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Mad About Spices

  • Grilling Tandoori Dishes at Home

    Of all the splendid flavors found in the cuisines of India, tandoori dishes are among our very favorites. Yet the word “tandoori” itself does not refer to any specific flavor or ingredient — it’s derived from “tandoor,” an Indian name for the kiln-like earth oven found in many Asian, Middle Eastern and North African countries. Continue reading

  • Blending the Curry

    After the curry spice formulas are meticulously researched and developed, the blending process begins.

    The blending of curry spice is a complex procedure since most curry blends have many ingredients. Each one of the spices undergoes a different processing prior to grinding. For example: Our curry leaves are bought fresh from the Indian Market. We let them dry outdoor in the shade, and once they are dried then they're ready to be ground. Our mild chilies, from California and New Mexico, are hand cleaned (seeded and stemmed) and this process is done to ensure 100% flavor of the chili since the stems and seeds can diminish the taste leaving it very bitter. Our cumin, cardamom, chilies and coriander are roasted over an Indian wok and then ground into a fine powder. Continue reading

  • The Exotic World of Curry General Introduction

    Mention curry and images of exotic, spicy food comes to mind. In fact, curried dishes are so popular that there are books written about its amazingly, rich history. So it is my pleasure to feature several articles about the origins of popular authentic curried dishes and creative ways for you to use curry in your cooking. Continue reading

  • Curry For Beginners

    For years, when people wanted to cook up a curry dish, the only spice available was the basic yellow curry seasoning at the supermarket. Although this type of curry spice was interesting to cook with which gave the food an exotic aroma and appearance, some had felt that the spice overwhelmed the palette, leaving them with a feeling that perhaps curry was not for them. Or there simply wasn't an alternative available at the time. Yet, what people didn't realize is that the vibrant yellow color was derived from turmeric, which can definitely overpower the senses if it isn't used in the right quantity. Continue reading

  • The Spice Infusion

    Making your own culinary infused oils can be a very creative and inexpensive activity to do, especially if you are into spices and herbs. I recently wrote an article about my mothers paprika oil that she always made at home. Growing up with this beautiful, red-hued oil was something that I became used to seeing on-hand at all of our meals.

    Now, you can walk down the aisles of most supermarkets and specialty food stores and see various blends of oils from garlic to red-hot chili peppers, from basil to thyme, et al. These infused oils make great bases for salad dressings, sauces, and marinades, as well as enhance the flavor and appearance to any dish. Not only are they great to cook with, they also make the perfect gift or basket stuffer for special occasions.

    However, with the growing popularity of culinary oils, most of them can be quite expensive to buy on a regular basis. So why sacrifice your predilection for good taste when you can cut costs and be as creative as you wish? Continue reading

  • Spring Into Action

    Spring is here and with it comes fresh ideas and new beginnings. It is the perfect time to try out some new recipe ideas that will create a lasting culinary impression on your family and friends. An easy way of turning a simple dish into something great is by using some very unique flavored sea salt that will add a whole lot of flavor to your roasted meat, fish vegetables and even desserts! At Whole Spice we blend our sea salt fresh at the warehouse. Here are some of my favorite blends of flavored sea salts that I use for holiday cooking:

    Fennel Sea Salt(Fleur de sel) - A blend of fennel pollen and sea salt Continue reading

  • Layers of Flavor with Powdered Mushrooms and More

    When we first opened our Napa shop in 2008, we had hundreds of herbs and spices for sale — including garlic and dozens of chilis — but no garden vegetables to speak of. Dried bell peppers, carrots, celery and other veggies weren’t originally on our radar until our customers, including professional chefs, began asking us for them.
    So we set to work, sourcing the best and freshest ingredients until we had a rainbow of colorful vegetables in granulated and powdered forms: sundried tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, several types of onion and many more.

    Continue reading

  • Make Mine Methi: Fenugreek

    A member of the bean family, fenugreek is a plant that yields both seeds and leaves (called methi) for cooking. Long grown in Western Asia and the Mediterranean, fenugreek is now cultivated worldwide, including the United States.

    The slightly bitter flavor and sweet smell of fenugreek seeds and methi leaves can be found in many curries and spice blends, such as Ethiopian Berbere and Panch Phoron, a Bengali five-spice blend.

    Fenugreek's hard, nutty seed is rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, making it a healthy addition to meals. Type 2 diabetics, in particular, may benefit from fenugreek: Clinical studies have shown that consuming the powdered seeds can lower blood sugar. Powdered fenugreek has also been shown to lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol and triglycerides. Continue reading

  • Spicy Passover

    This past Friday we celebrated Passover with our family and friends. Our house was filled with people and with the unmistakable fragrances of turmeric and cumin along with other aromatic spices. It was heartwarming for us to continue the Passover tradition with our family and impart what we have learned from our childhood to our children. And one day, when they have their own families, they, too, will be able to pass on the Seder tradition. Continue reading

  • Make Your Own Cinnamon Syrup

    Customers at our Napa shop sometimes ask us why we carry cinnamon chips, as well as the more familiar powdered and quilled (“stick”) cinnamon. This week’s recipes are part of the answer — but first, a little bit about where we get this magnificent spice.

    Basically, cinnamon is tree bark — the most delicious tree bark in the world. Both Ceylon “true” cinnamon and its widely-used cousin, Cassia cinnamon, are harvested from trees in the Cinnamomum family. The bark of Ceylon cinnamon is more delicate than that of Cassia, which provides sturdier quills for cinnamon sticks. But when chipped or powdered, they both are bursting with cinnamon flavor and fragrance.

    Our favorite of all is Saigon cinnamon: It’s the strongest Ceylon cinnamon available in America today, and we think it has the richest flavor as well. Continue reading

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