Spice support: pink peppercorns

You might have been introduced to them from the tri-color peppercorn mixes that often come with the purchase of a pepper grinder: pink peppercorns. These diminutive, brightly colored orbs are more than just an colorful garnish to be sprinkled over a dish, as Serious Eats explains in its primer on pink peppercorns. First things first - pink peppercorns are not… read more

Spice support: Sichuan peppercorns

Sichuan peppercorns provide a mouth-tingling, warming sensation and are a vital ingredient in the cuisine of its eponymous Chinese region. America's Test Kitchen explores the history and culinary applications of the tiny berries, which aren't related to black peppercorns at all. Sichuan peppercorns are the berries of the prickly ash shrub, which belongs to the citrus family.  While most people… read more

Spice support: sumac

Although sumac is most closely associated with Middle Eastern foods, the plants that produces the tart berries, the Rhus genus of the Anacardiaceae family, grow all over the world. You can learn this fact and more as Eater's Sylvio Martins takes a deep dive into sumac, which he says can be a "secret weapon" in your spice arsenal. The fuzzy red… read more

Spice support: tarragon

When I was a fledgling cook, one of the first "gourmet" recipes I tried was a chicken dish that featured a tarragon cream sauce. For someone who grew up in a household where herbs and spices came as ground items in a dusty tin that was probably older than me, using this fresh herb was a revelation. I put tarragon… read more

Spice support: bay leaves

Although my grandmother had very few herbs and spices in her cooking arsenal, she always had a jar full of large dried bay leaves. These leaves were used in long-simmering soups and stews, carefully fished out prior to serving. The herb intrigued me since it was the only one using entire leaves that I experienced until I started cooking on… read more

Spice support: green garlic

Perhaps I'm stretching the definition of spice a bit by including garlic, but it is generally treated more like a spice than a huge part of the meal (chicken with 40 cloves of garlic notwithstanding). Anyway, this post is not about regular garlic cloves, but about green garlic, which is part of the garlic plant that may already be growing… read more

Spice support: shiso

Shiso, also called perilla or Korean perilla (Perilla frutescens var. crispa), is a member of the mint family, and is a popular herb in Japanese, Korean, and southeast Asian cuisines. Its appeal extends well beyond this, however, and the leafy herb can be found adding its unique flavor to everything from rice to pesto to sorbet to cocktails. Like mint,… read more

Spice Support: suya (yaji)

Today's installment of Spice Support features a blend of spices that is perfect for grilling season. Called yaji or suya spice, the blend contains a fiery, umami-packed assemblage of ground dried chiles, ginger, peanuts, and more, guaranteed to perk up everything from meats to vegetables. You'll commonly see it used on grilled, skewered beef, but the spicy blend is equally… read more

Spice support: capers

I'm stretching the definition of spice a bit to include capers, but since they add a flavor dimension similar to adding spice, I found it appropriate. To learn more about capers I turned to an interview of David Rosengarten by Sally Swift of The Splendid Table. Rosengarten visited the famous caper-growing island of Pantelleria, Italy - a place he calls… read more

Spice Support: Bell’s Seasoning

With Thanksgiving and other holidays just around the corner, it's fitting that today's Spice Support column focuses on a seasoning that is perfect for poultry. Bell's Seasoning has been a staple of northeastern US cooking for well over 100 years, although it is not well known outside of that area. If you haven't heard of it, Leite's Culinaria dives deep… read more

Spice support: curry leaves

The first time I encountered curry leaves as an ingredient in a recipe, I wondered how they were different than the curry powder that I purchased at a spice store. I assumed that curry leaves must be one of the components of curry powder, but I later discovered that they had nothing to do with the spice blend as I… read more

Spice support: za’atar

Middle Eastern food has risen in prominence in the past few years, thanks to the excellent and approachable recipes provided by Yotam Ottolenghi, Anissa Helou, Michael Solomonov, John Gregory-Smith, Sabrina Ghayour, and others. These recipes contain ingredients that until recently were unfamiliar to most Western palates, including harissa, baharat, ras el hanout, and za'atar. Today we are going to dive… read more

