browser icon
You are using an insecure version of your web browser. Please update your browser!
Using an outdated browser makes your computer unsafe. For a safer, faster, more enjoyable user experience, please update your browser today or try a newer browser.

Author Archives: Robert

Heavenly Béchamel and More Fun with Mace Blades

Mace blade onion cloute

Onion cloute with one of our beautiful mace blades

Of the five classic French “mother sauces,” béchamel gives us some of the most rich small sauces. Although béchamel may be the most simple to prepare, that doesn’t mean it can’t also show off some pretty complex flavors. Taking the time to create layers of flavor in the building blocks of a recipe ensures that the sauces and dishes created from those blocks will build palaces of flavor. As the recipe below demonstrates, there are not many ingredients in the basic béchamel sauce; just milk, roux, and the onion cloute. An onion cloute is an onion studded with cloves and a bay leaf, and although I’ve seen some recipes call the cloute optional- it is not. The onion cloute is essential as it is the only flavor added to the milk besides butter.

An Italian chef I once worked for insisted that a béchamel was never complete without a bit of nutmeg, an ingredient that was conspicuously absent from béchamel recipes in my traditional French culinary education. Once I tasted his version, I never again made my béchamel without a dusting of freshly ground nutmeg to finish it. Never, that is, until a few weeks ago when we were lucky enough to get the first shipment of mace blades we’ve been able to secure in years. I had always used a mixture of mace powder as well as a little extra freshly grated nutmeg when making creamed spinach from a béchamel base, but I had been reluctant to to try including mace powder in every batch of my béchamel for fear of the flavor being overpowering. This is a perfect application for mace blades! By adding a nice mace blade or two to my onion cloute, I could get the subtle mace flavor I was looking for without overshadowing other flavors.

Bechamel with Mace Blades

Ingredients

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
Freshly grated nutmeg(optional)
For the onion cloute:
1/2 onion, white or sweet
1 large or 2 small mace blades

Instructions

  1. Push the cloves through the bay leaf and mace blade and into the onion as shown in the picture above.
  2. Add the onion cloute to the milk and scald the milk by bringing it to just below a boil.
  3. In a separate heavy bottom sauce pan over medium heat melt the butter and add the flour to make a roux.
  4. Cook the roux until very lightly colored.
  5. Whisk the hot milk into the roux one cup at a time, carefully transfer the onion cloute.
  6. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring constantly.
  7. Grate nutmeg into the sauce, if using.
  8. Strain sauce through a fine mesh strainer, discarding the onion.
http://www.silkroaddiary.com/heavenly-bechamel/

Béchamel itself is used in many recipes for lasagna, croque madames, or soups, but there are quite a few other sauces that can be derived from a basic béchamel, often by adding just a few ingredients. The French call these “small sauces” and some of my favorites are:

Cheddar cheese – add some shredded cheddar cheese, dry mustard, and worcestershire sauce or powder.

Mustard sauce – add some prepared mustard.

Crème Sauce – just whisk in some heavy cream (I also like to add a heavy pinch of Piment d’Espelette.)

 

Pickling Spice with Mace Blades

As our long-time customers may remember, we used to include mace blades in our pickling spice. Now that they’re back, we really wish that we could go back to using them in our pickling spice recipe, but unfortunately the market shortage has driven the price up considerably and would make our pickling spice much more expensive. That doesn’t mean that the dedicated home pickler can’t buy an ounce or two and add it to their pickling spice themselves! We’d recommend a ratio of about an once and a half of mace blades to each pound of pickling spice. Having been born and raised in Pennsylvania Dutch country, beet pickled eggs are one of my favorite snacks (great for a quick breakfast too,) and one of the first things I tried making with the mace blades when I finally got my hands on them. I’ve even heard that some people use a beet pickled egg as an outrageous garnish for a bloody mary.

Beet Pickled Eggs

Ingredients

12 chicken eggs, hard boiled and peeled -or- 12 duck eggs if you're feeling fancy.
2 medium size beets, roasted or boiled and sliced -or- 1 can of sliced beets if you're feeling lazy.
1 red onion, thinly sliced
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons pickling spice
1 large or 2 small mace blades
1 tablespoon dried orange peel

Instructions

  1. Combine the beets, vinegar, sugar, orange peel, pickling spice and mace blades in a medium size sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
  2. Allow mixture to cool.
  3. Arrange eggs and sliced red onion in layers in a large canning jar or other glass vessel.
  4. Pour cooled pickling mixture over the eggs and onions and refrigerate.
  5. Allow the eggs to sit in the fridge for at least a day or two, but they will just get better over the next couple weeks (if you can wait that long!)
http://www.silkroaddiary.com/heavenly-bechamel/

Bloody mary with a beet pickled egg

Bloody mary with a beet pickled egg

Categories: French, Hot Topics, North America, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mace Blade Magic

Mace Blades

Our Beautiful Mace Blades – Photo Credit Hannah Moon

They’re back! After years of searching we are happy to announce that we were able to get our hands on a shipment of mace blades that meet our quality standards. The mace blade naturally grows in wiry fingers around the nut of the nutmeg tree. Most often this outer membrane is simply ground and sold as mace powder. When the crop is good, however, and merits the extra care required to harvest the whole mace blades, workers carefully snip the blade away from the nutmeg. As you can imagine, harvesting this spice is incredibly labor intensive, behind only saffron and perhaps pollens.

