Chile-Thyme Spice Mix

Chile-Thyme Spice Mix

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Makes about 1/4 cup Servings


  • 2 dried chiles de árbol, stemmed
  • 4 teaspoons coarse sea salt
  • 4 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 4 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

Recipe Preparation

  • Pulse chiles in a spice grinder until coarsely ground. Transfer ground chiles to a small bowl and add salt. Scatter lemon zest on a 6x6" piece of parchment paper and microwave on high for 1 minute. Add thyme to parchment and microwave until dry, about 1 minute 30 seconds (time will vary). Let cool and lightly crush zest and thyme; combine with ground chiles and salt. DO AHEAD: Spice mix may be made 1 week ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Recipe by The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen

Nutritional Content

One tablespoon contains: Calories (kcal) 4.6 Calories from Fat 0.0 Fat (g) 0.0 Saturated Fat (g) 0.0 Cholesterol (mg) 0.0 Carbohydrates (g) 1.0 Dietary Fiber (g) 0.6 Total Sugars (g) 0.2 Net Carbs (g) 0.5 Protein (g) 0.2 Sodium (mg) 1163.2Reviews Section

Taste of South Asia

TASTE OF SOUTH ASIA is a red curry mix with a unique blend of ground red chilies, our signature curry, ground coriander seed, garlic and onion it’s perfect for braised meat curry, kababs, coconut shrimp soup and stir fry. With influences from India to Thailand, this spice blend has you covered!

Curry Powder, Garlic, Onion, Sea Salt, Guajillo, Thia Chile, Thyme, Oregano, Parsley

Fresh Ground Curry Powder Ingredients:

Yellow Mustard, Cumin, Coriander, Fenugreek, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Turmeric

115 mg of sodium per teaspoon

Some of our favorite uses:

Shawarma, kabab, thai soups, coconut curry, stir fry, marsala, tiki marsala, Indian dishes, Vietnamese dishes, middle eastern dishes, chicken, shrimp, beef, pork, wings, sweet potatoes

Spice rubbed pork shoulder with posole

Ennui. No, it’s not a type of sausage or that tingling pain you get in your legs if you sit for too long. It’s a feeling of listlessness, lethargy and lassitude. A cloud of dissatisfaction that hangs over life. It’s marked by a tendency to gaze out the window and sigh for no reason at all.

Sure, winter doesn’t help. Winter doesn’t help anything unless you’re a hibernating bear or sell ski equipment. We’re fed up, longing for the lazy-crazy-hazy days of summer when we spent our days barbecuing meat, veg, the dog’s chew toy and our boots (the last two, just because we could).

That was life. This is like being forced to watch an Ingmar Bergman movie on repeat.

The solution? There isn’t one. There’s not a pill you can take or mantra you can chant. It just is. The good news? One day it will be gone. Poof! And suddenly you’ll make a tentative foray out of your reclining chair with the chip and dip tray and actually take the garbage out. Respect!

Rub the pork with the spice mix the day before cooking.

But in the meantime, cook large pots of comfort food to see you through your existential crisis. It won’t cure anything but it might – just might – lift your spirits a bit.

3 ½ lb boneless pork shoulder

2 Chile pods such as Ancho and New Mexico red

Garnishes: chopped avocado, sliced radishes, cilantro, chopped green onions

Mix together the spices, salt, sugar and chile powders and rub on all sides of the pork shoulder. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap or place in a container with a lid. Pop in the refrigerator and let it do its thing overnight. Next, place the posole in a non-reactive bowl, cover with water and soak overnight.

The next day, pre-heat the oven to 425ºF. Take the pork out of the refrigerator and let come to room temperature. Remove the plastic wrap (if using) and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Place in an ovenproof casserole dish and put in the pre-heated oven and roast for 20 minutes.

Reduce the temperature to 225ºF, cover with a lid and continue to cook for another 4-5 hours or until the meat is tender and flakes away easily.

Spear the garlic with a toothpick so you can find it easily in the cooked posole.

While the pork is cooking, make the posole. Bring a pan of water to the boil, add the posole, then simmer for around 2-3 hours. After an hour or so, add the 2 chile pods and the peeled garlic clove. Stick a toothpick through the garlic clove to make it easy to retrieve once cooking is done.

Shred the cooked meat, discarding most of the fat (come on – it’s the best part). Mix with the pan cooking juices and return the oven to high heat and cook for another 10 minutes or so, until most of the liquid is absorbed. Drain the posole. Serve a generous ladleful of posole with some of the pulled pork and your choice of garnishes.

Can You Make Jerk Seasoning Paste At Home?

Now the thing about jerk seasoning is that you can easily find it at the store. You just have to search for it in the international aisle. However, with the store-bought spice mix, you can change the ingredients according to your liking. For instance, if you like less heat or don’t appreciate the overpowering flavor of the cloves, you can’t do anything about it. Whereas, if you make your own spice mix at home, you can create several combinations and prepare a version of Jerk Spice Mix that you absolutely love.

So, you can definitely make jerk seasoning mix at home. For that, you just have to gather the right spices, grind them and store them in a spice jar. Furthermore, you can also make a paste from these spices. For making a paste, you just have to dilute the spice mixture. In a bowl, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of water. Next, add in the spice mixture and mix well until you get a paste. It is by far the easiest way of preparing jerk seasoning paste for your roasted cauliflower steak.

Another way of preparing jerk seasoning paste includes ingredients like fresh garlic, fresh ginger, scallions, scotch bonnet chile, thyme, brown sugar, nutmeg, allspice, salt, and water. Place all ingredients in a blender and pulse until you get a fine paste.

