Tools of the Trade
Everyone knows the horror of the dry turkey breast and will do cartwheels to avoid it. Our tried and true solution is the basic turkey brine, pun intended. It requires advance planning, but once you incorporate brining into your holiday routine it simply adds to the bustle and flavor of the season, along with a dose of stress reduction because your turkey will NOT be dry. Here are the basics.
Be prepared! Your turkey should be completely thawed and you must have a brining container that is big enough. The turkey needs to be completely submerged. Brining bags are all the rage- but a bucket or cooler can do the trick just as well. Make sure you have a cool place to put the brining turkey for 12-24 hours prior to cooking. This requires a good bit of refrigerator space, but if you use a brining bag, it doesn’t require much more than it would for the bird itself.
Make your brining solution: Use the correct proportion of water and salt, regardless of what else you add to the mix- the salinity of the brine must be correct for it to flow into the meat. The standard proportion is 1 cup of kosher salt per gallon of water or stock. No need to use specialty salts here, the nuances will not contribute to the flavor. If you are using prepared vegetable stock, make sure it is salt free so you don’t upset the balance.
The brine and turkey should both be cooled to the same temperature before they are combined. Again, this ensures that the brine will flow easily into the turkey. Most refrigerators are set around 38 degrees and that works just fine. Be sure to leave the bird in the brine at least overnight, and 24 hours is better for larger turkeys.
So go ahead and have fun with the flavors! Toss your favorite whole or cracked spices into the brine and experiment with using apple cider in the mix. For more ideas, check out our new favorite cookbook- Marinades, Rubs, Brines, Cures & Glazes. It’s a wealth of over 400 inspired recipes using loads of spice!
The Autumn Equinox brings many things around the Pacific Northwest: our infamous drizzle begins anew, the few maples and oaks color aflame in between the miles of evergreen, the oysters are firm and plump again, garden kale stems grow thick and tough in preparation for wintering over, and, perhaps less famously but no less excitingly– my spice cabinet gets its quarterly makeover! Fall is when my cooking gets hearty, and I rely the heaviest of blended spices to warm my belly and my soul through the short, grey days, and the long, cold nights. It should come as little surprise to anyone who follows my blog-y musings that I delight in the unexpected, so here I’ll share a few of my top, must-have-on-hand blends that add cheer, color, and interest to my standby fall dishes.
The man who shares my life also shares with me an almost unnatural love of Harissa. At once familiar and unexpected, Harissa adds such depth and warmth to everything it touches. Instead of the traditional thyme and rosemary, I rub harissa on a chuck roast before sealing it in my dutch oven and slow-roasting it overnight. The juices from the meat mingle with the exotic spice, and makes the most sumptuous little pan sauce- after you’ve pulled your tender roast, just reduce the liquid by half, and add a pat of butter. Our cous cous with roasted vegetables and Harissa sauce is a year-round classic in my house, too.
My family is a bit “leftovers-challenged,” which is a nice way of saying that even the meals that get raves on night one, die slow deaths in the refrigerator if not re-imagined in to other things. When I make our Turkey Mole, the first night I’ll use the meat to make enchiladas or tacos, while the second, I’ll thin the sauce with chicken stock until it’s just thicker than broth consistency, and add chopped tomatoes, white beans, corn, and onion, and simmer for half an hour to make the world’s fastest and most delicious chili. Soul satisfying, and infinitely more interesting that your traditional “bowl of red.”
Acorn, Butternut, Delicata, Hubbard, Kabocha, Spaghetti, Turban… Gardens and markets abound with scores of winter squashes — to say nothing of the dozens of pumpkin varieties — all delicious, nutritious, inexpensive, and begging for a roasting. A dash of cinnamon, a grate of nutmeg- fine, I suppose, but who settles for “fine” when “amazing” is available? I stock Kashmiri Curry and Besar for just these occasions. Both have the toasty, sweet spices that bring out the inherent sweetness of the squash, but add so much more, whether you’re roasting whole to mash, or cubing and caramelizing your gourds.
The easiest side dish at this time of year is roasted root vegetables. Heat a sheet pan in a 450 degree oven, toss a sampling of carrots, parsnips, turnips, potatoes, and onions in a bit of oil, spread in an even layer on your hot pan, and roast until tender and golden. It may be natural to reach again for the rosemary, or even the Italian Herbs, but I prefer the savory crunch of Svaneti Seasoned Salt. This eastern European blend is so versatile that I find it pairs no matter how I’ve seasoned the main dish — European, north African, Middle Eastern, or Indian. I go through quarts of the stuff, I just can’t get enough.
