Thursday, November 12, 2009

Unusual Spices

Usual Spices

Spice:Lemon Balm
And the winner is…Named “Herb of the Year, 2007” by the International Herb Association!
Where it’s from: Originally grown in southern Europe and northern Africa.
What it looks and tastes like: Deliciously green, it has citrus and mint undertones.
Culinary versatility indeed: Frequently combined with allspice, bay leaves, mint, pepper, rosemary and thyme, it is used in green salads, stir fries, herb butter and stuffing. Try your sorbets, fruit drinks, pastries with a sprig or splash of lemon balm.
“Balm of Hurt Minds”: William Shakespeare was a purported fan of lemon balm; in Antony and Cleopatra and Macbeth he uses lemon balm to shake his protagonists out of their sorrowful stupor. Not surprisingly, lemon balm has mild anti-depressive properties and is used commonly in teas and essential oils for anxiety, fatigue and headaches.
Other Health benefits: Lemon balm has been revered for centuries for its healing properties and its power of longevity.
Spicy? Quite the contrary
Recipe idea: Use it the next time you make cheesecake!
Where to buy it: Blake’s Herb Center 1250 N 52nd St

Spice: Sumac
Misunderstood: Sumac is unfortunately often confused with its close cousin poison oak, a rather decorative red plant found on the roadside in the U.S.
“Will the real Sumac please stand up?” Sumac is a fiery red berry with a fruity-tart flavor, and not at all malicious!
Where it’s from: Found around the Mediterranean area including Sicily and Iran.
Casa Blanca’s secret ingredient: Arabian, Turkish and Lebanese cuisine use sumac in place of lemon, vinegar or tamarind, because of its more subtle astringency. The spice is great for grilling, on fish, chicken, potatoes and beets. The next time you go to Casa Blanca or Hanan Middle Eastern food carts, look out for the sprinkles of red on your grilled chicken or kefta – that’s sumac. Whole or cracked Sumac berries are sometimes soaked in warm water to create a fruity, sour juice for marinades and salad dressings. The powdered form teams up with thyme, sesame seeds and salt in a common Middle Eastern spice blend called za’atar
Health Benefits: Sumac is a diuretic and is used in a tonic to relieve upset stomachs and fevers.
Red= hot? Only a 1/10.
Recipe Idea: Devilled-egg salad sandwich!
Where to buy it: The Spice Corner in the Italian Market, Whole Foods.

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