Vegetarian posole stew

We’d like to be the first to say Feliz Cinco de Mayo. It’s always a red-letter day here at Chile Trail HQ but even more so this year because – drumroll please – it falls on a Saturday. Can you believe it? No, we can’t either. Let’s just say that it’s Cinco & Seis de Mayo. Heck, let’s throw in Friday too and call it Cuatro, Cinco, Seis de Mayo. Ok, maybe a bit too long but you get the point.

So you know what’s on our minds. Yep, food. Everyone has a favourite but we’ve got a couple of thoughts (naturally).

Number one: make sure there’s a lot of it. There is nothing worse that running out of food and drink. People, your guests are hungry. They’re thirsty. Stock up.

Number two: variety. You’ve got your mole, you’ve got your guacamole, you’ve got your tres leche cake. This is a time to test the architectural endurance of your dining room table. We’re talking heaving folks.

Number three: delegate. You didn’t actually think we expected you to cook all that food, did you? Of course not. When someone asks what they can bring, tell ‘em. And when you ask us – and we know you will, right? – we’ll be bringing a pot of posole.

Now you know posole, but this one is vegetarian and vegan, all in one lip smacking tasty bowl of happiness. It’s so good that even the most committed carnivores will be pushing over old ladies to get a bowlful. But please don’t. There’s plenty to go around.

3 small zucchini, about 10-12 oz, sliced into discs (diced if larger)

1 small clove garlic, minced

1-14oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

Place the posole in a non-reactive bowl or pan and cover with water and let soak overnight. Drain and rinse well. Put the posole in a large pot, cover with water and simmer for one hour.

Drain and add the posole mix and enough fresh water to cover. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook for about 3 hours or until the posole has ‘popped’ and is tender. Check the water levels periodically and top up as needed.

Just before serving, warm the oil and sauté the zucchini over medium-high heat, just until tender. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the drained and rinsed black beans and the zucchini into the posole. Taste and season with salt and more chile if you desire.

A Summer Shellfish Recipe

  • 1 750-ml bottle dry white wine
  • 2 1/2 pounds small new potatoes, about 1″ in diameter
  • 8 live lobsters, about 1 1/4 pounds each
  • 8 large eggs
  • 8 ears of corn, husked, halved
  • 4 celery stalks, cut diagonally into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 1/2 pounds spicy smoked sausage (such as linguiça, kielbasa, or andouille), cut into 2″ pieces
  • 2 lemons, quartered, sliced
  • 1 orange, quartered, sliced
  • 1 head of garlic, cloves separated
  • 1 large bunch thyme
  • 4 pounds littleneck, Manila, or steamer clams, scrubbed
  • 2 pounds mussels, scrubbed, debearded
  • Chile-Thyme Spice Mix
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, melted
  • Place a steamer basket in 30-quart pot. Add wine and 12 cups water cover and bring to a boil. Add potatoes cover and cook 5 minutes. Add lobsters and eggs cover and cook 10 minutes. Gently nestle corn and next 6 ingredients (and littlenecks, if using) in pot. Cover and cook 5 minutes.
  • Add Manila clams or steamers (if using), cover, and cook 10 minutes. Add mussels, cover, and cook until shellfish open, about 5 minutes (discard any that do not open). Peel 1 egg and cut in half. If it’s hard-boiled, lobsters are ready. Using a slotted spoon and tongs, transfer shellfish bake to a very large platter or a table covered with newspaper. Sprinkle with spice mix. Pour broth from pot into small bowls, leaving any sediment behind. Serve shellfish bake with broth and melted butter.
  • One serving, with butter, contains: Calories (kcal) 901.2 Calories from Fat 43.0 Fat (g) 43.5 Saturated Fat (g) 21.0 Cholesterol (mg) 437.1 Carbohydrates (g) 64.2 Dietary Fiber (g) 6.2 Total Sugars (g) 7.9 Net Carbs (g) 58.0 Protein (g) 65.0 Sodium (mg) 1985.7.

Sound good but you’d prefer not to make this recipe from scratch? We’ve got you covered with an easy to prepare version. Click Here to learn more.

Fisherman’s Huevos Rancheros

This recipe is all about bringing fabulous things together:

I know, I know — I’m excited, too!

If you’ve never had Huevos Rancheros before, or “Ranchers Eggs”, that means you’ve never had the pleasure of sinking your fork into a crispy tortilla topped with silky yokes and warm salsa, and my heart aches for you. The good news is you can create this gem in the comfort of your own home in 30 minutes or less.

Huevos Rancheros is a classic brunch-y dish served on rural Mexican farms, but since brunch has exploded in North America over the last decade, you’ve probably noticed it on the menu at your local trendy brunch joint.

I couldn’t pinpoint an origin for Fisherman’s Eggs — which is a baked mix of sardines, garlic, shallots, and eggs — but if I were to guess… it’s a hearty no-frills breakfast that fishermen fill up on to warm their bellies before hitting the chilly docks.

With that said, this recipe compliments Killing Thyme and the pescetarian diet beautifully it brings together two important meals that fuel the individuals who put fresh grown veggies and sustainable fish onto our plates.

All of King Oscar’s Brisling Sardines are beautifully hand-packed!

King Oscar Brisling Sardines in Tapatio® Hot Sauce

Sardine fans everywhere are fanning themselves over King Oscar’s new release: Brisling Sardines in Tapatio ® Hot Sauce. Tons of KO fans covet the combination of sardines and hot sauce, and plenty of hot sauce lovers pine for the ever-so-punchy Tapatio ® .

Needless to say, this product has match-made-in-heaven written ALL over it.

As if this flavor combo wasn’t appealing enough, King Oscar’s sardines are sustainable, wild-caught, wood-smoked, and hand-packed with care which is evident when you peel back the tin. (They’re so neat and pretty!)

These gems are ready to eat straight out of the can (and some of us do), but they’re also great for putting a deliciously innovative spin on favorites like fish tacos and nachos. Of course, you could also keep it simple and just slap them over crackers.

When it came to creating a recipe to celebrate these brand new smack-you-in-the-mouth sardines, I couldn’t get brunch out of my head, and putting a pescetarian spin on this vegetarian dish just made sense.

My absolute favorite thing about this recipe is that I was able to bring these fiery sardines to the classic Huevos Rancheros without interfering with the true essence of the dish as we know it and love it.

For more fabulous King Oscar recipes, check out my mouthwatering Mediterranean Mackerel Protein Wrap!

Forever war, pantry edition - what spices and sauces to buy? November 9, 2020 9:55 AM Subscribe

I'm a much better "boring regular meals" cook than I was before the pandemic, there's always that. Since we're staying inside as long as our jobs and money hold out, I need to keep going, but I feel like I'm in a rut, seasoning-wise.

I have curry paste, for instance, but I feel like I could use other stuff - lemongrass paste? As I've gotten better at the kind of cooking where you don't really work from a recipe, I feel like I have about three flavor profiles - Thai Curry Paste, Lots of Thyme and Garlic Red Pepper Flakes. All perfectly good in their way, but seriously, I'm making fourteen meals a week here.

Recommend me some spices and condensed sauces that have broad application - and maybe list what you use them with? If there are particular brands you'd recommend, that's fine too. I'm watching the pennies but might make an exception if something had a lot of applications.

The things I buy from my priciest supplier (Penzey's) are peppers - white pepper, Penzey's Pepper, Florida Pepper, Aleppo Pepper.

I'm in California so can get very good chile powders cheap: Ancho, Chipotle, mild California, Cayenne. Just plan to buy cumin often so it's fresh, whether that's ground or whole you can grind yourself. I also have access to markets with a wide range of Southeast Asian spices and blends, and I am pretty satisfied with the garam masalas I can get there. I also have nearby pan-Asian and Korean-specific groceries, and if you do also I recommend doing a spice aisle run there before you start ordering anything to see what they offer since they often have very good prices on common dried spices, and then you can also get various dried peppers and pepper flakes of high quality for very good prices. These are also the best places to get standards like dark soy sauce, fish sauce, shaoxing wine, and black vinegar for way less than mail order or grocery chains.

For lemongrass, I do grow it but it doesn't love fall/winter here so I also buy the tubes of mashed from the produce section, which does what I need. I buy bunches of cilantro and put only about 1/3 of the bunch each time in the fridge and microwave-dry the rest (95% of the time you won't know the difference), but the tube cilantro is also fine. Ginger is cheap and keeps in the freezer.

Ditto a generic hot pepper that you can use in any cuisine - I keep serranos in the freezer for everything, and they slice beautifully when frozen, and are easy to halve and scrape if you don't want most of the seeds. You can also freeze the mini sweet peppers to use the same way, I like the minis because they don't take up as much space, but you can also buy bells on sale and spend 10 minutes dicing or julienne-ing them all and freeze that flat in a ziploc.

One of my fridge staples is chicken Better Than Bouillon. If you can find it in the larger jar, it lasts a good long time and is a better deal than the smaller ones, and then you can make a habit of using it all the time pretty much anywhere that you might just use water because it's a pain to open a box or can.

Tamarind paste, when you can find it (it's easy to order though), is great to keep on hand. I make my own tamarind chutney/sauce with it, and you'll find it in a lot of Thai recipes.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:34 AM on November 9, 2020 [7 favorites]

Paprika is an awesome "everyday" spice. Smoked Spanish paprika especially (it comes in a couple of different hotness levels). Great on potatoes, chicken, chickpeas, french fries and their analogs, pretty much anything roasted. You can make paprika-based sauces like bravas sauce, which is great on anything roasty or crunchy.

Seconding the magic of gochujang, which is having a bit of A Moment with white Americans, I think.

I love having a tube of ginger paste handy, too, or the little frozen Dorot ginger cubes. I'm usually able to keep fresh garlic on hand but they have frozen garlic cubes as well. With chopped ginger (from fresh, tube, or cube), chopped garlic, and some soy sauce/tamari handy it's really easy to make a quick & delicious vegetable braise.
posted by mskyle at 10:39 AM on November 9, 2020 [7 favorites]

I am of the opinion that paprika is an under appreciated spice. Use sweet (Hungarian) paprika for dishes where you want that "hmmm this tastes better but I can't put my finger on why" (and of course paprikash). Gives sort of a warmth/depth to flavors without being super noticeable except in large amounts.

Smoked paprika is a godsend, I use it all the time in almost everything. The smoky flavor is way more forward than the sweet kind, so use it where a smoked/grilled flavor is idea. Tacos, grilling, oven roasting, it's just a great base for a spice rub.
posted by misskaz at 10:40 AM on November 9, 2020 [8 favorites]

If you're near an Indian or Pakistani grocery store, they should have a lot of spice mixes (from companies like Shan and MDH) that are delicious. The price seems to vary by location - in some cities they're around a dollar each, but in other places I've seen them go for $2-3. (I linked to amazon for illustration, but they're often expensive there for some reason.) Regardless, a little goes a long way so they can last a good while, and if you're not a purist you can use them in lots of different types of recipes besides the recommended ones. Some are better than others, but without knowing what flavor profiles you like it's hard to recommend specific ones.

Other than that - cumin and coriander are good for west-to-southeast asian dishes. (Both ground and whole, but if you have to choose then I'd go for whole - you can adjust the flavor by toasting the seeds, and you can always grind them up to get powder.) Mustard seed is a good addition for Indian food. Whole peppercorns and whole rosemary are useful in lots of contexts. Five spice powder is nice, not only for Chinese food.

