Spices are the backbone of Middle Eastern cuisine. No dish is complete without a little bit (or a lot!) of herbs and spices to make your tastebuds fall in love. Ever wondered what a herb or a spice really is? Herbs are the leaves of the plant such as basil or parsley, while spices are the actual root, bark and seed of the plant. For instance, cumin seeds, cinnamon (which is a bark) and turmeric root. The best way to maintain the freshness and quality of your spices is to buy them in seed form and grind as needed.
Pro-tip: To get the most flavor out of your spices, toast the whole seeds in a pan, before use. Be sure to shake the pot to prevent burning!
When it comes to seasoning food, herbs and spices are used in harmony to create a melodious dish. There are a number of spice mixes that are commonly used in Mediterranean dishes including Za'atar, Bahārāt and Advieh. Each one with their own distinct flavor profiles that’ll be sure to liven up any dish you’re planning on preparing-or more importantly, eating.
Za’atar is an ancient blend of spices that can be incorporated into a number of dishes. Each region has their own spin on the mix, but the base of it is sesame seeds, sumac, and herbs such as oregano and thyme. This mix is commonly combined with olive oil, brushed onto flatbread and baked to perfection. It can also be sprinkled on your favorite dips, vegetables, roast dishes and even snacks such as popcorn!
Bahārāt literally means ‘spices’ in Arabic and is popular in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey. Each of these regions have their own take on the mix, but the ingredients are black pepper, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and paprika. This spice mix has the ability to add warmth to any dish it’s added to with slightly sweet and smoky undertones. It can be used as a dry rub for meats and adds a savory element to soup and stews.
Advieh is a Persian mix of spices consisting of dried rose petals, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and cumin. It has a subtle flavor that allows it to be used in multiple ways to create a host of flavorful dishes! Advieh is often used in rice, stews and grilled meals.
What’s remarkable about the use of spices in Middle Eastern cuisine is the automatic health boost the meals are given! By using a variety of herbs and spices, the food is given a rich flavor that decreases the need for excessive amounts of salt. Ultimately making meals at Chef Abod Cafe & Catering both delicious AND nutritious.