This is the second in a two-part series about spices and global cuisines.
Spices flavor and enhance the foods we eat.
They can be the difference between s'alright and scrumptious, taking foods from meh to marvelous. In some dishes they are the je ne sais quoi that's missing when re-creating meals enjoyed on vacation or from our childhoods or favorite restaurants.
Almost everything can benefit from the addition of a spice or two — from a pinch of cinnamon in pound cake; a sprinkle of chile flakes on sliced avocado; a smattering of caraway seeds in a pan of braised cabbage.
But cooking with a new-to-you spice or spice blend can be a bit befuddling.
How much to use? When to add it? And does it really go well with anything?
In most recipes you can add ¼ to ½ teaspoon of almost any given spice and it won't overpower or ruin the dish. If you like the results, try adding more. If you don't, try something different next time.
Most whole spices benefit from toasting — especially cumin, coriander, fennel and cardamom. Toasting brings out some flavors while mellowing others. Some spices will be less "spicy" after toasting, while others will simply taste different.
To toast whole spices, heat a small skillet over medium low heat, add the desired spices and cook, stirring or shaking almost constantly, until the spices are fragrant. Keep a close eye on the heat — they will burn quickly. Immediately transfer the spice to a bowl or plate to stop the cooking.
Last week's story outlined our dozen or so essential spices — allspice, bay leaf, cardamom, chile, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, fennel, oregano, paprika, turmeric, anise seed, caraway, saffron, sumac, star anise — and included recipes for common spice blends from various cuisines from around the world.
The following recipes make use of those spice blends and serve as good introductory recipes for those looking to expand their global palates.
Piercing chicken breasts or thighs with a sharp knife then marinating the chicken in a bath of lemon, heavy cream and warm spices gives this chicken dish a silky texture and warm, fragrant flavor.
1 ¼ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
¼ cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon garam masala, plus more for sprinkling
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne), plus more for sprinkling
¼ teaspoon ground roasted/toasted cumin, plus more for sprinkling
½ teaspoon paprika
1 clove garlic, peeled and mashed to pulp
½ teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
Ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried mint flakes
Heat oven to 500 degrees. Line a shallow baking pan with aluminum foil; set aside.
Using a sharp knife, cut three deep pockets in each chicken breast or thigh being careful not to cut all the way through or to the edges. Using the tip of the knife, prick the flesh all over. Place the chicken pieces in a single layer in a shallow bowl.
Cut the lemon in half and squeeze 2 tablespoons of the juice over the chicken pieces. Sprinkle with about ½ teaspoon salt. Let stand for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, ½ teaspoon garam masala, the ¼ teaspoon cayenne, the ¼ teaspoon cumin, the paprika, the garlic and ginger.
Pour the cream-garam masala mixture over the chicken and turn pieces to coat in marinade. Let stand 10 minutes.
Transfer chicken pieces to the foil-lined pan, arranging them in a single layer. Sprinkle each piece with a little salt, black pepper, garam masala, cumin, cayenne and mint. Squeeze the remaining lemon juice over the chicken. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
Serve immediately with vegetable and rice.
Makes 2 to 4 servings.
Recipe adapted from Quick and Easy Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey
Moroccan ras el hanout (Arabic for head of the shop or top shelf) warmly spices this dense, sweet citrus cake that is topped with a date syrup made with star anise, cardamom and cinnamon.
Date, Orange and Olive Oil Cake
½ cup panko OR crushed rice cereal such as Rice Chex
1 ½ cups almond meal/flour
1 ⅓ cups granulated sugar, divided use
1 teaspoon ras el hanout
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon, divided use
Zest and juice of 1 orange, divided use
6 medjool dates, pitted
1 cinnamon stick
8 to 10 cardamom pods
2 star anise
Line an 8- or 9-inch loaf pan with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk the panko or crushed rice cereal, almond meal, 1 cup of the sugar, the ras el hanout and baking powder.
In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, olive oil and lemon and orange zests. Fold egg mixture into the almond flour mixture.
Pour mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Place pan in oven and heat oven to 340 degrees. Bake 45 minutes or until cake is golden brown.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the remaining sugar, the lemon and orange juices, the dates, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and star anise. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes.
Remove cake from oven and using a skewer, pierce the hot cake all over. Drizzle the spiced syrup over the cake. Serve warm.
Makes 8 servings.
Recipe adapted from East/West: A Culinary Journey Through Malta, Lebanon, Iran, Turkey, Morocco and Andalusia by Shane Delia
Za'atar — a blend of thyme, sesame seeds, sumac and oregano — gives this flatbread a bright, tangy, herbal flavor. It is delicious warm or at room temperature, enjoyed with humus, labneh or alone.
Flatbread With Za'atar
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for dusting
1 scant tablespoon active dry yeast
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon sugar
⅔ cup plain full-fat yogurt (I used Greek-style, but regular is fine)
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
5 tablespoons lukewarm water (100 degrees), or more as needed
5 tablespoons za'atar (purchased or homemade)
Combine the flour, yeast, salt and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough-hook attachment, or, if you are kneading by hand, combine in a large mixing bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt and 3 tablespoons of oil.
Add half of the warm water to the flour mixture, then add the yogurt-olive oil mixture.
Knead the dough on medium speed for 5 to 15 minutes (or longer by hand), to form a dough that is smooth, silky and pliable. If it looks a little dry or does not come together, add the remaining water a little at a time. Give the ball of dough a firm poke with your finger and, if the indentation that you make fills quickly, it's done. If the dent stays, then continue kneading.
Lightly coat dough ball with olive oil and place in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.
In a small bowl, stir together the za'atar and the remaining 5 tablespoons olive oil.
Punch down dough and divide it into 8 equal pieces.
Using a rolling pin or your hands, on a lightly floured surface gently shape each piece into a 6-inch round about ¼-inch thick. Cover with a clean, damp dish towel and let it rest for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, place a pizza stone or heavy baking sheet in the oven; heat to 450 degrees.
When you are ready to bake, brush the za'atar oil over each disk of dough.
Working in batches as needed, place the dough rounds on the hot stone or sheet. Bake for 3 to 5 minutes until puffy and just beginning to turn golden around the edges. Transfer cooked rounds to a rack and repeat with remaining dough.
Makes 8 (6-inch) rounds.
Recipe adapted from Zaitoun: Recipes From the Palestinian Kitchen by Yasmin Khan via The Washington Post
This simplified Chinese barbecue recipe is adapted from Spice Spice Baby: 100 Recipes With Healing Spices for Your Family Table by Kanchan Koya.
"As expats in Hong Kong, my son's favorite dish was char siu bao -- sweet, salty and sticky barbecued pork wrapped in a light and fluffy bun and steamed to perfection. I created this easy version to make at home that satisfies him just the same," Koya writes.
Warning: Star anise — which tastes strongly of licorice — is the dominant flavor here. If you don't like licorice, you probably won't like this dish.
Easy Char Siu Pork
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon Hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice blend
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 pork tenderloin (see note)
In a bowl, whisk together the garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, Hoisin sauce, vinegar, Chinese five spice and brown sugar.
Place pork in a zip-close storage bag and pour in marinade. Seal bag and refrigerate 6 to 12 hours.
Remove pork from refrigerator and let come to room temperature while the oven heats to 350 degrees.
Place pork on a parchment lined roasting pan, reserving the marinade. Roast pork, brushing with the reserved marinade every 10 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees, about 30 minutes.
Heat broiler or increase oven temperature to 500 degrees. Brush pork with marinade one final time and broil 1 to 2 minutes or until golden brown.
Tent with foil and let pork rest 10 minutes before slicing.
Makes about 4 servings.
Note: For a more traditional version, use pork shoulder instead of pork tenderloin. Cut the shoulder into 3 inch thick strips before marinating. Increase the cooking time as necessary.
These spicy beef kebabs are popular street food in west Africa, especially Nigeria and Ghana.
(Spicy Beef Kebabs)
1 pound thin beef sirloin
Vegetable oil, as needed
About 1 cup Suya Spice Mix, or to taste
Bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 20 minutes
Sliced onions and tomatoes, for serving
Heat oven to 450 degrees or prepare a grill for high heat.
Pat the beef dry with paper towels. Cut beef diagonally into thin strips.
Rub beef with vegetable oil, then coat each piece evenly with Suya Spice Mix.
Thread beef onto the soaked skewers.
To roast: Place the skewers on a baking sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, turning occasionally.
To grill: Place skewers directly on the grill grate. Grill 10 to 15 minutes, turning occasionally.
Serve with sliced onions and tomatoes.
Makes about 4 servings.
Recipe adapted from Flavors of Africa by Evi Aki
This zesty sauce is delicious with steak or chicken or tossed sturdy salad greens.
Patagonian Pebre Sauce With Merken
3 medium plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and very finely chopped
1 small onion, diced
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro OR parsley, or to taste
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup red-wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Merken spice blend OR 1 ½ teaspoons smoked sweet paprika PLUS ½ teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. The sauce will keep tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to a week. Serve at room temperature.
Makes about 2 cups.
Recipe adapted from Gran Cocina Latina by Maricel E. Presilla
Food on 03/13/2019
Print Headline: Spice world