If you have room to grow them I'd get a few plants for cheap - basil, oregano, mint, etc. A few leaves here and there can give a lot of flavor.
posted by trig at 10:40 AM on November 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Speaking of Thai curry paste, there are several classic blends with pretty different flavors and heat levels. I like Maesri brand, which comes in little cans and offers about 8? types, often identified by color (e.g., red curry paste, green curry paste, etc). You can adjust how much to use based on your heat preferences I find that half a can is right for us. At about $2 a can, you can flavor 2 batches of curry for a buck apiece. (The leftover paste will last, covered, in the fridge for a few weeks, or you can freeze it.)

To go with the curry paste you need nam pla (fish sauce), which smells awful but blends into the background after cooking. It provides the same sort of salty umami flavor that soy sauce does for Chinese dishes. There are many brands and they're all pretty similar in my opinion, so get whatever you can find. It's also used in Thai stir-fries, and seems to be the flavor that says "this is Thai, not Chinese".

Canned chipotles in adobo are nice to have for Mexican and Tex-Mex flavors. A pot of beans with smoked sausage (if you eat meat) and a can of chipotles is a rib-sticking economical favorite in cold weather. Serve over rice to dilute the spiciness. Both brands I see around here are pretty similar, so get what you find.
posted by Quietgal at 10:42 AM on November 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

I have an important question first - are you focusing on dried spices/herbs only, or are you thinking of incorporating fresh?

I'm going to assume for the moment that you're working with "dried". And if so, I'm going to start by recommending some other flavor profiles.

* Herbes de Provence. This is a French flavor blend for dishes from the Mediterranean south of France - you've got the thyme, all you would need to add are things like basil, rosemary, tarragon, savory, marjoram, oregano, lavender and bay leaf. You don't even need all of them - you could probably get away with just adding the rosemary, oregano, basil and tarragon.

* Italian - this is almost exactly like Herbes de Provence above, except swap out the lavender and tarragon for a little bit of chili flakes, and up the oregano a little. You could probably even just make a basic "Mediterranean" blend that would work interchangeably with some Provencal recipes and some Italian ones.

* Mexican! Add some chili powder, oregano and cumin to your garlic and red pepper flakes.

* Cajun! Just like the Mexican above, only swap out the chili powder, cumin and red pepper flakes for cayenne and a little paprika.

* Indian! . Well, a quick-and-dirty Masala, anyway - if you've got curry powder already, and some cumin for the Mexican blend above, then you just need cinnamon, coriander, and maybe some cloves.

Finally, there's a fresh herb preservation technique I picked up from a cookbook I have concerning Acadian cooking - the Acadian settlers in Canada made a condiment called "herbes salees", in which chopped fresh herbs were packed into crocks with lots of salt. There was no official roster for which herbes, however - it was more of a "what we've got lying around" kind of thing. Some families even added a little grated carrot or chopped scallion to their formulas. And then the resulting condiment would be used in everything. I actually made up a batch this summer, using "whatever I need to trim back on my windowbox herbs" as the recipe whatever I had, I chopped it up, mixed it all together in a bowl, added a couple chopped scallions from the CSA box l and packed it into a jar with salt. It may be fun to experiment with "whatever is fresh at my local farmers' market" or "whatever I have leftover after splurging on fresh herbs for a fancy recipe".

As for how to use things - One thing that's jumping out at me is lentils, which could pair nicely with either French flavors or Indian, depending on what flavor blend you use. I use herbes de provence in any vaguely French thing, and Italian in any vaguely Italian thing. And when I'm making lots of clean-out-the-fridge vegetable soups this winter, the herbes salees will be going into that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:58 AM on November 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

One more - if keeping fresh lemons around is a problem, you can keep bottled lemon juice in the fridge for a long time. A few drops of lemon juice can make as big a difference as salt sometimes and it's used in lots of different cuisines.

Also, regarding broad application - even though there are a lot of different spices used in Asian and African food, there also seem to be a ton of recipes that use only a few of the most common spices but still wind up with pretty different flavor profiles due to using different combinations of other ingredients or different cooking techniques. So sometimes you can search for recipes from a specific country or region that use, say, cumin, to get pretty different kinds of flavors than what you've been making with the same spice previously. Like, Turkish, Indian, Ethiopian, and Moroccan recipes might all use cumin but with a lot of variety in the results.
posted by trig at 11:00 AM on November 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'd be inclined to get base components that you can combine in different ways and whizz into small-batch blends. I tend to think about it in terms of continuities where one or two elements change: you can get from Spain (saffron, pimentón, cayenne, bay oregano, rosemary) to berbere and baharat and ras-el-hanout and so on, and from there you head into advieh and garam masala.

So on the spice side: good peppercorns, a good-sized jar of smoked pimentón/paprika, bay leaves, cinnamon, coriander seed, cumin, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, turmeric, cardamom, ground ginger, cayenne or Aleppo pepper. Fennel seed. A little saffron. Add some fenugreek and mustard seed for central and south Asian notes, star anise for east Asian. This sounds like a lot but there's a small joy turning a teaspoon of this and half a teaspoon of that and a pinch of the other into a blend, especially if you're cooking from instinct. The spices can tell you what will work best with them.

(The Shan/MDH blends are great, though. I like the chaat mixes.)

In terms of inspiration about flavour profiles, I always suggest looking at Persian recipes, because there's so much going on with the seasoning.
posted by holgate at 11:02 AM on November 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

The canned chipotles in adobo from the Mexican aisle, whizzed in a blender, is my favorite hot sauce. I keep it around all the time, it's great on everything and brings so much more flavor than just heat.

