Category Archives: vegan

Citrus with Spiced Maple Syrup

citrus fruit salad

This is the shoulder season, when anticipation builds for spring flavors. I can’t wait for ripe strawberries. I wander through our neighborhood farmer’s market on Saturdays, taking the produce pulse. Have the ramps come in? When will we see asparagus?

Luckily, we still have citrus. Shipped in from Florida, Texas and the west coast, pink grapefruits and Mineolas are delicious right now. Tangerines, navels, kumquats and pummelos. Even the fruits’ names carry me away to sun-soaked places. Sumo, Valencia, Golden Nugget. They could be names on the Las Vegas Strip. Or given to champion race horses in Saratoga Springs.

whole citrus fruits in rainbow colors

I learned this simple, outstanding dessert recipe when teaching my very first cooking class at The Sylvia Center, in Soho. One of my dearest old friends, a fellow food-lover and chef-instructor named Nina, invited me to be her assistant. The students were reluctant teenagers, struggling academically and exploring career options in the food industry. We taught them knife skills. But we also exposed them to vegetables and fruits some had never tasted. It was a revelation.

ingredients for spiced citrus salad

This is no ordinary fruit salad. It marries the tart with the sweet (citrus plus maple syrup), with an exotic overlay of earth and warmth (spices). Make it with whatever citrus fruit you have. The more variety of oranges you add, the more colors and hidden flavors your salad will contain.

maple syrup with spices

At first, supreming citrus seems challenging. Using a sharp knife, you cut away the peel and pith, leaving a naked orb of fruit. You then cut out neat segments, filling a bowl with bright, colorful citrus wedges. Be sure to squeeze every last drop of juice from the remaining membrane before discarding.

details of how to supreme citrus

The fruit will perk up your taste buds. It is fresh and succulent. The “broth” tastes like nectar. You will want seconds. It’s my favorite cold weather dessert, good for parties and those who avoid dairy, gluten and carbohydrates. Unbelievably delicious and packed with vitamin C.

 

Citrus with Spiced Maple Syrup
Serves 6-8

Count on about 2 whole citrus fruits per person. Choose an assortment of citrus, including at least 3 different ones from the following (suggested) list, preferably of different colors:

Minneolas
Tangerines
Blood oranges
Grapefruit
Navel oranges
Clementines
Pummelos
Mandarins
Valencia oranges
Cara Cara oranges
Tangelo
Satsuma
Hamlin Oranges
Mango oranges

½ cup maple syrup, preferably grade B
1 cup of water
2 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
4 juniper berries
4 cardamom pods
3 cloves
1 small knob of fresh ginger
Pomegranate seeds from 1 pomegranate (optional)

Put maple syrup and water in a saucepan. Add star anise, cinnamon stick, juniper berries, cardamom pods, cloves and fresh ginger. If there are certain spices you prefer, feel free to eliminate some and/or add others. Bring syrup and spices to the boil, then lower heat, and simmer gently, until reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, supreme all citrus into sections over a bowl, squeezing the juice of each before you throw out the membrane. Be sure to remove all the pith and seeds. Depending on the overall quantity of juice, you may want to pour some off and drink it separately.

Add strained, cooled maple syrup broth to the citrus and juice, and stir gently. Serve in glass bowls, with optional pomegranate seeds sprinkled on top, as a garnish.

When serving, citrus should rest in about 1 cup of “broth,” juice with maple syrup mixed, with fruit piled up and not floating in too much liquid.

 

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Filed under dessert, Recipes, Salad, vegan, winter

Black Bean Soup

vegetarian black bean soup

Everyone in my family has turned vegetarian. They saw a film called Cowspiracy and immediately decided meat was out. I’m proud of their choice and now cook only vegetarian meals. It’s a healthy, earth-friendly, inexpensive diet. We eat more fiber. We lower our carbon footprint. (Full disclosure: I get my meat fix privately, hunkered over the occasional hamburger in a restaurant. Or I make a few strips of bacon to have with my eggs. The family tolerates me being an omnivore.)

Cooking without meat poses challenges I hadn’t anticipated. It’s not a deprivation kind of challenge. It’s that I sometimes lack ideas. When we’re tired and I need to throw together a fast meal, I can’t just throw a slab of animal protein in a pan. One has to think.

In winter, I often want soup. But I don’t want it to be a production. This is the recipe to turn to for a pantry soup, something you can whip up on a weekend morning to enjoy for lunch. It makes great leftovers.

black bean soup ingredients

When making a soup, stay in categories of flavor. This one is kissed by Mexico, with a little bit of heat and spice, crunch and corn from quick fried tortilla strips, and those earthy black beans. Other soups tend towards Asia, with a complex broth (enhanced by soy sauce, ginger and nutritional yeast – a trick I learned from Deborah Madison whose cookbooks I couldn’t live without), and items from the “ethnic” section of your supermarket (think tofu, bean sprouts, fish sauce). My default is Mediterranean flavors: root vegetables sautéed with garlic, sage and/or rosemary, blended with a simple vegetable broth and topped with crispy fried croutons.

bay leaf mediterranean flavors
Some soups don’t need broth at all. The vegetable flavors are distinct enough to carry their own weight. For example, Jerusalem artichokes are one such ingredient. Bay leaves (above) add flavor but be sure to remove them before you blend the soup.

quick vegetable broth ingredients

When you need a vegetable broth, please don’t buy it packaged. They taste awful. Instead, make a 30-minute homemade stock. In a stock pot with a splash of olive oil, sauté about 6 cups of chopped vegetables (onion, celery, carrots and garlic, at least; leeks, turnips, parsley stems and much more will add complexity). After about 5 minutes, add 8 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 25 minutes. Strain. Done.

winter soup from canned beans with flavorful toppings

 

Black Bean Soup
Serves 6-8

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 medium white onions, trimmed and peeled, cut into chunks
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 jalapeño pepper, trimmed (seeded if you want less spicy heat)
2 cans black beans (25-ounce cans)
½ cup canned tomatoes
1 small onion
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, or water
Sour cream, one spoonful to garnish each bowl (skip, if you’re vegan)
Fried tortilla strips, for garnish
½ cup cilantro leaves, for garnish
Red chili pepper, minced, for garnish
Lime, squeezed on top before serving, for zing

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium skillet over a high heat. Cook onions until blackened in parts, about 10 minutes. Add garlic with jalapeño in the last few minutes of cooking, to char slightly. Transfer to a food processor or blender, and purée until very smooth, at least 2 minutes. If needed, add a little stock to loosen the mixture for easier blending.

While the vegetables are cooking, put the beans with their liquid, and tomatoes, into a food processor or blender. Purée until very smooth, about 2 minutes. If needed, add a little stock to help liquefy and blend the beans. Transfer to a bowl.

Cut the small onion into a fine dice. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper, and sauté until onion is soft but not brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the pureed beans and the vegetable purée. Add stock – if you want a thicker soup, add less stock – and bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced, about 20 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, divide soup among bowls and spoon in sour cream. Scatter tortilla strips, cilantro leaves, and minced chili pepper. Squeeze a little lime juice on top.

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Filed under Appetizer, dinner, Lunch, Recipes, soup, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian, winter

Eggplant Caviar

Early fall is when eggplants are at their best. Choose firm, dark colored orbs, plentiful and reasonably priced in this season. Cook them soon after buying.

eggplant mint puree

Adapt this simple mash to your taste, adding different seasonings to tip the scale alternately towards North Africa (using tahini, toasted, crushed cumin seeds and a pinch of cayenne), the Middle East (pomegranate molasses), or Italy (fresh basil and/or minced anchovies).

eggplants ready to bake

No recipe is needed. The easiest method for cooking eggplants is to pierce them a few times with a small knife and bake on a sheet pan in a hot oven until they collapse. Scoop out the cooked flesh and mix in flavorings to suit your mood. Use a fork, rather than a food processor, or you will end up with something more like baby food. The texture is nicer when it’s roughly mashed.

Be sure to garnish eggplant caviar with something to add color to the dish’s dull, beige appearance. Chopped mint, parsley, cilantro or basil work well. Pomegranate seeds provide a crunchy, sweet contrast. Serve room temperature with toasted pita bread. Keeps about a week in the fridge.

serve eggplant puree with toasted pita

Eggplant Caviar
Serves 4-6

2-3 eggplants (about 1½ pounds), rinsed, dried and pierced in a few places with a paring knife (to release steam)
Grated zest of one lemon (optional)
Juice of ½ lemon (or more, to taste)
½ clove of garlic, minced and using the flat part of a knife’s blade, made into a paste with ½ teaspoon sea salt
1-2 tablespoons Greek yogurt (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
A little extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint leaves, for garnish
Black sesame seeds, toasted, for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place a sheet of aluminum foil in a baking pan and lay the eggplant on top. Bake until the flesh is cooked, about 20 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Scoop out the cooked flesh into a medium bowl and discard the eggplant skins. Mix in the rest of the ingredients, including some minced fresh herbs, if you like. Taste and adjust seasoning (more salt? lemon?) Transfer to a small serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and garnish with chopped fresh herbs and/or sesame seeds. Serve as an hors d’oeuvre with toasted pita bread, or as a side dish with the meal.

Optional ingredients: tahini, pomegranate molasses, cayenne, harissa, ground cumin, paprika, fresh herbs, chopped scallions, chopped fresh chili peppers, chopped black olives, minced anchovies. Pomegranate seeds scattered on top look beautiful – and taste great.

 

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Filed under Appetizer, fall, Lunch, Recipes, Salad, sides, summer, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian

Ramp Pistou

In case you were feeling that spring has been dragging its feet this year, you’re not wrong. No less an authority than The New York Times declared spring officially late, as least insofar as crops are concerned. One thing we can reliably depend on, though, is the mighty ramp.

ramps

Ramps! Do you know them? Sometimes called wild leeks, these early-spring bulbs pack a wallop of spicy-garlicky flavor. Their season is a brief three weeks, but they grow in such profusion that it pays to buy them (or gather, if you’re lucky and know where to look) in a large bunch.

ramp pesto in food processor

Treat them as you would basil in August: throw the leaves in a food processor with olive oil and salt and you have a basic pistou that will keep in the freezer for months. Good additions are parsley and sorrel. Try it over pasta, on a sandwich, on fish, over asparagus, swirled into a fresh pea soup…. As for the blubs, chop them up and throw them in a stir-fry or in a frittata: anywhere scallions are called for.

ramp pesto

Ramp Pistou

1 cup ramp leaves, chopped and packed
½ cup sorrel or parsley, packed
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon coarse sea salt

Mix all ingredients in a food processor until chopped to a fine purée. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

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Filed under Recipes, sauces, spring, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian

Roasted Winter Vegetables

In the pre-Whole Foods, bad old days of smelly, dingy “natural food” stores, or “health food” stores (a name that rang with promise but in reality was more like a cross between Communist Poland circa 1984 and the corner store in a desolate city neighborhood, with rainbow stickers and dangling “dream catchers” in the window), root vegetables bore the brunt of many a joke. These gnarled, dirt-crusted tubers were bendy and battered. We bought them because they offered a pesticide-free experience. But they were unappealing. Sanctimonious winter vegetables gave health food a bad name.

humble winter root vegetables

 

I hitchhiked across America with my sister Kate in 1980. In each new city, we sought out the local health food store and the gay bar. Both of these venues, in our minds, delivered a cache of interesting people and ideas. Most health food stores sold herbal tinctures, fresh ginger, crystal deodorant, and bulk nuts. They also had bulletin boards packed with announcements for area political meetings, basement concerts, healers and other fringe activities. We loved the bulletin boards and relied on them to connect with like-minded folks.

