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Spice World

Not this one:

This one:

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If you’ve cooked recipes from my blog or my cookbook Well Fed, you know I’m quite smitten with spices. Where would we be without Ras el Hanout, Turkish Baharat, Kebab Spice Mix, and Rogan Josh?! I’ve written extensively about my spice collection, weighed in on herbs vs. spices, shared my pilgrimages to Penzeys and the Savory Spice Shop, and declare proudly everywhere I can that cumin is my favorite spice.

A story in today’s New York Times magazine perfectly captures the alluring mystery of spices.  “The Transformational Power of the Right Spice” by Alex Halberstadt is a profile of “spice therapist” Lior Lev Sercarz and his shop La Boîte, which is “wedged between an auto-repair garage and a dismal fenced-in garden on the far west side of Midtown Manhattan.”

I learned two things from this beautifully-written piece:
1. I clearly need to visit La Boîte as soon as possible. (For now, I’m reading the book The Art of Blending.)
2. I’m 100% correct in my belief that spices are mystical and magical.

Here’s a tasty tidbit for you; I encourage you to read the entire article.

When I wondered out loud about how much spices could really matter — weren’t they a mere flourish after the difficult work of cooking was completed? — Lev Sercarz invited me for a demonstration in his home kitchen. There, he seared filet mignon coated with Pierre Poivre (La Boîte Blend No. 7, with eight varieties of pepper); imagine an IMAX version of steak au poivre, the meat tasting the way neon looks. Then he did the same with Kibbeh (Blend No. 15, mostly cumin, garlic and parsley), and I could have sworn I was eating lamb: the mild tenderloin had turned gamy. That’s cumin, Lev Sercarz explained, which the palate tends to associate with lamb. Next he cooked a cube of salmon in olive oil infused with Ararat (Blend No. 35, with smoked paprika, Urfa chilies and fenugreek leaves), transforming it into something I would have guessed, with eyes closed, to be pork belly. That, he said, was the smoke. Spices, I was learning, not only behave as intensifiers and complicators but also, in the right hands, can redraw the boundaries of flavor and confound the brain. For the finale, Lev Sercarz dropped a pinch of Mishmish (Blend No. 33, with crystallized honey, lemon zest and saffron) into the bottom of a glass and covered it with an inch of lager. The bitterness and hoppy flavors were gone — the beer smelled and tasted like a gingerbread milkshake.

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A small gift for you to celebrate spices… my sugar-free Italian Sausage Seasoning recipe from Well Fed. Mange!

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Italian Sausage Seasoning

Ingredients:
4 teaspoons dried parsley
1 tablespoon dried Italian Herb Mix (I like Penzeys.)
1/2 tablespoon fennel seed
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons coarse (granulated) garlic powder
2 teaspoons paprika (sweet or hot)
4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

Directions:
In a medium bowl, crush the dried parsley and Italian herbs with your fingers to release their flavor.

Add the fennel seed, black pepper, garlic powder, paprika, salt, and red pepper flakes. Mix with a fork and transfer to an airtight container for storage.

Use 1-2 tablespoons of Italian Sausage Seasoning per pound of ground meat. If you like it smokin’ hot, increase the paprika and red pepper flakes by about half.

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29 Responses to “Spice World”

  1. [...] Clothes Make The Girl / Posted on: April 07, 2013 The Clothes Make The Girl – Not this one: This one: If you’ve cooked recipes from my blog or my cookbook Well [...]

  2. Julie says:

    Magic is the right word. It describes the first time I had tandoori chicken way back in college. One could call me a flavor virgin. I recently made a meatloaf with your ras el hanout blend. It smelled good in the jar, but once it hit the pan of veggies it was amazing. Now I get to have it every day for lunch. Recipes for spice blends is incredibly helpful for spice newbies like me. Thank you muchly! Love your book.

    • Mel says:

      Ras el Hanout is one of my favorite discoveries. I just had it on sweet potatoe with ghee, and it was luscious. Glad you like Well Fed… thank you!

  3. Justine says:

    your Eas El Hanout blend and this Italian Suasage Seasoning are both my go-to mixes I use them in so many things. Always have a big jar of each made up. Love them

  4. Beau says:

    I think you are right about spices being magical. Spices can take something plain and just make it taste wonderful.

    I’m glad I found your Ras el Hanout recipe. I’ve seen many great sounding recipes that call for it, but I didn’t want to shell out for it at a specialty store.

    I’m slow cooking some chicken with it for dinner tonight on cauli-rice and I’m really looking forward to it.

    Thanks!

  5. MC says:

    Just today I made yet another batch of your Rogan Josh spice blend.

    BTW — Every single time I look at the recipe I giggle over your Seth Rogan/Josh Groban/Rogan Josh tutorial!

  6. mlou says:

    I really love you – oh my God spices.
    And the spice girls.
    Know how much influence you have…

  7. I’m originally from Austin but currently live in Bend, Oregon, and we have a Savory Spice Shop here… and I honestly have never been in it! It just kinda looked like an overpriced place with nothing special (it’s near some uppity, high-end shops), but now that you mention it, I’m totally going to have to check it out. Thanks for the $.02 there!

