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SPICE BLENDS AND SPICE PASTES

Spice blends are a great shortcut for the busy cook who likes interesting flavors. Find them in the spice section of your supermarket or make up your own. The spice blends are made with all dry ingredients; spice pastes use some fresh ingredients such as onions, parsley, cilantro or garlic which do not keep their flavors well when dried.

Store the spice pastes in the refrigerator; the dry spice blends can be refrigerated or kept on your spice shelf in air-tight containers. For any spice or spice blend the rule is the same: if it doesn't have a nice fragrance, it won't have a good taste. Rub a little between your fingers and sniff to see if it's still fresh.

Harissa Sauce

1 teaspoon ground caraway seed
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil or Italian salad dressing

Mix the dry spices in a small refrigerator container. Peel the garlic clove and press it through a garlic press into the dry spices. Add the oil or salad dressing and mix well. Store covered in refrigerator. Very hot!

Yield: About 1/4 cup

Note: A little Harissa goes a long way! Stir in a tiny bit while you cook, and taste before adding any more. Or let each person mix a little dab into their own portion of any stew or soup -- vegetable, bean or seafood. Be sure to caution anyone who is not familiar with Harissa. The Harissa will keep indefinitely in a closed container in your refrigerator.

Thai Spice Paste

1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh lemon grass,
or 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mash all ingredients together, or process in a small food processor. Store, covered, the refrigerator.

Yield: About 1 cup

In recipes that call for a dry spice blend, use about 3 times as much of the paste (if the recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of dry Thai spice blend, use 3 tablespoons of the Thai Spice Paste.)

Greek Spice Paste

1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
(or 3 tablespoons fresh, if available)
(With all of the following, use 1 tablespoon fresh if available:)
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 teaspoon dried savory
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary

Mash all ingredients together, or process in a small food processor. Store, covered, in the refrigerator.

Yield: About 1 cup

In recipes that call for a dry spice blend, use 2-3 times as much of the paste (if the recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of dry Greek spice blend, use 3 tablespoons of the Greek Spice Paste.)

Southwestern Spice Paste

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup onion, chopped fine
3 tablespoons mild paprika
2 tablespoons dried cumin
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon mild chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste

Mash all ingredients together, or process in a small food processor. Store, covered, the refrigerator.

Yield: About 1/2 cup

In recipes that call for a dry spice blend, use about 3 times as much of the paste (if the recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of dry Southwestern spice blend, use 3 tablespoons of the Southwestern Spice Paste.)

Cajun Spice Paste

1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/2 cup onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup mild paprika
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste

Mash all ingredients together, or process in a small food processor. Store, covered, the refrigerator.

Yield: About 1 cup

In recipes that call for a dry spice blend, use about 3 times as much of the paste (if the recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of dry Cajun spice blend, use 3 tablespoons of the Cajun Spice Paste.) Many very tasty ready-made Cajun spice blends are available in supermarkets.

Berbere Spice Mix

1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice

Mix the spices together and store in an airtight container.

Yield: about 1/8 cup

Garam Masala Spice Mix 1
(with whole seeds, ground fresh)

2 tablespoons coriander seed
2 tablespoons mustard seed
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
4 tablespoons cumin seed
2 tablespoons fenugreek seed
2 tablespoons whole black pepper
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
1 tablespoon whole cloves

Parch the spices except the cloves on a hot griddle or large pan (do not allow them to burn). Add the cloves and grind while still warm. Cool and store in an air-tight container.

Yield: about 3/4 cup

Garam Masala Spice Blend 2
(with ground spices)

2 tablespoons freshly ground black or white pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon cardamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
Mix all ingredients. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: About 1/4 cup.

Dessert Spice Blend

Hot breakfast cereals and whole grain desserts can be made more delicious with a cinnamon-based spice blend. Find a good "Apple Pie Spice" or "Pumpkin Pie Spice" in your supermarket or make your own with this recipe.

3 tbs cinnamon
1 tbs nutmeg
1 tbs dry ginger
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp cardamon
1 tsp mace

Mix all ingredients. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: About 1/4 cup

June 21st, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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