Five Unconventional Spices Certain to Modernize Classic Dishes
Spices not only take the place of extra sodium, sweeteners and fats many guests wish to avoid, but they also offer an unexpected, exotic punch to the palate. Therefore, go ahead and sprinkle these five unique seasonings on classic dishes and watch them shine.
Give Stews A Boost with Berbere
This enticing Ethiopian blend kicks off with cayenne, but don’t be fooled. Berbere boasts more than just heat. With the addition of classic staples such as fenugreek, cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric and allspice, berbere lends an enriching backbone to almost anything you can imagine. Stews, lentils, chicken and even egg dishes benefit with a boost of berbere.
Furikake, a Japanese Staple
Considered to be the "salt and pepper of Japan," this brightly colored blend of dried seafood, toasted sesame, seaweed and powdered miso upgrades your dishes with the unparalleled depth of umami. Use furikake in pickled garnishes, noodle bowls and fish entrees. For an uncommon twist on bar snacks, blend furikake with melted butter and drizzle over popcorn, pretzels or nuts.
Ras El Hanout, a Distinct Moroccan Spice Blend
Though ras el hanout holds similar ingredients, don’t confuse this distinct Moroccan blend with berbere. Its name translates to "top of the shop," which reflects the time-honored tradition of spice purveyors blending the best they have to offer like rosebud, orris root and galangal. This warm, aromatic blend is essential in tajines, but also perfect for marinades, rubs and condiments. Mix with yogurt for an easy, zesty dollop to top any classic dish.
Timut —Used in Chocolate or Seafood
Timut is a wild shrub that only grows above 2,000 meters in the Nepalese mountains, and its ripe berries are harvested by hand in autumn, then dried completely. Once the bitter black seeds are removed, the shell is reserved for a brand-new taste experience. Similar to Sichuan, timut creates a slight tingling on the tongue, but its uniqueness arises from strong properties of grapefruit, lemon and passion fruit, making it an ideal addition to fish and vegetable dishes. Try adding a touch to chocolate and fruit for that sweet, spicy combo your guests should crave.
Za'atar, Middle Eastern Fave A Hit in the Midwest
The beloved Middle-Eastern za'atar spice blend has many regional variations, but the base blend is toasted sesame seeds, thyme and sumac. “(It’s) my favorite spice in all the world,” says Joan Ferris, co-owner of the La Crosse, Wis.-based Lovechild restaurant. Her partner, James Beard-nominated Chef Jay Sparks, uses za’atar in bread. “It’s the best I’ve ever had in my life,” says Ferris. “It's even better than my Lebanese aunties'. No doubt (za’atar) will end up on the menu.” Add toasted cumin and coriander for a Syrian version that is absolutely decadent on lamb.
Approximately $3.30 /ounce