We talk a lot at The Genomic Kitchen about the power of herbs and spices for your genes and your health. If you need a little refresher, read how you can help your genes dance to the body’s music here. Once you understand how they are harmony for your genes, the next step is to work with them in the kitchen. In this blog article, I share my tips for getting the best from your spices and then some easy home made spice blends you can try at home.
Quick Tips on Getting the Best from Your Spices
Before I share the recipes, here are some quick tips on how to get the best return on your money and your ingestion (ROI) from your spices
Know what a spice is. Spices can be berries (sumac, juniper), bark (cinnamon), root (ginger, turmeric), seeds (cardamom, coriander). We are familiar with them in their dried form, but some can be used in their whole fresh form: ginger and turmeric for example.
Buy small but often. The best way to buy spices is in bulk. This means dispensing in small quantities from bulk jars. Bulk-dispensed spices sell more quickly and are replenished frequently. This means they are not “aging” in pre-sealed jars sitting on a store shelf and may not get rotated frequently. Small and often means fresher for you. Look for the bulk area in your store.
Toasting brings out the aroma. Many recipes begin with the instruction: toast your spices over gentle eat. Adding gentle heat to spices releases their natural oils and aroma. This heightens the flavor these spices bring to a dish. Take time to do this if your recipe calls for it. Toasting spices that you cool, grind and add into a spice blend, also enhances their flavor. A little goes a long way when you take time to toast before you blend.
Roasting turmeric strengthens its health benefits. We talked about turmeric recently and included some tasty recipes to try. Through science we know that the health-conducive property of turmeric is curcumin. Curcumin can activate the important Nrf2 pathway that prompts your body to make its own antioxidants. It turns out that when you roast turmeric root, additional compounds are produced that can activate this same pathway. So if have the chance to use raw turmeric root in cooking (grate and add into the recipe), then the heat from cooking gives your more food-gene talking power. Once again, a great return on your investment and return on ingestion (ROI).
In the Kitchen
Now you know how to get the best from your spices, its time to try out some unique ways to incorporate them into what you eat. It’s easy to elevate a dish using spices or a combination of spices. The spice blends, I recommend you try in our featured recipes, are integral to many different cuisines around the world. If you’ve never made your own spice blend, I encourage you to try.
Many spice blends are easy to make at home, using combinations of spices you find at your local store. You’ll feel like you’re traveling around the globe without leaving your house. Oh and your taste buds will thank you too. No leftover tonight I bet! Oh and one quick note. Spice blends often incorporate dried herbs in the mix too, and so they are not always uniquely spices. Just saying….
Spice Blends and Recipes to Try Now!
Harissa is a hot sauce or paste that is used in many North African and Middle Eastern cuisines. It’s made from chili peppers, paprika and olive oil, and can also include garlic and other spices. Harissa paste is sold pre-packaged, available as a spice powder or can be made at home. Add it to soups and stews, use as a rub for meat, toss it with roasted vegetables, or simply use it as a condiment.
Dukkah is a Mediterranean spice blend made of toasted nuts, seeds and spices that create a rich and savory flavor. It can be sprinkled over grains, pastas or vegetable dishes, used as a coating for seafood, or mixed with oil and used as a dipping sauce. Make your own or buy pre-made.
Za’atar is a spice blend from the Middle East traditionally made with sesame seeds, salt and thyme, oregano or marjoram. Sumac, a sour berry is often thrown in the mix as well. Suffice to say, many variations of Za’atar abound. In this spiced chickpea recipe, nutrition expert Amy Gorin uses a za’atar blend featuring sumac, sesame seeds and hyssop which is an herb in the mint family. See, you can change things up any way you like! Amy also includes a spice blend option using Italian seasonings and also truffle salt!
Spicy Turmeric Blend
What easier and more yummy than spicy nuts to snack on? Chef Pam Florence, who works with us at The Genomic Kitchen came up with this quick and easy blend of turmeric , cayenne and black pepper to add some heat and sweet (maple syrup) to cashew nuts. You can try this with a variety of different nuts to change up the taste, texture and nutrition too!
Warm and Spicy Curry Blend
Curries are unique and their blend of spices is often a personal secret among cooks! In this delicious curry lentil soup, Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, RD blends cumin and cinnamon with curry powder, then pops the flavor and heat with fresh ginger and jalapeno. Who can resist? You can buy curry blends pre-made, or make our Genomic Kitchen Go To Curry Blend.
Want more ideas?
Head over to our Pinterest and check out our Creative Spices board. Check out our other boards too and be sure to follow us!