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.

French

Mulling Spiced Wine and Cider

Winter cocktail

Mulling Spice three ways!

Few things say “winter” better than a steamy cup of spiced cider- or for those of imbibing age, mulled wine. Mulling Spice takes many forms, but ours, heavy on the cassia cinnamon and with a hint of orange peel, has the power to banish those grey-day blues.

It’s important to choose the right wine to mull, and through much “research,” we”ve settled on Pinot Noir as the optimum choice. It’s fairly robust, so stands up to the spices, but the less expensive varieties are not so nuanced so as to make covering their intricacies with spice, criminal.  Look for one whose shelf-talker boasts a larger body, and hints at black or red cherry flavors that will complement the star anise in the Mulling Spice.

A good-quality, unfiltered apple cider is all that’s required for heavenly spiced cider. As the apple capital of the world, Washington state farmers markets are chock full of cider choices, and we’ve yet to find one that disappoints. A few even pair other local fruits with apple- try apple-cranberry, apple-cherry, or apple-blackberry. Simply substitute a quart of apple cider for the wine in the recipe below, and perhaps omit the sugar, depending on the variety of cider that you choose.

It’s also possible to combine these two delights- Winter Sangria, anyone? Add one bottle of wine to four cups of apple cider, along with 1/4 cup of honey or brown sugar, and 1/3 cup of freshly crushed Mulling Spice. Steep for twenty minutes before straining and serving, and don’t forget the cassia stick stirrers!
 

Mulling Spiced Wine and Cider

Ingredients

1 bottle Pinot Noir, or other larger-bodied, semi-sweet red wine
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup filtered water
2 tablespoons Mulling Spice, freshly crushed with a mortar and pestle

Instructions

  1. Whisk half of the sugar in to the wine until it's dissolved.
  2. Add the water and Mulling Spices, and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  3. Reduce heat to low, cover, and steep for fifteen to twenty minutes, tasting at five-minute intervals to check the intensity level of the spice flavors. The longer you steep, the more pronounced the spice!
  4. When desired flavor is reached, remove from heat, and whisk in more sugar, a tablespoon at a time to taste. Strain, and serve.
http://www.silkroaddiary.com/mulling-spiced-wine-and-cider/

Categories: British Isles, French, Holiday, Mediterranean, North America, Recipes, Sweet Somethings, Wet Your Whistle | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Seasoning Salts and Summer Snacks

summer tomato, popcorn, avocado, seasoning salt, seasoned salt blends

.

 

Imagine a perfect summer tomato. Vine ripened, deep red, full of flavor. The kind of tomato you you just want to bite into. And why not? Tomato with a pinch of salt is a tasty and refreshing snack for the summer time. Does anything compare?

The perfect summer avocado, perhaps. There’s another delicious summer fruit that begs to be eaten plain, with a bit of salt and pepper to enhance the flavor.

Now’s the tricky part. What salt should you use? At World Spice, we’ve created a tantalizing array of and seasoning salt blends. Here, for your snacking convenience, is our top three seasoned salt blends, and the best snacks to accompany them. Be warned, if you decide to do what I did and have a salt tasting exravaganza, be prepared for a very thirsty afternoon and no regrets.

Our seasoned salt blends:

Provencal: This blend has that unmistakable taste of green in every pinch. Probably due to the tarragon and chervil, a French herb related to parsley. More subtle flavors of lavender, tomato, garlic, and lemon leap out of this blend when paired with the right snack. While it’s good on tomatoes, this blend really shines with green veggies like roasted zucchini, broccoli, and is delightful on a slice of soft French Brie.

Svaneti: This blend has lively and versatile flavors. Coriander, caraway, Tellicherry black pepper, chile, garlic, and fenugreek on a base of sea salt compose this superbly seasoned salt. It will enhance your red meats and potatoes marvelously, and is a great choice to accompany that perfect summer tomato.

Voodoo: What gift do you get the salt blend that has everything? Whole mustard seeds are probably the most endearing member of the Voodoo blend, lending a satisfying texture and flavor, but the red Aleppo pepper, thyme, and peppercorns might be the real stars of the show. Garlic, onion, and allspice round out the flavor. This is the boldest blend of the trio, which goes well with anything that could use a kick, from eggs to broccoli to popcorn. After trying this with avocado, I won’t be having avocado any other way any time soon.

What are your favorite summer snacks? Hit us with ‘em in the comments and we’ll hit you back with the right blend for you.

Categories: Eastern Europe, French, Snacky Bits | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brunch For Mom

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.

Brunch for mom, mothers day, eggs benedict

.

