Video Recipe Blog

Organic Tandoori Chicken made using this recipe is extremely simple because we have created the Organic Tandoori Masala Blend for you! Since we are using organic ingredients, it is highly recommended that free range, organically fed chicken be used.

Tandoori Chicken Marinade Recipe: The quantities below will provide enough marinade for 2 to 3 pounds of bone-in or boneless chicken thighs, breast, legs, or any combination you choose. You may leave the bone in for extra flavor, but always remove the skin.

Preparing the chicken:

Remove the skin from the chicken pieces you have selected, rinse in cold water and pat dry using paper towels. Make a few shallow slits in each piece. If leaving the bone in, ensure that the slits do not go all the way to the bone. This will help the tandoori chicken remain moist and flavorful.  

Ingredients for The Tandoori Marinade:

    • 2 cups whole milk or fat-free Yoghurt. You may also use Goat's milk yoghurt if you are sensitive to dairy.
    • 1 to 2 tablespoons of the Organic Tandoori Masala Blend.
    • 1 teaspoon or more Cayenne Pepper powder (optional, if you wish to add more heat! Cayenne is an ingredient included in the Tandoori Blend.)
    • 1 teaspoon or more of Paprika Powder ( Optional, if you wish to add more color to the marinade. Paprika is an ingredient included in the Tandoori Blend)
    • 1 teaspoon or more salt, adjust according to taste
    • 5 cloves garlic, finely minced
    • 1/2 an onion, finely minced
    • 1/2 inch piece of ginger, finely minced garlic
    • 1 tablespoon of cold water
    • 1/2 teaspoon of natural red food coloring (optional)

     Ingredients for garnishing:

      • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves,
      • 1 thickly sliced onion
      • 2 to 4 sliced Serrano peppers
      • 1 to 2 tomatoes cut into wedges
      • 1 lemon cut into wedges.

        Preparing the marinade:

        Place the yoghurt in a bowl, add the water and whisk until well bended. This steps helps reduce tartness and makes the yoghurt a little sweeter. Next, add add all the remaining ingredients and blend well. Do the "finger test" by dipping your finger into the marinade and tasting for correct balance of flavors. Adjust according to your taste.

        Marinating the Chicken:

        Place the chicken in an 8 x 12 pan and pour the Tandoori marinade over the chicken. Thoroughly coat the chicken using your hands, ensuring that the marinade makes its way into the slits.  Cover the pan with foil or cling film. Refrigerate overnight or a minimum of 3 to 4 hours. The longer the better.

        Grilling:

        My preferred method of grilling is over charcoal. This gives the Tandoori chicken a nice smokey flavor. But, you may grill over a gas flame or even in broiler or roast in the oven. Regardless of which method you use, one important factor to bear in mind is that once the meat is removed from the heat, it continues to cook! I won't discuss cooking time detail here. Needless to say there are many variables, but over charcoal - a few minutes on each side until the tandoori is cooked, yet moist. In checking for doneness, I prefer not to skewer or cut the meat, but to use a method I learned from my wife, Jenn: Use the back of a fork and press against the flesh. If it is fairly firm, it's time to remove from the heat.

        Garnishing:

        Finally, you may squeeze a little lemon juice over the Tandoori Chicken, garnish with cilantro, onion wedges, sliced Serrano pepper and tomato wedges. Serve with Aromatic Yellow Rice and accompaniments!

        Enjoying:

        I hope you enjoy this so very simple to prepare Tandoori Chicken Recipe!

        It's Summertime and time to throw stuff on the BBQ. What better way to do that than with the Spicy BBQ Poultry Marinade!

        This is an extremely easy marinade to prepare, suitable for Chicken, Cornish Game Hen and even Duck. I've made life very easy for you by putting all the spice ingredients into one package, The Spicy BBQ Poultry Marinade Set.

        The Spicy BBQ Poultry Marinade Recipe: These quantities will provide enough marinade for 2 leg quarters, 2 half breasts and 2 wings. Whatever type of poultry you are using, please remember to CUT SEVERAL SHALLOW SLITS ON EACH PIECE. This will further help the marinade flavor the meat!

        • 1 to 1 1/2 cups Soy Sauce or Tamari  (for those who are sensitive to gluten)
        • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed Lemon juice
        • 1 tablespoon or more Cayenne Pepper Powder
        • 1 tablespoon or more of Paprika Powder
        • 2 teaspoons Turmeric Powder
        • 1 tablespoon or more freshly ground Black Peppercorn
        • Optional Ingredients:
        • 5 to 6 cloves freshly minced Garlic
        • 2 tablespoons Chili Oil.
        • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped Serrano pepper

        Preparing the marinade:

        In a 8 x 10 inch pan combine all the ingredients and stir till well blended. Do the "finger test" by dipping your finger into the marinade and tasting for correct balance of flavors. Adjust according to your taste. Add the meat to the marinade and turn over several times till it is well coated. Cover with foil or cling film and refrigerate overnight or for a minimum of 3 to 4 hours. It's best to turn the meat over in the mixture at least once during the time it's marinading. 

        Grilling:

        Whether your preferred method of grilling be over charcoal or a gas flame, the one important factor to bare in mind is that once the meat is removed from the heat, it continues to cook! I won't discuss cooking time detail here. Needless to say there are many variables, but over charcoal - a few minutes on each side untill the poultry is golden brown on all sides. In checking for doneness, I prefer not to skewer or cut the meat, but to use a method I learned from my wife Jenn: Use the back of a fork and press against the flesh. If it is fairly firm, it's time to remove from the heat.

        Finally, garnish with cilantro and serve with choice of simple accompaniments such as a Tortillas and Pico de gallo!

         

        Garam Masala

        One of the most popular and well known spice blends, the Classic Garam Masala is generally a combination of 4 to 6 spices. I've taken the most commonly used and created a spice gift set for your enjoyment. As an introduction to using the masala, I'm also providing a very simple recipe for a Mixed Vegetable Curry.

        Classic Garam Masala Recipe

        • 1 tablespoons coriander seeds
        • 2 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
        • 2 tablespoon black peppercorns
        • 1 tsp cloves
        • 3 to 5 cardamom pods
        • 1-inch-long Ceylon cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
        • pinch Ceylon cloves (about 4 or 5)

        Roasting

        In a dry skillet over low to medium heat, roast all the spices except the cumin seed. For best results, stir the seeds frequently through the whole process. After about a minute, when the spices begin to smell fragrant, add the cumin, turn the heat low and continue roasting for an additional 1 minute or so. Transfer to small bowl and let cool completely.

        Although the purist or ideal way to prepare this blend is to roast the spices individually, you may dry roast all the spices at once, being careful not to burn the smaller seeds, such as the cumin. 

        Milling

        Transfer roasted spices to the spice mill and grind to a fine powder. You may need to do this in batches. (See milling instructions.)

        Once the spices are milled, transfer to an airtight container and store in a cool, dark cabinet. This will insure the blend stays fresh for a longer period of time.

        Mixed Vegetable Curry:

        Ingredients:

        • 21/2 tablespoons of ghee or oil
        • 1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
        • 1 medium carrot peeled and sliced - 1/4 thick
        • 1 medium onion cut into thin wedges
        • 1/2 pound cauliflower cut into florets
        • 3 teaspoons Classic Garam Masala
        • 1 tablespoon ground coriander seed
        • 1 teaspoon ground cumin seed
        • 7 to 10 ounces of fresh or frozen okra
        • 8 to 10 green beans cut into 2 inch pieces
        • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
        • 2 cloves garlic crushed
        • 1/2 cup creamy yogurt
        • 1 cup of water
        • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
        • Chopped cilantro or mint

        Heat the ghee or oil in a saucepan and brown the potato, carrots and onions for about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the cauliflower an cook for an additional 2 minutes. Sprinkle the spices over the vegetables, add the beans, okra, ginger and garlic and stir well. Add the yogurt, water and salt, stir well, cover and cook for ten to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Please be sure to not overcook the vegetables. Add the chopped cilantro or mint, adjust for salt, stir gently and transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with additional mint or cilantro.

        This curry is an ideal accompaniment to Aromatic Yellow Rice.

           

        Traditional Chai Recipe with Fresh Spices

        A good friend revealed to me recently that she had never tasted any other type of Chai other than what was served her at the local coffee shop. Well, when I prepared this fresh chai recipe and shared a cuppa with her, I was not too surprised to find her loving it!

        Directions for preparing 4 servings.

        Ingredients: 

        Chai Masala Spices:

        • 1 TBS Cardamom pods
        • 1 TBS Ceylon Cinnamon chips ( 1" to 2" stick broken into pieces)
        • 1 1/2 TSP Whole Cloves
        • 1 TSP Whole Black Pepper   
        Additional Ingredients:
        • 1TBS Finely chopped Fresh Ginger
        • 2 TBS High Quality Black Tea, such as Darjeeling 
        • Sugar to Taste
        • 3/4 to 1 cup warmed Whole Milk
        • 3 cup of water

        Bring the water to a boil in a small pan, lower heat to a gentle simmer. Grind the whole spices, just a few spins in a grinder will do - just enough to roughly grind the spices. Add 3 TSP of ground spices to the simmering water, ( reserve the rest for tomorrow's Chai ) cover and simmer on very low heat for 5 minutes.

        Add the tea to the pot with spices, stir, remove from heat and pour into a carafe if using a french press, add the ginger. Place the press into the carafe but do not plunge. Let the ingredients steep for a couple of minutes. Add the warm whole milk, add sugar, stir and gently depress the plunger. Serve into pre-warmed mugs or cups. Enjoy your very own home made fresh Chai!







        Non-Traditional Shepherd's Pie Recipe

        I first leaned this recipe from my father when I was still in my early teens. I'm Very happy to present it to you in celebration of Father's Day!

        Ingredients:

        • 5 lbs not too lean ground beef or lamb
        • 1 Medium onion, finely chopped
        • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
        • 1/2 lb frozen peas
        • 1/4 lb diced carrots (optional)
        • 2 1/2 to 3 TBS Ceylon Roast Blend
        • 4lbs potatoes, boiled and mashed with butter
        • Salt and Pepper for seasoning
        • Paprika Powder
        • Parsley leaves for garnishing

        In a large wok or pan brown the meat. As it browns, add salt and pepper and continue to brown till done. While this preparation is in progress, boil the potatoes until they are ready to be mashed.

        Once the meat is browned, remove from the wok and without rinsing or wiping the wok, add onions and sauté for a few minutes. Add garlic and continue to sauté till both are soft. Add the ground meat to the wok, stir and add the Ceylon Raost Blend/curry powder to the mix. Continue to stir and cook till the ingredients have combined. Add the peas and carrots if used. Add salt and pepper as necessary and cook till the meat is done and the flavors have combined.

        Remove the cooked meat into a 3qt. ovenproof dish and spread the meat, ensuring the mix is evenly distributed, about 1 1/2" in thickness. Over this layer, using a spatula spread the mash potato, taking care that the two layers stay separate. Once the mash potato is layered, using a fork gently trail the prongs across the layer of mash so as to create ridges or peaks. You may do this in both directions. This process will ensure that when the pie is baking, the ridges become crispy. Sprinkle with Paprika powder and bake at 350F for 20 to 30 mins. or till the top of the pie has browned and the ridges are crispy. Garnish with parsley and let cool so that the pie sets.

        Serve Dad!

        May this recipe Enliven Your Palate!® 

        Compliments of Dinesh, The Spicy Gourmet®

         


        Lentil - Dahl Curry Recipe, Sri Lankan style.

        I will leave out serving size and serving suggestions because, as you will see, it can be accompanied by brown or white rice or enjoyed as a hearty soup, depending on how consistent you wish the “hodi” to be. Also, see suggested options at bottom of page. 

        This recipe is prepared in two stages. 

        First Stage Ingredients:

        • 1 1/2  cup Red Lentils ( Masoor Dahl) washed and drained 
        • 3 cups water
        • 3/4  cup Coconut milk ( thoroughly shake can before measuring)
        • 2 teaspoon Turmeric powder 
        • 1 Tsp Salt
        • 1 three inch quill Ceylon Cinnamon
        • 2 medium Tomatoes, quartered
        • 2 to 3 fresh Serrano or Thai chili, halved lengthwise
        • 1 sprig Curry Leaves

         Second Stage Ingredients:

        • 4 Tbs Ghee or Canola oil
        • 1 Tbs Black Mustard Seed
        • 1 Medium onion halved and thinly sliced
        • 4 Cloves of garlic, finely sliced
        • 1 sprig Curry Leaves
        • 5 to 6 pods dried Serrano Chilies
        • 3 to 4 2 inch pcs. Screw Pine (rampe) Available in the freezer section in Asian stores.
        • 1 lime
        • Salt to season
        1. Rinse the Lentils in cold water until clear. Place in a medium saucepan and add all the first First Stage Ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer until the lentils are cooked. Add more water as necessary.

             2. Preparing the tadka. Tadka is a technique whereby spices are introduced to hot oil, which allows the spices to be infused with the added ingredients. In a second pot, heat the ghee or oil on high heat till just beginning to smoke. Add the black mustard seed and cover with a splatter screen. The mustard seeds will pop, releasing their flavor. Once the seeds have finished popping and crackling, add the remaining ingredients, except for the lime juice,  leaving the garlic to last. Reduce the heat to medium high and fry till the onions turn a golden color. Make sure the ingredients do not burn! You can't overdo this unless of course you leave the house... so don't worry!

             3. Once the tadka is ready, carefully add the lentil mixture to the sautéed spices and allow to simmer gently for a couple of minutes. Add lime juice and adjust the seasoning with salt. The Lentil or Dahl curry is ready to be enjoyed as an accompaniment to rice.

        Options: If you wish to make this dish into a hearty soup, add another ½ to 1 cup of water when cooking the lentils. Add diced carrots and celery, and or okra - cut into 1-inch lengths. 

        So, simply by adding some spices we find a simple way to prepare a dish that serves both your health and your taste buds. 

        I highly recommend using organic ingredients whenever possible, as well as grinding your own spices as needed. This preserves the alluring aroma and delectable flavor of freshly-ground spices. 

         

        May this recipe Enliven Your Palate!® 

        Compliments of Dinesh, The Spicy Gourmet® 

        Video - Part 1

         

        Video - Part 2



        A very popular dish in Sri Lanka and loved by those who have had the pleasure of having enjoyed its many versions!

        This curry is an ideal accompaniment to Aromatic Yellow Rice.

        There are three stages to making this recipe. First, we need to prepare the Ceylon Roast, the roasted curry powder that is a staple spice blend used in Sri Lanka to prepare meat recipes.

        Ceylon Roast Blend

           2     tablespoons coriander seeds
           2     tablespoons cumin seeds
           1     tablespoon fennel seeds
         1/4    teaspoon fenugreek seeds
            1    1-inch-long stick Ceylon cinnamon, broken into pieces
            1    pinch Ceylon cloves (about 4 or 5)
          10    Ceylon cardamom pods
         1/4    teaspoon Ceylon curry leaf
            2    teaspoons cayenne pepper

        Roasting

        • In a dry skillet over low heat, roast coriander seeds  until  brown and fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Transfer to small bowl.
        • Repeat roasting process with cumin seeds, fennel seeds and fenugreek seeds in separate batches, transferring roasted spices to same bowl and allowing to cool.
        • Although the purist or ideal way to prepare this blend is to roast the spices individually, you may dry roast all the spices at once, being careful not to burn the smaller seeds, such as the cumin. 

        • Milling

        • Transfer roasted spices, cinnamon, cloves, cardamon and curry leaf to mill. Blend to fine powder. Return milled spices to small bowl. Add cayenne; stir to blend. (See milling instructions.)
        • Transfer Ceylon Roast Blend to airtight container and store indefinitely in cool, dark, dry place.

        Jointing

        Next, the chicken is jointed. We normally use the entire chicken, including the back. 

         

         

        Chicken Curry Recipe:

        • 3-3 1/2 lb. Free Range Chicken
        •  2 -3 Tablespoons Ceylon Roast Blend
        • 1/4 cup white vinegar
        • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
        • 1 teaspoon salt
        • 1 teaspoon black pepper
        • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
        • 2 teaspoons paprika powder
        • 3 tablespoons coconut oil, ghee or canola oil
        • 4 to 5 cloves chopped garlic
        • 2 inch piece ginger chopped
        • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seed
        • 3 inch piece ceylon cinnamon
        • 1 sprig curry leaves or 1 teaspoon powder
        • 1 medium onion chopped
        • 2 medium tomatoes chopped
        • 6 cardamom pods bruised
        • 2 teaspoons lemon grass
        • 1/2 to 1 cup coconut milk
        • 1 lime

         In a glass or stainless steel bowl combine the chicken, Ceylon roast, vinegar and all the remaining spices except cinnamon, fenugreek seed and lemon grass. Mix well and refrigerate 2 to 24 hrs. 

         

        Sauté the onion, ginger, fenugreek, garlic, lemon grass, cinnamon and curry leaves in oil over medium heat for a few minutes until the onions turn slightly golden. Add the chicken and coat well over medium heat.

        Add the tomatoes and coconut milk and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook uncovered 30 to 40 minutes over low to medium heat until the chicken is done. Add lime juice and adjust with salt if necessary. You may garnish cilantro and serve it up!

         

           

        Turn plain white rice into an exotic, healthful dish!

        Here’s a very simple way to bring color and spicy flair to your plain white rice. What’s more, it’s gluten free, organic and infused with healthful spices. 

        We begin by choosing the “queen of fragrance”—basmati! This rice is extremely fragrant and will spread its appetizing aroma throughout your kitchen. To the rice, we will add Green Cardamom, Cloves, Turmeric and Ceylon Cinnamon, or what is commonly called “true cinnamon”. 

        All the spices used have properties associated with health benefits. Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory. Cinnamon, while also having anti-inflammatory properties, is being used in research to lower blood sugar. Cloves have anti-bacterial properties and are high in manganese, vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids. Cardamom is considered an excellent digestive and, in Ayurvedic medicine, an aphrodisiac. Finally, we will be using butter. While some may frown upon this, please consider that the lipids in butter actually help the bioavailabilty of the nutrients in spices. 

        This dish may be made using a rice cooker or, if one is not available, a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed pot that has a tight-fitting lid. 

        Remember to select basmati rice that is not enriched, as the medium used to spray the vitamins on washed rice in the enrichment process may contain gluten. 

         

        Aromatic Basmati Rice 

        We begin by selecting the following organic ingredients: 

        • 2 cups white organic basmati rice 
        • 5 organic green cardamom pods 
        • 8 organic cloves 
        • 3-inch piece organic Ceylon cinnamon 
        • ½ teaspoon organic turmeric 
        • 2 Tablespoons organic butter (optional)
        • 1 pinch sea salt (optional) 
        1. Place the rice in the rice cooker or the pot to be used for cooking. Rinse two to three times in cold water by gently swirling the rice with your fingers. This will help rinse off excess starch. (Do not use a sieve or strainer, as these tend to damage the long grains of basmati.) 
        2. After rinsing, add 2 ½ cups cold water. Allow to sit for 15 minutes. After the water is added, prepare the cardamom pods by breaking the hull using the flat blade of a broad knife and add to the rice, followed by the cloves, cinnamon and turmeric. Finally, melt the butter in the microwave and pour it into the rice. If using a rice cooker, cover with lid and flip the switch to the "on” position. If a pot is used, once all the ingredients are added, turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. 

         

        Once the water starts to boil, cover tightly with a lid, reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes. Please do not lift the lid to peek! Once the rice cooker switch goes off, pull the plug from the outlet and let sit for 10 minutes. If a pot is used, turn off the heat after 20 minutes, remove from the heat source, leave the lid on and let it rest for 10 minutes. 

