Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I Love Spices!

Today I was taking photos of spices for my website.  I love taking photos, most particularly closeups.  I am no professional photographer, but I do okay.  I just wanted to say how much I love spices - and herbs, too of course - but today  I was focused on spices; just about 40 of them.

I have been trying for some time to get good shots of spices, just in case I need them.  Today I had a new idea.  I made myself a little rectangular corral of sorts, and one by one, placed a spice in there, lifted gingerly, and left the framed shape to photograph.  The light was pretty good today; not so overcast.  I got some good clear shots of all of the spices I photographed, so I was truly happy.

Have I mentioned I really love spices?  Well today, working with all of them really brought home to me just how much I treasure them, love tasting and testing them, learning new flavor combinations, making dishes taste fantastic.  Whenever I find a new spice I have never heard of, I immediately just have to find it, buy it, and taste it. I have found a lot of unusual spices - anyone heard of dried rosebuds?  As a spice?  Or how about sumac, ajwain, or Szechuan peppercorns?  Have you ever tried using lavender flowers in a dish, or a dessert? 

And then, there are myriad spice combinations that just beg to be given a try.  Garam Masala was what I was making today. It is used mainly in northern Indian cuisines, but now it's finding its way into a lot of different foods other than just Indian.  I have been making my own Garam Masala for many years now, but was running low, and I figured I would get some photos to put on my website.  Here is my recipe:

Garam Masala

4 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoons cardamom seeds (measure after removing & discarding husks)
3 inches cinnamon stick (true cinnamon)
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 whole nutmeg

In a small dry skillet, roast separately the coriander, cumin, peppercorns, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. As each starts to turn fragrant, turn out onto a plate to cool. Crush the nutmeg into smaller pieces. Nutmeg is fairly soft and easy to crush. Put all spices into an electric blender or small coffee mill used only for spices and grind to a fine powder. Store in a glass jar with an airtight seal.

Yesterday I made Zahtar for the first time.  Zahtar (or Zatar, Zaatar, Zah'tar, Za'atar), is a Mediterranean and Middle Eastern spice mixture that uses sumac, widely found in those areas of the world.  I used a little with some oil for dipping bread.  I tried some on avocado today for lunch.  Delicious!  It is a simple mixture, if you happen to have sumac on hand, and really delicious. 

Spices just fascinate me, so working with them, even in the capacity of just photography, I smell them and I am transported to an exotic land.  I see them and it is a feast for my eyes.  When I taste them - pure heaven.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.