Spice support: marjoram

Some herbs spend their lives playing second fiddle to their more popular but similar cousins. Always a groomsman and never a groom, these herbs offer support, rarely getting a chance to shine. However, when given the opportunity to play a starring role, they rise to the occasion admirably. Marjoram is one such herb. Since its appearance is similar to oregano,… read more

Spice support: basil

Few things scream summertime more than a caprese salad with fresh basil. A member of the mint family, basil is a workhorse in the Italian kitchen, but that is far from the only cuisine that makes good use of this aromatic herb.  Like mint, basil has several varieties, each with its own unique aroma and flavor. There are also several related… read more

Spice support: hyssop

A few days ago we reported on the trend of chefs to bring back forgotten herbs, often as part of a local and seasonal cooking focus. One of the old-fashioned herbs discussed in the article was hyssop, a perennial plant native to the Mediterranean. In today's edition of Spice Support we'll take a closer look at the uses of this… read more

Spice support: coriander

This spice we are profiling in today's installment of Spice Support has a dual personality. Coriander (coriandrum sativum) exists in two forms, both as a leafy herb and as a seed used whole or ground as a spice. In the US, the leafy form is known as cilantro (the Spanish word for coriander), which is why many people here don't associate… read more

Spice support: cumin

Few spices are as versatile or universally employed as cumin. Originating in the Middle East (or possibly the Nile Valley, depending on which source you believe), cumin is one of the world's oldest spices with a culinary history that dates back over 6000 years. Cumin is a member of the parsley family, and its seeds look a lot like caraway… read more

Spice support: star anise and anise seed

Although both star anise and anise seed (aka aniseed) share a licorice-like flavor compounds called anethole, the two are unrelated botanically. It's easy to confuse the two because of their similarities, but the two are used differently and possess subtle differences in flavor.  Star anise is the seed pod of an evergreen native to southern China, although it is now… read more

Spice support: pepper

Pepper, in its many varieties, is one of the world's most popular spices, found in cuisines north, south, east, and west. While it is ubiquitous, few people know much about the spice, such as what differentiates the types of pepper, where the spice is grown or how it is harvested. Over at Serious Eats, new columnist Caitlin Penzey Moog (yes,… read more

Spice support: ras el hanout

Over the centuries, signature spice blends have been developed in regions the world over. Most of these blends started with combining herbs and spices that grew in the local area, but after the development of the spice trade routes, people began incorporating flavors from farther away into the blends. One blend that has garnered a following far outside of its… read more

Spice support: Ottolenghi’s pantry essentials

Usually in our Spice Support columns we focus on a particular spice, diving deep into its history and culinary uses. Today we are taking a broader approach, and talking about your overall spice collection. Some of us have a limited selection of pantry staples like cinnamon, black pepper, and a few assorted herbs, while others have a sprawling assortment of… read more

Spice support: allspice

The appropriately-named flavoring agent allspice is extremely versatile in the kitchen, at once familiar and exotic. Most of us are familiar with its use in the sweet side of the kitchen as part of a melange of spices used in pumpkin pie, gingerbread, and other sweets, but allspice is at home in savory dishes too as indexed magazine Saveur explains. … read more

Spice support: saffron

You probably already know that saffron is the world's most expensive spice, but have you ever seen a saffron harvest? Through a series of photos, The Guardian guides us through the painstaking process in the saffron fields of the Patsiouras family in Greece, where the crocus that brings us the rare spice is being grown in ever larger numbers.  As… read more

Spice support: rosemary

"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance," says the tortured Ophelia in Act 4, Scene 5 of Shakepeare's Hamlet. Greek scholars reportedly wore a garland of the herb on their heads to aid their memory during exams, and recent studies have shown that rosemary can indeed boost memory performance. But even if rosemary doesn't actually help you remember anything, its heady fragrance is… read more

Spice Support: paprika

It's been a little while, but I'm back with another edition of Spice Support. Today we are exploring paprika, which according to the in-house spice expert at Pereg Gourmet Spices, is the fourth most consumed spice in the world. It is a key ingredient in a number of cuisines, from Mexican rices to classic Hungarian goulash to Italian sausages. Paprika… read more
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