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  • Turkish Coffee

    The Turkish tasted their first coffee in the 16th century, dubbing it "the milk of chess players and thinkers." Continue reading

  • Exotic Baharat

    In most Arab cuisines, you will taste an intensely flavorful spice mixture called baharat which in Arabic simply means spice. This aromatic blend is widely used in recipes in the Arabian Gulf States as a meat rub or marinade. The ingredients can vary according to different regions, but it usually contains warm, hot and sweet spices with resinous herbs. The most common blend includes black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, nutmeg and paprika.

    A few fabulous way to use baharat would be to add it to soups, stews and/or sauces. I like using baharat when making rice dishes and sometimes just as a table condiment.
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  • Mulling Spices

    I will miss the summer months with all the crazy fun activities that my family and I have enjoyed; but, on the other hand, I am looking forward to some chilly days with a cup of mulled wine.

    Mulling is another way of saying to heat, sweeten, and flavor with spices as in mulled wine or cider. As far as I know, the concept of mulling began in Europe. They would combine certain spices in their drink recipes to spice things up a bit. What is a typical mulling spice blend today would be a combination of cinnamon, cloves, allspice, cardamom, perhaps a bit of orange citrus peel, or on occasion, a dash of peppercorn, or star anise. I have heard that back in the good old days some recipes even added raisins to the mixture.
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  • Cardamom: The Queen of Spices

    This exotic spice has an intoxicating, rich aroma with complex flavors of sweet floral notes, camphor, lemon, mint and a hint of pepper. Cardamom is the dried seed pod of an herbaceous perennial plant in the ginger family and is native to India, Bhutan and Nepal. Inside the pod, the seeds are grouped in clusters with a sticky resin-like coating; this is an indication of certain freshness.

    There are three varieties of cardamom with the two main types being the black and green pods and the white cardamom, which is simply bleached green cardamom. This process of bleaching softens the dominance of the menthol note giving the white pod a sweet and pleasant flavor. In some European countries, specifically Scandinavia, the white cardamom is the preferred style found in most of their baked goods.

    Black cardamom has a totally different flavor than the popular green pods. When the pods are dried, they turn black which gives them a prominent smoky characteristic with strong peppery overtones. It is one of the essential ingredients in North Indian curries. Black cardamom has even made its way as a primary ingredient in certain fusion cuisines like Indian-Chinese Sichuanese red-cooked dishes. It also works very well in bitter foods that require extended cooking, such as collard greens. Just by adding a few pods to rice or lentils during the cooking process can heighten the flavor of these simple dishes to something quite interesting. Sometimes I like to use cardamom when making a dry rub for meat, or as an ingredient in sauces. 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

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