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Spice Up Your Life in 2015

Now if that isn’t misleading, I do not know what is…LOL. With this being the year end, after we put away the holiday stuff it is back to cleaning up the house and getting rid of stuff we no longer need or use.

One of the things we often overlook are our herbs and spices! I have been places where the spices seemed to be quite old (the bottles were the same as in my mothers kitchen) or placed conveniently close to the stove or beside the dishwasher or oven. Yes they might be convenient, but moisture and heat are the enemy of spices and herbs.

What follows is some good information about caring for these very important enhancements to our cooking.

What is the Shelf Life of Spices and Herbs?

Dried herbs and spices add a lot of flavor to our dishes and they are easily available and convenient to use. When we blend a combination of spices and herbs we end up with a whole variety of wonderful and unusual tastes. Preserving the quality, freshness and flavor of your seasonings will give you great tasting dishes and really will spice up your palette.

Spices do not spoil but they do lose their strength. Stored in airtight containers in cool dry places, spices retain their potency longer than you might have been led to believe. Whole peppercorns, nutmegs and cinnamon sticks tend to hold on to their flavor for a long time. And potent whole spices, such as cloves, cumin, and cardamom will also last for a long time.

Proper Storage
The greatest importance in getting the best taste and value out of your herbs and spices is to store them well. Store them in tightly sealed containers in a cool dark place. Keeping containers tightly closed will protect them from moisture and oxidation, and they retain more of their essential oil content when stored in glass jars or metal tins. Keeping them away from direct light will keep color from fading.

Never store them above your stove or near other heat sources as heat will degrade the quality. Also keep them away from the heat of the stove and the humidity of the dishwasher. If you have ever heard it is good to freeze spices and herbs forget it! Condensation will be a problem each time the bottle comes out of the freezer and is likely to introduce moisture to the spices. And don’t shake herbs or spices out of the bottle directly into something you’re cooking as that will introduce moisture to your spices.

Red spices like chili powder, cayenne pepper and paprika can be refrigerated to prevent loss of color and flavor. Spices such as turmeric, curry powders, ground cloves and paprika should be stored in glass or metal containers as their flavors will lessen if left in original packaging. The best temperature for herbs and spices is below 70º F.

Whole spices keep the longest because they have not been cracked or ground which would expose their flavors to air. Ground spices have a shorter shelf life. To determine whether or not ground spices are still viable gently shake the container with the cap on. Remove the cap after a moment and smell the container to see if the rich smell of the spice is still present.

So Many Different Recommendations – Which is Correct?
The government recommendations for freshness dating is four years for whole spices and two years for ground and you may hear people say that spices should be replaced every six months. But most spices are only harvested once a year, so it certainly doesn’t make sense to replace these every six months.

If spices and herbs are kept as we have discussed the shelf life will be as follows:

• Whole spices and herbs leaves and flowers will keep 1 – 2 years.
• Seeds will keep 2 – 3 years and roots will keep 3 years.
• Ground spices and herb leaves keep 1 year.
• Ground roots will keep for 2 years.

A good practice to follow is to purchase high quality dried herbs and spices in small quantities so that you can easily use them up in reasonable period of time.

Filetes a la Veracruzana (Fish Fillets in the style of Veracruz)

Lee was asking for some fish dishes a while back. Today and next week, I will post two excellent fish dishes which never fail….here’s my first favourite… you can also search here for salmon…

 

Filetes de pescado a la Veracruzana (Fish Fillets Braised with Tomatoes, Capers, Olives & Herbs)
No matter where fish is served, you can be sure that pescado a la Veracruzana will be on the menu. It’s a delicious blend of Old and New World ingredients: Capers, olives, herbs, and garlic weave their way through two of America’s greatest contributions to Mediterranean cuisine – tomatoes and chilies. Though practically any firm, white-fleshed fish would work well, when the dish is made with fresh Gulf snapper – as it often is in Veracruz – it’s a revelation.

This is a company favourite in Mexico….well worth the prep time!
Ingredients
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced onion
• 4 garlic cloves, minced
• 3 pounds ripe tomatoes, chopped (or 1 can of chopped tomatoes)
• 1 cup sliced pitted manzanilla (or green) olives, divided
• 1/2 cup water
• 1/4 cup capers, divided
• 1/4 cup sliced pickled jalapeño peppers, divided * (optional)
• 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
• 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
• 3 bay leaves
• 1 teaspoon salt, divided
• 6 (6-ounce) red snapper or other firm white fish fillets
• 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
• Flat-leaf parsley sprigs (optional)
Preparation
Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, and sauté for 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add tomatoes, 1/2 cup olives, water, 2 tablespoons capers, 2 tablespoons jalapeños*, parsley, oregano, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or until reduced to 6 cups. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt. Discard bay leaves.
Arrange fish in a single layer in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish; drizzle with lime juice, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes; discard marinade.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Spoon sauce over fish. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup olives, 2 tablespoons capers, and 2 tablespoons jalapeños*. Garnish with parsley sprigs, if desired.

Herb and Garlic Seafood Kabobs

This wasn’t the recipe I intended to follow, but it turned out great! Instead of the mushrooms on the skewers, I grilled two marinated portobellos beside the kabobs! Since I only had smaller shrimp I made do, but I would have preferred the larger ones… If you are a friend on Facebook, you saw the photo… Check out Kramer’s Culinary Blog by clicking on the link below.

Herb and Garlic Seafood Kabobs    Kramers Culinary Blog

 Ingredients

Herb Garlic Marinade

  • 4 gloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 tsp chopped rosemary
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • ¼ chopped onion
  • juice from ½ lime
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Kabobs

  • 8 large shrimp peeled & divined
  • 8 large scallops
  • 8 slices of bacon
  • 8 oz baby bella mushrooms
  • 6 oz red pearl onions, peeled
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut in 1 inch dices

Grilled vegetables

  • 2 zucchini, sliced length wise
  • 2 yellow squash, sliced length wise
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. For the marinade combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend thoroughly until creamy. Set a side.
  2. Wrap scallops with bacon. If the bacon is to wide simply cut it length wise in half.
  3. Prepare rosemary skewers by striping of the leaves of the sprig, but leaving about 2 inches on the tip or use well soaked wooden ones.
  4. Assemble seafood kabobs the way it’s shown at the bottom of the page under “Lining Up”.
  5. Smother herb garlic marinade over the entire seafood kabob on both sides. Rest kabobs on a plate covered with plastic wrap and keep cool.
  6. Marinate the zucchini and yellow squash including the left over vegetables such as the mushrooms & onions with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.
  7. Grill vegetables for about 3 minutes on each side over medium to high heat.
  8. Grill seafood kabobs on high heat for about 3-4 minutes on each side.
  9. Allow kabobs to rest in a warm spot for a few minutes than serve immediately with the grilled vegetables. Serve with Chipotle tomato mayonnaise. They were just fine without the Chipotle Mayonnaise!

Lining up skewers – tomato, onion,shrimp.scallop,pepper,shrimp.scallop, mushroom, tomato

Remember to soak your wooden skewer sticks for several hours!!