Think of this as a foundation to build into other cuisines. For instance, evoke Morocco by adding a little sweet paprika and cinnamon; head to India with the addition of more coriander and black pepper; and channel your inner Mexican by adding more chile and cumin.
Grind together 2 tablespoons whole cumin seed with 1/4 cup whole coriander and 1 tablespoon black peppercorns.
West Indies Spice Blend
Grind together 2 generous teaspoons whole allspice, 1-1/2 teaspoons whole coriander seed, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, and a 2-inch piece of cinnamon stick, broken. Stir in 2 tablespoons sweet paprika, 1 generous tablespoon dry basil, 1/2 teaspoon dry thyme, and 1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger.
Tingly Spice Blend
For those times when a little spice is called for. Blend 1 tablespoon hot chili powder (or to taste), 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 3 tablespoons ground cumin, and 4 tablespoons ground coriander.
Tandoori Spice Blend
India’s famous yogurt-spice marinade for chicken roasted in special clay ovens can season anything on the grill or in the pot. This is the spice blend part of the equation. Keep it on the shelf and use it at will. Add the yogurt whenever you’d like. Red food coloring is traditional in tandoori, but not essential.
Grind together 1 teaspoon each whole cloves, black peppercorns and ground turmeric with 1-1/2 teaspoons each cardamom seeds (removed from their husks), cumin seed, broken cinnamon stick, fennel seed, ground ginger and ground pure chile (mild to hot depending upon your taste).
From A Summertime Grilling Guide by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift. Copyright © 2012 by American Public Media.
Harold McGee, the author of Keys to Good Cooking, is an expert on the chemistry behind food and cooking. McGee recently made his first trip to China, where he learned more about rice wine.