Also yes to smoked paprika.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:03 AM on November 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

Sauces and cooking liquids: soy sauces (Chinese style light and dark as explained by Woks of Life), Shaoxing rice wine, mirin, Thai fish sauce, rice vinegar, Chinese black vinegar, balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar, Marsala wine, crushed red chili paste, black bean sauce, doubanjiang. Some "good but not OMG amazing" red and white wine for deglazing and making pan sauces.

Spices: Penzey's 4S seasoning salt and sweet curry powder. A little of the curry powder is a great enhancer for a wide ranges of dishes (e.g., roasted root veg, sauteed summer squash, cornbread. come to think of it I never use it for an actual curry). Chinese five spice powder. Cinnamon sticks and ground cinnamon. Ground cumin, coriander, turmeric. Whole black, green, and white peppercorns, whole cardamom.

Misc: salted anchovies in oil, great to mince up and boost umami flavors. Herbes de Provence blend.
posted by 4rtemis at 11:04 AM on November 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

miso, ponzu (preferably made with yuzu or sudachi), fish sauce, sweet chili sauce, black bean paste, oyster sauce, everything bagel seasoning, chipotle powder, dark/toasted sesame oil, Cholula, Marie Sharp's smoked habanero sauce

I like having some of Penzey's freeze-dried stuff on hand: shallots, garlic, toasted onions

you can make zhoug yourself--great with eggs, meat, in soup, on sandwiches

seconding smoked paprika, gochujang, and Better than Bouillon (they even have a ham one), and seconding exploring cumin (it's found in various delicious Chinese dishes, too)
posted by wintersweet at 11:04 AM on November 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

And if you're looking for a versatile flavoring blend, I cannot recommend the following enough: Coastal Cali Fennel Pollen Rub from Savory Spice. Sugar and salt plus orange peel, coriander, paprika, fennel, onion, garlic, fennel pollen, and aji chiles.

I spent like an hour in a shop trying every blend they had, and of all of them, this one blew me completely away. I use it on potatoes, eggs, fish, chicken, roast vegetables. basically anything.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:07 AM on November 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

I always have marmite, anchovies/anchovy paste, capers, olives, worcestershire sauce, a few vinegars, and a few mustards. I don't drink wine so I just keep freezer bags of red and white wine in my freezer so I can scoop out a bit at a time as needed. I usually have some kind of small-funk cheese like goat or pecorino. I've recently added nutritional yeast to my collection of never-withouts.

Just about any boring food can be saved by adding one of those things.
posted by phunniemee at 11:13 AM on November 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Jamaican Pickapeppa Sauce, several varieties, is analogous to vegan Worcestershire and is my household’s go-to when leftovers are just blander than we want.

A local shop used to have a Herbs de la Garrigue mix, which also smells like chaparral California. I like it with lentils and not-sweet veg. It didn’t sell fast enough to keep fresh so they published the recipe. And that website is their recipe blog, which is all spiced or herbed.

I have a tiny saucepan permanently next to the stove just to make the finishing-spices-toasted-in-oil step easier.
posted by clew at 11:14 AM on November 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Oh, a small cookbook I have makes a very good case for always making sure you have olives, capers, and anchovies on hand. Any of those three can be used in recipes from cultures all through the Mediterranean - Spanish, French, Italian, Moroccan, Tunisian.

They're also such enormous umami flavor bombs that you could sort of invent something yourself with them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:15 AM on November 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

I like garam masala and 5 spice powder for a different flavor profile even when I'm not cooking dishes that are completely Indian or Chinese.

I use Garam Masala on roasted chicken pieces and some roasted vegetable (it's good on cauliflower). This sheet pan chicken is an example of a dinner I have made and can be riffed on.

I use 5 spice powder where I might otherwise use cinnamon or sweet spices. I've used it in baking sweet dishes (I like it in apple pies for example), I used it last night on roasted squash and apples, with a mustard-glazed pork tenderloin. I also make this a few times a year.
posted by vunder at 11:22 AM on November 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Lately I’ve been roasting cauliflower with curry or garam masala seasoning with great results. Chinese Five Spice is great with squash, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin and apple pies.

I also use a pomegranate syrup with late fall veggies for a tart kick. It’s middle eastern, and has been a nice twist when a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds is unavailable.
posted by childofTethys at 11:35 AM on November 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

I also enjoy Lots of Thyme and Garlic Red Pepper Flakes among my go-tos.

I make a strong recommendation for the following quick hits as well:
1) Urfa Biber (a dark, almost purple, fruity/mild chile) + thyme + sumac + dried spearmint + garlic as an excellent mix for roasting veggies.
2) Zaatar. For roasted veggies, on salads, whatever.
3) smoked paprika + cumin + oregano + maybe a little hint of cinnamon
4) aleppo pepper + cinnamon + white pepper + cumin
5) put a quick-pickled red onion on it
posted by amelioration at 11:48 AM on November 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

I go through a 3-cup bag of Penzey's Greek seasoning a year, and sometimes need another one before the year is out. I use it on everything that's not sweet. I did try it on watermelon, because people do put salt and pepper on watermelon, but it didn't work for me. I'm open to trying again and using less. They have a recipe for salad dressing and yogurt dip that uses it.

Penzey's Sandwich Sprinkle is great for roast chicken. I never put it on sandwiches, just sheet-pan dinner stuff.

