About sixteen years ago, I did a Festival of Nations event and served meatballs from thirty different countries. Events like these remind me and others of the diversity of flavors available to us and the impact that a single ingredient can have on a dish. It’s one of the reasons I love what I do so much.
As we push toward the New Year, I thought it would be fun to give some thought to new flavors that have become quite popular. Globalization has made it possible for spices of the world to travel, and for us foodies to experience other countries right in our own backyards. I mean, less than a century ago, we couldn’t even purchase cashews, but now we can’t go into a grocery store without noticing them. Access to eclectic flavors is really a privilege. As we step into another year of diverse and delicious cuisine, I plan to share some recipes that I find that fit into this expansive theme.
Some flavors I’ve been particularly drawn to are those of the Middle East and Northern Africa, variations of Mediterranean, really. Two recipes I have become very familiar with are the vibrant Maghrebian Harissa and the herb-loving Za’atar. Please join my palate and me in trying these out-of-this-world condiments and spices.
Move over Sriracha! Harissa is here.
This is a vibrantly sweet, smoky, and spicy condiment that transforms into a hot, garlicky and complex chili paste. The basic recipe calls for hot peppers, garlic, salt, and lots of olive oil, but you can also add some coriander, caraway seeds, and maybe cumin and dried mint depending on your preference.
Makes 1 cup
Za’atar is a wonderful spice mixture that can improve any dish— it brings out flavors similar to salt. Like most regional seasoning mixtures, there are literally hundreds of versions, but this is mine. These flavors work really well in a number of dishes, but especially with grilled meats, fish, chicken, rice, potatoes, and all sorts of other vegetables. I also use za’atar as an oil-based dip for flatbread!
Simple Roasted Za’atar Chicken