Mace, like its cousin nutmeg, can be very overpowering and “hot” on the tongue. Used in small amounts, however, mace can act like pepper; exciting the pallet and complimenting all the flavors of a dish. It’s fairly easy to overdo it with ground mace powder, I’ve ruined a few soups, cream sauces, and rum butters by going overboard with the mace. This is where whole mace blades can be particularly useful. By using the whole mace like a bay leaf, a chef can impart just a hint of mace flavor. Steeping just a couple mace blades in cream can yield a béchamel that will leap off the plate and dance across the tongue.

Although we love freshly ground spices, and encourage everyone to grind their spices a la minute, the home chef may be disappointed in the results of trying to grind mace blades. If the blade is dry enough to grind, it’s far too dry. If one is particularly determined to grind their whole mace into a powder, freezing or lightly toasting the blades can make the process a bit easier, but at the cost of lost flavor. This is one of those rare cases where it may just be best to buy the powder if a recipe requires powdered mace.

If you’re thinking about giving this exotic spice a try, you may not want to wait, we were only able to secure a small shipment. We hope we can get more, but the spice markets can be unpredictable. Come back next week for a few recipes using mace blades. I’ll be using mace blades to spruce up our pickling spice to make one of my favorite snacks: beet pickled eggs!

Categories: French, Hot Topics, Notes from the Field, Spice Notes | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

World Spice and Lisa Dupar Team Up for Seattle Children’s Hospital

Rastafari El Hanout rubbed Goat

Rastafari El Hanout rubbed Goat

My position at World Spice’s professional division has afforded me wonderful opportunities to connect with some of the best chefs around Seattle. One of the most rewarding parts of my role as a spice merchant actually happens when I’m off the clock and I get to experience the delicious dishes that our products enhance. From newcomers like Mamnoon to all the restaurants in the Tom Douglas empire, I never have trouble coming up with great restaurants for date night (deciding on which one is the hard part!) But until recently I had never had the chance to experience the cuisine of one of our most loyal and long standing chef clients, Lisa Dupar Catering.

Last weekend I was honored to attend one of the winemaker dinners as part of the Auction of Washington Wines fundraiser for Seattle Children’s Hospital. Chef Lisa Dupar and her talented crew teamed up with Dunham Cellars, Willie Green’s, and World Spice for a fabulous “Farmers AT the Table” dinner. Hosted by the gracious and generous Midori Chan and Paul Strisower, this event gave guests the chance to meet some of the people behind the food being served, while giving purveyors like us an opportunity to enjoy the magic that Lisa Dupar creates with our ingredients.

Chef Lisa Dupar and Robert Russell

Chef Lisa Dupar and Robert Russell

When Lisa first approached us about participating in this dinner we were ecstatic; after getting a sneak peak at the menu, I knew we’d have to do something extra special for the guests who came out to support the Seattle Children’s Hospital. One of the services we offer both our retail customers and professional clients is custom spice blend production, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity for a limited edition spice blend. I was immediately drawn to the goat on the menu and knew I wanted to create a rub for it that was either Persian inspired or with some Caribbean flair. After playing with a few different mixes, it struck me, why not do both? After a few hours of tinkering and a few delicious taste tests, I settled on the playfully named Rastafari el Hanout. By taking the well-known middle eastern spice blend, Ras el Hanout, and adding a few traditional Caribbean ingredients, I believe I created the perfect goat rub.

Unfortunately space in our little shop is extremely limited, so we can’t offer every custom blend we make; only those in attendance at Riverside Falls last weekend got to taste the exact recipe for this particular limited edition blend. That doesn’t mean we can’t create something special just for you! If you have a big event coming up and want to offer your guests something extra special, ask us about creating the perfect custom blend for you.

The evening soiree at Riverside Falls was an unforgettable night, and I’d like to wrap up by thanking Lisa Dupar (check out her wonderful cookbook), Jeff Miller from Willie Green’s, Eric Dunham, the indulgently hospitable Midori Chan and Paul Strisower, and of course all the guests who came out to support such a great cause.

Categories: Caribbean, Global Cuisines, Hot Topics, Middle East, Notes from the Field, Spice Notes | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Grind To Order, Part 2.

Brand new burrs alongside burrs that have been in service for few months.

Brand new burrs alongside burrs that have been in service for few months

What do you do when one of Seattle’s premier cheese makers needs a hundred pounds of ground black pepper? Or how about when everybody’s favorite artisan salami shop needs twenty pounds of fennel cracked to just the right size?

Last week I talked about some options for grinding spices at home, but grinding the amount of spice some of our commercial clients use with a small blade grinder or a hand cranked burr grinder would take ages! Down at the World Spice Professional Division we’re just as committed to providing fresh, ground-to-order spices as our counterparts at the World Spice retail store, so we’ve come up with the perfect solution: a re-purposed espresso grinder. By using a high quality, Ditting brand, Swiss, espresso grinder, we have the ability to precisely control the coarseness of our grinds. Using a large mechanical burr grinder like this also allows us to grind large amounts of spice quickly while maintaining a nice even grind.

