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Posts Tagged ‘wickedly delicious custom spice blends’

A friend of mine e-mailed me the other day and wondered why I didn’t do a post about Israeli spices, herbs and foods.  I told her it was a great idea, since I love Middle Eastern foods, but that I knew nothing about Israeli cooking.  She seemed unconcerned and said I should at least give a nod to the incredible assortment of cuisine available in Israel.  I thought about it and knew she was right.  Now, I’m sure I’ll head into a new direction and delve in the huge variety that is Israeli cuisine.  What follows below is a brief synopsis of what I could glean from the net regarding this topic. 

Evidently, Israeli cuisine is a varied as the cuisine throughout the East.  Israeli culture has been heavily influenced by the immigration of Jewish people’s from Europe and Ethiopia, as well as from the region itself.  I read that Jewish immigrants from 80 different countries now reside in Israel.  Just imagine the mixing of cuisines that has occurred throughout history in Israel.  One source (listed at the end of this article) was especially helpful and listed three separate cuisines in Israel.

1.  Askenazic  Cuisine:  This cuisine originated from the immigrants that lived in Eastern Europe, mainly Germany.  Therefore, Askenazic cooking is heavily influenced by the culture and cuisine of this region.    Simple seasoning seemed to be the order of the day with black pepper, paprika, parsley, chives, dill, sugar, horseradish and bay leaves being the most used.   At the end of WWII many Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe came to Israel and to the U.S.  They brought with them foods that are extremely popular today, such as bagels and cheesecake.

2.  Sephardic Cuisine:  This cuisine is said to have originated from immigrants to Israel from North Africa, Spain, Turkey, the Balkans and the Middle East.  As my other posts have shown these areas are rich in diverse and robust spices, all of which came to Israel and were incorporated into Israeli cuisine.  Spices used in Sephardic Cuisine include dill, Italian parsley, citron, rosemary, fennel, thyme, dill, peppers, lemon, garlic, cumin, black caraway seeds, cardamon, safffron, turmeric, and olive oils.

3.  Israeli Cuisine:  It would seem that a discussion exists as to whether or not there is a true Israeli cuisine.  Those that say there is argue that it is the blending of these rich and varied cultures that make up a separate and unique Israeli cuisine.  Other’s argue that Israeli cuisine is cooking imported from other regions of the world and, therefore, not a separate cuisine at all.  In any case, to get a complete read of this topic let me direct you to the source of my information:  http://www.inmamaskitchen.com/Food_IS_ART/israelifood.html

Finding recipes for Jewish spice mixes was quite difficult, but I found one site that had some yummy spice mix recipes that I will be trying out soon.  For you who want to try your hand at mixing  take a look at this wonderful site for three seperate spice mix recipes.  http://jhom.com/topics/spices/cooking2.html

I hope this helps those of you who are interested in learning more about Israeli cuisine.  I know I will be making some of these mixes and enjoying them.

 Again, I invite you to take a look at my Etsy sellers you must see page.  These artists will only be featured for 4 more days and then another grouping will be added.  Take a walk on the etsy side and see the beauty of hand-made goods!

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Good early morning for some and a very late night for others.  The last time we spoke I listed the main spices used in Indian cooking.  Various regions, I mentioned, use less, more, and added local spices.  Garam Masala is what I call a base spice mix.  You will find Garam Masala used in most Indian cooking as a base spice mix with other spices being added to the dish.  It is not that Garam Masala can not stand-alone, it does in many dishes.  But I find that used sparingly Garam Masala makes a wonderful, aromatic, warming lullaby, but adding additional spices can create an entire song.  There are even times when I use Garam Masala at the end of a dish–just sprinkled on vegetables, meats, rice, or potatoes.  Yum.

You can find Garam Masala at most larger grocery stores.  If needed, you can find it readily at most online Pakistani and Indian groceries.  Beware that commercial varieties have a number of different recipes and often cheaper ingredients are chosen (such as cumin and coriander) in place of the usual, more expensive cloves and cardamom.  The downside to these cheaper mixes is that they can leave a bitter after taste on your poor tongue.  Oh, there I go, mentioning tongue.  And, that only serves to remind me of Dougray Scott’s incredible mouth.  Speaking of yum.  Shudder, shake, and back to business! 

I always make my Garam Masala in cup quantities, but that might be a lot to use in most households that do not entertain a lot or don’t eat Indian spiced foods all that often.  So, here is a knock off of my own Oh India, Adult Indulgences Indian Spice Blend.  I have left out a few of my special differences, as my blend is proprietary.  Sigh.  However, I think you will find this mix to be incredible!  It will make around 4 tablespoons, depending on how you grind it.  Just remember to put it in a tightly sealed glass container out of the sunlight and away from heat.

Garam Masala

1/2 of a small-sized nutmeg

1 tsp. fresh cloves

1 tsp. fresh peppercorns (note these should be black peppercorns)

1 fresh, small cinnamon stick (broken into small pieces)

3/4 tablespoon cardamom seeds

1 tsp. cumin seeds

Using a counter spice grinder (or coffee bean grinder) place all ingredients in the holding cup.  Turn on the grinder for short bursts until the spices are ground into a fine powder.  Smell the wonder you have created.  Even better find a simple Indian recipe (like one of mine from my recipe page or your favorite Indian cookbook) and pour some wine, cut up some fresh mango and water melon and invite a few friends over for a night of laughing and chatting.  Enjoy!  Life is short!

