Posts Tagged ‘spice’

I’m here, but for how long I’m not sure.  First craft fair of the season and it was slowwwwwww.  Ah, but there are more to come!  It always looks up the closer to Christmas we get.  I just love this time of year.  Enough of this for now, let’s head to my favorite sauce–Bechamel!  Oh, excuse you!

Start by making a White Roux.  Now, this is not book learning you will be getting from me, but experience.  I DO use butter as my fat source–REAL BUTTER folks.  I take a pan, put in about 4-5 tablespoons of butter and heat it up on medium high heat.  When fat thins I add 6-7 tablespoons of flour and whisk briskly until the mixture begins to thin and bubble.  I then turn the heat to low and reduce the amount of whisking I do until I smell a toasty aroma arising from the roux. I usually let it cook for about 1-2 minutes more (don’t let it brown) and then remove it and set it aside.  For what follows you will need 4-6 tablespoons of this roux.

In a separate pot, heat up about one quart of milk (I use whole milk to get the smoothest blend) until it is SIMMERING.  Add the roux to the milk and whisk until the two come together smoothly, simmering while doing so.  Add salt to taste and two pinches of nutmeg.  I don’t like to taste the nutmeg as an “ingredient,” I just use it to add depth of flavor.  I also add a pinch of powdered white pepper and 1/4 of a yellow onion, peeled and sliced (not to small–what you want is the flavor).  I will sometimes also add a bay leaf and bit of vanilla bean, etc, depending on what I’m using the sauce for.  For now, just add the onion and one bay leaf (along with the nutmeg).  Simmer for about 20 minutes, adding more whole milk if the sauce thickens to quickly.  When done pour through a sieve and viola–BECHAMEL!  

Although this is a very BASIC Bechamel Sauce, you can do a lot with it. 

1.  You can throw in some Parmesan, Romano or both (grated please, 6-8 oz. please) into the sauce, melt it and pour it over some pasta.  Delicious. 

2.  You can make it into a heavy cream sauce by adding about 4-8 ounces of heated, heavy cream along with your favorite spices from Adult Indulgences, Wickedly Delicious Custom Spice Blends (http://www.adultindulgences.etsy.com), such as Tuscan Sun, Sicilian Prince, or even Oh India!  Again, great on pasta, baked chicken, etc.

3.  You can stir in 4 ounces of Gruyère (an incredible cheese indeed) and 2 oz. of Parmesan (grated) until melted.  Then remove from heat and add in 2 oz. of butter.  Stir well.  Again, this goes well with pasta, chicken, etc.  This is known in the field as a Mornay Sauce.

4.  And, you can make my husband’s favorite….Cheddar Cheese Sauce.  Add 8-9 oz. of cheddar cheese (grated please), 1/2 tsp of dry mustard, and two tbls of Worcestershire sauce.  Place all ingredients into warm Bechamel and heat until melted.  Pour over pasta and just die!

Really, you can put just about anything into a Bechamel sauce.  That is what makes it so very cool.  An easy way to make a fantastic sauce that you can use for virtually everything!  It can be dainty or robust.  You choose!  But, I make my Bechamel Sauces just how I like my men….robust and naughty!

Photo Courtesy of:  http://www.independent.co.uk/multimedia/archive/00284/Mr_January__Peter_L_284932t.jpg


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Do not, and I mean DO NOT believe people when they tell you oil and water do not mix.  Yes, they do.  Under the perfect set of circumstances they can produce a beautiful, viscus sauce that coats your mouth with flavor and never leaves a slimy, clingy after coating on your tongue.  In simple language an emulsion is a combination of oil and water along with additions that create the unique flavor of whatever emulsion you are creating. 

Most of you know that to thicken a sauce the most common technique is to add a starch (flour, cornstarch, arrowroot) and let the liquid surrounding it swell the molecules, thus increasing the viscosity of the fluid.  When you make an emulsification, you don’t use starch but instead you bond little droplets of oil and water molecules.  This “bonding” process makes it difficult for the water to move away from the oil and, thus, a thick, creamy consistency results.  The most fun emulsification I like to make is a combination of Balsamic Vinegar, Honey, Jack Daniels Honey Dijon Mustard, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  I beat my ingredients to death with a whisk and all of a sudden the mixture begins to cling to itself and thicken.  Within 3 to 5 minutes I have a spectacular emulsified salad dressing that is sweet, sour, salty and above all else creamy and thick. 

The key to mixing an emulsification until well bonded is technically known as shearing.  In my case, I often use a whisk.  This takes a lot of “sheer” muscle power and time, but works great.  Modern cooks are lucky to have mixers that do the work for them.  For those of you who make your own mayo you know how handy a metal bowl with whisk mixer can be!!  You may wonder why having an electric whisking device is better than hand whisking an emulsification.  The answer is simple enough:  shear power.  With greater shearing power the better the bond you are creating between the molecules and the less chance you will have of your emulsification separating.

