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Posted on Aug 4, 2013 in Menus and Recipes | 0 comments

Adventures with Spices


Photo credit: Klearchos Kapoutsis

This weekend, I had to get back to the routine of cooking for the week.  Instead of just the usual, I decided to try cooking with some exotic spices that I have been given in the past months.  First, I wanted to try cooking a dish with zaatar, a mix of several herbs and spices used in Lebanon and Syria.  Sumac is the main ingredient.  The mix is delicious in hummus or mixed with olive oil as a dipping sauce for bread.  The second spice is saffron, which a generous friend brought me from a recent trip.  The third is sweet spices, that I wanted to incorporate into an unusual jam.


I made a zaatar-crusted chicken breasts, and cauliflower roasted with it, too. The taste was familiar and different, but simple and delicious.  This could be made for a last minute dinner with chicken, lamb or fish.


The next dish was express paella.  I have made paella before with friends, and it is a bit like cooking risotto.  There were many steps, and long, slow cooking of the short grain rice with seafood, vegetables and chorizo sausage.  This method took only 15 minutes total in the pressure cooker!  I am not an expert with a pressure cooker, but this was really easy and delicious.  The rice was not overdone, but I think the shrimp and lobster (I had a lobster tail in the freezer, so why not?) could have been cooked a bit less.  Maybe next time, I’ll put them in while still frozen.

The recipe I based this on was really brilliant.  So fast and easy.  I will do this again, maybe with spicy chorizo and chicken instead of lobster.  Don’t leave out the lemon zest.  It adds a freshness to the paella, even without a squeeze of lemon at the table.

Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves and Ginger

Carrot cake jam!  I saw this video, and just had to try it.  I adapted a different recipe, though.  It looks a lot like marmalade in the jar, but it tastes like carrot cake.  I tried some on the flaxseed-banana crackers from last weekend.  here was even a warm feeling to it from the ginger and cloves.  It came out great.  I can’t wait to try it with bagels and cream cheese.


Zaatar-crusted Chicken Breasts


  • ½ c plain yogurt
  • ½ c breadcrumbs
  • ½ c grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 T zaatar
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Mix breadcrumbs, cheese and zaatar mix in a shallow dish.  Mix yogurt, and brush on chicken breasts.  Dredge chicken in the breadcrumb mix. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.


Cauliflower Roasted with Zaatar







  • 1 small cauliflower
  • ½ c yogurt
  • ½ c milk
  • 1 T zaatar

Cut cauliflower into florets.  In a large zip bag, mix yogurt, milk and zaatar.  Add cauliflower, close bag, and mix to coat florets evenly with dressing.  Roast at 400 degrees until cauliflower is softened and browned.


Express Paella


  • ¼ c olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced ( I used red onion, but yellow would maybe be better)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 2 c Arborio rice
  • 8 oz uncooked peeled shrimp
  • 1 medium lobster tail, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 32 oz chicken broth
  • ¼ t saffron
  • 8 oz cooked mild chorizo (spicy might be better)
  • zest of one large lemon
  • ½ c chopped parsley

Add oil to the pressure cooker, and saute the onion, tomato and pepper until the onion is tender. Add the rice and sauté until translucent.

Pour in the broth, shrimp, lobster and saffron. Close the pressure cooker, bring to high pressure over medium heat, and cook for a further 3 minutes.  Stir in parsley, lemon zest and chorizo.

Transfer to a serving dish, and serve with lemon wedges.


Carrot Cake Jam







  • 1½   c finely grated peeled carrots
  • 1½  c chopped cored peeled pears
  • 1 20 oz can of chopped pineapple, including juice
  • 3 T lemon juice
  • 1½  t ground cinnamon
  • ½  t ground nutmeg
  • ¼ t ground cloves
  • ¼ t ground ginger
  • 6 T pectin
  • 6 c sugar
  • 6 half pint jelly jars, cleaned with lids and rings

In a large pan, place carrots, pears, pineapple lemon juice and spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, until pear pieces are soft.  While this is cooking, heat water in a large canner to a boil.  Turn off heat, and place jars, lids and rings in the water.  Sprinkle pectin over the fruit mix, and cook until a rapid boil (can’t stop boil by stirring).  Add sugar to mix, and stir until dissolved.  Heat until a rapid boil, with stirring.  Boil 1 minute, then remove from heat.  Place jars on the counter on a dry towel, fill with jam within ¼ inch of top.  Clean off edge of glass, and place lids on jars secured with rings.  Bring water in canner to a boil again.  Place jars in canner with water well above the top of the jars.  Boil for 10 minutes, or adjust for altitude.  Remove from boiling water, and place on dry towel.  Let sit undisturbed for 48 hours.  Jar should seal with a “pop” in a few minutes while they cool.

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