Spice Up Your Life
My spice cabinet could double as an atlas. It’s crammed with spices—and spice blends —from every corner of the world: baharat and dukkah for Middle Eastern cuisine, garam masala for Indian, ras el hanout for Moroccan, star anise for Chinese. Though I haven’t visited many of the counties I cook from, I feel a kinship. Recipes let me peek into the recipe-writers’ family lives, their cultures and customs. What they feed their families, I feed mine.
I especially love it when a cookbook shares the story behind the dish. In a sense, it’s a spice of peace. And with that, we hope that everyone generously sprinkles all their cooking with spices of other cultures this coming year.
I have several spices currently in heavy rotation. Some were once “exotic” and now are part of my everyday arsenal: sumac for lemony spinach salads, Aleppo pepper for adding a bit of kick to dishes and saffron, which nicely rounds out tomato soup (and other dishes), to name a few. Others are the workhorses of the spice shelf: chili powder, cinnamon, oregano.
If you can, seek out organic herbs and spices. This way, you’ll avoid the pesticides used to grow most herbs or spices and get the benefit of production methods that are better for people and the planet, including steam, freezing or sun-drying the products.
Spices contribute more than mere flavor to enlivening a dish, as I learned from Dr. Nitika Parmar, assistant professor of biology at California State University, Channel Islands. She gives us the top five spices we should be eating this winter for our health. “Each spice has its own nature and mood: some soothing, some warming and some cooling,” she writes.
Thank you for making our 15th anniversary year so memorable. It has been a joy to celebrate with you! And here’s to Edible Ojai & Ventura County’s “Sweet 16.”
P.S. Check out our Source Guide starting for holiday gift ideas. And keep it handy, as Valentine’s Day is right around the corner.