Their Tsardust is really good, especially on pork chops.
posted by jgirl at 12:01 PM on November 9, 2020

Finally, there's a fresh herb preservation technique I picked up from a cookbook I have concerning Acadian cooking - the Acadian settlers in Canada made a condiment called "herbes salees"

Also in Quebecois cooking. Caution: saltiness level can vary greatly. I was used to my great aunt's salted herbs, which are excellent mixed with ricotta cheese to make a stuffing for stuff shells(*)

(* Preheat oven to somewhere in the 350-375F range. Boil large shell style pasta to al dente level. Stuff with cheese mixture - add garlic or garlic powder as well as salted herbs (or just regular herbs, which would also allow you to play around with different flavors) cheese mix should primarily be ricotta but can also include cottage cheese or shredded mozarella. Place stuffed shells in glass baking dish. Pour tomato sauce (or flavored pasta sauce, if the cheese mixture is not particularly flavorful and the flavors won't clash or be too much in combination) to mostly cover. Bake until done.
posted by eviemath at 12:03 PM on November 9, 2020

Some "good but not OMG amazing" red and white wine for deglazing and making pan sauces.

I actually sometimes use vermouth for this since it’s already in the fridge and I don’t go through wine fast enough. Noilly Prat isn’t too spendy. Balsamic reductions are good too.

Miso is one of those miracle umami vegan ingredients. Pairs well with tahini. Seaweed is also great for getting a little extra ocean flavor in vegetarian dishes.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:10 PM on November 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

Along with smoked paprika, I saw someone mention smoked garlic powder, and that's a great secret ingredient for me. So is smoked salt. (They have smoked garlic powder in the bulk spice rack in Cub's produce section and it's really cheap for how much you get.)

Someone was telling me that a recipe called for ground dried Chinese mushrooms and I tried some crumbs from my bag of dried mushrooms and it did a great job of secret umami.

The one neglected spice that I think everyone should learn to cook with is. sugar.
posted by advicepig at 12:31 PM on November 9, 2020

My 1st real Indian food was in London many years ago, and I needed more after I got home. At that time, fenugreek was the dominant flavor in US curry powder mixes and I don't love it. Did research, bought spices, and made my own curry powder. Get ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, ginger, dry mustard, cardamom, cayenne pepper or chilies, maybe clove, cinammon, fennel, and add them to your own taste. You can make simple dal or a simple chicken curry with onions, chicken, spices. I use cooking oil, not ghee. Because you have the spices, you can make curries that are different and emphasize different ingredients. Or just use your personalized curry powder.

An easy recipe is squash soup - Peel (5 minutes in the microwave makes butternut squash easy to peel) butternut squash, cook in some broth or water. Saute a chopped onion in oil. Heat oil in a pan, ad curry spices, add more. Add flour to make a roux. Add the cooking liquid from the squash, whisk a lot, add squash, blend with immersion blender. Top with plain yogurt or sour cream, or cilantro, or fried onions, etc. Easy, healthy, seems fancy.
posted by theora55 at 1:25 PM on November 9, 2020

I'm really trying to get into cooking Asian cuisine (some not necessarily authentic). Here are some of my suggestions.

- Get ginger paste - grating ginger is too annoying. Use in Indian dishes and to make a super awesome sauce that tastes like what they put on Western style ginger beef (all it is is soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic and ginger).

- Get minced garlic in a jar. Dealing with garlic is too annoying

- If you can get Gochujang (soooo good), you can make bibimbap. Check out those folks' youtube channel - I intend to learn a lot from them. They are cool.

- Buy the frozen chopped lemongrass from the Asian supermarket. Much better than a paste.

- To make awesome lemongrass sauce for marinating or just pouring over veggies and rice, all you need is lemongrass, lemon juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, and fish sauce

- To make that lovely sauce (Nước Chấm) you pour over Vietnamese noodle bowls, you just need
fish sauce, lemon or lime and sugar.

-I find it necessary to have Madras curry powder. It's the distinctive flavor in the Singapore Noodles you get from Chinese restaurants and while I haven't tried it yet, I love to make scrambled tofu with it (vegan interpretation of scrambled eggs).
posted by kitcat at 1:25 PM on November 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

My secret ingredient is tomato powder. Adds a solid thump of umami.

For chicken skewers, soy sauce, pesto from a jar, sundried tomato pesto from a jar, onion granules, tomato powder. Skewer and grill.

For steaks, soy sauce, tomato powder, onion powder. If the tomato powder has maltodextrin as an incipient (prevents caking), that helps brown the steak/ gives a bit more char as a bonus.

Likewise, (concentrated) tomato paste can be had in tubes (instead of a can) and is good in the fridge for a few months opened.

Anchovy paste can also be had in tube form so you can add a dollop or a teaspoon. Or get fillets in a glass jar with oil - smush up a fillet or two. I've had an open tube in the fridge for about a year and it's fine.
posted by porpoise at 2:13 PM on November 9, 2020

Sesame oil! Soy sauce + garlic + sesame oil --> Korean flavor profile. Gochujang I sometimes use in cooking, but honestly it's the sesame oil that shifts everything into Korean mode for me. Stir-fry anything, blanch any vegetable and toss it with soy sauce, garlic and sesame oil. Fried rice with sesame oil (and gochujang if you want).

I also echo people who are recommending ground cumin. Fry up some onions and peppers, add cumin and garlic, add in a hash brown patty (I get the giant packs and just microwave one before putting it in the pan), add eggs, put in a tortilla for breakfast burrito!
posted by spamandkimchi at 10:16 PM on November 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

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Cool, Calm & Pickled / The modern-day fridge makes quick work of old-fashioned relishes

It's such a wonderful image: the cook, wearing a light cotton frock (can we make it gingham?) and sweltering in the kitchen as the fragrance of summer fruit and the pungency of brines and vinegary spice infusions permeate the steamy air. And later, pantry shelves stacked with hand-labeled jars of jams and pickles, preserves and relishes that promise to extend the bounty of summer into the dreary winter months.

The trouble with such Norman Rockwell pictures is that they bear little resemblance to our late-century reality. Who, after all, has the time and energy for all that cutting and brining, the laborious preparation of equipment, the water baths and testing of rubber rings and checking for tight seals?

