Part of a whole foods pantry is kitchen staples, spices, and seasonings. Many pre-made mixes these days contain gluten or starches as fillers, not to mention spices that were ground up who knows how long ago and have lost their oomph. By mixing and grinding your own, you can create flavors and aromas for your foods that take your dishes to a whole new level. Also, buying bulk of individual spices to create your own blends can give significant savings over time, and come in much more affordable than the tiny individual jars at the store. Here are a few seasoning blend recipes to get you started.
Make enough for yourself, or double/triple the quantity and make to give. A coffee grinder dedicated to spices is great for creating fine blends from woody herbs and spices. Just use one dedicated to spices. If you don’t have that, a pestle and mortar will work, as will pulsing with a food processor (just might require a combination of both to get it fine).
Whether you use these to make a primary flavour or to sprinkle over the top, your dishes will never be the same. Plus, many spices and herbs have other properties that boost nutrition, digestion, and are anti-inflammatory. All a plus.
Garam Masala is a blend of spices often found in Indian and South Asian cuisines. Each region has their own blend, but the basics are fairly similar. This is a flavorful blend made with spices that can be found in most grocers or spice shops. Everything is listed by tablespoon and teaspoon because it doesn’t have to be exact. Use this as a guide. Garam masala is so good in rice dishes; added to soups and stews, and sprinkled over anything you roast in the oven.
3 Tbsp coriander seeds
1 ½ Tbsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp sweet cinnamon chips (or a soft woody cinnamon stick)
2 tsp cloves
3 bay leaves
1 tsp cardamom pods (green)
½ tsp peppercorn (I like a variety of peppercorn types)
1 tsp dried ginger
½ of a nutmeg
Optional: 1-2 juniper berries
Toast all of the spices together on a medium-high skillet, gently, stirring. Be sure not to burn but just toast to release the aroma. Once the spices are warm and toasted, pour them into your spice blender and whiz until you have a powder. Store in an airtight container.
This lemon pepper is more than just the generic salt from the store. This is a blend of salt, pepper, rosemary, lemon zest and peppercorns. It is very aromatic and is fantastic over meats before grilling or in a salad dressing.
Zest of 3-4 lemons (if tiny, use 4)
1/3 cup/80 mL of various peppercorns
5 large sprigs of fresh rosemary
½ cup/120 mL of celtic sea salt
Zest your lemons. Whiz your pepper, rosemary, and lemon zest in a food processor to crack the peppercorns and blend. Spread onto a parchment lined sheet and place into a 225ºF/100C (Gas Mark ¼) oven for 20-30 minutes until dry. Once the lemon zest and rosemary are fully dry, pour into a food processor or spice grinder and blend more finely before stirring into your ½ cup of sea salt. Store in an airtight container.
Dukka is an Egyptian mix of herbs, nuts, and spices. This version is nut free so it is safe for nut-free homes. This uses pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds instead of the nuts, giving the dukka a rich, deep, flavor. It is delicious as a crust for meats, as a dip with bread and olive oil, or simply sprinkled over vegetables, salads, or soups.
1 tsp sunflower seeds
¼ cup/60 mL white toasted sesame seeds
½ cup/120mL pumpkin seeds
2 Tbsp coriander seeds
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 bay leaf
In a dry skillet on medium-high, toast your coriander, peppercorns, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame, cumin seeds, and bay. Stir often, so they don’t burn. You are toasting to warm to release the aroma and oils. Pulse all of your toasted ingredients in a food processor or spice grinder with the smoked paprika. Pulse until you have the consistency you prefer. Coarse is great for dishes, more fine is wonderful for bread and olive oil appetizers. Store in an airtight container.
Making your own spice blends and pantry staples can be very easy and the reward is so much more flavorful than you can find in most grocery stores.
I love the beginning of CSA season. Spring arrives late in Wisconsin and it takes until June for the vegetables to really start rolling in, and it coincides with my burst of rapidly growing herbs which I planted a few weeks ago. Pesto is a favorite way to combine different flavors and use the herbs in abundance with all of the fresh vegetables. The key for me of course is the combining of different flavors. I like pesto, but we have a dairy allergy in the house AND I don't like drowning myself in mono-flavors. I love making different types of pesto so that there is fantastic variety not only for immediate consumption, but also enough to freeze/preserve for winter. This pesto is a favorite. I grow many types of basil, and no matter what type I have on hand, it works.
This recipe is dairy free and combines fresh zesty flavors such as lime, ginger and garlic. I am also using cashews instead of pine nuts. Not only are they easier to find, but they are nutritious and I always have some on hand (I'm addicted to date/cashew truffles and cashew cream). You will be amazed at the flavor and want to make extra to freeze for winter!
There is nothing better than the taste of freshly homemade pesto with crudités, on grilled veggies, or over pasta. This version is vegan, and combines the amazing flavors of basil, lime, garlic, and ginger. The ground flax and hemp seeds make a great texture subsitute for the cheese -it is so good! GF/DF
First, using a food processor, pulse your raw cashews with the flax meal and hemp seeds until finely ground.
I made a single batch of this today, which will likely only last me a few days. So I am sure I will make some more as my genovese, persian, blue spice, thai, lemon, lime, lettuce leaf, and emily basils grow, grow, grow!
bonus: This recipe is delicious and easy to prepare, but also packed full of good vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, fiber, and protein. Yum+.
Garlic & Ginger
We have long winters here in Wisconsin, so when things start to grow, it is exciting. We also don't have long seasons of items once they do appear. Asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries - all are in and out quickly, so we tend to do as much as we can while they are here. I love asparagus. My husband didn't used to like it so much, but it has grown on him as I experiment and find more flavors it blends with. Asparagus and chives are amazing together. And the smoky richness of sesame oil, the salty flavor of soy, and the crunchy bite of black sesame all meld together to make an awesome asparagus dish. I usually make this as a side dish, but it is also fantastic over a bed of lettuce (or arugula!) with a little soy/sesame oil dressing drizzled over the top.
Chive Blossom Asparagus
Bright green spears of asparagus are among the earliest of garden harvests. The thin, delicate spears work well with many different flavours, and are delicious steamed, grilled, as soup, pickled, and as a side dish. This recipe combines early season asparagus alongside another spring visitor – chive blossoms.
Blanch your asparagus for about 2 minutes in boiling water.
This recipe is quick and easy, but has a lot of flavor. A great way to combine the ingredients of spring into one fantastic dish.
Chive Blossom Infused Vinegar
Chives are a mid to late spring herb that are often overlooked. Chives are delicious in salads, egg dishes, sprinkled over soups, and more. Don’t forget the blossoms either. The delicate pinkish purple flower heads have a lovely onion/garlic flavor. Chive vinegar is a quick, simple way to capture some of that.
Pack a ½ pint jar with (clean) chive blossoms, along with a few chive stems.
Pour over any type of mild white vinegar you like – you can pour over room temperature vinegar, but warm the vinegar first for best results.
Make sure all blossoms are fully covered.
Let sit for a few days in your fridge until the blossoms have turned the vinegar a lovely shade of pink.
Strain out the old chive flowers (add a few fresh ones for decoration if you wish), store in the fridge, and use in salad dressings!
Spring may seem slow to start some years, but when the first greens, herbs and veggies appear we can't get enough. Here is to spring, and fresh food from the garden!
I am a certified aromatherapist, clinical herbalist, organic gardener, plant conservationist, photographer, writer, designer, artist, nature lover, permaculture designer, health justice activist, whole foods maker, and mother of two unschooled teens in south central Wisconsin.