Friday, November 13, 2009

Cookbook Review: "The Spice Kitchen"

"Eat locally but season globally" is the favorite mantra of Sara Engram and Katie Luber, who along with Kimberly Toqe authored "The Spice Kitchen: Everyday Cooking with Organic Spices", a book I recently received to review. Engram and Luber turned a passion for spices into a business with The Seasoned Palate or TSP Spices, selling pure, organic spices in the US, Canada and Europe. Foodies who grew up in the South hanging out in the kitchen and eating simple family meals, they now like to spice up those family favorites with a variety of different herbs and spices.

"The Spice Kitchen" is a gorgeous hardback book, full of more than 100 recipes for Breakfast, Salads, Soup & Sandwiches, Appetizers and Snacks, Entrées, Side Dishes, and Desserts and Sweets, lots of simple classics given an extra "oomph" by the different spices. The book gives the history of spices and a guide to the many herbs and spices found in the recipes. There are beautiful photos sprinkled throughout the book and side bars with interesting information as well as fun facts. (For example, did you know that Oregano was once a popular ingredient for brewing beer and ale before brewers began replacing it with hops?)

With so many delicious sounding recipes, it was difficult to choose what to make to give this book a good "road test" but I finally managed to narrow it down to a few recipes that sounded especially good to me.

Stroganoff of any kind is a favorite of mine and so the Hamburger Stroganoff was the first recipe I made. I used some ground bison that I had on hand, replaced the sour cream with non-fat Greek yogurt and served it on whole grain rotini. The key spice in this recipe is marjoram, which the authors call "a sweeter, milder cousin of oregano"...with a "delicate, mildly spicy taste." The stroganoff was savory, creamy, tasted great and went together quickly, making it a great weeknight comfort food meal. A keeper recipe.

The Roasted Spiced Cauliflower had me at the mere mention of capers, but it also includes some of my other favorites--ground cumin and coriander, chopped green olives and pine nuts. The capers, olives and nuts are thrown in for the last 10 minutes of roasting and elevate the roasted cauliflower from good to delicious. A really great combination of flavors in this one.

There was a restaurant by where I used to work that had the best pea salad. It was so good that we all used to crave it and go to lunch there specifically for that salad. Of course it had bacon and a ranch-style dressing, making it not the healthiest dish ever, but it was really good. When I saw there was a Green Pea Salad recipe in the book, I had to try it. This version has feta, shallots and a combination of tarragon, fennel seed and dried lemon zest. The salad is dressed in mayonnaise, but only 5-6 tablespoons for the recipe so not too heavy. (I used a light olive oil mayo). Delicious--I made the whole recipe and have been happily eating it for lunch and dinner. The feta takes the place of the bacon in my old favorite pea salad nicely, and the combination of spices is unusual and works really well. I will make this one again.

I made a partial recipe of the Fennel Seed Soda Bread Rolls to go with it, thinking it would pair nicely with the fennel seed in the pea salad. (Partial only because I knew if I made more I would eat them). Made with buttermilk, the book says they were inspired by Irish Soda Bread. A tasty roll, reminding me of how much I like the taste of fennel seeds.

Finally, since I am trying to be a bit cleaner and leaner in my eating, I decided to forgo making a dessert (difficult to do with recipes like Bittersweet Chocolate Chip-Ginger Cookies, Cardamom Crème Brûlée and Gingerbread Cupcakes with Cardamom Cream Cheese Frosting!), instead making the Spiced Yogurt and Granola Parfait.

The base is the Spiced Granola with Coconut and Almonds which is delicious. I love homemade granola and make it frequently, but the combination of spices in this one, cinnamon, green cardamom, ginger and orange zest along with vanilla and sea salt was incredibly good. The spices were combined with rolled oats, flaked coconut, sliced almonds, chopped pecans and flax seeds and a stick of butter--which might also contribute to how tasty it was. ;-) (I used a Earth Balance vegan "butter" stick which has the same calories as butter but less cholesterol). This granola is pretty addicting and I am sure I will make it again.