The death knell to the American tradition of home preserving might have been heard a couple of years ago when the revised, enlarged sixth edition of "All New All Purpose Joy of Cooking" appeared without a chapter on preserving. The editors at Scribner felt that even with the renewed passion for Americana -- mashed potatoes, roast chicken, meat loaf, root beer floats and fruit cobblers -- modern cooks simply wouldn't bother with this time-consuming activity.

We beg to differ. When farmers' market bins overflow with shiny peppers and perky little gherkins and the fragrance of sun-ripened apricots wafts toward our nostrils, we still get that urge to make a little jam, a relish, a pickle. Fortunately, it can be done without all the drudgery of old. Preserving foods in an easy-to- mix brine and storing them in the refrigerator means doing away with clumsy sterilizing equipment, pots, racks and Mason jars. And with good, fresh produce available year 'round, there is no need to "put things up" to last all winter. We can just whip up a little batch of pickles or relish to enjoy almost immediately. Prodigious amounts of acid, and sometimes sugar, keep these concoctions safe in the refrigerator for up to a week or two.

These simple preparations make wonderful snacks (low-calorie, too), piled on a piece of baguette. And they add panache to the simplest meal off the grill.

My family has scarfed up gallons of zucchini pickles ever since a friend brought a jar to a cabin barbecue some 20 years ago. With a few alterations, we still use her easy recipe.

From Germany, we acquired pickled mushrooms. Woodsy chanterelles are particularly interesting, but even inexpensive brown button mushrooms add a piquant touch to a rib steak or an unadorned piece of grilled fish.

Diners with long memories may remember the craze for dilly beans some 30-plus years ago. People even dunked them in martinis, a practice we are loathe to revive. But we certainly love crisp pickled beans and Southern-style preserved okra. Put them on a plate with some crackly small radishes, a handful of golden cherry tomatoes, a few slices of salami or prosciutto and some fresh mozzarella, and you have a very '90s antipasto platter. There are several reasons to recommend these quickie pickles besides their intriguing taste. Even though they are not meant to be kept a long time, you can make them at your leisure. A mandoline or food processor -- the thin slicing disk for cucumbers and onions, the shredding disk for zucchini -- make preparation a snap. And the price is right -- most of these recipes can be made for a fraction of the cost of fancy imported pickles.


Pickling can be a ticklish project. The methods Aunt Gertie used, the canning equipment you inherited when Mom moved to a condo, even the instructions you saved from that box of pectin you bought in an ambitious moment 10 years ago may all seem helpful. And, according to the latest food science findings, they may all be wrong.

As insight into the nature of food-borne bacteria has increased, new cautions have been sounded. That's the bad news. The good news is that high-acid refrigerator pickles are not prone to the same sorts of contamination that can plague low-acid fruits and vegetables intended to be stored for a long time. But no matter the pickling method, these tips will help ensure a safe, successful product. -- Use the freshest, highest-quality produce available and fresh, aromatic spices. Avoid over-the- hill, mushy produce or zucchini that have outgrown their intended size. The success of pickling can only be as good as the ingredients used. -- Always use meticulously clean jars. Wash jars and lids with hot soapy water (the short cycle of the dishwasher is fine) and rinse with boiling water just before filling. To cleanse them, you can also place water-filled pint jars in the microwave and process them at high for 3 minutes. Take care not to burn your hands when removing and emptying. -- For freezer pickles, use small plastic containers with tight-fitting lids or self-sealing plastic bags. Always allow some room for the food to expand as it freezes. Defrost in the refrigerator. -- Make pickles in small batches that you will use up within a week or so -- that's the whole point of these preparations. Don't exceed specified refrigerator time. -- Refrigerate leftovers. If a pickle has been sitting out for more than two hours, discard it. -- If you notice any kind of mold, fizziness or changed color or odor, discard the pickles. Remember the wise old food adage still holds: When in doubt, throw it out.


This is one of a group of freezer pickles from Linda Ziedrich's book, "The Joy of Pickling," (Harvard Common Press, 1998).


-- 1 barely ripe mango, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

-- 1 cup thinly sliced onions

-- 3 tablespoons pickling salt or white sea salt

-- 1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

-- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

-- 1 teaspoon ground allspice

INSTRUCTIONS: Wash cucumbers slice thinly, discarding a slice from both ends of cucumbers. This will yield about 7 cups. Toss cucumber slices, mango cubes and onions with the salt in a large bowl. Let stand 2 to 3 hours. Drain well in a colander.

Stir together pepper flakes, ginger, allspice, sugar and vinegar.

Return drained vegetables to large bowl pour liquid over them. Cover and refrigerate 8 to 10 hours.

Pack into freezer bags or rigid containers, distributing solids and liquid evenly freeze 1 day to several months. Thaw in refrigerator 8 hours before serving and serve ice cold.

The calories and other nutrients absorbed from pickling brines vary and are difficult to estimate. Variables include the type of food, marinating time and amount of surface area. Therefore, these pickle recipes contain no analysis.


From chef Bradley Ogden's "Bradley Ogden's Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner," (Random House, 1991).


-- 2 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed

-- 2 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)

-- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

-- 1/4 head red cabbage, thinly sliced

-- 1 red onion, thinly sliced

INSTRUCTIONS: Combine bay leaves, fennel and mustard seeds, garlic, chile, thyme, vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a small nonreactive saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer 3 minutes.

Combine cabbage and onion in a bowl cover with hot brine. Cool to room temperature cover tightly and refrigerate 1 to 5 days. Drain before serving.


This is adapted from Alice Waters' "Chez Panisse Vegetables," (HarperCollins, 1996).


