Wow! It Suddenly got Quite Fragrant Here

I’ve been upstairs in the office working on various projects.

Catching up on emails, monitoring the weather, drafting a blog post (not this one) and working on a woodblock design, when what to my wondering nose should appear the smell of onions closely followed by curry and other smells I couldn’t identify.

My husband is downstairs experimenting in the kitchen.

I immediately had to investigate the source of all this olfactory stimulus. It was Vadouvan, a spice blend recipe. So what I was smelling was a combination of onions, shallots, garlic, fenugreek, curry, cumin, cardamom, brown mustard seed, turmeric, nutmeg, cloves, red pepper flakes and vegetable oil. By the time I arrived it had all been ground and combined and placed on parchment paper and was now in the oven browning.

Curt had seen one of the home cooks on the Masterchef television show use it and Mr. Curiosity had to know more. Basically it is, or will be, a ready-to-use blend of spices that is a French derivative of a masala. A masala is a South Asian spice mix. If it is a success we will be enjoying it on our chicken thighs tonight with a side of cilantro/vinegar/oil dressed potatoes.

For now, with the house closed up because of the heat and the impending storms, I feel like I am living in a spice market somewhere between France and South Vietnam.

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Damn! It smells good in here.

Dinner is complete, our guests have departed with smiles on their faces and I’m ready to give you some of the highlights.

Moroccan Spice Market

Moroccan Spice Market

It is going to be hard to give you all the recipes, 1) because there were seven dishes and 2) once we were in the frenzy of cooking we forgot to take final pictures. Many of our dishes had advance prep which was good because by the time the guests arrived we were actually able to talk to them. But that is also why most of the pictures are from the beginning and not so much the end. Things just get crazy once food is about to go into the oven or onto the stove top and then our friends arrive and we are stashing coats, talking, hugging, pouring wine and getting the appetizers out, (I did squeeze in one shot of my half eaten plate).

So what did we eat? Well,foodie fans, the cuisine was Middle Eastern and that meant spices, spices and more spices. Throw in a couple of herbs for balance. Here was the run down for the evening.

APPETIZERS:

Kofta (Middle Eastern meatballs) These are usually served on skewers but we put out picks and accompanied them with a mint yogurt dip. This is the only recipe we did not take from Ottolenghi’s cookbooks. See an earlier post crediting the originator of this recipe, Conor Bofin.
Spices/Herbs: ground sumac berries, caraway, cumin, Aleppo pepper, fresh mint, garlic

Stuffed Portobellos w/ melted Taleggio cheese
Spices/Herbs: basil, tarragon, pepper, garlic

Mushrooms being stuffed

mushrooms being stuffed

SOUP:

Watercress & Chickpea w/ ras el hanout
Spices: ras el hanot is a North African blend and you just can’t find it in Wisconsin no matter how hard you try. After reading a few variations Curt created his own just like a good North African Jew.
Cardamom, clove, cinnamon, coriander, ground chili, cumin, pepper, paprika, fenugreek, turmeric, ginger, mace, allspice, nutmeg and fennel. (count’em – 15!)

ENTREE and SIDES:

Roasted Chicken w/ clementines and arak
Spices/Herbs: Whole grain mustard, thyme, fennel seeds, salt, black pepper, parsley

1) marinating w/ spices and clementines 2) ready to eat

1) chicken thighs marinating w/ spices and clementines 2) ready to eat

Saffron Cauliflower
Spices/Herbs: Saffron, black pepper, parsley, bay leaves

cauliflower

1) vegetables gathered 2) mixing in saffron 3) out of the oven

Herbed Rice
Herbs: Parsley, dill, chervil, chive, tarragon, marjoram

DESSERT:

Sweet Filo Cigars
Not herby or spicy. Lemon zest, honey and sugar

Rolling and frying the filo cigars

rolling and frying the filo cigars

As you can imagine from the above lists of spices, our house smelled amazing, beautiful, lusty, yummy. It was like entering a Moroccan Spice Market (let it be noted, I have never been to Morocco) or an Iranian or Middle Eastern grocery ( nah, haven’t been in those either but I have a good imagination). It was heady. Colorful too. And on top of it all, it tasted wonderful.

plated

the parts of the main plate

Here is my plate after a few minutes into eating. Obviously I was enjoying myself and almost forgot to grab the camera. I suggest you grab the Jerusalem cookbook and start spicing up your life.