The Spice Rack– or spice shelf– in our kitchen is among the one-of-a-kind items around our house that I love most. Visitors often notice and remark on how cool and unique and handy it is. I take their compliments as such, although 20MinuteJim tends to interpret their remarks as comments on our home’s eccentricities. Once a friend summed up our home’s “style” as comfortable and lived-in. Later when I mentioned the conversation to Jim, I emphasized the comfortable part: what higher compliment that than someone should feel completely comfortable in my home? Jim thought the lived-in part was most telling, noting that our home is slightly worn about the edges.
On to the spice rack: when we lived in the top two floors in a flat in a house in the Big City, Jim decided we needed to have a spice rack to hang on the wall of our little kitchen and that he could make one to meet our specs. We were city-dwellers back then in our dinky apartment with two small children and one (seriously, one) closet. Did we even have a toolbox? I don’t know. Maybe we had a shoebox with a hammer, a screwdriver, a little saw, and a box of nails. And a piece of sandpaper. When our landlady had some repairs done to our third-floor deck, Jim saw his opportunity to scavenge some free wood for his project.
I should note that the wood was not in good shape by the time it fell into Jim’s hands. It was old, faded deck wood — some with cracks, it was being taken down as unsafe, remember — long ago stained a outdoorsy red. With imagination and initiative, Jim cut and assembled a pleasing three shelf spice rack with 3-4-5 proportions. He painted it with odds and ends from around the apartment, and it turned out great, in my opinion. The spice rack has been hanging in our kitchens — wherever we have been — for the last 22+ years, and it’s likely going to be one of the things the kids will fight over after we die.
Our spice rack is populated mostly with recycled glass jam jars in a slender style. There’s some variation of manufacturer reflected over the years so all the jars aren’t the same size and shape, but they are close. For many years, our herb and spice jars sported taped-on hand-lettered labels, which tended to fade or stain over time. Then we picked up a label maker in the midst of getting-things-done; within the last year, our spice labels have been upgraded to clear and legible, as well as wipe-able.
We buy most of our spices in bulk, usually from the People’s Food Co-op, of which we have been proud member-owners since 1982! The prices are good, we can buy however much we need, and the variety and freshness of herbs and spices is wonderful.
I love our spice rack. I love looking at the spices and herbs displayed on the shelves. I love grabbing a jar or two whilst I’m cooking and making the kitchen smell good. Jim tends to look at the spice rack and, even while admiring its ingenuity and proportions, he ponders the ways it could have been better. Those are also things I love about Jim: his ability to create wonderful things and at the same time maintain his critical edge.
Today I used a lot of spices from the spice rack because I wanted to make this recipe for Curried Rhubarb Chicken the minute I read the headline on annarbor.com. I’m excited about the possibilities for using rhubarb in more recipes, especially savory ones. Because I’m a hands-on, mess-with-the-recipe, spice-loving cook, my version follows below. For a milder version, reduce the spices or view the original recipe.
Curried Rhubarb Chicken
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon + 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 cayenne pepper
1 small onion, halved, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound rhubarb, trimmed, cut into 1/2” pieces
juice of 1 orange or 1/4 cup orange juice
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1 lb boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 325F.
In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, coriander, turmeric, cumin, ginger, curry powder and cayenne; sauté 1 minute. Add onion and garlic and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion and garlic softens. Add rhubarb, orange juice, brown sugar and 1/2 cup water; cover and cook 10 minutes. Stir, then re-cover and cook 10 more minutes until rhubarb has broken down into a sauce.
Meanwhile, season the chicken strips and place on a baking sheet. Bake until no longer pink while the sauce is cooking, about 15 minutes. Place chicken into a greased 9”x13” baking dish, and pour rhubarb sauce over it.
Place baking dish into the oven and bake chicken for 25-30 minutes.
Serve over rice. We used brown rice.
Place the rice onto a serving platter and place the chicken on top. Pour the sauce over, and serve immediately.
Curried Rhubarb Chicken was a really good dinner, if I do say so myself. I’m planning to make 3 or 4 batches of the curried rhubarb sauce to freeze for future meals.