Gay bars offered another kind of entertainment. In El Paso, on the final leg of our maiden voyage to the promised land of California, we spent a long evening playing pool with the all-male patrons. It was a dangerous time to be a homosexual in Texas. It took a lot of asking around the town to find this beer-soaked subterfuge. I remember winning a game of pool with a strapping guy, shirtless in a leather vest. He laughed, surprised by his 18-year female old opponent, sporting a crew cut. Kate and I felt we were living on the edge, exactly where we wanted to be.

Back to root vegetables. I have learned to embrace them. To love them, even. I try to eat seasonally and experimenting with root vegetables is a winter pastime. At my local food coop, carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas and the like occupy a prominent position, glistening and firm, inviting and healthful. Natural food stores have come a long way.

parsnips

 

Mostly, I make soups with roots, or roast, or mash them for a side dish. Try adding a cup of cubed parsnips or celery root to your next curry or stew. They’ll add another flavor dimension and increase your vitamin intake. Always keep a few root vegetables in the fridge. They keep for weeks and add flavor to stocks (except parsnips, which really are too pungent unless that’s what you’re after).

purple-carrots

 

A few nights ago I cleaned out the fridge and roasted up what I found for a quick vegetable companion to baked bluefish. Crunchy, sweet and salty, this is a winter side dish that makes “health food” downright delicious.

roasted-root-veg

 

Roasted Winter Vegetables
Serves 6

Quantities are flexible – as are ingredients. Try any combination of the following winter vegetables: beets, carrots, cauliflower, celery root, fennel, parsnips, potatoes, rutabagas, shallots, squash, sweet potatoes, turnips. The key is #1 cut the veggies in similar sizes to ensure even cooking, and #2 not to overcrowd the baking sheet.

1 pound carrots
½ pound parsnips
½ pound sunchokes
1 pound fingerling potatoes
12 cloves garlic, peeled and trimmed, left whole
1 lemon, trimmed and thinly sliced (optional)
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Scrub and trim the vegetables. With organically grown produce, I leave the skins on because nutrients are lost when you discard the peels.

Slice carrots and sunchokes 1/4” thick, parsnips 1/8” thick (to compensate for longer cooking time), and fingerling potatoes in half. Cut vegetables on the diagonal — for what my cooking student Ben calls a “jaunty angle.” This will improve the look of the final dish.

In a large bowl, using your hands, mix the cut vegetables and garlic with olive oil, salt and pepper. Add lemon slices if you want to add punch. Spread in a single layer on two baking sheets. Do not overcrowd the baking sheets or the vegetables won’t get crisp.

Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, toss with a spatula and cook for about 20 more minutes, or until cooked through. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

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Filed under fall, Recipes, sides, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian

Common Cold Home Remedy

getting arrested at anti-nuke demonstration in Seabrook, NH

Demonstration in Seabrook, NH ; photo by Eric Roth

 

It’s spring of 1980. I’m living in the woods of New Hampshire, in a teepee with a group of anti-nuclear activists during a month-long “occupation.” We aim to stop construction at the nuclear power plant being built in Seabrook, New Hampshire. I am assigned cooking duty, producing daily meals for the forty or so people in the encampment. I love my job.

