Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Desperately Seeking Spice

Cardamom Iced Tea
  Quite often in life memories are linked to specific smells, tastes, or sounds.  For me, if something is worth remembering it probably has a connection to what I was eating at the time.  From the sweetly steaming bamboo baskets of Vietnamese delights during a last dinner in Paris to making tea sandwich cookies with my grandmother, my memories are steeped in food.
  One of my fondest recollections (and cravings!) is the Friday special from a small Middle Eastern restaurant located in Indianapolis's City Market.  The Market has tons of food booths and other businesses that mostly cater to the downtown lunch crowd.  Pretty much anything you're hungry for is available: pizza, sushi, Philly cheese steaks, get the idea.
   No matter what I ate the rest of the week, on Friday I knew I was getting the 'Special' from Ameer's.  The 'Special' consisted of rice and lentils with sauteed onions, a small salad with a tangy, yogurt dressing, and tea.  Not just any tea, but their special cardamom iced tea.  In the bedwetter Styrofoam size, please.  And then there was the just-spicy-enough cilantro sauce that I squirted all over pretty much everything...
  There is no Ameer in Colorado.  Yet my craving for the Friday Special remains.  That's where Food52 comes in.  Haven't heard of this genius?  Well, let me enlighten you: Food52 is the creation of accomplished foodies, Amanda and Merrill, who have created an online food community offering recipes, cooking supplies, cookbook is almost a Pandora's box for the epicurean devotee.  It is also where I serendipitously (I use this word whenever possible) discovered the recipe for my beloved Ameer's 'Special!'
Mujaddara with Spiced Yogurt
  Jasmine rice, Puy (French) lentils, and loads of caramelized onions turn simple ingredients into complex flavors.  Top it off with spiced yogurt sauce and you have a meatless meal to die for.  Watch those onions; I burned mine on the first try, forcing me to make the entire recipe over again.  What a shame.  Click on the caption below the picture to be directed to the recipe.

  Nothing is better on a hot day than this tea!  Cardamom is a seed commonly used to flavor food and drinks throughout Asia and the Middle East.  In South Asia it is also used to treat infections of the gums and mouth, prevent throat trouble, and treat digestive disorders.  Plus, the aromatic flavor is enchanting.  Tastes great with mujaddara, too.

Cardamom Iced Tea
  • Black tea- enough for a pitcher.  Tazo makes black tea bags specifically for making a pitcher of iced tea, which is what I used.
  • 6-10 Green cardamom pods, crack open with the handle of a knife or heavy object to release flavor
  • Ice
  • Water
 Boil water for tea.  Place cardamom pods in pitcher along with tea bag(s).  Pour hot water over tea and cardamom mixture, let steep for time specified.  Add ice, chill.  Strain cardamom pods out, or leave in for added flavor.

Sweet Shaka in his kerchief
  The next recipe I'd like to share also came from Food52, but since we ate it all before I had a chance to take a picture here's our Ridgeback, Shaka Zulu, instead!  He's cute enough to suffice, right?

  Before I get down to the nitty-gritty, let's learn some new terms:
Merguez- Red, spicy North African lamb sausage spiced with chili pepper and/or harissa (for definition, see below).  You can make your own or Whole Foods will make it for you.  (I had previously thought lambs were too cute to eat, but I may have changed my mind!)
Ras el hanout- Popular Moroccan blend of spices used throughout North Africa; Think cardamom, clove, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, nutmeg, turmeric, etc. (I found some at Whole Foods.  Organic, to boot!)   
Harissa- Tunisian hot chili sauce made with piri piri, serrano, other hot chilis, and spices.  Varies from region to region. 

  Okay, now you get to use ALL THREE to make Moroccan Merguez Ragout with Poached Eggs.  Imagine: A sweet, savory, heartwarming stew with the creaminess of poached eggs adding depth and earthy flavor.  Also imagine sopping up every last bit with slices of crusty bread, and you're close to picturing the satiation that is coming your way.
  *Suggestion* I made merguez meatballs, because Whole Foods will only sell the cased sausage merguez in 3 lbs. increments or more.  I actually think I liked meatballs in this dish more than I would have liked slices of sausage, but I'd like to try both.  If you can't find merguez at all, try substituting Spanish chorizo or even Soyrizo if you'd rather not have any meat.    

  You think your palette has tasted it all, only to discover that there are endless flavor combinations, preparations, and applications.  Maybe the flavors I've described in this post are familiar to you, or maybe you are wondering if you will even like them.  Either way, I invite you to step outside of your food comfort zone and try a new food, ingredient, or recipe.  Not only will you be broadening your horizons, you'll be making memories and possibly, future cravings!

Abandoned roses in Ladd's Addition, Portland, Oregon


1 comment:

HoosierKitty said...

Shaka is cuter than ANY food!