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Mediterranean

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

Superhero Shawarma – Just Ask the Avengers!

Shawarma- Avenger approved.

5 Shawarma- Avenger approved.

“Do you have shawarma spice?” is a request we hear often – and if you’ve tasted it, you know why! If you’re yet unfamiliar, shawarma is an Arabic and Middle Eastern street food, traditionally prepared on a rotating spit over an open fire. The open flame cooks the meat to juicy perfection on the inside, with a crisp crust on the outside. Slivers are sliced off the spit all day long, and stuffed in to pitas overflowing with tomatoes, cucumber, tahini, or hummus. It’s a “four napkin” sandwich – meat juices running together with creamy sauce, punctuated by crisp vegetables and fresh herbs. It’s even the official food of superheroes, if you believe 2012′s “The Avengers” movie… and we do!

Spice merchants are curious merchants, so with the first inquiry, we were pouring over cookbooks to find exactly what would be in a Shawarma blend. We turned to Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem for our initial inspiration and reveled in the heavy use of spices, including, cloves, cardamom, fenugreek, cinammon, nutmeg, fennel, cumin, star anise, sumac, and coriander just to name a few. Our test kitchen is without the traditional rotisserie setup, so we grilled our marinated shawarma instead. Tucked in to warm pitas with all the traditional accompaniments, we’re confident that our version will earn Iron Man’s seal of approval, and yours too.

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Lamb Shawarma

Ingredients

1 tablespoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds, ground
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground
2 teaspoons Tellicherry black pepper, ground
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds, ground
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 teaspoon Indian cayenne
1 tablespoon garlic granules
1 tablespoon sumac
2 1/2 teaspoons Murray River flake salt
1/2 cup cilantro, fresh
2 lemons, juiced
1 16 ounce container Greek yogurt
2 pounds lamb shoulder, cut into strips
2 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, whisk together everything but the lamb and the oil
  2. Pout this marinade over the lamb and marinate for at least two hours but preferably overnight.
  3. To Cook Shawarma
  4. Prepare your grill- charcoal, preferably- to medium-high heat.
  5. Remove lamb from marinade, shaking off excess marinade to avoid burning.
  6. Grill the strips of meat directly over the flame. Once the pieces have some color, rotate them 180 degrees to get good, crosshatched grill marks and that toasty flavor- about five minutes.
  7. Repeat on the other side, brushing with the oil, until the desired internal temperature has been reached.
  8. Serve with salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, and parsley, yogurt and warmed pitas.
http://www.silkroaddiary.com/lamb-shawarma/

Categories: Main Meals, Mediterranean, Middle East, Recipes | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Saffron Penne With Sausage and Arugula

Thanks to its’ luxurious ingredients, this pasta is fancy and decadent enough for special occasions, but is simple enough to be thrown together quickly. Rather than an elaborate sauce, the pasta is dressed with cream flavored by all of the dishes’ components. This makes for a rich-tasting effect that feels far lighter than a traditional cream sauce. It’s worth noting that this is one of the few recipes in which I advocate not toasting the pine nuts, because it is my experience that the toasted flavor doesn’t complement the saffron, and actually competes with it. You can, of course, use any shape of pasta, but I find that penne rigatè- the penne with the little ridges- holds the perfect amount of sauce. Each element in this pasta represents one of the tastes detectable by your palate, so the result is a beautifully balanced, crave-worthy dish.

saffron, arugula, penne pasta

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Saffron Penne With Sausage and Arugula

Yield: 4 - 6 servings

Ingredients

1.5 pounds penne rigatè pasta
3 cups light cream
¾ teaspoon Saffron(about ¾ of a gram)
¾ cup dried currants
¾ cup pine nuts, untoasted
zest of 1 lemon
6 oz. fresh baby arugula
1# of medium-spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1-2 large shallot(s), medium diced
Salt and freshly ground Lampong black pepper to taste
Shaved parmesan to garnish