The mosquitoes are vicious in the boggy woods. We stay up late around the campfire talking strategy: how to avoid the police, best tips for non-violent resistance when arrested, etc. Slapping mosquitoes night and day. One of my comrades teaches me how to ward off the pests. Always keep a raw clove of garlic tucked in the back of the mouth. Like baseball players with chewing tobacco, we sucked on garlic all day to keep the bugs at bay. It was, I thought, a great natural remedy. The only side effect was smelling like garlic.

garlic as a common cold home remedy

Over the years, long after I left the excitement of being 18 years old with a bunch of radicals in the New Hampshire woods, I’ve collected natural remedies. I like the reliance on plants for health (in addition to modern medicine; I am not an extremist). I enjoy the stories that come with remedies, the way they get passed down through generations. It feels good to mix up a cure for what ails you.

make a ginger broth to ward off a cold

What to do when you get the first inkling of a scratchy throat? Make a hot broth of garlic, ginger, lemon and honey. Sip it all day. It works, most of the time. Also, ideally, sleep as much as possible to increase the chances of fighting off sickness. But the broth is the only thing I’ve found that comes close to curing the common cold.

ingredients for home remedy against common cold

About 1,500 of us were arrested in Seabrook on May 24, 1980. With a tidal wave of “No Nukes” protestors around the world, we ultimately succeeded in blocking construction of one of the reactors. I don’t know how many of us had a clove of garlic in our mouths when hauled off to jail. We felt victorious. And the police officers had to contend with smelly protestors like myself, garlic seeping from every pore.

hot broth as a home remedy

 

Common Cold Natural Remedy

1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons ginger, peeled and chopped
1 cup cold water
Juice of ½ lemon
1 teaspoon honey
Pinch of cayenne

In a small saucepan, bring the garlic, ginger and water to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Strain, stir in honey and cayenne (adjusting quantities to taste), and sip right away. Make a half- gallon of the mixture at a time (multiply recipe by 8) and sip all day. Feel better!

 

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Filed under home remedy, vegan, vegetarian

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

firm ripe tomatoes for slow roasting

I haven’t put away the sandals and sundresses yet. The markets still burst with zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes. We took the subway out to Rockaway Beach a few days ago for an early evening swim. It’s imminent — the Halloween icons, the sweater weather, the short days. But I refuse to let go of summer.

halved tomatoes on a sheet pan for roasting

Making slow-roasted tomatoes extends the vibe. These plump, sweet-sour treats explode in your mouth with concentrated flavor, transporting you to a summer day in one bite. They can be tossed with a salad, served with grilled meat, scattered with pasta and herbs, or popped into a lunch box. I love them on bruschetta, garlic rubbed toast smeared with ricotta and basil leaves.

sprinkle cut tomatoes with sugar, salt and pepper

My cousins Betsy and Bobby live in the Yorkshire Dales (photo below), about a five hour drive north of London. I visited them in August and was served a most delicious salad of slow roasted tomatoes with croutons, black olives and red onions. Most of it came from their beautiful garden out back.

walking in the yorkshire dales, UK

If you can find them, roast a mix of yellow and red tomatoes to increase the visual appeal. Use cherry tomatoes if you wish; just decrease the cooking time by an hour or so. Dusting them with a mixture of sugar, salt and black pepper before they go in the oven exaggerates their natural sweetness while keeping them on the savory side.

Summer in northern England doesn’t immediately evoke images of just-picked, ripe tomatoes. I imagine Betsy roasts tomatoes regularly and stores them in jars with olive oil, treasuring them into the fall long after the leaves have turned. Thanks to her, I will do the same.

 

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

Makes 24 halves, enough to serve 8 as a side dish

12 plum tomatoes, firm-ripe
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper*

Preheat oven to the lowest temperature it will go, 250˚ or 275˚ F. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise. Arrange cut side up, in a single layer, on a rimmed sheet pan. Mix together sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle tomatoes liberally with sugar mix. Bake for about 4 hours – or more – until tomatoes have collapsed and shriveled, caramelized but not burnt. Eat warm or room temperature. Store for about a week in the fridge, or in a sealed jar covered in olive oil, which preserves them up to a month. You can also freeze them.

* Do you have a good pepper grinder? What does that even mean? Being the house guest of several lovely, kind, adorable friends this summer has provided me with the opportunity of bringing a pepper grinder house present. Selfishly, it’s because I cannot live without the use of my sturdy, workhorse grinder. But also, because everyone – even novice or non-cooks – should have one in their kitchen. This is one I can safely recommend. Look for the Peugeot label on the underside (the business end).

