Who doesn’t love food that you can hold in your hand? The beauty of empanadas is that the rich, buttery dough can be filled with almost anything - sweet or savory. Our Ancho Chili Powder is mild-medium in heat and adds magnificent depth to the beef and vegetable filling we chose. Ancho chiles have a wonderful, darkly sweet flavor, so we added a little Alderwood Smoked Salt for just a touch of smoky contrast. They can be served either hot or at room temperature; we like ours with salsa, sour cream and a Hibiscus Margarita. They freeze well, so make a bunch and plan to enjoy them another day, or surprise yourself at how quickly your guests devour the extras.
It’s almost Buddha’s birthday! Buddha’s birthday is celebrated on the eighth day of the fourth month of the Chinese lunar calendar in nearly all east-Asian countries. This year it falls on Friday, May 17th in the Western calendar. Because it is customary to eat rice on Buddha’s birthday, we developed this heavily spiced vegetarian biryani to honor the Buddha and many of the exotic lands from which our spices come. Our Continental Curry is the perfect blend for this occasion, as it combines the best elements of several varieties of yellow curry. While we can’t promise a permanent Nirvana as a result of this dish, we guarantee at least a transient one!
As Angelina mentioned in her ode to Yotam Ottolenghi, there are several cookbook authors whose new works always have a reserved place on our shelves. Naomi Duguid is one of those authors. Her books are always gorgeous, her prose is eloquent without being too dense or wordy, and her topics are always fascinating. Duguid’s works are one part travel guide, one part traditional cookbook. We have explored the Indian subcontinent with her in Mangoes & Curry Leaves, probed the lesser known provinces of China in Beyond the Great Wall, and delved into Southeast Asia in Hot Sour Salty Sweet.
Her newest work, Burma: Rivers of Flavor, continues where Hot Sour Salty Sweet leaves off, pulling back the curtain on an isolated country with a rich culinary tradition. Burmese cuisine has been described as a blend of Indian, Chinese, and Thai, but it has a distinctive style all to itself. Shallots, shrimp (fresh and dried), and small salads are all common. There is a heavy focus on fresh ingredients, but many of the recipes are perfumed with warm, sweet spices like cassia, cloves, nutmeg, and star anise. Burma is also a cuisine that favors a heavy dose of heat, and gets this from India red chile flakes, Japones, Indian cayenne, Tellicherry black pepper, and Szechuan peppercorns.
I had the opportunity to see Naomi Duguid speak last year at the Book Larder in Fremont. We all learned about the foods of Burma, from mohinga (a fish stew with rice noodles that is often eaten at breakfast) to laphet thoke (a fermented tea-leaf salad that’s considered Burma’s national dish), as the staff prepared several recipes from the book. However delicious the food was though, the most impactful moments came when Duguid discussed the changes she had seen in Burma through the years. She was repeatedly moved to tears as she spoke about Burma’s transition away from the rigid military dictatorship that has been in power since 1962 and the recent thawing of relations between Burma and the U.S. Naomi’s care shines through in Burma’s beautiful photographs and warm paragraphs.
Eggs Benedict is a classic, there’s no denying that, but “classic” is perhaps not the word I’d use to celebrate my funny, youthful, and adventurous mother! For my mom, poached eggs will sit atop crisp potato pancakes, under a blanket of creamy Orange-Tarragon hollandaise sauce. The sweetness of the orange peel plays against the anise notes of the tarragon in this classic French combination, made whole with shallots and Tellicherry black pepper. The sauce is so sumptuous, and the crunchy fried potatoes make a perfect vehicle for it. Not to mention the eggs- nothing says “love” like a perfectly poached yolk, don’t you know! Mother’s Day is May 12th, so make Mom breakfast, and let her know how sorry you are for your teenage years.
If you thought that the Easter fun was over far too soon, not to fear! Greek Easter is this coming Sunday, and awash with delicious traditions all its own. Not to be missed are these tasty little pockets of meat, rice, and nuts, expertly seasoned with our savory and tangy El Greco blend. They’re called “dolmas” in the singular, and “dolmades” when referring to the scores of them you’ll eat once you’ve had a taste of their perfect balance of Mediterranean flavors, all wrapped in a convenient little two-bite gnosh. All of the ingredients ought to be readily available in most markets, including grape leaves, which often come in cans or jars. If you’ve got a grape vine over an arbor, fresh work wonderfully, too; just poach them a bit of salted water with a half a lemon thrown in. Admittedly a little time-consuming, the dolmades can be prepared 2 to 3 days before serving, and refrigerated or frozen until you’re ready to use them. If you do freeze them, they can be thawed overnight in the refrigerator, and gently heated with a little broth or water before serving. You’ll find them more than worth the effort! Kalo Pascha!