Instructions

  1. Boil the pasta 'al dente,' according to the package instructions. Reserve one cup of the cooking liquid in case it is needed to "loosen" the sauce at the end. Drain the remainder, and set the cooked pasta aside.
  2. Pour about ¼ cup of boiling water over the saffron, to allow it to steep and release its flavor. Pour about ½ cup of boiling water over the currants to allow them to rehydrate. Set both aside.
  3. In a large skillet (one that will accommodate the entirety of the dish- a large, enameled cast-iron Dutch oven or brazier works wonderfully) heat one tablespoon of oil over medium heat, and cook the sausage, breaking up in to bite-sized pieces with a wooden spoon. When the sausage is nearly cooked through, add the shallot, cooking in the rendered fat from the sausage until softened, but not browned. Add the pine nuts and fennel seeds, and cook for one minute. Pour in cream, and reduce heat to low.
  4. Add in saffron- water, threads, and all. Drain the water from the currants, and add them to the cream mixture. Keep the sauce at the barest simmer for five to ten minutes, to allow all the flavors to meld. Taste, and add lemon zest, salt, and pepper to taste.
  5. Add cooked pasta, tossing to coat with the cream mixture. Cover, and allow the pasta to absorb some of the cream over very low heat for three to five minutes. Turn off the heat, and add in the arugula, allowing the heat from the cream and pasta to wilt it. If at this point the pasta appears dry, add in some of the reserved pasta cooking liquid, a tablespoon or two at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.
  6. Garnish with shaved parmesan- the best you can afford- and serve with a hearty Tuscan bread.
http://www.silkroaddiary.com/saffron-penne-with-sausage-and-arugula/

Categories: Main Meals, Mediterranean, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dolmades for Greek Easter

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!

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Stuffed Grape Leaves

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 pound lean ground lamb
1/2 cup short-grain rice
1/4 cup El Greco
1/2 cup dill
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Freshly ground Tellicherry Black Pepper
1-1 quart jar grape leave in brine, well rinsed
3/4 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 lemon, thinly sliced for garnish

Instructions

    For the Filling
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet.
  2. Add onion and saute until translucent.
  3. Add meat, stirring to break up pieces.
  4. Add rice, dill, El Greco, pine nuts, water and tomato paste.
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Cook over medium heat until water is absorbed, about 10 minutes.
  7. To Stuff The Grape Leaves
  8. Cover the bottom of a Dutch oven with a layer of grape leaves.
  9. Stuff remaining leaves by placing leaf (shiny side down) on the palm of your hand, with the base of leaf the toward your wrist and tip pointing to your middle finger.
  10. Put a spoonful of meat mixture in center.
  11. Fold the base of the leaf over the filling, then fold sides of leaf over (like an envelope), tucking the edges in snugly
  12. Arrange, tip side down, (to prevent unrolling) in the Dutch oven.
  13. To Cook The Stuffed Grape Leaves
  14. Add broth to Dutch oven within 1 inch of top layer of stuffed grape leaves.
  15. Use any left over leaves to cover top layer.
  16. Place a heat-proof plate upside down over the top layer of dolmas, and press firmly.
  17. Cover and cook over medium heat until rice is tender, about 30 minutes.
  18. Sprinkle with lemon juice and cook 5 minutes longer.
  19. Let cool to room temperature, or chill thoroughly.
  20. Serve garnished with lemon slices and a little greek yoghurt for dipping.
http://www.silkroaddiary.com/dolmas-for-easter/

Categories: Holiday, Mediterranean, Recipes, Sides, Snacky Bits | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Piment d’Espelette Fish Stew

This hearty stew hits it on all notes — the high acid of the tomatoes and wine play against the sweetness of the deeply caramelized onion and fennel, the brine-y olives render the seafood right at home, and the Piment d’ Espelette… oh, the Espelette! The perfect balance of heat and complexity that clarifies this bounty of flavor, and unites it all in delicious harmony. If my fish-monger has them, I’ll often throw in a few oily little fish, like fresh anchovies or sardines, too… Just sear them whole, skins and all, in a bit of olive oil and add to the serving dishes.

