From caffè latte to protein bars, it seems like pumpkin pie spice makes its way into just about everything this time of year. This combination of spices evokes a nostalgic feeling in many, so it can be the perfect foil for most combinations of meats and vegetables.
Let’s explore how we can flavor our favorite fall foods with some of these warming spice combinations
Anything with a “pie” in the spice name always works. One of my favorites, similar to pumpkin pie spice, is apple pie spice. But I always got the sense that this ordinary mixture of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg was lacking a bit of depth and sophistication.
Enter Chinese 5 Spice. This throaty mixture of spices most commonly known for its use on roasted duck is the perfect combination of sweet, sour, bitter, pungent and salty. Commonly made of fennel seed, Szechuan peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves and star anise, Chinese 5 spice makes the perfect partner for sweeter vegetables. A quick toss in some 5 spice makes yams, carrots and butternut squash more exciting. Try tossing some sweet potato in peanut oil with Chinese 5 spice and kosher salt, then roast it in the oven.
Peanut oil + Chinese 5 spice + Kosher salt + Sweet potato:
Blend and roast.
If you’re into exploring more adventurous cuisines, ras el hanout is the perfect gateway spice blend for you. This North African blend, whose name translates to “head of the shop,” blends some of the most amazingly pungent spices around. Cardamom, clove, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, paprika, mace, nutmeg, peppercorn and turmeric come together for a pungent warm flavor. Try this one mixed with olive oil and rubbed on chicken or pork tenderloin before roasting or grilling.
Olive oil + Ras el hanout + Tomato paste + Pork tenderloin: Make a paste and roast the tenderloin whole.
For a more spicy note look to the Indian favorite, garam masala. This blend of spices brings together a variety of the most commonly used spices in Indian cuisine. However, like curry, there is no recipe set in stone and blends can vary from region to region. The running narrative in this spice blend is spicy. Common staples are coriander, cumin, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg. Ginger, fenugreek and tamarind are often added for depth and sweetness. Garam masala can add warmth and sweetness along with floral notes, and a slight spicy heat from the black pepper. It’s great rubbed on grilled flank steak in a base of canola oil with a little kosher salt.
Canola oil + Garam masala + Kosher salt + Flank steak: Rub the steak liberally with spice blend and grill to your liking.
Try your hand at a custom blend from whole spices. All you need is the following:
• A dry skillet
• A virgin coffee grinder
• Whole spices
Give it a shot and see what you come up with. Anything you can toast and grind is sure to taste great, whether blended into some oil for a marinade or rubbed on a steak for the grill.
About The Chef
Chef Sean Gartland is the culinary director of the Flint Farmers’ Market and owns Feast Gourmet Kitchen Shop in Fenton. Be sure to check out his blog, feastonthisblog.com, for more recipes and cooking tips.