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The Health Benefits of 7 Spices

 

While fresh herbs help flavor dishes all summer long, dried herbs and spices transform cold-weather dishes. If you’re new to cooking, or just starting to stock your pantry, knowing which herbs and spices you need on hand can be tricky. After all, herbs and spices can get pricey. Here are some must-haves, based on usefulness and health benefits.

Oregano: This fragrant herb lends its distinct flavor to Mexican, Greek and Italian cooking. On the health front, test-tube studies have found that key oils in oregano fight harmful bacteria.

Cinnamon: This warm winter spice is a quintessential flavoring in apple pie, but it’s not just for desserts. I add it to ground coffee before brewing and use a pinch in black bean chili. Cinnamon is ridiculously high in manganese, which helps you absorb  other vitamins and minerals, contributes to bone health, and also has some calcium and iron.

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Why I Love Kalustyan’s

Kalustyans

Kalustyan’s, an iconic spice market in New York City, is the ultimate source for spices, chiles, grains, nuts, chocolate, cookware and all sorts of food things Middle Eastern, South Asian and other cuisines with a strong spice bent. It is one of my all-time favorite places to shop and get inspired to cook.

They are constantly expanding their inventory, so shopping there is always an adventure. If you want curry powder, they have classic Madras, but also Javanese, West Indian, Sri Lankan, or spicy Vindaloo as well as many others. The problem is, I hate to just pick one, so I usually get three or four. If I come with a list of, say, eight items, invariably I leave with triple that. Since I travel by subway, I am limited by what I can carry, but you would be amazed how many bags I can carry!

The staff is incredibly helpful, charming and knowledgeable; it is hard to get in and out of Kalustyan’s without a deep I-love-New-York feeling. Luckily, they have an awesome website and offer delivery all over the country so you can get inspired as well.

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Homemade Holiday Gift: DIY Harissa

Finished Harissa, With Ingredients

Food-wise, December looks something like this: Cookies, cookies, doughnuts, cookies, candy, cookies, cake, cookies. Champagne. Cookies.  I love all those sweets (and the bubbly) as much as the next gal, but between bites of buttery cookies and homemade caramels, I crave something savory, spicy and delicious.

I’m banking that I’m not the only one who feels this way, so this year I’m making a batch of harissa to give to friends as a holiday gift. This ubiquitous North African condiment is popping up in restaurants and on food blogs everywhere, and you can use it in many forms, from ketchup-like condiment to star-of-the-show spice rub. Sure, you can buy it in a tube, but making your own is easy, and you can control the heat level and seasoning.

Here’s how to make your own, package it and serve it up all month long.

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