-- 3/4 pound yellow wax beans

-- 1 dried cayenne chile (or other red chile)

-- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

-- 1/8 teaspoon black peppercorns

-- 3/4 cup white wine or cider vinegar

INSTRUCTIONS: Top and tail beans peel and cut garlic in half slice chile in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Place beans upright in a nonreactive container with a tight-fitting lid. Place garlic, chile, coriander, peppercorns and bay leaf between beans.

Combine vinegar, wine, water, salt and sugar in a small pan. Boil for 1 minute. Pour liquid over beans let cool.

Cover and refrigerate for 3 days to 2 weeks.


This is an adaptation of an Apulian recipe in Faith Willinger's "Red, White & Greens," (HarperCollins, 1999). The longer you marinate the onions, the milder they become. Try this with polenta or boiled new potatoes.


-- 4 tablespoons capers, preferably salt-packed

-- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

INSTRUCTIONS: Peel the onions, slice them paper thin.

Rinse the capers and drain.

Pack the onions and the capers into a container with a tight-fitting lid. Sprinkle with salt and pepper between the layers. Cover with vinegar.

Close the container and refrigerate at least 20 minutes, or as long as a day.


A jar of this makes a great picnic take-along -- it complements everything from the grill. You can even spoon a little on burgers or sandwiches in lieu of pickle relish.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Celebrating Purim and Nowruz with Americanized Falooda

Mixed faloods with rose syrup
This year saw the fortuitous almost coincidence of Purim (Jewish Mardi Gras cum Halloween) celebrating the deliverance of Jews from their enemy du jour (so what else is new) during the ancient Persian empire and the Iranian New Year, Nowruz, which, although it has Zoroastrian roots, is, or was widely celebrated in Iran by Muslims, Christians and Jews as well as Zoroastrians. Purim usually comes in late February or early March, while Nowruz is tied to the Vernal Equinox in later March so they rarely come out together. However, this year is a Jewish leap year where we add not just an additional day, but an additional month, all the Jewish holidays are late (they are never on time) and Purim and Nowruz almost coincide. Interestingly, some historians argue that Purim is actually the Jewish Nowruz, and that the Book of Esther (clearly written as a diaspora novella rather than as "scripture") was written to explain why the Jews of ancient Persia were celebrating this particular holiday.

This opens up endless gastronomic possibilities, so for Shabbat dinner last week, we marked the occasion with food that was mostly Persian, Parsi, and Irani. The Parsis are a Zoroastrian community that emigrated to India millennia ago to escape persecution, the Iranis one that left in the nineteenth century. It seemed particularly appropriate to acknowledge the Persian roots of Purim with foods of communities that originated in Persia but fled to escape religious persecution. (BTW, and speaking of escaping or ending religious persecution, you haven't lived until you have seen the St Petersburg Hillel Purim video.)

The main dish was a salmon baked with green coconut chutney, which we served with crusty Persian rice, Indian cauliflower and a dish of black-eyed peas with spinach, dill, curry leaves and dried lime, a very typical Persian spice that smells like an old cathedral. (This is a good thing.) For dessert, we had falooda (also spelled faluda) using the recipe from Niloufer Ichaporia King's My Bombay Kitchen . It is a milk shake with creamy milk, falooda sev (noodles softened and soaked in syrup), basil seeds, ice cream and rose syrup. Amy and I had something similar once in a Pakistani sweet shop in Jackson Heights whose name we forget but which we remember as the Al-Qaeda Cafe, since it was dominated by a huge replica of some mosque or other and Amy and our friend Marilyn were the only women there who were not veiled.

Falooda is sort of a weird dessert, and I was probably the only one who liked it, at least with the original rose syrup. But one of our guests last week was our friend Nancy, who is a maple syrup fanatic -- she and her husband Gary have even tapped maple sap from the trees near their house in the Adirondacks. Just so you believe this, here is a picture which they sent me of how they do it:

a bucket on a tree with tap

a bucket of sap

We had some cans of maple syrup in the cabinet from our last trip to Montreal, so we tried it and it was far more popular with most of our guests than the rose syrup. And voila, American Falooda. Try it both ways and see what you prefer.

The dish really defies recipes, and is nice made at the table with everyone mixing it to their own taste but here is how you make it. It is sort of like making really weird sundaes.

Falooda, Irani and American style

Shake 2 tablespoons basil seed (sold in Indian groceries as takmuriya -- I have no idea if these are related to regular basil) in a sieve to remove any debris. They are nondescript, small, hard black brown seeds. Soak them in between 1 and 2 cups of cold water for about 15 minutes. They will swell and become gelatinous, squeaky and crunchy at the same time. I prefer the lesser amount of water which I find preserves the crunch and squeak of the seeds and what little aroma there is. They can be a great conversation starter, as people discuss whether they look more like insect larvae, fish roe, or fish eyes. (If you cannot find basil seeds, you can try to substitute chia seeds which are vaguely similar.) After they are soaked, this is what they look like:

Soaked basil seed.
 Soak a packages of falooda sev (falooda noodles, available in Indian and Pakistani groceries) in very hot water for about 5 minutes until soft. I If you like them Drain, cut into shorter lengths and cover with a cooled simple syrup, equal parts sugar and water zapped in a microwave until it boils. Both the noodles and the seeds can be made in advance and kept well covered in the fridge, but I find that the seeds absorb other odors, so make sure they are well-covered.

If you cannot find falooda sev, you can substitute cellophane noodles: take a small package, soak in warm water about 1/2 hour. If you like them chewy, you can use them now. If you like them slithery, boil them in water for no more than one mine, and drain and rinse immediately. Cut into 1 or 2 inch lengths before using. You will of course no longer be eating falooda, rather cellophanoodla, but it will still be fun. (This of course depends on your definition of fun.)


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