Spices Add Spice

I tried to imagine what food would taste like today if we had no spices which to season.

Because we all take spices for granted, it might be helpful if we first understood over the centuries how people suffered and how much they paid to make spices available for the European palates.  Most of the spices we take for granted today originated in various parts of the Middle East and India, spice caravans underwent severe hardships moving their products from those regions to Europe.  Try to imagine a camel loaded with a variety of spices moving at snail’s pace from India, through the Middle East, to France, joined by a couple dozen other camels with he same load, crossing the desert,worrying about water as well as about dying at the hands of caravan-raiding bandits.

It is not so much for flavoring a bland recipe that spices are used, but also for the unique odors that emanate from a dish in which spices are blended that give the dish its individual dish character.  To illustrate my point, we all know to the trick carnival operator use by sauteeing onions at all hours of the day.   It’s no secret that the smell of frying onions draws people to their food stand. The hunger awakened by such redolent smells much more quickly sells hamburgers and hot dogs.

When we smell a dish cooked with curry powder, we instantly know that the dish must come from the vicinity of India.  Similarly, with the smell of oregano or sweet basil, we know that we are soon to be blessed with Italian cooking.  The smells created by cooking with cumin and cardamom tell us that the recipe we are about to enjoy most likely comes from the Arab world. 

In next week’s blog I will give you tips on using and preserving your garden herbs and spices.

Oregano Feta Salad

serves 4-6

3        cups chopped fresh oregano

1        cup chopped fresh thyme

2       carrots, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes

2        cucumbers, diced into 1/2-inch cubes

2        scallions, chopped

1/2   cup crumbled feta cheese

1/2   cup toasted pine nuts

1/4    cup lemon juice

4        tablespoons olive oil

fresh ground black pepper

salt to taste

-In a chilled salad bowl, toss all the vegetables.

-Mix the lemon juice with the olive oil, the pepper and the salt.  Drizzle this dressing over the vegetable and toss well.

-Sprinkle the feta cheese and toasted pine nuts over the herbs and serve.

2 Responses to “Spices Add Spice”

  1. Hi Sanaa, i’m happy to meet you! i dont cook much, but i had some really nice spices in big clear 8 oz containers with the label ‘sanaa spices’ (All Natural) on it! And i have this Black Chili spice that i couldnt find at the market i originally found it. i just wondered if that was your brand on the label? Please let me know, and if so, where can i find this ‘black chil’ spice. Good Luck on your site and Blog! Take care, Sanaa!

    charley :c)

  2. Hello Charley, I wish it was. No, this is not my label. I grind and mix my own spices but I don’t sell them. There are many spice stores on the net that carry every spice you can think about. I think you would find the black chili at one of them. Good luck.

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