 

Potato Pancakes with Poached Eggs and Orange Tarragon Hollandaise

Ingredients

1/2 pound Russet potatoes
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon white peppercorn, ground
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
6 eggs
Juice of 1 lemon
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons Orange Tarragon, ground
Pinch salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
  2. For the Potato Pancakes
  3. Peel potatoes and coarsely grate using a box grater.
  4. Transfer grated potatoes to a large bowl of cold water and soak for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Drain well in a colander.
  6. Spread grated and drained potatoes with onions on a kitchen towel and roll up jelly-roll style.
  7. Twist towel tightly to wring out as much liquid as possible.
  8. Transfer potato mixture to a bowl and add eggs, salt and flour.
  9. Mix well to combine.
  10. Heat 1/4 cup of oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until very hot, but not smoking.
  11. For each pancake, spoon 2 tablespoons of the potato mixture into the skillet, spreading into 3-inch diameter rounds with a fork.
  12. Reduce heat to medium and cook until the undersides of the pancakes are browned, about 5 minutes.
  13. Flip pancakes and cook again until browned, about 5 minutes
  14. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season with salt.
  15. Add more oil to skillet and repeat with remaining batter.
  16. Keep warm on a wire rack set in a shallow baking pan in oven.
  17. For the Hollandaise
  18. Vigorously whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice together in a stainless steel bowl until the mixture is thickened and has doubled in volume.
  19. Boil approximately 1 cup of water in a saucepan.
  20. Place the bowl with the egg yolks mixture over the saucepan making sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.
  21. Whisk the mixture rapidly being careful not to let the eggs get too hot - or they will scramble.
  22. Slowly drizzle in the melted butter and continue to whisk until the sauce easily coats the back of a wooden spoon.
  23. Remove from heat and whisk in Orange Tarragon.
  24. Cover and place in a warm spot until ready to use. If the sauce gets too thick, whisk in a few drops of warm water before serving.
  25. To Poach the Eggs
  26. Fill a deep skillet half full of water.
  27. Add remaining lemon juice to water.
  28. Bring to a slow boil - not rolling!
  29. Gently crack 1 of the eggs into the water, taking care not to puncture the yolk.
  30. Repeat with remaining eggs.
  31. Reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer.
  32. Cook until the egg white is set and the yolk remains soft, about 3 1/2 minutes.
  33. Top a warm pancake with a poached egg and drizzle generously with hollandaise.
http://www.silkroaddiary.com/potato-pancakes-with-poached-eggs-and-orange-tarragon-hollandaise/

Categories: French, Holiday, Hot Topics, Main Meals, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Le Quebecois Mini Pies

We were recently asked by another spice company to change the name of our Montreal Steak Spice because they owned the rights to the name. Well, okay….

We had to brainstorm a new name, take the labels off of jars in gift sets, redo the store displays, and adjust our website all in a very short amount of time.  We were busy!  While all of this change was taking place, I recalled a quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, ‘We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden.’  Change can be good, our store displays are fresh and new our website got a nice update, we have a fantastic new name for one of our earliest blends and an outstanding recipe to go with it.  Introducing……Le Quebecois Steak Spice  (applause, applause)!

Paying homage to the Canadian Provence were the blend originated, Le Quebecois Steak Spice showcases both the French flair for deft seasoning, and the British love of beef. While usually associated with steak, we tried it in these vegetarian mini pies with great success – you know how how we love to play with our food!  Bon appétit.

.

Le Quebecois Mini Pies

 

Le Quebecois Mini Pies

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing pastry
1 large onion, diced
1 pound Swiss chard, stems and leaves thinly shredded and kept separate
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 scallions, chopped
2 ounces arugula
1/2 bunch fresh parsley
1 ounce fresh mint, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
4 ounces ricotta, drained
3.5 ounces aged, white cheddar. We used Beechers Flagship
2 ounces feta, crumbled
Grated zest of one lemon
2 eggs
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
9 ounces filo pastry, thawed, but cold

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a deep skillet over medium heat
  3. Add onion to pan and saute until translucent, about 8 minutes
  4. Add chard stems and celery, cook about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally
  5. Add chard leaves, raise heat to medium high and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 4 minutes
  6. Add scallions, arugula and herbs. Cook for two minutes more and transfer to a collander
  7. Once cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much liquid as you can
  8. Transfer to a bowl and mix in cheese, zest, eggs, salt, sugar and Le Quebecois Steak Spice
  9. Lay out a sheet of filo, cut into 12 squares and brush with olive oil
  10. Lay the oiled squares into the cups of a muffin tin
  11. Repeat, alternating the angles of the squares so that they cover the sides of each muffin cup, until you have 5 layers of filo
  12. Fill each cup with herb mixture and fold excess filo over the edges of the filling
  13. To top each cup, make another 5 layer filo piece, cut in a round, and place atop of each cup
  14. Brush lightly with olive oil and bake for 40 minutes until the filo turns golden brown
  15. Serve warm or at room temperature as an an appetizer or an accompaniment to roast lamb or beef
http://www.silkroaddiary.com/mini-herb-and-chard-pies-with-le-quebecois/

Categories: British Isles, French, Hot Topics, Recipes, Snacky Bits | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments