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Mad About Spices

  • Holiday Meals With A Twist

    DSC_5156

    For making holiday meals with a twist, I plan on using several of our popular artisan flavored salts: Fleur de Sel al Pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika), Truffle Sea Salt, Smoked Alderwood Sea Salt, and Smoked Hickory Sea Salt.
    A few of my favorites are fleur de sel al pimenton which is made from dried smoked peppers and pure sea salt that is used in many Spanish dishes, especially for making great tapas, such as patatas bravas, calamari fritas, and the famous aioli sauce, which is made from mayonnaise, garlic and smoked paprika. Continue reading

  • A Symphony of Spices

    I can give you a few good reasons why I am always excited about the fall season hot apple cider, mulled wine, apple pie, pumpkins and the promise of traditional holiday feasts. And now that were into autumn, I am challenging myself to be as creative as possible by experimenting with some new recipes. Although, I can say that challenge is the key word here, in that what I baked the other day was a disaster. I should put out a disaster cake recipe, but I'm sure my readers would avoid it like the plague. So, I'm sticking to what I know how to do best, and that is using traditional spices and making traditional recipes that work.

    Since there are so many holiday spices to list, I decided to write about the ones that I mostly use when baking. Continue reading

  • A Pomegranate A Day!

    A favorite time of year for me is the early harvest season when the produce sections of markets are deluged with seasonal fruit, vegetables and nuts. And there is one particular fruit that we are extremely in deep-like with and that is the pomegranate.

    The pomegranate is as rich in its 4000 year old history as it is in texture, color and flavor. In ancient civilizations, the pomegranate has come to symbolize many things from abundance to prosperity to inspiring mythical lore, but one thing for certain is that the pomegranate is one of natures finest works of art. Continue reading

  • Ramekins Spice Tasting & Cooking Demonstration

    Flyer announcing our invitation to demonstrate & cook at Ramekins in Sonoma, Ca.
    Spice Samples

     

    Shuli and I were invited to a cooking class at Ramekins Culinary Institution in Sonoma, CA. to introduce certain spice blends that are uncommon in the US. We had a great time, and it looked as though the participants were enjoying themselves as well. We put out over a dozen samples of some of the most exotic and unique seasoning blends that we produce at our spice plant in Petaluma. We had fun!

    Ramekin Chef Ambassadors, Shuli & Ronit Madmone
    We featured over a dozen spice blends samples for the class
    Continue reading

  • The Good Sumac

    The varied cuisine of the Middle East has garnered worldwide recognition for its exceptional flavors of aromatic herbs and spices; and is also considered to be some of the healthiest food to consume.

    Most dishes are grilled or baked rather than fried, and use olive oil in place of fatty butter and lard. And knowing just how much spice and herbs to use, and what kind, comes from an innate sense of skill and knowledge that was handed-down from generation to generation.

    One particular spice that is most common in Middle Eastern recipes, and is one of my favorites, is sumac. This pungent spice is made of dried, crushed red berries from the sumac bush (not to be confused with the poisonous sumac plant which is similar to poison ivy). The sumac bushes grow in the wild all across the Mediterranean region and in parts of the Middle East. The poisonous sumac plant grows almost everywhere in the United States, except Hawaii, Alaska, and some desert areas in the southwest. The poisonous variety has smooth leaves and spaced out white berries, whereas the edible sumac has tightly clustered red berries with jagged leaves. Continue reading

  • A Saucy Journey

    Some of the most famous culinary dishes in the world are made with sauces without them, the dish wouldnt exist. For example, Eggs Benedict wouldn't be Eggs Benedict without the Hollandaise sauce, and the classic lasagna and moussaka dishes wouldn't be the same without the renowned bchamel sauce. But a sauce doesn't just have to be thick and creamy; it can also be spicy like the sassy Mexican salsas and pesto sauces.

    IMHO, a sauce is as fundamental to great cuisine as is the preparation. So I decided to take you on a cyber trip around the world to visit a few countries to discover some of the unique sauces used in cooking. Continue reading

  • You Say Tomato I Say Tomahto

    Tomatoes come in all sizes and shapes the Beefsteak variety, Oxheart, Plum, Pear, Cherry, Grape or Campari, to name a few. And of course, there are hundreds of ways that tomatoes can be eaten, but mostly the tomato can be consumed raw, or cooked (as in sauces), or as a beverage. Wow! Talk about your all around food.

    Some researchers believe that the word tomato may have come from the ancient Aztecan word for tomatl meaning the swelling fruit -- and in botanical terms, the tomato is considered a fruit. After the Spanish explorers brought tomato seeds from Mexico back to Spain, the seeds had spread throughout Europe and as far as southeast Asia -- the rest, as they say, is history. A big "thank you" to those fearless explorers for introducing that part of the world to the tomato -- otherwise we would never have enjoyed such a romantic love affair with the classic Italian pasta sauces or the rich Bouillabaisse of France. Continue reading

  • Burger Paradise

    The all American hamburger is a national treasure -- a juicy, beef patty, sandwiched between two fluffy, buns topped with mustard and mayonnaise, some lettuce, cheese, and tomato . . . and you are in burger paradise.

    Even though the hamburger derived its nomenclature from Hamburg, Germany, it took the Americans to evolve the burger into becoming the worlds most popular pleasure food. With literally hundreds of upscale restaurants and major burger chains offering up a wide variety of the most unique burgers to choose from, its no small wonder that the burger has earned its renowned popularity. Continue reading

  • Tagine Treasure of the Desert

    The nomadic tribes of North Africa have been traveling across deserts and mountainous terrain for centuries, setting up camp and using tagine (or tajine) pots as portable cauldrons for cooking stews over an open-fire pit. The method might have been slow, but the meal was an all-in-one feast, much like a modern-day crockpot -- for these desert peoples, it was a matter of survival.

    Tagine derives its culinary name from countries such as Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. These North African countries have a rich culture steeped in Arab, Berber, European and other African influences -- specifically the tagine pots, which are as significant to their cookery as a wok is to Asian cuisine. Continue reading

  • The School Project

    A week ago, Shuli and I had participated as volunteers at our sons school. This joint effort involved students from Kindergarten through the third grade.We had the great pleasure of demonstrating how various spices were used in ancient times as dyes and for cooking. Each child was given the opportunity to dye a muslim bag with turmeric,choose from a large array of spices to make their own Havdalah mix, and use a mortar and pestle to grind spices for making Israel's famous za'atar spice blend.The children sprinkled the za'atar mixture over sour cream and olive oil and it was served to the entire school as an accompaniment to their delicious school lunch, much of which was prepared by the students on-site .

    The following day when the muslin bags had dried, the Kindergartners filled the bags with their spice blends making their own b'samim bags (same as potpourri bag) for Havdalah, which is a Jewish religious ceremony that marks the symbolic end of Shabbat and holidays ushering in the new week. The ceremony is usually celebrated at home with family and friends and includes three blessings: over wine, spices, and lighted candles. Continue reading

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