Monthly Archives: October 2012

Secret to the Spice(s) of Life – Part IV

There are so many delicious and aromatic spices how do you know what to use?  Here are some recommendations that bring the world’s richest flavors and aromas to your kitchen, and simple ways to use them to make your meals a bit more magical.

1. Cayenne.  Hot chili peppers dried and ground into a powder make this spice a winner.  Cayenne is more spicy than generic chili powder and should be used when a definite kick is desired.  Combine cayenne with lemon juice to counter the bitter taste of some of the dark green leafy vegetables like Kale.

2.  Cumin.  Seeds of a parsley-like herb.  Cumin is common in Indian and Mexican cuisine.  Try mixing cumin in when sauteing onions and garlic.

3.  Curry Powder.  A blend of several spices including cumin, coriander, and turmeric.  Try toasting curry powder in a dry hot skillet before seasoning food.  Curry powder adds a nice spark to omelets.

4.  Saffron.  Made from stigmas from purple crocus.  Same type of structure that stains your hands when you pick Stargazer lily’s.  Don’t eat those stigma’s though.  It is best to “bloom” the flavor in oil or simmer liquid before adding to a recipe.  Try an excellent fish marinade with saffron, thyme, garlic and vinegar.

5.  Tumeric.  The rhizome of a plant related to ginger.  The deep yellow color adds beautiful color to food.  Use Tumeric on roasted cauliflower to neutralize the cabbage-like notes.

Experiment and enjoy the spices of life!

 

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Secrets to the Spice(s) of Life – Part III

There are so many delicious and aromatic spices how do you know what to use?  Here are some recommendations that bring the world’s richest flavors and aromas to your kitchen, and simple ways to use them to make your meals a bit more magical.

1.  Cardamom.  Pods and seeds from plant grown in India and Central America.  You can lightly crush the pods over rice or quinoa or any other grain.  Try toasting the seeds and using them in cooking.  Try replacing Cinnamon with Cardamom in breads and desserts for an earthier taste.

2.  Cloves.  The dried unopened buds of an evergreen tree are used to make this wonderful spice that has a kick.  Why is that?  Cloves have both a sweet and heat component.  Pin cloves to an onion to simmer and make a delicious broth.

3.  Peppercorns.  The berries of a vine from Asia and Brazil, picked at different stages of ripeness.  Black corns are the spiciest while white corns are the most mild.  Scatter them over poached pears for an unusual contrast between sweet and heat.  Yummy.

4.  Star Anise.  The star shaped seedpods of a Chinese evergreen.  This spice does have a similar licorice flavor as that of Anise, but they are no relation!  Add to tomato sauce for a spunky basil like flavor.  Add to spicy chili and enjoy the unexpected sweet notes.

Who knew you could have so much fun and add so much depth to your everyday recipes?

Secrets to the Spice(s) of life – Part II

There are so many delicious and aromatic spices how do you know what to use?  Here are some recommendations that bring the world’s richest flavors and aromas to your kitchen, and simple ways to use them to make your meals a bit more magical.

1.  Allspice.  This is not a blend as commonly thought, but the dried fruit unique to a tree that grows in Jamaica.  This is the major spice in jerk seasonings, it provides the heat in many rubs for grilled meats.  Sprinkle a little into baked goods made with apples to kick up the flavor a notch or two.

2.  Cinnamon.  Did you know this was the bark of a tree?  Yesiree…it’s rolled into sticks or powdered.  Cinnamon adds a hint of sweetness to savory dishes.  Especially great when adding a dash to veggies before roasting them.

3.  Ginger.  This knobby little root grows in Jamaica, India, China, and Africa.  You can add it at the beginning of cooking for a more mild taste or at the end for stronger flavor.  Use ginger to balance the sweetness of vegetables like beets with its subtle warmth.

4.  Smoked Paprika.  Peppers, often pimentos, are smoked, dried and ground to make smoked paprika.  Always be sure to get smoked as the regular paprika only adds color, not much flavor.  Try with any bean dish as its smokey flavor reminds us of bacon, without the bacon.

Be adventurous and try some new spices this week with dinner!

Secrets to the Spice(s) of Life – Part I

Guess what? Eating “spicy” food does not mean your mouth is going to burst into flames. It means you will be lucky enough to enjoy a meal that is bursting with flavor. The key to success is using some essential spices when you cook, and here are some tips to live by.

0. Spices are made from the dried fruit, seeds, roots, stems, or bark of tropical plants.

0. The most convenient way to use spices is pre-ground and bottled.

0. Keep them whole. Spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and coriander are available in their whole form and can be ground up, zested with a grater, or slow-cooked whole in savory dished or mulled drinks. Experiment and be brave.

0. Only buy the amount you would use in three months; keeping a larger supply will reduce the flavor profile and just doesn’t work as well!

0. Save the flavor by storing your spices in an airtight container in a cool dry place away from heat and light – NEVER right next to the stove. NO NO. Spices can also be frozen to preserve their flavor.

0. Use sparingly. Many spices are quite potent so go slow at first…you can always add more as the cooking process continues.

0. Spice flavors blossom as you cook, so wait a bit before the taste test, especially if you are going to add more.

Next time you are shopping at the market peruse the spice aisle and treat yourself to a spice you have never used before but always wanted to try. Have some fun.