Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Spice Up Your Cooking

Stopping by Urban Herbs inside the West Side Market is dangerous. I lose control and touch with reality. I’m overwhelmed with the desire to cook- not just a simple after-work meal for two but big potfuls of complicated and exotic fare. And this feeling is not tempered by the fact that I might not actually have time to do it or a crowd to feed. Eyeballing the array of spices, grains, salts, and beans I want to buy, buy, buy. My cupboards are not big enough to hold all the things I must have. I lust after Chinese cinnamon and Spanish paprika, smoked sea salt and garam masala, giant Peruvian limas, black quinoa and purple sticky rice.

Owner Dion Tsevdos is a chef, and he knows what gets a kitchen devotee’s mouth watering and creative juices flowing. He stocks high quality and unusual ingredients sourced from all over the globe, and also creates his own intriguing spice blends.

So I stood there, breathing deeply in and out, focus and gradually got a grip. I came for one item- rice to make paella- and left with just five more: containers of aromatic cumin and thyme; French puy lentils that I’ll use in a salad inspired by the recipe in Alice Waters’ cookbook The Art of Simple Food; a pound of flageolet beans that will spur me to make a cassoulet; and a bag of the “house” rice blend.

Walking away with my purchases, I felt proud of mastering my impulses. But to tell the truth, I continue to ponder the possibilities of Himalayan red rice and vanilla powder from Madagascar. Sel gris, a natural sea salt from Brittany, is like a tune that I just can’t get out of my head. So I know it won’t be long before I’m back at Chef Dion's counter again .

No comments: