There's no shortage of places to get your black pepper from; as one of the world's most popular spices, it's grown all across the world's spice regions, from India to Indonesia to Ecuador and Brazil. We don't talk much about terroir when it comes to spices, but it's worth thinking about. After all, peppercorns are fruits just like grapes, and soil, growing conditions, and variety of peppercorn are all going to have an impact on flavor profile. How strong are these flavor differences, and how do they pan out with food? We tasted peppercorns from seven major growing regions to find out.
'Spice Hunting' on Serious Eats
Sure, we've talked about grilled lamb already, and we've dabbled with chicken. But let's be honest: if you're grilling this summer, you're grilling beef. Sure, great beef—be it a fat porterhouse, a svelte skirt steak, or a classed up filet mignon—doesn't really need anything more than salt (and fine, maybe some pepper and butter), but a few choice spices don't hurt.
The arrival of Spring means some wonderful things, like new harvests of ramps, peas, and asparagus. But it also means a new batch of tender, fatty, wonderfully flavorful lamb. Here are five great spices for lamb on the grill.
There are some choices additions for grilled chicken to boost its flavor all the more—especially spices. Stick to spices that complement the roasted, meaty flavors of grilling. Check out the slideshow for our favorite grilled chicken spices, and how to use them for your next grill session.
I've been wanting to write about caraway all winter long, but somehow winter never happened and I never got around to that bowl of sauerkraut stew. Fortunately, loving caraway isn't weather-dependent, and this spice has plenty of uses beyond flavoring your sauerkraut or adding texture to your rye bread. Caraway is a great spice for adding Old World flavor to modern dishes.
[Photograph: Max Falkowitz] About the author: Max Falkowitz is the editor of Serious Eats: New York. You can follow him on Twitter at @maxfalkowitz....
Pop quiz: What spice is used in Latin American rice dishes, English cheese manufacturing, and Vietnamese braises? Okay, the title of the post gives this one away. But let's talk about annato for a minute, the great understudy of the spice world.
This fragrant red-orange oil can be used to color and flavor all sorts of Latin American and Caribbean rice dishes, stews, and braises. The oil forms a mild base to build layers of flavor with browned meat, onion, garlic, fresh chile, citrus, cumin, and tomato.
Like niter kibbeh, berbere is used in a bunch of Ethiopian dishes, either as a primary spice or an added layer of flavor. You can think of it like Ethiopian chili powder: a chile-based blend at once earthy, sweet, and hauntingly aromatic, with notes of fragrant cardamom, fenugreek, and clove. It'd be a mistake to say that berbere is a one-stop Ethiopian cooking lesson, but it's a damn good start. One whiff and your sense memories will definitely say, "Ethiopian restaurant."
The sauce in this dish gets its kick from berbere, an Ethiopian chili powder fragrant with cardamom, fenugreek, and clove. Use it once and you'll see why a good chunk of Ethiopian cuisine is built on it.
Sriracha's lovely. Harissa is a fiery punch in the mouth with flavor to match. But if you're looking for a sweeter, funkier flavor from your chiles, gochujang (pronounced go-choo-jong) is the thing for you.
Render bacon till really crisp, fry Korean rice cakes in the bacon fat, then stir fry half a head of napa cabbage in what's left. Combine everything together with enough gochujang to make a sauce for a meal that takes almost no effort but reaps boundless rewards.
If I have all the time in the world, I'll make small batch of blended spices for every dish I cook, but since that rarely happens, I rely on spice kits. A spice kit is basically a blend-to-be, a shortcut that can still be customized for specific dishes. Stashing spices together will make you more likely to use them.
Blending herbs with dried chiles restores some of their greener flavors while complimenting their newfound sweetness.The resulting flavor is so many things at once: sweet, herbal, spicy, and almost meaty. It makes for the unique kind of satisfaction that comes from a dish that tastes complete.
A Turkish-inspired dish with a ragu as complex as bolognese that can be made in a fraction of the time. The principal spice blend in the sauce is called janissary spice, the product of Turkish spice blender in Istanbul, but it's easy to replicate at home. Seek out maraş chiles, which are intensely sweet, not that hot, and carry the rich flavors of sun-warmed tomatoes with hints of red bell pepper for the blend. You can find them at Cambridge's Formaggio Kitchen and Oakland's Market Hall foods (both sell online as well). Easier-to-find aleppo makes a good, if not more tart and spicy substitute.
A common complaint I hear from spice newbies is that their palates just can't take hot dishes. And while I'm not one of those people who eats spicy food just for the sake of it, some of the world's best cuisines employ heat as an essential part of their flavor profile. So what's a globally-minded spice wimp to do?
Leftover mint is a killer for me. Unless I'm making some kind of minty ice cream, in which case my technique is use ALL the mint!, I usually have some leftover leaves in the fridge. Mint expires especially quickly; here are some technique-based applications that you can whip up at a moment's notice.
At first glance seven spice powder may sound like a variant on Chinese five spice powder, but they couldn't be more different. Or rather, they're exactly as different as their native cuisines. Five spice, fragrant with sweet and spicy anise flavors, is the perfect compliment to meaty Chinese braises and barbecues. On the other hand, seven spice powder, or what the Japanese call shichimi togarashi, is practically built for the grilled meats, noodles, rice, and soups that so characterize Japanese cooking.
You can size up these patties to make full-on pork burgers, but I prefer smaller ones to wrap in tender lettuce and dip in a garlic-laced soy dipping sauce. Be careful not to compress the meat when forming the patties; they should just hold themselves together. Leftover dipping sauce can be served over rice or stir fried with leafy green vegetables as a side dish.