    And I LOVE your cookbook (been doing Paleo for about two months now); so very thankful for it.

    • Mel says:

      Definitely give the Savory Spice Shop a try! They’re all independently owned franchises, so the owners are usually really friendly and excited to talk… they love spices! Their onion salt is luscious!

      Congratulations on making the switch to paleo — glad you’re enjoying Well Fed!

  8. Lisa Van Damme says:

    I used your Ras el Hanout on pork cops the other night and they were spectacular. I just dropped $25 at Savory in Boulder today. I told the guy about Michelle’s Magic Mushroom powder and he steered me to an herbes de duxelles blend that I can’t wait to try. I got cantanzaro salt blend, star anise pieces, a peruvian chili lime blend, some honey powder, and some other basics. I can’t wait to try them all. It’s been a spicy day! Thanks for the post.

    • Mel says:

      Ooooh! Herbes de duxelles! Fun!

      I used a bunch of Nom Nom’s Magic Mushroom Powder yesterday on grilled chicken thighs. SO GOOD!

      Happy cooking!

  9. Teresa says:

    Got Well Fed as part of the Primal Life Kit and almost immediately decided I also needed a hard copy of this book because if one is FANTASTIC then two can only be better! I plan to cook my way through both of them!

    Spices…adding to my stockpile almost daily thanks to you. I made Chocolate Chili & Citrus Carnitas yesterday and my house smelled like pure heaven all day. I never did actually eat dinner, just stood there picking out of both pots like some sort of addict.

    Now I have a huge food crush on you…

    • Mel says:

      Sweet! Thank you so much for buying Well Fed!

      Glad you enjoyed the Chocolate Chili and Carnitas. Those are two of my favorites, too! My husband says he could eat Chocolate Chili every day ;-) … and now I wish I had some for breakfast. Heh.

  10. Lydia says:

    After three months on the AIP with no seed spices, I opened my bag of Penzey’s ground cumin this weekend and it smelled like HEAVEN.

  11. Ehsa says:

    Spices … YAY! And you are the Queen of Spices. The mix that goes on “The Best Chicken You Will Ever Eat” from “Well Fed” has revolutionized cooking for me. (It’s also fab on salmon). Gone are the days when when I thought adding pepper in addition to salt was being adventurous. Cumin rocks! (What a great t-shirt that would make). Eagerly awaiting the new “Well Fed” cookbook …

  12. Vicki says:

    I saw the Times article and immediately thought of Ras el Hanout and Well Fed. I love the cookbook because it is making me more adventurous with spices I already like. Last week while sauteing the almonds for the green beans recipe, I added cinnamon and loved the result. I also used shallots instead of onion, which added a new flavor. Can’t wait for Well Fed 2.

  13. AustinGirl says:

    I’m over 4 mos pregnant and just left the “I hate meat” phase that some pregnant women enter (WHY, Mama Nature?! WHY?! That is SO horrible to do to a Paleo lady!!) and celebrated a return to normal foods with your Egg Foo Young and spicy sauce for dinner last night. Leftovers are lunch today and I am SO excited!! You really do master spices like I’ve never seen. Can’t WAIT to snap up Well Fed 2!! Thank you!

  14. Tom says:

    Spices are one of those things I need to learn more about. My family isn’t crazy about “hot” food, but we want flavorful foods.

    Any suggestions of places to learn more? I know I need to expand my horizons from garlic power, onion powder, salt, and pepper with the occasional paprika.

    • Mel says:

      I think spice blends are an easy way to play around — which is why I like Penzeys so much. They have very good descriptions on their site, so you can imagine how the blends will taste before trying them, and they always have recipe ideas, too.

      The other way to explore is to pick ethnic food you like and use the spices in those foods. For example, I know I like Middle Eastern a lot (A LOT!), so I use cumin, parsley, lemon, mint…

      • Tom says:

        That’s pretty much what I’ve done, but our favorite food is Italian. We’re desperately needing to expand our repertoire a bit.

        I’ll check out Penzeys and see what I can see.

        Thanks!

  15. [...] is usually some sugar or other ingredients that can cause inflammation. But there’s a great sugar-free sausage seasoning from the book, Well Fed. All you have to do is make the spice mixture and then add it to some plain [...]

  16. Carolyn says:

    Have you had a chance yet to create a cocpycat recipe for Tsardust Memories? I am very interested in what you come up with!

  17. [...] of Italian Sausage Seasoning from Well [...]

  18. [...] (Pork sausage, tomato, scallion scramble with Kartoffelpuffer – German potato pancake – and applesauce) [...]

  19. natalie says:

    where is the best place online to order good quality spices

  20. Beth says:

    Hi- i’m fairly new to paleo and have tried many of your recipes from WellFed. Your Rogan Josh recipe lists all the spices. Penzy’s sells it already combined. So, how much of the Penzys spice should I use if makng your recipe? Thanks in advance – can’t wait to try another new one!!

    I’m hooked on homemade mayo and Czech meatballs!!

    Beth

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