The Origins of Curry Powder

Where did curry powder come from? There is no real equivalent in authentic subcontinental cuisines for a ready-made powder. The closest thing to a curry powder is a masala, and that is almost always more of a paste than a powder because of the addition of wet and dry ingredients to the mix. On the subcontinent, seeds and roots, etc. are roasted, ground and mixed … Read more

A 17th C. Frittata with Chili Peppers

Described by the Spanish in 1492 during the first Columbian voyage to the New World, chili peppers took the Old World by storm. Brought by the Portuguese to their colonies in Africa and India by the end of the 15th Century, chilies were so eagerly adopted by the indigenous peoples of these regions that they became widespread naturalized crops within a couple of decades. After … Read more

No Cuisine is an Island

The booksigning at the Smithsonian went well. Actually it went very well – we old and signed all but two of the books purchased for the event. I also really enjoyed meeting people and discussing the book with them. I was pleased to see that people were most interested in the book’s message that cuisines are interconnected, and how dishes we think of as cornerstones … Read more

What Am I Making? 1: 1000 Year Eggs

The correct answer is indeed 1000 Year eggs! (Contest closed: January 26, 2013) The ingredients listed from left to right are: Duck eggs, rice chaff (for coating the eggs), black tea, lime and ashes (a combination of wood ash and charcoal ash.) For those of you not in the know, 1000 Year Eggs, or Century eggs are a Chinese delicacy, eaten all over the country, … Read more

Ancient Roman Pork with Apples

Our trip to Moonfire Orchard left us with a wonderful selection of heirloom apples that I have been experimenting with. One of the recipes that I’ve been developing that is a real keeper is one for Ancient Roman Pork and Apples. It is an ancient recipe that balances sweet, sour, salty and bitter. And yes, it uses garum or liquamen so the umami factor for … Read more

Bhutanese Red Rice Pilaf

One of the wonderful things to make with the Fish and Mandarin Orange Curry in the last post is a delicious, authentic pilaf of Bhutanese Red Rice. Red Rice is crunchy, nutty and one of the few rices that will grow in Bhutanese highlands and is thus commonly eaten. Other rices are also imported from the southern low countries, but red rice is Bhutan’s own … Read more

A Curry of Fish and Oranges

The Holidays have several brought crates of fruit into the house: apples from our friends at Moonfire Orchard, a large box of Korean Pears and a large box of mixed oranges and tangerines from an Auntie in Massachusetts. With the apples, I’m working on an ancient Roman recipe for Pork and Apples from Apicius which is sort of like a “twice-cooked pork” of antiquity. I’ve … Read more

An Apple a Day . . .

I did something unusual and wonderful last Friday: I went to an apple tasting! This was the first time I had ever “tasted” apples with an eye to comparing the flavors of different varieties, and it was a fantastic, educational and fun experience. We went for a visit to Moonfire Orchard in Northern Virginia which is run by a colleague of my husband. The orchard … Read more

Name That Silk Road Ingredient 1: Pistachios

I saw these in the market the other day and I couldn’t resist a few handfuls. This is an unusual presentation for them, so I’m wondering if you know which Silk Road Ingredient they are. Hint: They are soft and slightly sweet when eaten or used at this stage. (Contest closed as of 11/1/2012 – 9 AM EST) _____ I’ll leave it up for a … Read more

Flowers that Have Changed the World of Food 3: Cloves

“And somewhere near India is the island containing the Valley of the Cloves. No merchants or sailors have ever been to the valley or have seen the kind of tree that produces cloves: its fruit, they say, is sold by genies . . . the islanders feed on them, and they never fall ill or grow old.” – Summary of Marvels (Ibrahim ibn Wasif-Shah, ca. … Read more

Umami in a Bottle

Here it is, the real deal! Amber-colored culinary gold! The first results from last summer’s backyard garum making! As some of you may remember, back in June of last year I started making garum in my backyard with fresh mackerel and lots of sea salt. I also wrote the “garum diaries” until mid-September which described the first 90 days or so of the initial enzymatic … Read more

Sage, Rosemary and Thyme – Not Wine!

With the help of DNA analysis, scientists are getting a present-day look at centuries-old trade in the Mediterranean. Such studies may help debunk some long-held assumptions, namely that the bulk of Greek commerce revolved around wine. During the fifth through third centuries BCE, the Mediterranean and Black seas were major thoroughfares for ships loaded with thousands of amphorae, thought from their shape to contain wine. … Read more

Autumn Means . . . A Bounty of Pumpkins and Squash!

I love this time of year! I love the blustery days and the chilly evenings and snuggling under blankets to keep warm. I love the cacophony of colors offered up by the deciduous trees, and of course, I love the panoply of fall produce – my favorite of which are pumpkins and squash. They are just so beautiful – all the shapes: round, oval, flattened, … Read more

Patterns of Asian Spice Mixes

Many chefs and cookbook authors spend their careers touting the unique aspects of the cuisines they cook and write about. I’m different from most. I look around and see nothing but commonalities and connections between the major Asian cuisines. In The Silk Road Gourmet Cookbook, I write a lot about how ingredients and dishes swirl in patterns across Asia and tell us a lot about … Read more