Spices 101: What is a Spice?

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A spice is an aromatic, edible dried part from plant’s buds, root, bark, stem, leaves or seeds that we find in small bottles in markets. Spices originated in India, Indonesia, and Asia where they were used as medicine remedies to heal different ailments. Turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, ginger and black pepper are a few spices that were used in the ancient world and long ago spices were often more precious than gold… Imagine that!

Now, The question is:  How can spices heal? The answer is phytonutrients.  This nutrient derived from the plant material contains anti-flamatory and powerful antioxidants that control and disarm “free radicals” that damage cells, causing aging and many illnesses.

Can you get this phytonutrients from fruits and vegetables? Unfortunately no, They are only found in spices!  Some of these spices are curcumin found in turmeric, piperine found in peppercorns and anethole found in anise and fennel. Many spices fight bacteria, viruses and fungi. They can also regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, calm nerves, anxiety and ease pain. Some spices can even boost your metabolism by burning calories and can give you strength and energy. You can have all these benefits by using spices in your daily cooking!

Spices a plenty. The use of spices that I had growing up in my mom’s kitchen were limited compared to the bountiful that I use today in my cooking. My mom’s favorite spice was saffron and she use it in her Paella dish. Paella is also one of my favorites dishes too.  It is a regional rice dish from Valencia, Spain that contains vegetables, and all sorts of meats and seafood. Usually we enjoyed this dish around the holidays.

Intriguing meets exotic! One of the best spice experiences I had in the beginning of my Culinary career was working for Ludovic Lefevre at L’Orangerie. He’s well known for using different combinations of exotic spices in his amazing cuisine. This is where I was exposed to many different types of exotic spices that I now use in my recipes, both savory and sweet.

Embrace the spice! I understand that the use of spices can be intimidating, especially if you’ve  never been exposed to them, but you will be surprise that many of the spices I use in my cooking might not be foreign to you. Some spices that you think you’ve never tasted before are actually an important ingredient in some of your favorite ethnic dishes.  For example, in Thai dishes galangal is like garlic to Italian food and Mexican cuisine uses cocoa and many savory sauces as well as the use of many kind of chilies.The use of spices can enhance you palette and your food. It can make it more exciting, fun and has many health benefits.

Just because a recipe contains a lot of spices does not mean that a dish is fiery-hot!  On the contrary, spices are filled with aromas that open your appetite, can add sweet, sour, or hot flavors and give you more enjoyment when eating.

Why have bland food? Imagine a pesto without basil? An ice cream or cookies without vanilla? Spices defines and gives body and flavor to your dishes. Find out how can I bring all these exciting flavorful foods to your Kitchen!

Chef Cinthia

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  1. Reblogged this on Cinthia Carolina and commented:

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