 

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Filed under Appetizer, Breakfast, fall, Lunch, pasta, Recipes, Salad, summer, vegan, vegetarian

Spicy Zucchini Soup

vegan vegetarian gluten-free spicy zucchini soup

Every summer, my inner beach bum emerges and I toy with the idea of ditching everything and finding a beach shack to call home. Not a responsible, reasonable idea, I know. My safe solution is to cook summer foods until the last local tomato drops from the vine. To wear sandals well into October (no, not with socks). To swim in the ocean after Columbus Day.

zucchiini summer squash

Before you fall headlong into the realm of autumn (pears, chestnuts, leeks, etc.), stretch out summer by using all the great produce still plentiful in the markets. There are still summer squashes to be cooked, ears of corn to be shucked. It’s not over yet!

Tired of zucchini after the seemingly endless supply of it these past months? Try this simple, fast puréed soup. It’s packed with vegetables, has no dairy or gluten (if you care) and the spices elevate the soup to an exotic-seeming, Goa-inspired velouté. Serve chilled on an Indian summer day or hot to warm you from inside. The bright green color takes it way beyond the usual soggy pile of sautéed zucchini that gives this vegetable a bad name.

cinnamon coriander fennel cumin pepper caraway seeds

Eminently flexible, this recipe withstands all sorts of adaptations. Try making it with butternut squash (much more autumnal). Use leeks or parsnips instead of zucchini. In fact, this is like a master-puréed-vegetable-soup recipe, with an Indian kick. No canned chicken stock needed. Just vegetables, water and spice. The toasted nuts add depth and make it feel special.

Go to the farmer’s market and buy a box of summer squash. Make boatloads of this soup and freeze portioned containers. There will come a cold day in December and you will have this soup, feel a flash of summer, and share a meal with your inner beach bum.

blended spicy zucchini soup

 

Spicy Zucchini Soup with Toasted Almonds
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium-sized onion, chopped roughly
1 tablespoon salt
2 garlic cloves, chopped roughly
1 teaspoon mild curry powder, preferably homemade (recipe below)
1½ pounds zucchini, trimmed and cut into chunks
1 potato (about 6 oz), peeled and cut into chunks
4 cups water
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted, for garnish

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook for 5 minutes or until softened, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with salt and add garlic. Stir to combine and cook about a minute. Add curry and stir, then add zucchini and potato. Sauté for five more minutes.

Pour water over vegetable mixture and turn up heat, bringing the mixture to boil. Lower heat and simmer about 10 minutes, or until potato is just tender.

Transfer in batches to a blender (never more than 1/2 full, to avoid messy, painful accidents), blending until smooth and creamy. Serve hot or cold, with toasted almonds as a garnish.

 

turmeric ginger cayenne spices to make homemade curry powder

 

Curry Powder

Everyone has a recipe for this spice blend. Mine is culled from Madhur Jaffrey and Peter Berley, two chefs I admire. Making your own blend has the advantage of tasting fresh and lively, and allowing you to amplify certain flavors to your liking. Cayenne equals heat so if you like a lot, add more. Invest in a simple coffee grinder (about $20) and dedicate it to spices.

2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
½ cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon peppercorns
5 whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds (brown or yellow)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Heat a small, cast iron skillet over medium-low heat. Add coriander, cumin, cinnamon, caraway, fennel, peppercorns, cloves and mustard seeds. Stir until spices smell toasted and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Turn out onto clean plate to cool.

Transfer spices to coffee or spice grinder and grind finely. Add ginger, turmeric and cayenne and stir to combine. Use a clean glass jar to store the spice blend and keep in cool, dry place for up to 2 months.

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Filed under Appetizer, fall, Lunch, Recipes, soup, summer, vegan, vegetarian