        You will notice that once the rice is cooked, the whole spices have come to rest at the surface of the rice. These can be easily removed using a fork. Finally, gently fluff the rice with a fork and delight in the experience of a healthful and exotic dish! 


        Compliments of Dinesh, The Spicy Gourmet®.

         

         To purchase all the spices featured in this Recipe : 


         

        Click Here

         


        There is a cornucopia of fresh, delicious vegitable/salad dishes available for our consumption today because,  Sri Lankan cuisine presents a technique and an ingredient that makes the ordinary produce section presents new possibilities!

        This special ingredient  is shredded coconut! It makes any and every leafy green veg come alive with aroma and taste.

         

         

         

        Collard Green Mallung Recipe

        Mallung or Mallum is a singhalese word that means “ mixture” or “mix up”. 

        Ingredients:

         8 oz.  Collard greens, finely shredded.

        1small onion finely chopped

        2 -3 fresh serrano peppers finely sliced (optional)

        ½  tsp Turmeric

        ¼ tsp ground Black Pepper

        1 tsp salt or to taste

        Juice of fresh lime

        1 tsp maldive fish or dried prawn powder (optional), can be found in Asian stores or ask me where to find it at dinesh@thespicygourmet.com

        ½ cup grated coconut either fresh or frozen and this is THE key ingredient. It can be found in Asian stores or ask me to find it for you.

        Wash the collards leaves thoroughly and bunch it together ( you may leave some of the stems intact). Take each bunch, roll it tightly, and cut crosswise into thin strips. Wash the strips and drain, leaving just enough moisture to cling to the leaves. A salad spinner is perfect for this.Place the shredded greens in a large pan or wok, add all the ingredients, except for the coconut and lime juice.

        If the the leaves seem to be dry, add a srinkling of water, stir and cook over medium heat for about 5 mins. Add the coconut and lime juice and toss over low heat till the shredded coconut absorbes the liquid. This may be served hot or cold and is a wonderful and healthy accompaniment to rice or all by itself!

          

        More Mallung recipes to follow...

         

         

        Article by Victoria Shanta Retelny

        Nutrition: Herbs and spices not only enhance food’s flavor but may also bolster your health.

        The culinary world would be lackluster without spices. Imagine tomato sauce without basil, hummus without garlic or sushi minus pickled ginger. Spices, like their botanical leafy counterparts, herbs, not only impart diverse flavors, colors and tastes to foods, but science is showing that they also offer a host of powerful phytonutrients that can enhance health and well-being. While culinary herbs and spices have been used for thousands of years, extensive research in the last two decades has shown the numerous health benefits of herbs and spices. In fact, they may prevent chronic illnesses, such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other serious pulmonary, neurological and autoimmune conditions (Aggarwal et al. 2008).

        “Spices are the easiest and least expensive way to enhance flavor without adding fat, calories, sodium, cholesterol or trans fats,” says Robin Plotkin, RD, a registered dietitian and culinary communications consultant based in Dallas. Drawing on sources from folklore to current literature, here are some of the health benefits of herbs and spices.

        Ginger

        On first glance, ginger looks like nothing more than a knotty, thick root you’d step over in a forest. But this underground stem of the perennial plant Zingiber officinale has long been used to successfully treat gastrointestinal disorders, such as stomach aches, abdominal spasm, nausea or vomiting, in addition to other conditions, such as arthritis and motion sickness (El-Abhar, Hammad & Gawad 2008).

        Ginger comes in a variety of forms: fresh, pickled, dried, powdered and/or crystallized—all of which are effective in promoting health. According to Dave Grotto, RD, LDN, author of 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life (Bantam 2008), “Ginger has been a home remedy through many generations for treating a variety of conditions.” These conditions include nausea from pregnancy-related morning sickness and chemotherapy-induced delayed nausea.

        There are very few side effects from ginger at low doses. The most commonly reported side effects involve the stomach and intestines. Irritation or bad taste in the mouth, heartburn, belching, bloating, gas and nausea have been reported, especially with powdered forms of ginger (Medline Plus 2008).