I have to preface all of this by saying that I do not consider myself a baker. I usually find the excessive measuring and strict orders of operations stifling, and too math-like to be enjoyable to my free spirit. However, creatively spicing puts the joy back in. Pumpkin pies abound at every gathering this time of year, and though I love them, I do grow weary. I prefer this pie, adapted from a very traditional Southern recipe, using sweet potatoes and Sri Lankan curry. Deeply toasted and just a bit spicy, this warm, sweet blend has all but replaced Pumpkin Pie Spice in my kitchen, for sweet potato and pumpkin pies.
This Apple-Carrot pie has also become a standby in my kitchen. When I first posted it, great Seattle food blogger cook.can.read commented that “Cinnamon is the gateway drug. Chinese Five Spice is the destination.” I couldn’t agree more! Try using Chinese Five Spice anywhere your autumn baking calls for cinnamon- I’m talking pumpkin or zucchini breads, muffins- even toss it with sugar to coat the outside of your snickerdoodles!
So, if you’re open to any advice from your humble spice merchant, although nature may be hunkering down for the chilly months ahead, use this time to re-awaken your spice stash. Grab a few unfamiliar and exotic blends, and turn over those spices that have been languishing for six months or longer. The bright flavors of fresh spices will all but erase the dreary skies from your psyche. We’ve got an entire display dedicated to these blends and a few other fall staff favorites, (as well as a bunch of new books!) so drop by for a sniff and a chat!
The Art of Fermentation, Food in Jars, and Drunken Botanist have been the hits of the summer at World Spice Merchants, and there are no signs of a slow down. Want to know a secret? We originally previewed these books because of their respective covers…so, sometimes (or at least three times) you CAN judge a book by it’s cover.
Winner of the 2013 James Beard Foundation Book Award for Reference and Scholarship, and a New York Times bestseller, The Art of Fermentation contains everything you never knew you needed to know about fermentation. The 498 page tome explores different methods of fermenting, gives history and personal accounts of eating fermented foods the world over, as well as many recipes for the aspiring culinary bacteriologist. Both practical and entertaining, this book is as much bedside reader as it is encyclopaedic.
In food in jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year Round, food blogger Marisa McClellan stores away the tastes of all seasons for later with the likes of jams and jellies, as well as the more exotic pickles, chutneys, conserves, whole fruit, tomato sauces, salsas, marmalades, nut butters, seasonings, and more.
The recipes are for refreshingly small amounts, making life pleasant for a canning novice, while the flavors of vanilla bean, sage, and pepper will keep the more experienced home food preservationists coming back for more. We’ve carried several books of this genre in the shop, and this one easily makes the top of the pile.
Another New York Times bestseller, The Drunken Botanist could very well have been written by our own Amanda Bevill; botanist and spirits enthusiast! Ripe with history and facts, all dispersed with a wry, witty humor, The Drunken Botanist leads an alphabetical nature walk from Agave to Strawberry, hitting all the best booze-making plants in between. The pages are dotted with recipes for classic cocktails, as well as tips for updating old favorites. The best part? Many of the recipes are for “pitcher” fulls!
Do you have any new release cookbook favorites? If so, please let us know in the comments below.
Spanking the tandoor oven to make naan bread is HOT stuff; and certainly not as easy as the pros at Tandoozy make it look. We found out the fun way!
After busting a move all spring to move and expand our warehouse and production digs — we celebrated with a party, and the tigers from Tandoozy fed us all very well.
Tandoozy – Food for Naan Believers – is Seattle’s only Tandoori food stand. Using a custom-designed, portable Tandoor oven, the folks at Tandoozy serve up chicken tikka masala, dahl, and hot naan with sweet mango chutney at farmer’s markets all over the city. The chicken is halal and what is NOT chicken is vegan. Best of all, they’ve been buying fresh ground spices from us since the very beginning. Sound good to you? Well, it was! We loved all of it. If you haven’t experienced Tandoozy yourself and would like to, check out their schedule here. We can’t tell you what spices they purchase (trade secrets and all), but if you would like to try these flavors at home, we have two great blends to get you started: Tikka Masala and Tandoori Curry.
For more information about traditional Tandoor ovens, click here. Fun to eat and fun to watch. We definitely enjoyed our Naan-making lesson. Check out that smile in the final picture — that is one happy spice merchant/novice naan thrower.
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.
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!