and vegetable oil in a small bowl
- Toss ¾ of the mixture with chopped sweet potatoes and cauliflower
- Spread out vegetables on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for 25 minutes
- Toss frozen green peas with remainder of the seasoning and add to baking sheet of sweet potatoes and cauliflower. Toss vegetables through one last time
- Roast for another 5 minutes
- Chop cilantro and toss with all your roasted goodness. Season to taste with salt and pepper
- Not sure how to break down cauliflower. Check out our video here
- Looking for new ways to roast veggies? Here’s a bunch of new ideas that’ll have your oven working overtime
- Feel free to add garbanzo beans or super-firm tofu and make this a full meal. Add them in towards the end of cooking with the green peas, on a separate baking sheet if needed and roast for another 10 minutes