If there is one thing that will make a sudden and noticeable change in the quality of your cooking, it would be using whole spices and grinding them yourself. The payoff in flavor is well worth the extra two or three minutes it takes to do this, and you’ll find that it’s fun to create your own spice blends. Curries, masalas, dry rubs, and other mixes are easy to adapt to your wishes, so it’s totally acceptable to find a recipe that looks good to you and then tweak it. This is just one version of garam masala that I make (I make it specifically for a tomato soup my family loves), and I usually make it with a couple of dried chiles ground in, but since I’m still nightshade-free, I’ve omitted them here.
Garam Masala (Chile-Free)
Special equipment: a coffee grinder or spice grinder.
3 Tablespoons coriander seed
3 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks, broken into a few pieces
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons cloves
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 teaspoons green peppercorns
2 teaspoons green cardamom pods
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1. Place all ingredients except for the ginger powder into a dry skillet. Set over medium heat and toast until fragrant. Remove the spices to a bowl and allow them to cool for a few minutes, then add to a spice grinder or coffee grinder with the ginger. Buzz the spices in the grinder until powdered. Store in a resealable jar.