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Good evening everyone.  Imagine my delight late last night when I was just about ready to enter this post and BAM!  Yes, BAM!  I found out that an old episode of Desperate Housewives was on featuring guess who?   Who?  Say it!  Yes.  BAM!  Dougray Scott.  Needless to say all thoughts of my favorite Indian spices went out of my head and I became glued to the television.  Dear God, how could she choose a plumber over Dougray Scott.  Sigh.  Now that I have those feelings out the way, its down to business!

Indian cooking is one of my favorites.  The flavors are so varied by region and even by cooks within regions that I believe Indian cooking is some of the most interesting in the world and the spices used, some of the most complex.  Here’s a list of the most common Indian spices.  Most of these can be found in grocery stores in larger cities.  If you, like me, are unlucky enough to live away from such an urban area, there are plenty of Indian groceries on the net to satisfy your spice searching.

1.  Green Hot Chillies.  Don’t touch your fingers to your eyes when handling green hot chillies.  Indian green chillies are about 2-4 inches long and filled with white seeds.  It is the white seeds that cause all that burn.  So, if you don’t want the burn, use latex gloves and remove as many seeds as you can. Indians call these chillies Hari Mirch.

2.  Red Hot Chillies.  Again, a warning about the heat.  These are really  interesting chillies.  When you place them in boiling oil they will puff up and the skin will darken.  It is believed that even the darkened skin lends a special flavor to Indian cooking.  The Indian name for these red chillies is Sabut lal mirch.

3.  Fresh grated Coconut and Coconut Milk.  Coconut milk is made by grating coconut, placing it in water and then squeezing out the juice.  Ummmmm.  Fresh grated coconut meat freezes and unfreezes easily so it is an easy item to keep for future use.  Fresh grated coconut is referred to in India as Nariyal.

4.  Coriander Seeds.  Coriander seeds are used often in Indian cooking.  They are usually freshly ground before used in any recipe.  The Coriander plant itself is also used in Indian cooking as a herb as opposed to a spice.  Coriander leaf is used much like we use parsley in Italy.  In order to flavor wet dishes the leaves are often tossed in and cooked for the addition of their aroma.  Indians call Coriander greens Kothmir.  Coriander seeds are often called Dhania or Sabut.

5.  Cinnamon.  Cinnamon sticks are most often used in rice and meat dishes.  The Cinnamon sticks are used for flavor and are not eaten. Their Indian name is Dar Cheeni.

6.  Whole Cloves.  Again, whole cloves are often used in meat and rice dishes for its aroma.  Indians refer to cloves as Long (as opposed to short–just kidding).

7.  Cayenne Pepper.  Hey this is one we all know about, huh!  It’s Indian name is Pisi hui lal mirch.

8.  Cardamom.  Cardamon seeds come from the Cardamom pod and are black and highly aromatic.  If you are using the pod with seeds included you should not eat it only use it for its aroma.  The seeds can be eaten and ground.  Cardamom seeds are referred to as Elaichi.

9.  Green Mango Powder.  Green Mango Powder is just as it says–a green mango that has not ripened.  The unripened mango is sliced and dried in the sun.  Both whole slices and powdered slices are sold in Indian groceries. I’ve only used the powder and can not speak to the use of the sliced Amchoor.  Amchoor is extremely sour and tastes somewhat like lime.  It is referred to as Amchoor Powder.

10.  Asafetida.  This is a resin with a strong odor that is usually found in Kashmir.  Someone in a cooking class once told me it smelled like truffles.  Ummmmm.  I’d say earthy is right, but to me it smelled closer to really old manure that no longer smelled like excrement but was once excrement.  Again, my palate can’t be trusted.  Since that class I have never used it even when a recipe has called for it. 

11.  Fennel Seeds.  Ah, another one I use often.  Fennel seeds have a liquorice-like flavor–not as heavy as anise but the taste is definitely there.  Fennel seeds are often roasted and placed on the last course in a meal as a breath freshener.  At an Indian grocery ask for Sonf.

12.  Fenugreek Seeds.  Many of you have used Fenugreek seeds in Mediterranean cooking.  They are a squarish, brownish-yellow seed that have a definitely mushroomy or earthy flavor (without the excrement included ; ) ).  Indians refer to these seeds as Methi.

13.  Cumin Seeds.  Indians usually roast their seeds in a pan and use them whole or grind them. 

There we have it.  These are the very basic spices used in Indian cooking.  Tomorrow we will look at another basic spice mixture used as a “base” (or a beginning) in Indian cooking–Gram Masala.  It is easy to make at home and is delicious by itself or after more spices/herbs are added to further enhance the flavor of a recipe. 

Alas, I must leave you for this evening.  Like Dougray Scott I am here, but not really here–I’m in the ether.  Goodnight and good eating!

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