Favorite things
Photo by Lucy Schaffer  

Cumin: I have to confess my obsession with cumin: Its toasty, smoky flavor had me at, well, first taste. It is said to be one of the most popular spices in the world, preceded, I have read, only by black pepper. This little oblong seed is actually a dried fruit and is generally not used in its raw form. It can be toasted in a dry pan or fried in a little oil, powdered in a spice grinder or toasted and then pounded with a mortar and pestle.

Read more:  iSPICE – CUMIN

 Recipe:  Ramin Ganeshram’s Dal

 Ginger: I live in a ginger-obsessed household. My older son knew how to pick out the taste of ginger when he was 2. It's in our tea every morning. I fully intended to tell you why I love its flavor and describe its taste in detail. But first, I will let one of my all-time favorite food writers, Melissa Clark, wax poetic: “Ginger adds a deep, peppery, spicy freshness to dishes — a tang of acid coupled with a musty, rich, profound flavor. I love that combination of zippiness and profundity.” I use fresh ginger in pickles, sautes, stir-fries, juices, cocktails, rice dishes, curries, breads, desserts, you name it.

  Read more: iSPICE- GINGER. 

 Recipe:  Melissa Clark’s Double Ginger Doughnuts

Red & Green Chilies: Apologies that my photo shows only red! But I love all chilies. Love them or hate them, you have to admit they demand and command respect for their flavor, texture and heat. What scares people most about the peppers — or, if you’re like me, what attracts you most — is the heat.

When you cut open a chili pepper, its tiny little white seeds are exposed. They are the culprits/heroes responsible for the heat. But heat varies depending on the type of chili and how ripe it is. Even chili peppers from the same plant can contain varying degrees of heat.

  Read more: iSPICE Green Chilies and iSPICE Cayenne

Recipe:  Basil Chicken with chilies

 Fennel: I have a problem with the way people describe fennel seeds: licorice-like. I am not sure I agree. I am not a big fan of licorice, yet I love fennel seeds. To me, they have a hint of anise and even a touch of green cardamom. As for fennel bulbs . . . well, they are very strong-tasting and do indeed remind me of licorice, with the texture of celery.  Fennel seeds are aromatic, green and slightly larger than cumin seeds. They are used in cuisines around the world. In India, you can find them in curries, breads and drinks — and, of course, paanch phoron. Raw fennel seeds are said to aid digestion, which is why you’ll often see a bowl of them by the door at Indian restaurants.

  Read more: iSPICE – FENNEL 

 Recipe: Nathalie Dupree’s Spice-rubbed flounder


Cloves: Unfortunately, my very first memory of cloves is associated with pain. It was excruciating. I must have been about 10, with a horrid toothache. My father wrapped two cloves in some cotton and told me to bite on it with the tooth that hurt. Ouch. I did, and a few minutes later the pain subsided enough for me to feel human again. Luckily, other people in this world have kinder, gentler memories of this lovely spice. “My mother loved any kind of spice cookie with cloves in the recipe. I think I inherited that from her,” says Karen Adler, one-half of the BBQ Queens (with Judith Fertig) whose newest cookbook is “300 Big & Bold BBQ & Grilling Recipes” (Robert Rose, 2009). “As I began to bake, I would do combinations of cinnamon and cloves for more flavor. I also like to pickle olives, and a small bunch of cloves in the pickling juice adds a wonderful earthy dimension of flavor. When I began barbecuing, I found that cloves added to barbecue rubs or sauces added a very nice depth of flavor.”

  Read more: iSPICE – CLOVES

 Recipe:  Kara Newman’s Aperol Spice 






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  1. I love that pic! I’m not a cook, I just love to eat, but you managed to make these spices seem fun and exciting to work with. God bless!

  2. First of all, what a gorgeous platter. Growing up in Texas with plenty of Tex-Mex, I too would not be as happy without cumin nearby.

  3. Love the picture!
    I’m having a giveaway at my blog and I would like to invite you to participate at http://atasteofkoko.blogspot.com/2010/07/ximending-giveaway.html

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