Celebrate Cinco de Mayo like never before with this delicious cocktail. The hibiscus infuses a deep rich red color to this libation. Add a slice of lime and Sel de Mer to the rim of your glass and you have the colors of the Mexican flag! Almost cranberry in flavor, it’s got a “zing” that is enhanced by using silver tequila and the homemade spiced simple syrup. Tune in to the mariachi station on Pandora while you whip these up for an absolute fiesta!
“Salty” is one of the five basic flavors that the human palate can detect, along with sweet, sour, bitter, and “umami.” A baker might tell you that salt makes “sweet things, sweeter,” but more specifically, salt clarifies all flavors. The human mouth is saline, or salty, to begin with, so in order to begin to taste the more nuanced flavors in our food, the salt level in the food first has to match that in our mouth. The wisest of chefs know that the goal with a sprinkle of this prized mineral is not necessarily to achieve a salty flavor, but to elevate and complement all of the flavors in a dish. Here are a few of our favorite varieties, and what we find to be their best uses!
We love Alderwood Smoked Salt, arguably the most dramatic of our offerings. Fine grains of Pacific sea salt are cold-smoked over locally-harvested alder wood chips to achieve a charcoal grey color, and a distinctive smoky aroma and taste. Shop visitors consistently describe Alderwood Smoked Salt as a “campfire in a jar.” The spice team finds that Alderwood Smoked Salt makes meat dishes somehow “meatier,” and enhances grilled flavors both inside and out. We also love it on heartier vegetables like eggplant and squash.
Murray River Flake Salt is another shop favorite. This flaky, apricot-colored salt is harvested from a dry river bed in Australia. The flakes are delicate, and almost crispy when eaten whole. We love to bake with this salt, as it mostly dissolves easily, but often leaves just a smidge of crystal behind, so one stumbles upon a tiny bit of salt as they make their way through dense banana bread or peanut butter cookie.
Sel de Mer, the aged scotch of salts! This French grey salt is light grey in color, and its medium-sized crystals tend to clump together with its high moisture content. The subtle flavor is deep and earthy, and is right at home atop fish of all kinds. We also prefer it over all others on our caprese salads, for the great contrast in texture between the crisp tomatoes, the creamy mozzarella, and the crunch of the salt, not to mention how well the heartiness of the flavor plays against the sweetness and acidity of the balsamic vinegar.
Black Lava Flake Salt is as delicious as it is visually intense. The pyramid-shaped crystals are black in color, rendered so because of natural charcoal deposits. This salt is best used as a finisher, as all of what makes it unique would be lost once dissolved. We like its assertive flavor sprinkled on slices of fresh cucumber seasoned with a dash of sweetened rice wine vinegar, as well as a whimsical addition to a fresh watermelon and mint salad- the crystals appear to be watermelon seeds at first glance!
As we often remind you, there are no wrong answers in food! (Well, okay, sometimes…) Any of these salts could lend a fun update to a standby dish. Salts are a wonderful way to break in to the world of experimental cooking and seasoning, and make a great gift for both the seasoned (yes, pun intended!) chef, and the novice foodie alike. Happy cooking!
Songkran (สงกรานต์) is the traditional Thai New Year water festival which starts on April 13 every year. Traditionally, the throwing of water is said to be a symbol of luck to bring good rain for the crops. Well, we are swimming in good luck with a bountiful asparagus harvest this year and a brand new spice blend, Rooster Spice! We designed this spicy chili powder drawing inspiration from Indonesian sambal, Thai nam phrik, and Vietnamese tuong ot toi. Rooster Spice has limitless possibilities but here we combine the seasonality of asparagus with the celebration of Thai New Year. Enjoy!
Tart, sweet and dramatically red, rhubarb never tasted so good in this Lemon Thyme Rhubarb cake. The cake is moist and fluffy on the inside with a slight crisp on the outside edge. The sharpness of the rhubarb combined with the delicate pungency of the lemon thyme make this a most wonderful offering of spring’s bountiful harvest.
The first of the season Alaskan halibut has arrived, and we are thrilled! Considered the world’s premium whitefish, first of the season halibut are the best quality because the fat content of the fish is at its absolute peak. To celebrate the arrival of this delicacy from the icy north, we created an escabeche using our Pacific Seafood. This simple preparation is a luscious showcase of some of spring’s first fresh flavors.