Saturday, January 12, 2008

Penzey's Blends- My Favorites

Someone recently asked my what Penzey spice blends I could recommend. I thought it was a good question, and I admit that my first thought was that it was Penzeys, how could any of them be bad? I told this person a few of my favorites, but then later on I thought of a few more that I really like. Today I thought I'd talk a little about Penzeys and my favorite blends that they make. I'm lucky enough to have a Penzeys store nearby in Appleton, so I have the luxury of being able to dash in anytime I need a new spice or I've run out of something. If you aren't so lucky, have no fear, Penzeys has an online store where you can fill your cart to your heart's content. I do find that their shipping tends to be on the side of high, but it is extremely prompt, and they always throw in a sample. There's always a free small jar of something tucked inside, and I always appreciate that extra thought.

My first favorite spice blend isn't really a spice at all, rather a salt. Penzeys 4/s Seasoning Salt, to be specific. I use this on just about everything, and it sees use about 50% of the time, the other 50% I opt to use straight up sea salt (also from Penzeys, but not a blend.) This seasoning salt is especially excellent on chicken and pork. The ingredients on the label are coarse sea salt, sugar, ESB black pepper, paprika, onion, turmeric, garlic, spice extractives (including oleoresin of paprika, black pepper, celery, rosemary, thyme)

Next we have Fox Point. It took me a while to get around to try Fox Point. First of all, it's one of the more pricey blends that Penzey's carries, and I was worried that the price wouldn't reflect the flavor inside the jar. Oh, was I mistaken. Fox Point contains salt, shallots, chives, garlic, onion and green peppercorns. It's particularly excellent for eggs in my opinion, as well as chicken and fish. A nice fillet of tilapia needs nothing more than a sprinkling of Fox Point and some lemon juice to be really tasty. I also add Fox Point to a lot of creamy soups where you want just a touch more flavor. Baked potato soup would be glue without Fox Point, and for that matter, anything potato is great with a little Fox Point added to it. I keep meaning to try some oven fries using Fox Point as my seasoning.

One all-purpose seasoning for me is Penzeys Northwoods seasoning. It's simply an all-purpose seasoning that's really good on just about anything. In particular, I think it's excellent on all things pork, and it also adds fantastic flavor to a simple grilled steak. Northwoods Fire is similar, but packs a little heat from some extra chipotle chili. It's also good, but I don't use it as much. Northwoods contains salt, paprika, black pepper, thyme, rosemary, garlic and chipotle. It is also excellent for seasoning fish and chicken, and I've used it with great success on grilled vegetables.

A pepper blend that I've recently discovered is their California Seasoned Pepper. Now this is a great pepper blend. It contains black pepper, red and green bell peppers, granulated garlic, and onion. This is excellent sprinkled on any vegetables, or in scrambled eggs, or sprinkled on a roasted chicken. The added seasonings gives plain old pepper a bit of pep, and really works great in tomato based soups as well.

My favorite classic herb blend that Penzeys carries is their Herbes de Provence. Herbes de Provence is a classic French spice blend that has been used for centuries. I've tried many other blends, and since each one is a bit different, they're not quite the same. I love Penzeys version. Theirs contains French rosemary, thyme, tarragon, basil, savory, fennel, lavender, and marjoram. It's in the perfect proportions, and I absolutely love the slightest hint of lavender I get when I use this. Herbes de Provence is particularly good on chicken, and in places you wouldn't expect, like macaroni and cheese. I also typically use Herbes de Provence any time I make a chicken pot pie.

My new favorite herb blend is their new Tuscan Sunset. This is a salt free blend that is like adding a dash of sunshine to any dish. Tuscan Sunset contains basil, oregano, Aleppo pepper, garlic, thyme, fennel, black pepper and anise. This is good on just about anything. It's awesome for vegetable dishes- in particular, I like it with roasted vegetables. It also adds great flavor to chicken, pork, and while I have yet to try it on fish, I suspect it would be excellent on a firm white fish. I've also added this to meatloaf with great success. As an added bonus, it is salt free, so if you're watching your sodium, it's an excellent choice. If you're not watching your sodium, a pinch of grey salt really makes this blend sing.

To be honest, I have yet to try a blend from Penzeys that I don't care for. Even their basic Italian Herb blend or the Pasta Sprinkle are excellent at times. The Pasta Sprinkle makes a quick pizza sauce when added to crushed tomatoes. The Chicago Steak seasoning has smoke flavor added to it, so that when you like to make a steak in the middle of winter, it has that grilled smokey flavor added to it. The Indian spices I've tried, like Garam Masala and Sweet Curry have served me well when a curry craving strikes. Their chili powders and taco seasonings are pretty good, and I love that they are divided by heat. Their Cajun Seasoning is excellent for when grilling season rolls around, or for adding just a different flavor to a vegetable soup. Overall, you just really can't go wrong with Penzey's spices. Give them a try if you haven't. You won't be disappointed.


Kalyn said...

I love Penzeys, and the Fox Point seasoning sounds like one I must try. I guess my favorites are simple old Poultry Seasoning, pork chop seasoning and Italian Sausage Seasoning (for pasta sauce.) I agree, I don't think I've bought anything from Penzeys I didn't like!

Michelle said...

Another huge Penzey's fan here. I agree about the 4/S Seasoning Salt. I love that stuff, and buy several bottles every time I go in. (I have to drive 45 minutes to get to my store, so I don't go very often.) For a salt-free blend, I love the new-ish Mural of Flavor. It compliments almost everything.

JEP said...

Erika---this was a very helpful post! You are quite knowledgable & I appreciate your insight. So many rave about Penzey's...time for me to go online & order!

Erika W. said...

Kalyn, the only thing I've tried that I wasn't thrilled with was the Greek Seasoning- it was okay, it just didn't give the flavor punch I expected from it.

Michelle, I haven't tried the Mural of Flavor yet, I'll have to make a trip to the store to check it out.

Careful Jep! It's terribly addictive!

Robyn said...

I concur with the Tuscan Sunset recommendation, it's my new favorite! And I'm also enjoying my recently purchased Mural of Flavor so definitely pick some of that up. I like being able to control my salt while adding lots of flavor with the salt-free blends.

Erika W. said...

Well I guess I'll definitely have to check out the Mural of Flavor then! Thanks Robyn!

Deborah said...

I love Penzy's. I found them completely by accident last year. My first trip, I only let myself buy one thing - and I decided on the Singapore Seasoning, since we had just gone out for an Indian lunch, and it's made up of tumeric, cumin, coriander, and more.

OH MY GOSH. This seasoning is awesome. I have since been back many times - I've found they are actually cheaper and of a better quality than my local grocery (Publix and/or Walmart).

I'm a convert!

Erika W. said...

Isn't that crazy Deborah that it works out much cheaper to shop at Penzeys? During pickling and harvest season I buy my bulk spices from there for doing so, and always feel like I'm walking away with something for nothing.