Finally, always remember that shearing power isn’t the end all beat all to a great emulsification….oh  no, you need a great emulsifier to get a stable emulsification.  Emulsifiers are those “bonding” agents that allow oil and water to mix properly.  Soy bean sauces, cream, and egg yolks are all great emulsifiers.  In the big world of chef’s emulsifiers will always include food grade gums such as Xanthan.  I’ve never used the stuff and have no idea how to.  This should make a good study for those of you curious about emulsification with Xanthan.

There we go…..Emulsification 101. 


Photo of  Home Made Mayonnaise Courtesy of:  http://whatscookingamerica.net/Sauces_Condiments/Mayonnaise.jpg 

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My apologies, again, for being absent.  Let’s continue where we left off some time ago, shall we?  As I was mentioning, an avid reader wanted a lesson in “Mother Sauces”.  Naturally, I aim to please (most of the time, anyway).  Some of you may be asking, “What the heck are Mother Sauces?  Well, simply put, they are the base sauces for most any sauce you can think of or create. 

The Mother Sauces are:  Tomato Sauce (or Sauce Tomat), White Sauce (or Sauce Bechamel), Brown Sauce (or Sauce Espagnole), White Stock Sauce (or Sauce Veloute) and finally, Hollandaise Sauce.  I’m sure most of these sound familiar to a lot of you who like to cook.  So, let’s take a better look at each, shall we? 

1.  Sauce Bechamel.  This delicious base sauce is usually made with whole milk and thickened with a white roux (to be explained later…if you are wondering what a roux is).  Bechamel sauce is often flavored with white onion, bay leave, salt, nutmeg and white and black pepper.  Bechamel is served most often with pastas, eggs, poultry and veal.

2.  Sauce Tomat.  How can we forget this lovely sauce made from a base of tomatoes, whether raw, pureed, stewed or in a paste form).  We are most familiar with this sauce and its use in pastas.  But it is often found fish, vegetables, polenta, veal, poultry, breads and gnocchi.  Thickening of a Sauce Tomat often occurs with purees, reductions and even a roux.

3.  Sauce Espagnole.  Brown Sauce is a must if you are aiming for truly classic cooking.  It is thickened with a roux and is made from a base of veal, beef or chicken stock.  It is most often served over roasted meats such as veal, lamb, beef and even poultry. 

4.  Sauce Veloute.  As a white sauce Sauce Veloute is made with chicken, light meats and often fish.  We find it used with eggs, fish, pastas and veal.  Sauce Veloute is commonly flavored with various wines and thickened with a roux.

5.  Hollandaise Sauce.  My favorite!  Clarified butter and egg yolks make this sauce truly unforgettable.  It is thickened through emulsification (to be defined later) and often paired with seasonings such a black pepper, white wine, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, and salt.  I love Hollandaise over asparagus!  It is also often used with vegetables, light poultry dishes, fish, beef, and eggs!

Such a tantalizing group of “Mother Sauces” from which can come an infinite number of possibilities.  Your imagination and palate will be your only boundaries!

Photo Courtesy of:   http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/uimages/kitchen/2008_03_25_MotherSauce.jpg

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Hey herb (no, not that type of herb), spice and cooking fans.  How many of you wish you could pull off a great tasting Paella for friends and family.  Hey, how about a Paella party where everyone brings a different Spanish wine to share.  LOVE IT!   If you live near a beach, make it a beach party.  YEAH.  Imagine.

  Photo complements of:  http://www.pxleyes.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/top_11_computer_generated_landscapes/9.jpg

Well, hold onto your horse as you race along that beach because here is the simple spice mix recipe for use with Paella.  Some of you may think I am putting the cart before the horse, and perhaps I am — as I often do — but the mix will come before the actual Paella recipe.  By the time I post my Paella recipe you will be drooling all over the keys on your computer and the spice mix will be ready to go!


1 tsp crushed Rosemary

3  tsp salt

2 1/2 tsp Sweet Spanish Paprika

1 tsp ground garlic

2 tsp raw cane sugar

2 tsp Spanish Saffron

Really, reader, the most important ingredient here is the Saffron!  Make sure it is Spanish and fresh.  By the way, the same should be said for your men! 

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and place in a tight jar.  I recommend you use this mix immediately on the Paella recipe that I will soon be posting.  You will need to use all the spice mix with the recipe.  So, it is just a one time use blend.  But, well worth it if you like the real thing!  And, as with most cooking around the world, there are many, many different recipes for Paella and many different amounts of spices used in each recipe.  I find this one meets my needs best.  I hope you enjoy it as much as you will the Paella recipe that will follow shortly (a couple of days).  In the meantime, let me leave you with this:


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Hey, don’t blame it on me.  I had a friend of mine phone me after she looked at my blog and say, “I thought Savory was a Herb.”  Lord, Melissa, did you just give me an idea for a new post.  Yes, Savory is a herb and a savory one at that.  I know, corny but cute little pun.

Yes, there is a herb named Savory.  It comes in two varieties:  summer savory and winter savory.  Winter savory is more woody perennial and quite robust in flavor.  It is best used to flavor strong meat dishes and should always be cooked to soften its woody nature (i.e., to keep your diners from accidentally choking).  Summer savory, on the other hand, is the much preferred cooking herb.  It is an annual plant with a much more feminine nature with a delicate flavor.   Summer savory goes well with beans, chicken, eggs, soups, etc. 

