Why do we turn to cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves throughout the colder months? And how do spices impart their flavor to various dishes? This segment is all about the flavors of winter!
It is now the time of year most firmly associated with dark spices. You know those of which I speak, the oily powders we keep hidden away through the summer only to find perpetually at our side as the days grow shorter. Cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, cloves, and allspice; these are the spices that keep our hearts smoldering like coals through wind and snow.
My pursuits of the perfect Saag have taken me far and wide. I’ve tried many a recipe in my kitchen, some my own, some belonging to those far more well-versed in Indian cooking. My pursuits have brought forth this dish, reminiscent of the saag at my favorite Indian restaurant, but tweaked for my Brooklyn kitchen. Instead of spinach I used rainbow chard because it was local, fresh and calling to me with jewel-toned legs amidst the shrubbery of the produce aisle. Two bunches may look like a lot when you stick it in your cart, but chard (like every leafy green) cooks down to nothing. Ergo, buy more than you think you need.
- 2 bunches Rainbow Chard
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 inch Ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 tablespoon Mustard Seed
- ½ tablespoon Amchur (or the pit of one mango)
- 3-5 Cardomom Pods (depending on your affinity for the scent)
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Black Pepper
- ½ cup Coconut Milk
- Strip the leaves of chard from their jewel-toned stems. Reserve the stems for making veggie stock, we will not be using them in this recipe. Stack the leaves of chard and roll them into a fat, tight cigar. Slicing across the roll, cut the chard into strips. Set the ribbons aside.
- In a large stock pot or wok heat the oil over medium-high heat until rippling.
- Add the ginger and saute for 3-5 minutes, or until it is golden brown.
- Add the mustard seeds and amchur (or the mango pit) and immediately put a lid on the pot. The seeds will start to pop and without a lid your kitchen will be covered in tiny little black spots. I repeat, put a lid on it.
- When the popping dies down (after about a minute or two), open the lid and stuff the chard into the pot.
- Add the cardomom pods, salt and pepper and stir everything to combine.
- Continue to stir as the chard wilts and pour in the coconut milk.
- Put the lid back on the pot, drop the heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
- Remove the lid and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes, or until the leaves are tender and the milk has thickened slightly.
- Eat it.
Beginning with an Indian inspiration I tore the insides from mental samosas and packed them into a casserole dish. The result is a tray of scoopable, spiced, tender, and crusty potatoes, perfect as the bed for some fried eggs. I add a lot of peas to my potato mixture, feel free to adjust the proportion should you be pea-averse.
4 large Yukon Gold Potatoes (~2 lbs)
1 tablespoon White Vineger
1/3 cup Olive Oil
2 Serrano Chilies, minced (~2 tbs)
5 cloves Garlic, minced (~1 1/2 tbs)
3 inches Ginger, chopped (~3 tbs)
1 tablespoon Black Mustard Seed
1 tablespoon Amchur
2 1/2 teaspoons Whole Cumin Seeds
1/2 teaspoon Ground Coriander
1/2 teaspoon Ground Cardamom
1/2 teaspoon Fennel Powder
2 cups frozen Green Peas
- Chop the potatoes into roughly 2 inch pieces.
- Place them in a large saute pan and cover with two cups of water. Add the vinegar.
- Cover the pan and bring to a simmer, cook at a medium temp for 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are fork tender but have not lost their shape completely.
- Drain the potatoes and partially mash in a large bowl.
- Heat the oil in a large wok or saute pan.
- When the oil is hot, toss in the serrano chilies, garlic, ginger, cumin seeds and black mustard seeds. Saute till light brown.
- Throw in all the remaining spices.
- Add the semi-mashed potatoes, stir everything to distribute the spices.
- Add the frozen peas.
- Spoon potato mixture into casserole dish and drizzle olive oil on top. Slide into the oven at 375 for 10-15 minutes to crisp up the top.
Bacon needs no introduction, it begs no accoutrements, but sometimes (just sometimes) it likes to be treated like a GD star. It doesn't take much to put bacon in the spotlight, just of touch of sweet spice and some proper cooking. I like my bacon straight and stiff as a board, thick and crisp. For my tastes, there is no better purveyor of the porky strip than John O'Groats in LA. I base my cooking technique on their expert presentation, and it doesn't fail.
- 1 pound Bacon, thickly cut
- 2 tablespoons Garam Masala
- 2 teaspoons Brown Sugar
- Heat your oven to 475 degrees.
- In a medium bowl mix together both the Garam Masala and brown sugar.
- Dredge each bacon slice through the spice mixture, coating both sides liberally.
- Line a large roasting tray with the bacon slices, keeping them in one layer.
- Place a rack on top of the bacon slices, to keep them flat while they bake.
- Bake the bacon for 15-20 minutes, or until browned and crisp all around.
- Remove the bacon from the oven and, using a fork, take each slice out of the roasting tray while still hot and let it drain on a separate rack.
I could ruin an entire meal by nibbling snacks before dinner, and these nuts only contribute to my mealtime treason. Roasted nuts are easy to make ahead of time in large batches. They keep well in the freezer so you'll always have something on hand to feed those precocious guests arriving before you've finished in the kitchen.
- 3 pounds Mixed Raw Nuts
- 3 Egg Whites
- 1 large bunch Rosemary, minced (~1/4 cup)
- 7 cloves Garlic, minced (~2 1/2 tablespoons)
- 2 tablespoons Granulated Palm Sugar
- 2 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Salt
- 2 1/2 teaspoons Ground Black Pepper
- 2 teaspoons Onion Powder
- 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1 teaspoon Hot Paprika
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix the nuts in a large bowl and then spread them evenly over two cookie sheets. Make sure to keep them in one layer for even roasting.
- Roast the nuts for 12-15 minutes, or until toasted and fragrant. Remove them from the oven and set aside while you make the coating.
- Reduce your oven temp. to 250 degrees.
- In a large bowl whisk together the egg whites, rosemary, garlic, palm sugar, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and paprika. Whisk until everything is just incorporated and slightly foamy- we’re not looking to really turn this into a meringue.
- Dump the dry roasted nuts into your egg white mixture and mix everything up. Use your hands, your favorite spatula or your kids, just make sure the coating is evenly distributed over all the nuts.
- Spread the now coated nuts back onto their cookie sheets (again for even roasting) and put the trays back in the oven for 4 minutes to 1 hour, or until the coating looks baked on and toasty.
- Remove the trays from your oven, let the nuts cool on the trays and then break apart and serve!