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Piment d’Espelette Fish Stew

Ingredients

4 ounces (8 large) raw, shell-on shrimp
1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
2 cups homemade or no-salt-added chicken stock, or fish stock, if you’re so lucky
1 1/2 cups water
½ cup clam juice
1 cup dry white wine
1 strip of lemon rind
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons oil
2 medium (1 to 1 1/2 pounds total) fennel bulbs (tough green tops trimmed), cored and cut in half, then cut into thin slices, reserving some fennel fronds for garnish
1 large sweet onion, such as Maui, Mayan, Walla Walla or Vidalia, cut into thin slices
Salt- I prefer Sel de Mer for this recipe
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces waxy yellow potatoes, such as Yukon gold, ½ inch dice.
½ cup large green olives, such as Lucques, pitted and halved
¼ cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
Freshly ground Lampong black pepper
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
8 ounces skinless, firm white fish fillets, such as swordfish, cod, halibut, or sea bass
8 ounces clams or mussels or a combination of the two
1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon Piment d'Espelette

Instructions

  1. Peel and de-vein the shrimp, placing the shells in a medium pot and reserving the de-veined shrimp in a bowl, tossing with half the ground fennel to coat. Use the remaining ground fennel to season the fish fillets, and set aside.
  2. Add the stock, water, clam juice, wine, bay leaf, lemon rind and allspice berries to the pot with the shrimp shells; bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-low heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the broth through a wire strainer, discarding the shrimp shells and whole spices. Add potatoes to the broth, and simmer until fork-tender.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 4-quart soup pot over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion a pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon of the Piment d’ Espelette. Cook for 12 to 14 minutes, stirring a few times, until the vegetables are tender and golden. Deglaze with the tomatoes, add the garlic, and simmer until reduced by half.
  4. Add broth to tomato and vegetable mixture, adding in the olives and sun dried tomatoes, and season to taste with salt and fresh pepper. Keep hot over medium low heat.
  5. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of the oil and the butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Sear the fish until lightly browned, turning and cooking until just firm- do not overcook, as they will continue to cook in the hot broth when served. Transfer to a plate.
  6. Add the shrimp to the hot pan along with clams and/or mussels, along with a few generous ladles of broth, and cover tightly with a lid to steam open the bivalves.
  7. Place an equal portion of fish into serving bowls. Ladle the hot broth over the fish, garnishing each serving with shrimp, clams and mussels, chopped fennel fronds and a generous pinch of Piment d’ Espelette.
http://www.silkroaddiary.com/piment-despelette-fish-stew/

Categories: Fruits of the Sea, Main Meals, Mediterranean, Recipes | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Piment d’Espelette

espelettehouseok2

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Spice merchant Christmas is coming a little late this year, but it is well worth the wait! The current crop of Piment d’Espelette has arrived at our doorstep, ready to transform our soups, stews, rice pilafs, and most especially egg and fish dishes with its mild heat, and fruity, almost tomato-like flavor. A single sampling of this precious spice leaves no question as to why we are so excited by its arrival!

Piment d’Espelette (pepper of Espelette) originates in the area that joins the southwestern-most corner of France with northeastern Spain, a region historically known as Basque country. Piment d’ Espelette bears the distinction of being the only spice recognized by the AOC, or Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée. The AOC guarantees that products which bear its seal will be produced in traditional manners, and originate only from their traditional region (Champagne is a classic example). Therefore, only the superior pepper grown in the ten, tiny approved Basque villages may be labeled “Piment d’Espelette.”

Visits to this picturesque region in late summer and early fall yield visions of festoons of peppers, drying against white stucco houses as they have for centuries. Each October, the end of the Piment d’Espelette harvest is marked by a vibrant festival, complete with parade, that draws upwards of 20,000 tourists. There, the peppers are sold fresh, pickled, or dried and ground, as we carry it. At only 4,000 on the Scoville scale (as compared to 40,000 for Indian Cayenne), Piment d’Espelette’s mild flavor is the cornerstone of the traditional Basque stew piperade, a piquant concoction of peppers, tomatoes, onions, and on occasion, ham and eggs.

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In keeping with Basque tradition, we consume our Piment d’Espelette seasonally; making way for the new crop when it comes. The Basque have another tradition worth imitating- that of the txoko, or gastronomical society. Generations of Basques have gotten together to cook, sing, and experiment with food in thousands of private clubs.  Pick up some of the freshest and most flavorful flakes of Piment d’Espelette available in the United States by the ounce, or sweetly packaged in a 1/2 ounce jar for your next txoko, or meeting of your foodie friends. On egin!

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