Fire Spice Company

Want to be more bold with spices? But maybe you’re a little intimidated.  Or you don’t want to drop $7 on a 5 ounce container of an exotic spice you only need a pinch of for that recipe you want to try.  Now’s your chance.  Enter Fire Spice Company.

Chef katz

Another one of my favorites in the Cleveland food scene, and celebrated chef, Douglas Katz (of Fire Food & Drink, Provenance, and The Katz Club) has been developing his line of spice blends for about a year now.  And he’s only a little more than a month away from a scheduled March launch.

Katz wants to make it easier for home cooks to be more adventurous with spices (with both your taste buds and your cooking skills), eliminate the anxiety that can come with experimenting with more exotic varieties, and take some of the expense out of working with a certain spices.

He and his team have developed 12 blends, which they toast and grind in house.  The blends have been tested and are intended for specific recipes.  The packaging is clever and makes it easy to execute.  Printed on the box is a list of the ingredients you’ll need for the associated recipe, and the detailed directions.

During my visit with Katz, we gave his Jerk Spice mix a go, marinating chicken leg quarters in a combination of the spice packet, and fresh ingredients.  After they sat for about 30 minutes, it was time to roast.

Fire Spice roasted chicken

The finished product was spectacular, succulent, savory.  And I was doubly surprised, as I have NEVER liked jerk seasoning on anything.  But man, was this good.

For dessert Chef Katz presented a French Spice Cake that he’d prepared using his Quatre Epices blend.  To prepare the frosting for top, he also used the same blend.  If the speed in which my two girls gobbled up that cake was any indication, consider that recipe “tried and true.”

I love the idea of dabbling in cuisines and flavors that I’ve traditionally not been equipped to handle.  His Masala variety, and accompanying Ground Lamb and Tomato Masala, Pho blend and accompanying Vietnamese Beef Noodle Pho recipe, and Massaman spice pack for the Thai Shrimp, Potato Peanut Curry recipe are on my short list of “must try” recipes.

The Fire Spice Company blends are available now at Fire. (1322o Shaker Square, Cleveland, Ohio 44120) Katz aims to have them available online nationally soon, and has plans for availability at local farmers markets and demo classes.  There’s also a “Spice Blend of the Month” membership in the works.  Sign me up!

Now, let’s expand our horizons and our palate. 

 

 

Cheftovers Pantry Must-Haves

You can’t make Cheftovers magic without some must-haves.  I’m not suggesting you take this list, and go out and buy everything up.  However, these are the things I like to keep in my fridge, freezer and pantry, that allow me to successfully cobble together dinner or reinvent last night’s meal.

pantry must haves-pasta

Pasta.  Like any good Italian girl, I always have several pounds of pasta on hand.  Short and long, frozen and stuffed.  To me, pasta is the perfect canvas for a lot of things.  Think you only have enough chicken for one serving?  Not so, if you chop it up and toss it with a bowl of pasta and add a savory cream sauce or pesto.  Have leftover Chinese food?  Use some linguini to whip up a cold noodle salad/side for lunch the next day and toss in that excess beef and broccoli.

Tortillas.   Another great blank slate.  I love making a quick quesadilla for my kids.  They also take the edge off when I get home from work and don’t plan on eating dinner for a while.  So I always keep a variety of shredded cheese on hand to make ‘em melty, and marry the bits and pieces I have around from previous dishes.  These Mexican staples can also serve as a vessel for MYOP, or make your own pizza pockets…again, using things like veggies you’ve got around.

I made a risotto to celebrate our  anniversary using arborio rice and wine from Santorini.  (we honeymooned in Italy and Greece)

I made a risotto to celebrate our wedding anniversary using arborio rice and wine from Santorini. (we honeymooned in Italy and Greece)

Rice.  White, brown, long grain and Arborio.  I love making a risotto with the rest of the expensive asparagus or artichokes I purchased for a dish earlier that week.  Sometimes I’ll stuff a green pepper when I’ve got a few extra in the produce drawer.  Stuff a chicken breast with long grain or brown rice, onion, garlic and spinach.  It’s tasty and filling.

Bacon.  Wrap almost anything in bacon and it makes it instantly and infinitely better.

Produce.  Not a day goes by when I don’t use several of the following: onions, celery, garlic, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, lemon, lime, tomatoes, corn, peppers.  Frozen: corn, peas, spinach, kale.

egg bake2

Dairy.  Sour cream, cream cheese, and butter/margarine are “duh” items.  I like to keep a lot of half and half in my fridge, not only because I like it in my coffee, but also because I can use it where you might want heavy cream in a recipe.  Most of the time there is skim milk and whole milk in there too.  Having a dozen eggs around opens up the possibility for a lot of delicious dishes.  I like to concoct egg bakes using what I’ve got around…a little leftover ricotta from lasagna, sun dried tomatoes from a pasta dish, spinach from a stuffed chicken recipe.  You get the idea.

Spices.  Building a good spice cabinet takes some time.  If a recipe calls for a spice I don’t have in stock, I’ll search for a substitute or I usually move on.  Things like garlic salt, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, basil, oregano, cumin, chili powder, paprika, herbs de Provence, ginger, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, thyme, and parsley I always keep in my cabinet.  It’s rare I find use for things like turmeric or saffron.  But it depends on your taste.

Dressings/Condiments: mayo, mustard, dijon mustard, soy sauce, Worcestershire, hot sauce, peanut butter, salsa, and BBQ sauce.  These items find their way into many sauces, marinades or dressings that change yesterday meal into today’s “original” offering.

Almonds.  I use these as a nice substitute for most expensive and harder to come by pine nuts.  They also serve as a delicious stand-in for bread crumbs when breading chicken or fish.  But bread crumbs also make my list.  Turn leftover salmon from a cook-out into salmon cakes you can freeze (with some of the above mentioned veggies like corn and peppers, plus some cayenne or Cajun seasoning)

Stock or broth.  I go through this like water, literally.

Oils and vinegars.  Make a one-time investment in some of these and you’ll open yourself up to different dishes that you wouldn’t normally make.  I buy olive oil by the gallon sometimes.  Canola or vegetable oil is a must.  Sesame oil can is useful in many Asian sauces and marinades, plus you can make your own hummus with it.  Balsamic, red wine and white wine vinegar are pantry staples.  But cider vinegar makes its way into a lot of my recipes too.

I combined a can of diced tomatoes with some fresh tomatoes that weren't going to last much longer for the base of a fresh marinara.

I combined a can of diced tomatoes with some fresh tomatoes that weren’t going to last much longer for the base of a fresh marinara.

Canned goods.  Black beans can “pinch hit” for a protein in one of my quesadillas, or be added to white rice, leftover fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime for a side dish, a la Chipolte. Various canned tomato products are enormously useful.  I try to stock the cupboard with tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes and tomato paste.  And because I’m part Mediterranean, I always like to have olives within reach.  They’re like a great culinary accessory.

I’m always interested in an ingredient or tool to make things tastier, or easier?  What are your pantry #musthaves?