The Spiced Yogurt is easily whipped up by adding ground cinnamon and ground ginger to yogurt. The recipe calls for vanilla yogurt but I used my plain non-fat Greek yogurt and added a bit of vanilla extract to it. Excellent! But take that granola and yogurt and put them together with fruit in the Spiced Yogurt and Granola Parfait and you have perfection. Although the recipe called for mixed berries, I went with a fall theme and used chopped pear and pomegranate. With the wonderful spices in the yogurt and granola combined with the fruit, the parfaits were delicious and perfect for breakfast, a snack or even dessert. I left the peel on the green pear and when combined with the bright ruby red of the pomegranate, I think it is gorgeous to look at too. Yum, Yum & Yum! I enjoyed every bite.

I thoroughly enjoyed cooking out of this beautiful book. Everything I made turned out well and was very easy to prepare. I still have several delicious-sounding recipes tagged to make and think this may become a new favorite cookbook. If you love spices it is definitely one to add to your own collection or it would make a nice gift along with some spices for a foodie relative or friend.

So what is your favorite spice?


  1. Wow, what a great idea to have a handbook to inspire new and different combinations of uses for spices. I am a spice fiend and have well over a hundred herbs and spices.
    Love the unique showcases for them, and am especially intrigued by the cardamom today. I don't know if I have a favourite, but today I think it is cardamom. :)
    Thanks for introducing us to this book!

  2. Any book that is built around showcasing the use of different spices is one that I know I would like. I love heavily spiced foods and am always look for new combinations that work together. My favorite spice of the moment is probably...cinnamon. But, as with Natashya, cardamom and cumin are close seconds.

  3. Excellent review! You had me at the cauliflower and then completely won me over with the granola!

  4. I think my favorite spice right now is cumin...I use it in a lot of different recipes :) This book sounds really good!

  5. You feature the best cookbooks and recipes! Each one of these dishes are so thoughtful and intriguing!

  6. I think I could learn a lot from this cookbook. That cauliflower sounds great! I think my fave is any variation of curry which I know is several spices, but so great together!

    Did you make it to the Foodbuzz fest? I thought you had mentioned it, but now everything is running together a bit. So sad that I missed meeting you if you were there!

  7. Oh my Deb! I'll have one of each please. Sounds like a wonderful cookbook, too.

  8. I can imagine how nummy that cauliflower dish is - thank you for posting this review! Thinking I may have to score that cookbook!

  9. That sounds like a great book. Cinnamon is the spice I use the most.

  10. I'd have to say cinnamon ranks #1 as my favorite spice. I love cumin, too. I need to find more time to sit down and really read a cookbook. Somehow, audio cookbooks don't seem to be a bright idea, or I'd download all of them into my iPod!

  11. Excellent review of the book. Gorgeous photos of your recipes. they all look delicious.

  12. I hadn't heard of this cookbook yet, but I'll be searching it out in stores. I love the cauliflower. It sounds delicious with the pine nuts and capers. I know exactly what you mean about homemade granola. It's addictive. The pears and pomegranate were a perfect and very pretty addition! Great review.

  13. Deb, if I ever write a cookbook I want you to review it! You did such a great job of testing the recipes and adding your own spin - which is exactly what I love most about cooking.

    Your kale salad looks awesome! I love everything green and kale is one of the few fresh ones I can still find at my local farmers' market, which is about to close for the season :(

  14. Thanks Everyone! This was a fun book to review.

    Lori--I was planning on going to FoodBuzz but had to back out at the last minute as life got in the way a bit. I am going for sure next year--was bummed I didn't get to meet you.

    Laurie--I would be happy to review any cookbook you write! ;-)

  15. great review. I never knew that about Marjoram. I've used it a few times but couldn't tell what it had done to the dish. Now i'll use it less sparingly and look for that sweeter oregano flavor. I love so many spices...cumin, curry, garam masala...chili powders. I don't think I could pick just one.


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