Spice Bonanza

I have been a very lucky girl. Friends from all parts of the world have been stopping by at Erba Luna and I couldn’t be more thrilled.
This Monday, Michelle, also known as the Baroness Tapuzina, came into the restaurant with her adorable husband David. Michelle, who lives in Israel, very generously brought along a huge bag of North African spice goodies for me. As we went through the bags of spices, and talked about all the possibilities, it was obvious that I had met a kindred food spirit.
Look at this list of mixed spices!
1)    Ras-el hanut from Morocco. This is one spice combo that I actually know about and that I’ve used already, but I’ve never thought of pairing it with grilled fruits.
2)    Bucharan Spice mix from Uzbekistan.  This spice combination is usually used on rice and actually includes dried blueberries and dill.
3)    Baharat which is Iraqi and Palestinian and works very well on grilled meats.
4)    Za’atar with garlic, which is found all over the Middle East, and is comprised of wild oregano and sesame seed. Michelle says it tastes great on foccacia and other breads.
5)    Shakshouka from Morocco and Northern Africa. It’s bright red and is used in a cooked tomato and egg dish.
6)    Hawayej, which is Yemenite and a sort of curry orange color. It’s kind of an all purpose seasoning used in soups, on meats and as a spicy dip
7)    A big bottle of raw sesame paste…that’s the bottle with the camel on it. It doesn’t taste like anything I’ve ever tasted before; raw sesame is a whole different thing from the toasted sesame seeds that we are used to.

Tuesday night, and we were having dinner at home, so this was a chance to play with my present! I roasted some potatoes with the Bucharan Rice Mix and that was a very delicate and delicious combination. Then we tried some grilled steak that had been rubbed with Baharat and finished with pomegranate butter, which may be one of my best combinations yet. One of our favorite steak preparations is to rub a steak with dried, smoked adobe chilies, sauté the meat in butter and finish with a little lime juice. The Bahrat combination was a more complex, spicy variation of that dish; you had the wood fire taste from the grill, and the deep rich spice flavors all mingling and being brought together in harmony by the tart buttery pomegranate sauce.
I can hardly wait until next Tuesday when I can play with my bag of tricks again! Grazie Mille, Michelle!


  1. Swisskaese on October 25, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    I knew you would find some interesting things to do with the spices. I am going to try the Bukharan rice mixture on potatoes.

    David and I both enjoyed meeting both of you. Your restaurant is beautiful and so is the food.


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