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Great Spice Blends

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Colin Houston/flickr
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The more time I spend in the kitchen the more I become enamored with trying different seasonings.  All that talk about spicing up one's life can be taken literally.  A deft command of the spice rack can give you unbelievable culinary powers.  But as Chef Jerry Pellegrino tells us, there are some handy shortcuts spice lovers can take advantage of.

Click on the image for the recommendations. 

The List

Ras el Hanout - There is no definitive composition of spices that makes up ras el hanout. Each shop, company, or family may have their own blend. The mixture usually consists of over a dozen spices, in different proportions, although some purists insist that it must contain exactly 12 items. Commonly used ingredients include cardamomcuminclovecinnamonnutmegmaceallspice, dry gingerchili pepperscoriander seed, peppercorn, sweet and hot paprikafenugreek, and dry turmeric. Some spices may be particular to the region, such as ash berrieschufagrains of paradiseorris rootmonk's peppercubebs, dried rosebudfennel seed or aniseedgalangallong pepper. Ingredients may be toasted before being ground or pounded in a mortar and mixed together.

Togarashi -  is one of the most popular seasonings for a table condiment in Japan. This is used to add both heat and flavor to dishes such as soba noodles, udon, beef tataki, jasmine rice. This is hand mixed from orange peel, black, white and toasted sesame seeds, cayenne, ginger, Szechuan pepper and nori.

Chinese Five Spice - While there are many variants, a common mix is composed of star anise, cloves, Chinese cinnamon, Szechuan pepper and fennel seeds.

Garam Masala - The composition of garam masala differs regionally, with many recipes across India according to regional and personal taste and none is considered more authentic than others. The components of the mix are toasted, then ground together. A typical Indian version of garam masala contains black and white peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon or cassia bark, mace (the outer covering of nutmeg), black and green cardamom pods, bay leaf, cumin and coriander.

Herbs de Provence -  is a mixture of dried herbs typical of the Provence region of southeast France. Formerly simply a descriptive term, commercial blends started to be sold under this name in the 1970s. These blends often contain savorymarjoramrosemarythyme, and oreganoLavender leaves are also included in products in the North American market. The herb mixture is typically used with grilled foods and stews.

Pumpkin Pie Spice – this is a great mix that can be used in place of any of its parts in recipes. It usually contains ground cinnamon ground ginger, nutmeg, ground allspice and ground cloves.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.