The Spice Rack

"There is no love sincerer than the love of food." Join me as I explore this love with reckless abandon. Each week try a new recipe from a different region. Read a little about each recipes' history and a lot about what it took to get it from the pages of the cookbook to the dinner table.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


As I write this I am eating fresh hummus on warm pita bread. It is one of my favorite snacks, and what I am always eating on my frequent trips to the Cherry Street Artisan in downtown Columbia. I had never considered making it myself until my issue of Saveur arrived in my mailbox this afternoon. There on the cover the simple tagline read "How to Make Great Hummus." I thought it would be a great experiment for this blog. I think the hummus at the Artisan is pretty tasty, and I wondered if I could do better. The article had several variations, but I decided to stick with the most traditional for comparison's sake. I was surprised to find the recipe is so simple and easy to make. So if you ever need a quick afternoon snack this might be the recipe for you.

4 cups drained, canned chickpeas
I clove garlic
1/2 cup sesame paste
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp. Paprika

Place drained chickpeas in a food processor and puree until smooth, about 2-3 minutes. The move the puree to a large bowl.
Crush garlic in a press or with the broad side of a chef's knife
Add to the chickpea paste along with a pinch of salt
Add sesame oil, lemon juice, and salt to taste and mix well
Drizzle hummus with olive oil and sprinkle with paprika.
Enjoy with warm pita or vegetables. It's also good for the comparison.

While I enjoyed this recipe, it was a little drier than what I am used to. I prefer the Artisan's more moist variety (although Saveur's editors insist its not as authentic.) But I recommend that you try the recipe out. It's easy to play with until you get it the consistency and flavor you like.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Fettuccine Alfredo

You'll have a hard time finding a better dish with which to clog your arteries than a heaping bowl of sinfully creamy fettuccine Alfredo. That said, it's one of my favorite dishes, although I must admit I don't make it that often. I found this recipe a few years ago in an old magazine that was lying around at work and I love it! I substitute Brie for the gorgonzola that the original recipe calls for, you can use whichever you prefer.

An interesting story kept popping up on the internet when I was searching for the roots of this recipe. So I though I would share it here.

It's generally agreed upon that Alfredo Di Lilio, a Roman restauranteur, created our modern version of fettuccine Alfredo in 1914. The dish was an improvement that he made upon an similar, earlier Italian dish that was made only with butter to tempt the lost appetite of his pregnant wife.

This buttery dish certainly tempts me.

Here's what you'll need:

1/4 cup pine nuts
2 ounces thin prosciutto slices cut into slivers
5 ounces Brie cheese
1/2 cup whipping cream
Approximately 3 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
8 ounces dried fettuccine
2 tablespoons fresh basil
Ground pepper to taste

Over medium high heat in a saucepan lightly toast the pine nuts. Then transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
In the same pan add the prosciutto and cook until slightly browned. Then add to the bowl with the pine nuts.
Break cheese into small squares and put in a bowl, add the cream and microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the cream forms bubbles. Remove from microwave and whisk until smooth. Set aside.
In the meantime combine wine and chicken broth in saucepan. Add the thyme and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 2-3 minutes.
Return heat to high. When the liquid is boiling add fettuccine. Cook until pasta is tender, There should be a generous amount of liquid, you can add extra broth if it is too dry.
Add cheese to the mixture and stir for about 1 minute.
Remove from heat and let stand for about 2 minutes, stirring continuously.
Serve in bowls and sprinkle with pine nut/prosciutto mixture and serve immediately.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Jerk Chicken

I first tried this recipe last summer. It got rave reviews from my father who likes any kind of spicy foods, but my mom liked the flavor as well. This spicy Caribbean barbeque is traditionally cooked over an open flame in a wooden barbeque pit. The wood is supposed to enhance the flavor. But, since most of us don’t wooden barbeque pits in our backyards most variations of this recipe call for grilling it, which works just fine if you ask me. I found this recipe in a Martha Steward Living magazine this summer and have used it so much since that the recipe torn from the magazine is stained with the marinade. (My mom likes to tell my I’m a sloppy cook, I say a little mess is a sign of creativity in the kitchen.) You can adjust the peppers in this recipe to your taste. Habanero chili peppers are very hot, so use them sparingly if you don’t want your mouth to be on fire.

Here’s what you’ll need:

3 fresh habanero chilies, seeded and chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
8 scallions, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed with the edge of a knife or pressed in a garlic press
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
¼ cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground allspice
1 tablespoon salt
1 ¼ teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup distilled white vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup fresh lime juice
¼ cup vegetable oil
freshly ground pepper
16 chicken drumsticks and thighs

To make the marinade process the habanero chilies, onion, scallion, garlic and thyme in a food processor.

Add the brown sugar, allspice. salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice and oil. Process in the food processor until you have a smooth sauce.

Divide the sauce in half, one half for brushing the chicken while you are grilling it, the other to marinate it in.

Add chicken and half of the marinade in a large bowl. Rub the marinade into the chicken making sure it covers all parts.

Cover the bowl with plastic and refrigerate it over night.

The next day, heat your grill to low and brush lightly with oil. Put chicken on grill and discard used oil. Grill the chicken occasionally brushing with the saved marinade. Continue to cook and brush chicken with the marinade until cooked through