        Basil

        With origins that trace back to India nearly 4,000 years ago, basil leaves come in many sizes, shapes and colors. From a culinary perspective, the most commonly used varieties are large-leaf Italian sweet, tiny-leaf bush, lemon and African blue (Grotto 2008). “Basil is more recognized by the American palette as an essential in our love of Italian food,” notes Chef Ryan Hutmacher, a partner in Centered Chef Food Studios in Chicago. However, basil leaves are used frequently in numerous types of cuisine.

        Basil contains many different and powerful flavonoids, which protect against cell damage and have strong antioxidant and antibacterial properties (Grotto 2008). Studies have shown that basil contributes to heart health by improving circulation and reducing heart disease and acts as an antibacterial agent to even the more antibiotic-resistant types of bacteria, particularly those found in produce (Opalchenova & Obreshkova 2003).

        Basil is a benign plant. Eat it up, as there are no reported side effects.

        Cinnamon

        Cinnamon comes from the bark of a tropical evergreen tree. Although this sweet spice comes in four types, two of them are more popular among chefs: Cinnamomum zeylanicum (also known as Ceylon cinnamon) and Cinnamomum cassia (also known as Chinese cassia or Indonesian cinnamon) (Grotto 2008). Of the two, Ceylon cinnamon is the sweeter and richer in taste; it also costs more than Cinnamomum cassia, which is more widely available in the United States (Grotto 2008).

        Studies show that cinnamon can alleviate gout and arthritis flare-ups (Kong et al. 2000) and keep blood flowing smoothly by reducing blood lipids (Kahn et al. 2003). “Cinnamon, particularly Ceylon, is excellent for inflammation,” explains Grotto. Cinnamon may also lower blood sugar in individuals with type 2 diabetes (Mang et al. 2006). Nutritionally, cinnamon is an excellent source of manganese and a good source of calcium, iron and fiber.

        Cinnamon is not known to be an allergenic food, so sprinkle or stir away!

        Coriander

        In the United States, cooks call the seeds of the Coriandrum sativum plant “coriander,” while the leaves of the same plant are known as “cilantro.” The seeds, when crushed and ground, have a lemony, citrus flavor.

        In traditional Indian medicine, the coriander plant is used as a diuretic (the seeds are boiled along with cumin and consumed as a beverage) (Hashmi Dawakhana 2007). Research has shown coriander can also aid in digestion (Saskatchewan Herb and Spice Association 2008). Coriander has long been used to treat anxiety.

        Be aware that coriander seeds have been shown to produce allergic reactions in some people (Ebo et al. 2006). People who are allergic to any medications (prescription or over-the-counter) should use coriander sparingly.

        Rosemary

        Rosemary has a distinct flavor and scent, which is no surprise since it is a member of the mint family. It typically grows by the sea, hence the name, which is derived from the Latin rosmarinus, meaning “dew of the sea.” The fragrant leaves of this plant look like tiny evergreen needles.

        Rosemary is extremely high in iron, calcium and vitamin B6. It also contains a large number of polyphenolic compounds that can inhibit oxidation and bacterial growth (Grotto 2008). In cancer prevention studies, rosemary has been found to protect the blood against radiation exposure (Del Baño et al. 2006). It may even help with memory loss; a recent study found that when the scent of rosemary was pumped into workplace cubicles, people exhibited improved memory (Moss et al. 2003)

        Used in moderate amounts when cooking, rosemary is quite safe. However, people prone to epileptic seizures should use caution; also, rosemary oil (used in a variety of nonfood items, such as shampoo) has been shown to cause seizures.

        Cayenne

        Cayenne is a red, hot chili pepper related to bell peppers and jalapeños; it is part of the Capsicum genus and nightshade family. In its ground form, it is known as the powdered spice “cayenne pepper.” According to Grotto, “Peppers contain vitamin C and are a good source of beta carotene and B vitamins. They also contain inflammation- reducing phytochemicals.”

        Cayenne is known to relieve pain and itching and has been used for centuries as a topical and internal medicine. Research has shown it is effective for relieving gas, stomach aches, cramps, circulatory diseases, sore throats and body heat regulation conditions, such as cold feet (Whole Foods 2008).

        Be careful when handling cayenne peppers, as the pungent seeds and white membranes can cause severe burning of the skin, lips and eyes. Rubber gloves are a good solution when using cayenne or any chili pepper. If no gloves are available, be sure to wash hands, knives and cutting boards thoroughly after use. When eating fiery dishes made with cayenne, drink milk, which can quickly put out the fire.

        Sidebar: Spice Rack Basics: Selection, Storage and Culinary Uses

        Make the most of your herbs and spices by following this advice on how to select, store and use them in the kitchen.

        GINGER
        Selection. Select fresh ginger that is bruise-free and light-brown to cream in color.
        Storage. Fresh ginger should be kept at room temperature. “Wait to peel until you are ready to use, as its natural skin protects it and keeps it from going bad,” advises Chef Ryan Hutmacher, a partner in Centered Chef Food Studios in Chicago.
        Culinary Uses. “Sauté in olive or sesame oil, like you would garlic, and add fresh spinach, kale or a mix of Asian vegetables,” suggests Chef Michelle Dudash, RD, president and founder of Chef Dudash Nutrition in Gilbert, Arizona.

        BASIL
        Selection. Pick basil that has bright-green leaves and no yellow spots.
        Storage. Basil keeps for only a few days in the refrigerator. To extend its life, Hutmacher recommends these simple storage techniques: “The more humidity, the faster it will wilt. Take a paper towel, and sprinkle a couple of drops of water on it. (It should not be dripping wet.) Gently bundle the herbs inside the towel. Place the wrapped bundle into a transparent container in the fridge, and replace the damp paper towel every 3–4 days.”
        Culinary Uses. Tradition­ally, basil is a key ingredient in Italian cookery, such as pesto and marinara sauces. However, it can also enhance salad dressings, pizza, fish/shrimp and chicken dishes. Dudash recommends tossing a few freshly cut basil leaves into pastas and over vegetables right before serving. “Dried basil is great, too, in the same types of dishes, but add during cooking,” she advises.

        CINNAMON
        Selection. Be sure to smell cinnamon, as it is freshest when it smells sweet.
        Storage. Ground cinnamon lasts about 6 months, whereas cinnamon sticks can be kept for up to 1 year before they lose their luster. Store all cinnamon in a dark place in an airtight container.
        Culinary Uses. Cinnamon is used in both sweet and savory dishes, such as rice pudding, pies, soups, salad dressings and rice dishes. “Add a whole cinnamon stick into soups like carrot, pumpkin or butternut squash; when making your own curry spice blend, adding cinnamon is a must,” suggests Dudash. Hutmacher uses cinnamon in combination with cayenne and ground coriander when making regional Mexican dishes.

        CORIANDER
        Selection. Typically sold as a whole dried seed, coriander can be found in powdered form. Grind only what you need, since it can quickly lose flavor.
        Storage. Keep in an airtight container in a dark, cool place. For best flavor, use whole seeds within 6 months.
        Culinary Uses. Coriander is used in meat rubs, seasonings and sausage products; it is the main spice in Indian curries. Toasting the coriander seeds before use imparts the most flavor.

        ROSEMARY

        Selection. While dried or oil forms are available, fresh rosemary is the most potent and is typically preferred by cooks.
        Storage. Fresh rosemary must be kept in the refrigerator.
        Culinary Uses. Rosemary is used mainly in savory dishes, such as roasted potatoes, marinades, chicken and turkey dishes.

        CAYENNE

        Selection. Look for vivid, deep colors and firm, taut skin without black spots. The stems should look fresh.
        Storage. Unwashed fresh peppers can last for 1 week in a paper bag or paper towel in the refrigerator. Never put peppers in plastic bags, as moisture may cause premature spoilage. Powders should be kept in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark place.
        Culinary Uses. Add to soups and sauces; sauté with vegetables; add to yogurt to make a dip; or use in curry, meat, fish or poultry dishes.


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