As you can see in the picture above, just a few months of use begins to wear down the burrs in our machine, requiring near constant resharpening and replacement. By constantly examining the results of grinding a small test run of cumin, we’re able to know just when to ship the burrs back to the factory for professional resharpening to ensure that our clients are getting the highest quality grind around!

Categories: Notes from the Field, Tools of the Trade | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

We Grind To Order, Part 1.

Mortar and Pestle

Mortar and Pestle

How often do we acquire pre-ground black pepper or nearly any other spice for that matter?  Never!!

Our store is bustling with spice merchants grinding spices right when folks order them.  Why do we keep pure spices and our house-made blends whole until you tell us to grind them?  It keeps our spices exceptionally fresh; some especially dedicated spice connoisseurs prefer to grind their spices in their kitchen, right before adding them to their recipe – now that’s fresh!  Grinding a spice releases much of it’s great flavor and aroma, but more aroma in the air means less flavor in your food. Grinding spices to order also lets you request a custom grind for certain spices. Need your black pepper extra coarse for a nice steak au poivre? Sure! Need your white pepper really fine so it just disappears into a cream soup? No problem! Want us to crack some fennel for your homemade sausage? You got it!

There are many different ways to grind your spices at home. A mortar and pestle works well for most things if you don’t mind your final product being a little coarse. A special blade grinder works for a finer grind.  Some folks even have their coffee grinders pulling double duty.  Don’t want your spices to taste like coffee?  Easy, simply grind rice or stale bread to clear out the leftover flavors.  If, like me, you’ve encountered a couple of groggy mornings making curry coffee you may want to keep a separate grinder for coffee and spices.  Our recommendation for a great all purpose  grinder is a burr grinder.  The burr grinder on the shelves at World Spice Merchants  is a great model that’s hand-made right here in the United States. So go ahead and start grinding your own spices at home, there’s a reason those fancy restaurants offer you freshly ground black pepper on your soup or salad – it tastes better freshly ground!   If you kitchen is void of a grinder, take advantage of our low purchase minimums and rest assured that all of your spices will be ground to order.  Come back for part 2, where I’ll give you a behind the scenes look at how we grind as much as 200 pounds of spice in a day at our professional division.

 

Categories: Notes from the Field, Tools of the Trade | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Corned Beef and Caraway Cabbage

Spring is in the air! This is my favorite time of year: spring training baseball is on the radio, Mother Nature is providing us with some gorgeous sunny days between all the rain, and one of the most fun celebrations on the calender is right around the corner. That’s right, St. Patrick’s Day is almost here, and whether your entire family is from the Emerald Isle or you’re just Irish at heart, St. Patrick’s Day is a great excuse to have some friends over to enjoy a pint or two of Irish stout and some corned beef and cabbage. For our recipe, be sure to brine it for as long as recommended. The salt in the brine carries the flavor of our Pickling Spice through the whole piece of meat and the extra spices reserved for the cooking liquid lend it a great burst of flavor on the surface. This St. Patrick’s Day be safe, enjoy some delicious corned beef and remember:

“May the lilt of Irish laughter
lighten every load.
May the mist of Irish magic
shorten every road…
And may all your friends remember
all the favors you are owed!”

Corned Beef

Corned Beef and Caraway Cabbage

 

Brined Corned Beef

Ingredients

4-5 pound beef brisket
4 tablespoons Pickling Spice
1 teaspoon juniper
1 teaspoon chopped ginger
1 gallon water
2 cups kosher salt
2 tablespoons curing salt
1/2 cup brown sugar

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan, boil the water with the spices, salt and sugar, reserving 1 tablespoon of Pickling Spice
  2. Once the water boils, remove from heat and cool to room temperature
  3. Put brine in the fridge to chill.
  4. Meanwhile, place the brisket in a large container and pour the brine over it, being sure it is fully submerged.
  5. Refrigerate, covered, for 6-7 days
  6. Remove the brisket and rinse in cool water
  7. Place brined brisket in a large pot with reserved Pickling Spice and cover with 1 inch of water
  8. Simmer for 4-5 hours, covered, until fork tender
http://www.silkroaddiary.com/corned-beef/

Caraway Cabbage

Ingredients

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 head of cabbage, sliced
1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon caraway
1/2 cup Guiness or other stout porter
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a medium saute pan, heat butter and oil over medium heat
  2. Add onion and saute until translucent, about 3-4 minutes
  3. Add the caraway to the pan and cook for another 2 minutes
  4. Add 1/2 of sliced cabbage and mix well
  5. Allow the mixture to sit a few minutes without stirring so the bottom lightly browns
  6. Add remaining cabbage and mix well.
  7. Allow bottom to brown once again
  8. Deglaze the pan with Guiness and cook until beer is reduced
  9. Season with salt and pepper to taste
http://www.silkroaddiary.com/corned-beef/

Categories: Recipes | Leave a comment