Savory has been used since ancient times and is indigenous to the Mediterranean and parts of Europe.  It has been used for medicinal purposes such as flatulence (no kidding), aid in the correct functioning of the female reproductive tract, and even soothe stomach pains.  I’ve often used it when I cook to make sure I soothe my husband’s flatulence.  I can state, from experience, it doesn’t really seem to work to decrease flatulence.   : )

Savory is a member of the mint family and I find it tastes of thyme with a very slight peppery flavor.  Savory has an amalgamating character in that it doesn’t overwhelm other herbs it is used with, but tends to bring out the great flavor of all herbs and spices used in a recipe.  A favorite family recipe is to use small mozzarella balls placed in a glass container and coat the balls well with extra virgin olive oil (you can use a flavored oil if you want).  Next, add your flavorings:  fresh basil, summer savory, thyme, rosemary, oregano.  Place the top on the container and shake well.  Allow to marinade at least 24 hours.  Serve with your favorite salami and artisan bread.  Ummmmmmmmmmmmmm.  Almost as good as watching a Dougray Scott movie!

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Good evening all!  Tonight I’ll try to discuss the term savory, not the herb savory.  Got that?  Neither do I.  I had someone ask me the other day, “So, what does savory really mean?”  I just smiled, looked over their shoulder and yelled, “Wow, is that Elvis?”  As soon as they turned I high tailed it back down the street.  That’s what many folks want to do with the term savory–including myself. 

My understanding of the term savory was always that it meant a meatiness flavor to a food.  We now know, thanks to chemists, that savory is actually a flavor received by some receptors on our tongue caused by the breaking down of proteins in food through either aging or cooking.  The amino acid created is glutamic acid or glutamate and our tongue’s taste buds interpret this flavor as something special. 

Glutamic acid is found in many foods, including some cheeses, meats, certain vegetables and, of course, seaweed.  This leads us to the way the term is used today, Umami.  Umami is a popular term in Japan (and now the U.S.) and is often found in fish and seafood sauces.  Thus, we can see that savory has been around forever, but only recently has its importance been truly studied. 

I know I love to add a bit of soy sauce to many dishes as that hint of earthy, meatiness really can brighten up a dish on the diner’s tongue.  Many chef’s would never admit to using soy sauce or fish sauces to add savory to their dishes, but they often do.  In some ways I’m saddened that savory has finally given up its secrets to the science minded in the culinary world, but such is life.  Curiosity has its price–the end of mystery!

Good night fellow spice lovers!

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Evening all.  This beautiful night, cold but precious, we are discussing the fourth category of spice flavors–SPICY.  Spicy for me is a great Dougray Scott movie, some home-made hot garlic and cheese sticks, a warm blanket, a dark room, and a big screen T.V. (so that Dougray’s luscious lip are larger than life).  Well, at least the hot garlic cheese sticks are spicy!

Dishes with a hot zip are spicy dishes and they leave a warm to searing sensation on our palate.  Sometimes the heat hits right away, all over your mouth–in a sometimes unpleasant and frantic way.  At other times a dish has subtle heat and you really feel nothing but an after-lingering heat on the back of the tongue.  Of course, there is a range of experiences between the two.  Honestly, hot spices are one of the most well-known.

Some samples of hot spices would be:

1.  Hot Peppers.  The heat of peppers is measured on a scale.  Peppers range from mild to awful!  The kind of awful that you should be wearing a respirator.  When I grind fresh dried peppers of the medium to hot varieties I do wear goggles, gloves, a respirator, and overalls.  I try to do my grinding out-of-doors so avoid running the family out of the house for a few days.

2.  Hot Garlic.  Almost all of us are aware of the usual types of garlic we find in the grocery store.  Pungent, yes.  But, some garlic is hot.  Personally, I love hot garlic.  I get the great taste of garlic with its zippy flair and the heat of a mild pepper.  Nice.

3.  Mustard.  As we all know, mustards, powdered or wet, can be mild to hot.  There is nothing better than a hot mustard, avocado, honey-ham, tomato, and Havarti dill cheese sandwich.  Try one!

4.  Pepper.  Pepper is such a widely used spice it’s like salt–people don’t even think about its use and flavor.  Peppercorns originated in southern India and they now come in a host of varieties.

5.  Horseradish.  This spicy root was grown by my father no matter where we lived.  He loved fresh ground horseradish root on meat, potatoes, as a dipping sauce–just about everything!  I appreciate its many uses, but my favorite is in a great home-made cocktail sauce!

Well, those are my examples of the hot spice category.  Be ready for our final category in Episode VI:  Amalgamating. What?  I tell you what, you won’t find a more exciting cooking site on the entire web.  ; )  Keep an eye on my etsy page and take a look at the new promotions there.  A special gift of beauty and class awaits you all!  Also, don’t forget to glance at the recipes every so often.  My next one will be my secret (not any  more, Linda) recipe for making my Dougray Scott, Evening at Home, Spicy Cheese Sticks!

Eat on, my friends.  Eat on!

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